Hi Chrystal, can you tell us a little about your background and how you became interested in the natural products industry?
My first career was in gaming and the luxury spa hotel market for over 20 years. I loved creating experiences for customers and building relationships with people all over the world. During most of this time, I was a single mother, involved in boxing and mixed martial arts, and going to school for my Bachelors of Science in Natural Health (Herbalism). I had some health challenges in my early ’20s and figured out quickly that proper lifestyle changes, including the use of herbs, could increase health substantially. My family made a move to a super small town in Oregon and my first career was put on hold to take care of family. I met Catherine Hunziker at an herbal conference in Austin, TX. I immediately knew she was in this business for the right reasons and I wanted to be a part of it.

You’re the Director of Operations at WishGarden Herbs. What are your duties?
In this role I get to serve the staff by streamlining company goals and in assisting with their personal goals. I get the opportunity to work with both owners to move the business in a direction that makes sense for the company and expand what it means to work for WishGarden.

What does your typical day look like at WishGarden?
Work is already busy by 9 a.m. and most staff is well into their day making medicine. By that time, I usually have at least one goal and initiative meeting with a department head looking at this year’s performance to celebrate successes and identify opportunities for improvement. It is helpful to have quality one-on-one time to discuss personal and professional expectations and accomplishments. I am also involved in providing strategic input on our budgeting goals, marketing plans, and operating efficiencies.

Succession planning is also a major focus for us at WishGarden. The majority of our WishGardeners (internal staff members) are herbalists or herbalists in training. It’s important to see them improve and grow in their careers. I usually get to head back to my family around 5:30 p.m. I always try to walk around and say good night to anyone left in the building. WishGarden is very respectful of family time and promotes a sustainable work-life balance. I love this about my workplace and wish more companies would follow this model.

We are witnessing a real growth in the natural products sector. What do you attribute that to?
People are more aware of what they put in their body and the long-term effects of the products they consume. It’s not just what we eat or use anymore, it’s how it’s made. The natural products industry has been aware of this and has encouraged the production of healthy, sustainable products for a long time. Companies that promote conventional products now see that consumers care about how a product they use has an effect on others. They have adopted the idea of voting with their wallet. So we are starting to see many companies market their product by providing more transparency into their business practices. I also suspect that healthcare costs have a lot of people who may not have been open to a “hippy or tree hugger” lifestyle now seeing that there is a benefit to using healthier products.

Where do you see WishGarden at in five years?
Five years is a long time. I hope we have grown leaps and bounds in our educational and philanthropic efforts. We have a strong base to grow on and I believe you can measure success by what you contribute.

What advice would you give to people who want to work in the natural products industry?
My advice is to find something interesting that brings you joy. I recently met a young woman who wanted to start taking herb classes and to be closer to plants. We talked about different options available to her but I advised her not to overlook her marketing abilities. This industry needs everyone. We need farmers, web designers, sales staff, herbalists, and the list goes on. Develop your herbal skills while retaining your current talents to help the industry move forward in a meaningful way.

Do you have a favorite herb?
That’s a hard questions for an herbalist. It’s like picking your best friend. They change with the seasons of life. Perhaps one of my favorite plants in my early ’20s was nettle. Its existence helped me build a foundation for some early health challenges that I experienced. Slippery Elm during my ’30s helped our family as my daughter had issues with her thyroid. In my ’40s, I am closer and closer to trees — not for what they can do for me, but for the breath they give us all. I’ve learned it’s not always about the “medicinal benefits.” Plants have entire purposes and connections that are much bigger than chemical constituents we find personally helpful. For me, it’s about the return to a lost wildness that seems to be getting smaller and smaller. I am very thankful that the natural products industry is looking out for our home and I get to be a part of that.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.