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Chelan Wilkins is the sales and marketing manager for Herbaland Naturals, a vegan Canadian gummy vitamin brand based in British Colombia. A registered holistic nutritionist, Chelan has been in the health and wellness industry for about eight years. Her career path mirrors her recovery from her own health issues.
What drew you to this work and like why are you passionate about it?
I became passionate about being a part of the natural health and wellness industry after I got my feet wet running my nutritional practice. From there, I took on an educator role with a company called Organika and immediately fell in love with the natural health Industry.
My career has evolved in this fast-growing Industry over the last few years. As a brand educator, I’ve worn a few different hats in the Industry. I’ve worked with several other brands over the previous few years, starting as an educator, then into marketing and now running a sales and marketing team with a Herbaland. I recently graduated from UBC Sauder with a sales and marketing management diploma.
What is the key obstacle you think is keeping Canadians from living healthier lives?
The cost of living is astronomical, so it’s always a roadblock when people want to make healthy switches in their lives, and the price alone is almost enough to hinder it. I’ve heard many clients say to me, “I can’t afford to eat organic,” “I can’t afford to go to the gym,” “I can’t afford to pay for supplements,” “I can’t afford this stuff because the cost of living is ridiculous.”
If you go down the natural aisle, everything is more expensive than if you go down a regular aisle in the grocery store. And I think that can even be with supplement brands on the market today. Some brands charge $75 for a multivitamin, whereas we charge $25.
“Chelan also thinks the mixed information about how to be healthy is another roadblock to living healthier. She says the solution is to strive for a balance between lifestyle, work, nutrition and focusing on what you need.”
So what impact do you and Herbaland have on the wellness of Canadians?
At Herbaland, we have three core values. One is community, two is sustainability, and three is inclusivity. Inclusivity is our biggest one when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. We aren’t a costly brand; we are affordable. We also cater to a variety of dietary restrictions. We’re gluten-free, vegan, and sugar-free. We created an all-inclusive product for people of a variety of ages, from being a toddler up to the older generations. With our formulations, we keep things essential — nothing that is too complicated.
We focus on the daily essentials you need to complement your wellness. We also focus on sustainability. We’ve recently switched all our packaging from recycled plastic bottles to pouches made from 100% compostable materials. So we’ve diverted over two tonnes of plastic from production. We are the first vitamin gummy brand in Canada to switch to compostable, and we’re pressuring other brands to make the decision.
On top of compostable pouches, we’ve partnered with veritree — for every pouch purchased, we will plant a tree, with a current focus on Madagascar. We aim to plant two and a half million trees by 2025—our goal is to be a sustainable and restorative brand.
Is there a key mentor who helped you on your path? And if so, how did they help?
I just finished a mentorship program with Royal Roads University, and the BC Chapter of the American Marketing Association (BCAMA) – a non-profit organization uniting marketers from all industries and disciplines called Level Up. My mentor was a female VP from outside of my Industry whose advice, guidance and mentorship helped me push into this next step in my career in sales and marketing.
In my current role, I am led by a woman CEO, which has been empowering. Herbaland is family-owned and operated, and around 50% of our managerial staff are women. As a woman in her 40s raising two kids and trying to excel in her career, it’s inspiring to have the opportunity to work for a woman-led company within a very male-dominated industry.
I think it is essential to continue showcasing more female-led companies as I genuinely believe they bring something different to the table and are pivotal to this Industry’s growth and others. I am very fortunate to know and have the support of other female leaders within this Industry, and I believe we all need more of this support and sisterhood not just in our careers but in our lives.
What have you learned on your wellness journey?
Well, I had my kids young and suffered from postpartum depression after my second daughter which led to me gaining a bunch of weight. I was put on medication and didn’t like how it made me feel. I hated the fact that I was taking antidepressants. I remember waking up one morning, and I was like, I don’t want to live like this anymore. So I started making different choices, including working out, eating healthy, and losing 47 pounds.
Through that journey, I was, like, there’s more to this picture. Health and wellness are not just the foods you eat and how you look. It’s also your mental, emotional and physical capacity. So I had to look at the bigger picture, and I think many people don’t do that. Many people are quick to be like, ‘I have so much stress’ or ‘I have high blood pressure, ‘I have this, but they don’t look at the whole picture.
On my wellness journey, I’d say that was the kickstart. I’ve learned along the way that even if we can be in great shape and feel good and be healthy and even people like me, a registered holistic nutritionist, sometimes we fall off the tracks and get consumed in life. Sometimes things happen, nothing is perfect, and we’re not perfect.
I would say that being in tune with your body and finding that balance has been the most significant learning experience. Because I’ve been through it all, from depression and weight gain to losing a bunch of weight to trying to find that sweet spot, I know I’m in tune with my body when I’ve reduced stress levels, slept better and have energy — things like that.
What challenges have you faced in your wellness journey, and how did you overcome them?
Once you reach a certain point in your health journey, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be perfect all the time. One of the biggest things I had to be OK with was removing the stress associated with not working out every day–something had to give. Some days I struggle to stay focused, and I have had to be OK with that because I can’t do it all. I focus on giving myself time to move my body, eat the foods I need, get the sleep I need, and look at my stress levels.
We put so much pressure on ourselves, which doesn’t help. I am just trying to find that balance, looking after myself the best I can now and being OK with that. Also, I think many of us parents, women, when we’re trying to rise in our career, we put so much pressure on ourselves, and we feel guilty. Self-care is just as important. So, it’s just finding that time to do it.
What are your goals for the future?
I want to keep empowering women in their health and careers, especially in this Industry. I have been told many times to start my own business. However, I recently created a platform and podcast called ” A Hot Mess,” where I provide education to women around women’s health and hormones in a “real talk,” educational and humorous way. It is my passion, and for now, that is where it will stay. My personal career goal is to continue to be an essential voice, disruptor and force for good within this Industry while continuing to watch this Industry evolve and grow. I want to continue to lean into new opportunities and growth — whether that means eventually stepping into a role within the Canadian Health Food Association, building my brand, or working with other brands leading the way in the natural health wellness industry. Ultimately, I want to empower and see more women come forward in this Industry and find equality while sharing their passion.
Discover More: Check out another one of our Game Changers, Erin Macklin here.