Meet Heather Neal, MS, RD, LDN! Heather is a registered dietitian, founder of the RD Entrepreneur Symposium and creator of with a Side of Sneakers and owner of her own private practice Elite Wellness! Heather’s latest development, the RD Entrepreneur Symposium, brings together 18 experts to create the ultimate guide to building a thriving nutrition business. From six-figure dietitians to marketing gurus and tech experts, you can discover exactly what steps you need to take to ramp up your business to the next level. At this symposium, learn how to find a profitable niche and attract your ideal client, how to use technology to grow your business, how to master your efficiency and increase your revenue, how to charge what you’re really worth, how to automate your marketing, and more. This online symposium is from March 14th to March 17th. Interested in joining? Registration is open now! Heather is full of fantastic nutrition business advice – we were so lucky to connect with her for an interview. Learn more about her professional experience and hear what advice she has to share!
Tell us about your path to becoming a dietitian!
I kind of stumbled upon the profession accidentally, but once I found it, I never looked back. I picked the college I attended because it had exactly the program I was looking for: aquatic therapy. I fell in love with the school when I visited, applied for early admission, and once I got it in, I never gave anything else a second thought. That fall, right before school started, they stopped offering that major. Too late to make a change, I kind of picked nutrition out of a hat – I’d always been fascinated by the way food could affect your health, so why not? I was hooked during my first nutrition class. Fast forward a few years and I completed my dietetic internship at Hopkins, then after working with dialysis & ALS patients and a kid’s nutrition and fitness program (all at the same time), went on to get my Masters in sports nutrition at Northeastern. In the midst of all that I knew private practice was for me, so I dove in feet first. I started my private practice seeing patients both virtually and in person, then when my first son was born moved my business entirely online. There wasn’t a ton of information out there about running a virtual nutrition practice, so I started mentoring other RDs to help them do the same. That was so successful that it eventually rolled into my business coaching program. I feel like I get the best of both worlds – helping my clients making lifelong changes, and helping other RDs build their dream careers.
You founded the upcoming RD Entrepreneur Symposium – would you tell us a little bit about that project?
Sure. The symposium is a platform for dietitians and nutrition professionals aspiring to grow their businesses. Whether they already have a business or are just starting out, from private practice to virtual programs and beyond. The symposium addresses all the frustrations we have as nutrition business owners, like finding clients, setting up programs, and marketing ourselves. It shows RDs and nutrition professionals first hand exactly what they can do to grow their business, whether it’s from booking that first session or ramping up to six figures, or finding new ways to generate income within your business. In the symposium we learn from experts that are running thriving businesses, both online and in person, as well as experts from other professions that are essential to building a business, like sales, marketing, and finance.
What inspired you to start the symposium?
I absolutely love my job. I love that I get to help people change their lives using everything I learned in school, from science to counseling skills. But I also love the freedom and control over my own schedule that this profession allows. I get plenty of time with my family, I’m not stressed out, and I feel like I truly get the best of both worlds between life and work. I wanted other people in the nutrition profession to be able to have the same. It took a lot of work and trial and error to get to where I am today – I wish someone had been there to help me figure things out along the way, which is why I started business coaching. But there are SO many ways to get to your dream career. I wanted to be able to share something bigger than myself – something that showed all the different ways of getting to your goal. By building the symposium I was really able to harness the knowledge in fields outside of just dietetics too, focusing on some of the key parts of business that we don’t necessarily get when we’re in school, like sales and marketing.
What advice do you have for dietetic students just graduating / completing their internships?
Think long-term, big-picture. DREAM BIG! I know when I finished my dietetic internship I want to run far, far away from clinical dietetics (and foodservice!) because I’d been so immersed in it. But once I’d stepped away from it for a little while, I missed it a ton. That being said, think about what you want to do in the long run, not just the year you finish or get your license. If you know you want to own a private practice or do something “nontraditional”, whether full time or on the side, start putting things in motion now. Whether you jump in with both feet or just do a little bit here and there, everything you start now will put you that much further ahead of the game.
How do you think technology is changing the way dietitians are practicing care?
Technology is paramount to today’s world of nutrition and dietetics. Even if you wanted to avoid it for some reason, you couldn’t. Technology is opening doors for BOTH clients and practitioners – it allows dietitians to be more accessible and accommodating, and it allows clients to be more comfortable and be more willing to give things a try because it’s convenient. And the best part is for both sides of the equation: it allows real relationships to grow. It’s hard to really make an impact on someone’s health in a couple of sessions, but by adding in different pieces of technology we can dig deeper, get a clearer picture, and build a longer-lasting, trustworthy relationship – and that makes all the difference.
What business advice do you have for someone looking to start a private practice?
I don’t know if this really counts as “business advice” per se, but there are two things I stress over and over again to those looking to start a private practice:
1. Don’t let fear hold you back from what you want to do. Almost all business owners I’ve coached have been held back at some point by fear of taking a risk, fear of competition, or fear of not being able to stand out from everyone else in the industry. It’s ok to be fearful, but don’t let it be paralyzing. What’s the worst that could happen if you give it a try? You’ll learn from it.
2. Don’t get caught up in perfection. You do not have to have the perfect website, the perfect business cards, or the perfect logo to get started. Just do it! If you wait until everything is perfect you’ll never be ready. And honestly, with the increase of social media as a whole, clients aren’t looking for perfection anymore. They’re looking for trust, relatability, and authenticity.
Remember, the RD Entrepreneur Symposium starts March 14th – get on the VIP list now!