Jenny Finke is a certified nutrition and health coach. She founded her gluten-free blog, Good For You Gluten Free, after a devastating celiac diagnosis in April 2012. Today she helps her readers and clients live a healthy, gluten-free lifestyle, and she works hard to advocate for those living with celiac disease or following a gluten-free diet for health reasons. Read on to see how this mom's career change turned her passion for gluten-free living into profit.
You started your first online business in 2005, tell us about how you got started and why you decided to change directions.
I started my PR and marketing agency in 2005 and loved it. However, in April 2012, the universe decided it had other plans for me.
That’s when I learned I had celiac disease. While I was excited to find out why I was feeling so bloated and gassy all of the time, I was less than thrilled with the idea of following a strict gluten-free diet for life. Unless you’re diagnosed with celiac disease, you have no idea just how this disease manages to turn your ENTIRE life upside down.
For many months, I had no idea what I could eat. I found myself Googling things like, “Are eggs gluten-free?” and “Is licorice gluten-free?” I used to be a mindless eater and ate whatever I wanted. Now I had to think about everything I ate before it touched my lips.
Over time, life got easier, and I enjoyed spending time in the kitchen learning how to make my favorite foods again. I learned how to make gluten-free pasta from scratch and gluten-free chocolate cake. I began to chronicle my journey and recipes on my blog, Good For You Gluten Free.
However, after years of following a strict gluten-free, I had to be honest with myself. I still didn’t feel great. The painful bloating and embarrassing gas returned. I realized that my ailments were no longer about the gluten, but now were a result of the poor food choices I continued to make.
After a heart-to-heart with a friend who had studied integrative nutrition, I decided to take the leap and enroll in a yearlong nutrition coaching certification program. It’s in the program that I learned about what it means to be truly healthy. I learned how to reverse all of my chronic ailments, and I was finally feeling my best, healthy self again.
Armed with this knowledge and whirlwind personal journey, I again took a leap of faith. I put my PR agency on the backburner and dove head first into growing my gluten-free and healthy living business.
How did you know it was time to move on from your first business?
I always say that my new career found me. It is my calling.
Being diagnosed with celiac disease was a wake-up call for me personally and professionally. Personally, I had to learn to turn my diet and health around. Professionally, I had to take a hard look at the work I was doing. I had one very large client, a fast food restaurant, that I felt no longer matched my core values. Coldplay’s song “Clocks” so beautifully presented my dilemma, “Am I part of the cure? Or am I part of the disease?”
As soon as my contract with the restaurant ended, I knew the time was right to make the switch from being part of the “disease” to being part of the “cure.” It took me time to shed my old skin so I could become who I was meant to be. Leaving a career I’ve done for so long – and the only career I’ve ever known – wasn’t easy. So I try not to be too hard on myself. These things take time, but if not now, when?
Did you need additional training for your new career path?
Yes, I enrolled in a yearlong integrative nutrition-health coaching program in New York that I completed remotely from my home in Denver. It was one of the best experiences and educations I have ever had!
My whole perspective on food and nutrition changed. I had to unlearn so much of what I thought to be true and relearn how to eat from scratch. The lessons I learned in my coursework have made me a different person today than I was just a few years ago.
Give us an example of how you landed one of your first coaching clients.
I’m very passionate about green juicing, so my husband invited me to do a Juicing 101 seminar in his office. It’s there I met one of his colleagues who was struggling with an autoimmune disease. We hit it off, and I worked with her for six months helping her embrace a new and exciting healthy lifestyle that helped her manage her chronic disease.
What types of marketing strategies have worked best for your coaching and blogging business?
I started my blog, Good For You Gluten Free, a few years before my career change, so I had been building an online platform for a while before I officially switched careers. Having that foundation helped me kick off things in high gear when I was ready to hit the “go” button.
Other great marketing strategies that have worked include:
- Pinterest: Promoting my gluten-free recipes on Pinterest has generated a lot of traffic for my blog. Pinterest is my second largest source of traffic.
- Email List: Another great marketing strategy has been growing my email list. There is a lot that goes into growing a subscriber base, and I hope to have 10,000+ subscribers one day. I think building an email list should be a top priority for any blogger or business owner.
- Workshops: Another strategy to growing my health coaching business has been offering one-off gluten-free cooking workshops in my Denver home. In fact, I’m surprised at how easy it has been to fill my gluten-free cooking classes. I think people with special dietary needs crave community and friendship, and these classes offer a small taste of that. Plus, they don’t cost a lot, so it’s an easy entry point into working with me.
- Networking: Networking with others who share my passion has helped my business grow. I started The Denver Bloggers Club to meet other bloggers and learn from their successes and mistakes. The club has turned into a passion project (and little side business) for me, and it has helped me grow my blog and business.
What has been your biggest struggle with your career reinvention?
I’m approached on a regular basis by a variety of companies interested in working with me. I have to carefully evaluate each and every opportunity because it’s easy to get caught up in making money at the cost of compromising your values.
For example, last week I was offered an interesting opportunity to do some promotional work for a new restaurant. Old Jenny would have jumped on this “fun” project, but the new Jenny felt like the restaurant’s food didn’t align with my core values.
My values are constantly being tested against my professional desires. That said, I believe that if I remain true to my core values, success will follow.
What advice would you give to other women who want to switch career paths?
Do it! What are you waiting for? There is never going to be a perfect time to take the leap, so leap now.
I had a friend who said she was going to enroll in my nutrition program as soon as her kids started school in the fall. Guess what? Between the time we spoke and the time school started, her husband lost his job. She had to put her career aspirations on hold indefinitely. If she had just signed up when she made the decision to enroll, she would have been halfway through the program by the time her husband lost his job. No time is ever the perfect time, so don’t wait. Follow your passion. The money will follow.
As a busy entrepreneur, mom, and wife how do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
Time is the great equalizer. You can’t buy time. I use this precious commodity wisely. I don’t overthink things. I make quick decisions. I don’t dwell on mistakes or disappointments. I move forward confidently in the direction that feels right. And I always trust my gut (my head and heart can’t always be trusted). When you eat right and are healthy, your gut can be heard loud and clear!
One of the perks of having a food blog is that it provides a platform for quality family time. My kids love tasting my new gluten-free concoctions and sampling products companies send me. My husband has become one of my biggest advocates, handing out my business cards and sharing my articles with people he knows every chance he gets. I’ve enlisted my son’s help in making videos for my blog, and my daughter loves helping me cook in the kitchen. My new business – and passion – is very much a family affair.
Are you interested in starting a blog? Would you like to be involved in a business that revolves around healthy cooking habits? Check out these articles for details.
- How to Start a Blog and Make Money From It
- How This Mom Is Making Money by Teaching Kids to Cook Healthy
Originally published August 30, 2010. Content updated May 8, 2017.