We are excited to share a brand new interview with you in our Practitioner Stories series. Meet Megan Boitano, MS, RDN, LDN, CNSC, founder of Megan Boitano Nutrition and the new digital marketplace for dietitians, RD2RD.
Megan is breaking through new areas in the field of nutrition and dietetics, and we are thrilled to share her story, her insights, and the lessons she’s learned along the way!
Healthie: Tell us about yourself and what influenced your decision to become a dietitian.
Megan: Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher, but I became interested in nutrition in high school. The field of dietetics combines a lot of aspects of teaching with nutrition, so I knew when I went off to college that this was the field I wanted to pursue.
I grew up on a farm, in a very rural area, so I was a very “domestic” kind of girl, always cooking and sewing, a definite farm girl. I still really enjoy that home economics side of dietetics.
My parents loved what they did every single day. There wasn’t a separation between work and passion. Their jobs [of running a farm] are an extension of who they are as people, and that rubbed off on me.
Healthie: How is your career different today than what you expected when you first started working?
Megan: Well, let’s see… After college, I was accepted into the public health program at the University of Michigan, but I deferred admission for a year and did my dietetic internship. I got bit by the clinical bug, which I wasn’t expecting. Over the years of my career, I worked in children’s hospitals, critical care doing nutrition support and TPN [total parenteral nutrition], and as a clinical manager.[My husband and I] moved out to San Diego, California, several years later, and I started working for a large healthcare organization in adult acute care. Pretty quickly, I got the opportunity to have a supervisory role, then applied and took on the role of a Clinical Nutrition Manager for a large trauma center.
I was only in my mid-20s, but I took advantage of an opening on the team. Luckily, I had some great mentors because I had a long list of things to do, like improve the budget and employee satisfaction, which were not easy feats. After 8 years as a clinical manager, I ended up feeling burnt out.
We decided to expand our family, and I knew either my husband or I would have to work less. I stepped away and took a role as a pediatric hospice nutrition support dietitian, making home visits. As a mom of 2, this was a role that both intimidated and inspired me. It was very team-based and medically-focused. I built the role from the ground up, earning accolades from the physician and team members. It was a really great role for me at this time in my career.
Working in hospice care was very transformative for me. The purpose of my role was to evaluate nutrition not just from an adequacy perspective, but to consider quality of life and to reduce suffering or symptoms related to feeding. The team’s core mission was to be a blessing in the lives of families losing a child. The big transformation was experiencing home-based care and the difference it makes in how you provide care.
Then, my husband got a job offer in Boston, so I left yet another job I loved, and we moved across the country again. I had a lot of options to go back into clinical management, but I knew my heart wasn’t there anymore.
To answer your original question, I never really expected to be in private practice when I first set out to be a dietitian. I was interviewing at hospitals when we moved to Boston, when I had an “aha” moment. With complete clarity, I realized that I didn’t want to work for another company or hospital and build it up to make it successful again. I wanted a new challenge and to take what I learned from my diverse professional experience and leverage it to start a private practice.
When I decided to go into private practice, I wanted to focus on joy. I now help families discover how to find joy around food and mealtime.
Overall, I’ve been very fortunate: I’ve never had a job I didn’t love. I see my career as a series of projects. Getting into private practice, I saw a need a created my latest project: RD2RD!
Healthie: What is 1 thing that surprised you when running your own practice?
Megan: How generous fellow dietitians are. When I was first getting started, I reached out to someone who I considered to be the most successful RD in my neighborhood and asked her if she would meet with me. She met with me, willingly gave me her time.
Being in private practice can often feel like you’re on your own, but people are really willing to say yes. Even when these people are your “competitors,” just ask. People will probably help you out!
Healthie: So what is RD2RD and how did you develop it?
Megan: RD2RD is a marketplace site to buy, sell, and share digital (downloadable) goods, including handouts, presentations, or business tools.
When I built my private practice, I spent a lot of time searching the internet, Facebook groups, and listservs to find the tools that other dietitians had probably already created. I would have paid for the convenience to have handouts and forms already made.
It’s like Teachers Pay Teachers, which is a site where teachers can buy teaching materials from other teachers (and I’ve used for my own children). I think of it like that, but for dietitians.
Many dietitians, myself included, have resources we spent a lot of time and energy creating, specific to our practices. These materials can be leveraged 1) to earn income and 2) to benefit the rest of the profession. I wanted to put this all in one place, because sometimes, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. The RD2RD digital marketplace provides the technology for other dietitians to sell goods, so they don’t have to bother with the technology piece of it.
I tried to put this idea in the closet so many times, telling myself it’s too big and too hard, because I was busy, but the idea wouldn’t go away in my mind. It was a big investment, but I really wanted to make it happen, so I started the long process of researching, doing some validation, etc.
We officially launched on November 9, 2017! I actually just paid vendors for sales in November today, and that felt really good!
Now, I’m trying to see how to expand RD2RD and bring in extra expertise that I need to accelerate this idea. RD2RD won the Zing Nutrition Grant, which supports nutrition entrepreneurs. I’ve been very fortunate to leverage this money to launch my idea, but also have input from others who are building a business. Plus, it was great PR around FNCE too!
Healthie: Given that RD2RD is a completely virtual service, how do you think technology is changing the field of nutrition?
It’s incredible what can be done with technology. Technology allows us to create a totally different nutrition practice than we could before. It allows us to connect with a broader audience.
Technology affords dietitians the opportunity to increase income and help people in masses. Instead of always trading time for money, there’s opportunity in digital products and technology.
However, I also think that technology can sometimes make people think that things are more complicated than they really are. There’s no need to over-complicate things!
Healthie: We noticed that you’re using webinars to add resources and spread the word about RD2RD. How have webinars helped you grow your business?
Megan: I haven’t used webinars for my private practice yet, but there are some great RDs who have, so I wanted to learn from them. I interviewed Amy Gorin and Erin Palinski-Wade for my “Share Your Wisdom, Grow Your Business” Learning Series because they do a fabulous job at hosting their webinars [for their Master the Media course]. Good webinars are definitely not as easy as they look!
I think webinars are great to interact and connect with your audience (ideally if using video), and let your audience get an idea of your style. They will certainly be a part of my marketing plan for RD2RD because they’re engaging. In one webinar, I can interact with many RDs interested in learning more about selling digital products.
Webinars are also a great way to build your list. You know that someone who signs up is interested in the topic you’re presenting on, which should be related to your practice. You can also figure out what your clients want from you, if you see a surge in registration for a particular topic. However, I think it’s a mistake to invest so much time in building a webinar without knowing what your clients want to see.
Video is huge. It’s not going anywhere. Plus, it’s super easy! Especially in Healthie, which is how I hosted my webinar with Amy and Erin.
Healthie: In your experience, what is the biggest obstacle nutrition entrepreneurs face?
I think limited time and the obsession with what we could be doing versus what we should be doing. It’s easy to get distracted with what everyone else is doing. There’s so much opportunity out there, and with social media, you hear from other people more frequently.
Most businesses cannot grow overnight. Stay committed to your vision, ride out the course. Do the things that work. Personally, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice if buzzing to the next thing too quickly. Just focus on what really needs to be done. Keep doing the things that are going to work in the long run. You have to give them the time to work! Over time, you will accomplish what you want to do.
It’s a hard lesson to learn because you can’t stop paying attention to what’s going on around you, but you only have so much time in a day!
Thank you so much Megan for your time and thoughtful reflections! To learn more about Megan’s digital marketplace, RD2RD, visit https://rd2rd.com/.