“Mentorship can be simple and effective by just supporting someone’s dreams.” Sandy Gooch, founder of Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Foods Markets and one of the ultimate mentors in the natural products industry, told me that for an article in which she shared her insights on the leadership approach that makes the positive difference. Sandy's mentorship has helped spark a movement that grows stronger each year. “Over the years, I have attended board meetings, given advice, had phone and face-to-face meetings, Zoom conferences and acted as a sounding board to many,” Sandy shared. “I have witnessed incredible successes.”

She's not alone. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with Carl Hyland, who has long served as VP of Membership Development for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN). His career includes more than a decade with Weider/Schiff, where he helped launch the company’s SHAPE magazine (as a subscriber, I looked forward to every issue!). Hyland also served as Editor of Let’s LIVE, and held management positions at Frey Enterprises, Nutravail Technologies, and AmeriFIT. He's now retiring, but took time to reflect on the importance of mentorship. 

“Our mission is one we should be really proud of,” Hyland shared. “Connect with the entrepreneurs. Connect with the entrepreneurs of previous generations, and with ones in their 20s. Connect with the great trade magazines like WholeFoods that really embody that spirit and that are core to making sure that spirit survives. Connect when you see a common spirit of just trying to help people.” If we do that, Hyland says, we can be unstoppable together.

Throughout 2024, I will be connecting with more industry leaders and legends, sharing their gems of wisdom and reflections on decades in the industry as part of the special coverage WholeFoods Magazine will be delivering in celebration of our 40th anniversary under the ownership of the Wainer Family. I'll ask the experts for their thoughts on mentorship, and their advice on how we can support one another to collectively strengthen this industry.

Also focusing on mentorship: Women In Nutraceuticals (WIN) launched a Pilot Mentorship Program for the nutraceuticals industry. In addition to sharing knowledge, a goal is to work toward greater gender parity in the natural products industry. WIN shared insights from McKinsey that show companies with greater gender parity in senior leadership have more positive business outcomes and engaged employees. In the nutraceutical industry, though, just 37% of senior leadership roles are filled by women, according to research from WIN. In the C-suite, that number drops to 25%, and it falls to 22% at the board level.

WIN is looking to change this with its pilot mentorship program, designed to support senior-level women interested in advancing their career. WIN hopes to expand this into a full mentorship program to all senior-level WIN female members in early 2024, plus a program for mid-level managers. WIN members can apply to be a mentor or mentee. Details are available at womeninnutraceuticals.org.  

WholeFoods Magazine Publisher and VP of Media Heather Wainer is among the WIN mentors. My career was built on mentoring. When I first started, Ian Goldmunz literally taught me everything; when he got sick, I was thrown into a leadership position at a very young age, but I was able to do the job thanks to what Ian had taught me, and thanks to the guidance of my Dad Howie and so many others in the industry. I value every conversation I have had, and all the people who mentored me to be the person I am today. I hope I can give that back to others. 

On the retail side, that type of support is built into INFRA and SENPA. As our 2023 Retailer of the YearRenee Southard, owner of Organic Marketplace, shares in our cover story: “The one consistent thing I have done throughout my business is participate in what touches the Independent Natural Products Retailer. I go to the trade shows to not only get new and exciting products in my store, but more importantly to build relationships with my fellow retailers, find out what’s going on in their stores, what new ideas I can use, or what company I need to know about. We are each other’s BEST resource! Relationships I have built by being a part of SENPA as well as INFRA are pivotal to the success I have had in my business.” 

Also in this issue: In Merchandising Insights, Jay Jacobowitz tackles a pressing topic: How do you decide to invest in young employees? Will they stay? Do they care? Independent retailers from around the U.S. relate their experiences on the article: *!?*! Staffing. You’re not alone.

Take advantage of the resources your national trade associations offer, too. For an episode of our podcast The Natural View, I sat down with Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Natural Products Association (NPA), who discussed the power of the collective, and how advocacy is central to our success as an industry. In another new episode of The Natural View, Heather and I spoke with CRN’s Steve Mister to learn how the trade association supports members throughout the supply chain. I hope you enjoy listening to these insights as much as we enjoy bringing these voices to you.

As always, we love to hear your voice, too! If you would like to share your thoughts on mentorship, email me at editor@wfcinc.com. And let us know what topics you would like to see covered in 2024. We're here to help!