Ep. 7: From intern to entrepreneur with Brooke Czarnecki

dietitian turned designer podcast

Welcome back to Dietitian Turn Designer Podcast.

I’m excited because we have Brooke Czarneki from Intentful Nutrition. Hi, Brooke.

Hello. Thanks for having me on, Courtney.

Yeah, thank you for being here. tell us a little bit about you and your practice and who you work with.

Yeah. So I have been in private practice for about 3 years now, and I am 100% virtual and military spouse, so. I wanted to have a career that could I could take wherever we were within the military. I have my business 100% online and I work mostly with individuals with eating disorders, disordered eating, and I also focus on the specialty and sports nutrition because I am a runner myself. I work with lots of endurance athletes, mostly runners. A lot of adolescents as well. So very passionate about the sports world and red S things like that. that’s a little bit about me and who I work with.

Awesome. Thank you for sharing. we met because you came to me to work on your website. So can you tell us a little bit about what your website was like before working with me?

Yeah, so my website was, I mean, it was barely a website. Like, I think I did it in like an hour on. Oh gosh, I can’t remember the name of it right now, but one of one of the other websites that does not rank well with SEO and it was just kind of thrown together last minute. So there was really no rhyme or reason or strategy to it at all. And it was designed by myself, which I am not super creative. So that was, it was like nothing before.

Yes. So you were on Wix, I’m pretty sure before.

Yes, Wix.

And then we moved you over to WordPress and I think you only had one page. As your original website, just a one page site and now you have like 4 pages because we did home, about. No, you did two service pages, so you have about 5 pages.

Yep yes.

So what’s it been like having an updated website and what has been the results you’ve gotten from that?

It’s really nice. I will say that more people have been finding me through my website on Google, which is awesome. And the other thing too is like when people ask me, do you have a website, I say yes. And I proudly send it over. Whereas before I was like, yes, but here it is. So there’s definitely more, there’s more flow to it. There’s it makes more sense. It’s all about athletes, those with eating disorders. So it just it just makes a lot more sense for the population that I’m serving. Plus it looks a lot prettier and very recently I just got like professional photos done for the first time so it got like a total revamp with that too. So that was really nice. So it’s definitely it’s still, it’s always a work in progress, but it’s like I love it and I’ll always have it. So it’s great. It’s great tool to have.

I was gonna mention your photos look great because I, you know, I always go back and check out clients websites to see how they’re doing and especially if I’m gonna share it with a prospective client to show examples. And I saw that you had updated pictures and they look amazing.

So thank you. Yeah, I was super excited to put those on there. That was like the first thing I did when I got my photos back. I know. It’s so fun when you have new things like that.

All right. So today we were going to talk about going from being a Dietetic intern to becoming an entrepreneur, which is a summary of your journey a little bit. So tell us what inspired you to kind of go straight from being an intern to starting your own private practice?

Yeah. So as I mentioned in my intro, my husband is in the military. So we are constantly moving, you know, every couple of years. Right now where we’re at right now, I’m only going to be here for six months. So to find, you know, a job and to like grow in that job and for me to have career growth, it’s very hard. So I just decided that, you know, if I really want to do this, if I want to have my own career. Virtual dietetics and having my own private practice is really the way to go. And I always wanted my own private practice. Like it was always in the back of my mind. That was what I wanted to do. And so I was like, what the heck, let’s just start after school and see how it goes. I actually started my business in my internship. Just like posting on social media and just kind of putting feelers out there. So it was just something that I decided to take the leap into and I don’t regret it.

So awesome.

It’s been a journey. Yeah.

And this is just my curiosity. Did your internship or your school mention anything about private practice or running a business?

They didn’t. So I will say though that my. My degree is nutrition management so like there was a lot of business aspects to it and I did get a minor in business management but or business administration but I was never you know it was never like entrepreneur focused or anything like that. And most most of the time you know professors were like well you can start your private practice after couple years in clinical and like that was you know the the recommended route so. Which I did not do. I did clinical for a little bit, but nothing, nothing too crazy. So yeah, so I hear that a lot too.

So what would you say to someone who has heard that but they want to go straight from being an intern to having their own private practice?

I would say that for me, like it’s 100% obviously because I did it and I’ve known other people to do it too. But for me, what the most important part was having mentorship because. If you’re just starting out and you don’t have like any clinical experience or any experience with clients, let’s say your patients, let’s say, it can be super intimidating to just like take your first client and just like wing it kind of. I mean, you might have a little bit of experience from your internship depending on like how much outpatient experience you got and stuff like that. But for me, what was really important was to have mentorship, to just have the guidance, have somebody to talk to, bounce ideas off of. And I’m still invested in mentorship almost year round. So I think it’s something that’s really important, especially as you’re a new dietitian learning the ropes, you’re learning different personalities when you work with different people, you know, That I think is the that was what helped me with a little bit more confidence to say that, you know, I can do this. Yeah, no, that’s awesome.

So Speaking of internship and kind of going back to you, when you first started, what were some of the biggest challenges that you faced when you started your practice?

One, just gathering clientele, that’s always the biggest step is like how are you gonna sell your services? And then two, which is definitely a struggle to this day, is just imposter syndrome like feeling like. Can I do this? Like am I good enough to do this? So you know, first up with the getting clients, I mostly do my marketing online, but I also have a really strong referral network from our last military base that we were based out of. I we were in Anchorage and I did a ton of networking locally with physical therapists, other healthcare practitioners. Which I think is really important if you want to build a business and not be afraid to do that. Because seriously, that’s like the majority of where my clients come from is referrals at this point, which is amazing. But that was like, it’s hard to put yourself out there, especially most dieticians are very introverted. You know, we don’t we’re pretty quiet. So it it can be a big step to do that. But ultimately that’s what has led me to the most success. And then of course I have my Instagram. Which, you know, I get clients from, but it’s not my main source. So I want to be very transparent about that because I think a lot of times people are like, well, I’m posting on Instagram, but I’m not, you know, getting clients. And it’s like you have to do more than just post, right? Like, yeah, network on Instagram. So that was probably my biggest challenge upfront. And then again, that imposter syndrome piece and just the mindset piece is huge and it still is for me. It’s still a struggle for me. So those are, those are my top two I’d say.

Yeah. Would you say that you’re introverted?

Oh yeah, 100%. Yeah.

I wouldn’t think that. I mean maybe, but I follow you on Instagram. So I always love seeing all your posts because I don’t do sports nutrition. So I always learn something from you.

I love it.

So Speaking of building that base, so you mentioned networking and then Instagram, are there any other? Tips that you would give someone coming straight out of their internship to start their private practice and get those clients

If you can, I would try to hire a business coach. That was something that I did and when I first started. It’s really crazy because three years ago does not seem like that long ago. But there were not that many business coaches three years ago, I don’t think so. They’re only a few to choose from at that point, but now it’s like blown up. There’s so many business coaches out there now. But I but that was probably the most helpful thing for me was to have a business coach again, just to have the guidance on what to do, how to sell. We’re not taught how to sell in school. So that’s an art that you have to kind of perfect on your own. But that was really probably what helps me just kick, get kick started and not feel like I’m constantly spinning my wheels and getting caught in that overwhelm of like what do I do, what do I say, you know, so hiring a business coach is. 100% my top tip. Yes.

So since there are so many coaches, do you have any tips on what they should look for when they’re trying to find a coach for, you know, that fits their needs?

Yeah, this is a hard question because I think that every, I mean, I personally, I have not had a bad experience with anybody. So it’s hard to, you know, say you have to really you have to put the work in first of all when you’re with working with a business coach, like if you’re not willing to do what they’re doing like it’s not going to work. So I would say look at the way that they market their business. If that jives with you, most likely you’re going to be able to get along with that business coach. And if you resonate with them on like a personal level, that was something that’s also really important to me, like my most recent business coach, she is a mom, she also works in sports nutrition and she markets the way that I want to market to my clients and so. It really was like, well, she’s doing what I want to do, so like why don’t I work with her? And it worked out really well. So if you’re going to sign up with a business coach and you don’t like the way that they market to you, probably not a good fit. And then another thing to outside of the sales piece. But looking at the size of how many clients they take on it once, I think is really important too, so that you don’t get lost in the sea of like other entrepreneurs. You know, I really, I worked in a lot of group coaching programs before I signed on with like a coach, one-on-one. So that was something that I looked for was like a combination of group coaching because you get support from other other entrepreneurs, plus maybe like a little bit of one-on-one coaching integrated into the group I think is really important too.

Well, for that to be a hard question. That was a perfect answer. So that’s exactly what I would tell someone as well, so. All right. So can you tell us, you know, we talked a little bit about feeling like an impostor. So do you feel like mentoring and the business coaching is what kind of helps you come over that? Or do you have any other tips that, you know, they could take with them when they’re feeling that self doubt?

Yeah. Again, this is something that I still struggle with like just this weekend it was something that I was like Oh my gosh, like just. Personal tidbit here. I am in my third trimester of pregnancy, and it’s just like, it’s been a lot to think about what my business is going to look like after I have my baby and how I want to shift that. And like, I have no idea what’s going to happen. So it’s hard to not get in your own head about, like, just giving it all up, right? Like if you have those thoughts, that is normal. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies in business. So I am still working on my mindset piece with the impostor syndrome. However, I will say that investing in mentorship has always helped me. It’s never been something that I’ve been like, oh, I really wish I didn’t do that because it didn’t help me. Like it’s always helped me in some way. But at the end of the day, a lot of it is work that you have to do on your own. And that was something I realized in my last business. Mentorship is like. I know how to run a business. I know how to get clients. I know what I need to do. A lot of it is just me, like I need to work on myself and my belief in myself and my confidence. So that’s something that I’m continually working on going to therapy for things like that. So I don’t have a great answer for that because I’m still going through it myself.

I think that’s a great answer because you just said like you know, making sure that you are having that support from the mentor and then I. I am 100% therapy. Like my entire family is in therapy. So you know, I think we all have to do that work on ourselves in order to you know, continue to succeed. How important do you think it is for dieticians and other health professionals to make sure that they incorporate weight inclusive principles into their business?

I think I mean as a weight inclusive dietician, that’s like a no brainer because you really need to be able to. I mean, again, as a weight inclusive practitioner, it’s like very I don’t want this to sound one sided, but. You really need to make people feel welcomed into your space and if you are somebody that wants to be a weight inclusive dietician, it’s really important with the language that you use that you are speaking to every person right and in using language from the Hays perspective but. There’s just there’s dietitians for everybody out there. So if you’re not a way inclusive dietitian, then you don’t have to use that language. So I think it’s really important, but not everybody might agree with that.

Yeah. So can you kind of talk about what you do, you know, on Instagram and you kind of like what we did on your website too, to make sure that we were making it clear that you are way inclusive and aligning with the values that you think are important for you?

Yeah. So putting different bodies on my website was something that we did and that was something that was important to me. The other thing that we did was not talk about weight loss or not talk about weight and make that very explicit. Like I am not a weight loss dietitian. I work with clients who want to improve their overall health regardless of what the scale looks like and. My Instagram I never talk about like intentional weight loss or posts before and after pictures, things like that. It’s really a strong focus on habits and doing things that make you feel good and really meeting yourself where you’re at, cuz I think a lot of times people get caught up in like. Well, three years ago I was this fast speaking about runners and this weight and now I’m not and it’s like we’re in a totally different season of life. So I talk a lot about that on my Instagram as well and I think that that’s really important as a weight inclusive practitioner. But again, I’m continually learning about how to be more weight inclusive and things like that. Like I am thin white woman, so I’m constantly trying to learn and be more inclusive in my space.

I love that. I love that you said, you know, thinking about the season of life you’re in because that’s something I have to constantly tell myself. Because, you know, before I had kids, I taught tons of fitness classes and when I was in college, I used to run and I tore my meniscus. So, like, I can’t run anymore. So it’s not like I could put my kid in a stroller and just go run and I couldn’t go teach because there wasn’t childcare. So every time I think about that, I’m like, just got to remember what season of life I’m in and give myself some grace. Totally. what are some other things people can do to make sure that they are, you know, creating that weight inclusive business and aligning with their values? we talked about photography, we talked about words, we talked about making sure we’re focusing on behaviors. Is there anything in setting up their business, maybe talking about how they decide what values are important that they can make sure they focus on those weight inclusive principles.

I’ll say just from personal experience like I when I first started. I really, I was really lost on like what I wanted to do, what niche I wanted to serve. And I thought that if I talked about weight loss that people would like, sign on with me faster. Like they would be more interested if I, you know, like dug them with a hook, right of like, oh, do you want to lose weight? And so getting the idea out of your head that, like serving people for weight loss is going to get you more clients, I think was something that I had to learn the hard way. I burned myself out because I was talking about something that I was not morally aligned with. And then I was bringing on clients who wanted to practice intuitive eating or who wanted to practice, like food freedom. But they also wanted to lose weight. And that was like, their primary goal was like, oh, I’m going to lose weight through intuitive eating or I’m going to lose weight through food freedom. And it burned me out because. That’s not always what happens. It’s rarely what happens. So, you know, just getting really clear on your messaging and staying true to your values and not getting caught up in just making the sale, I think is really important. Easier said than done, for sure, especially when you’re first starting out. But that that would be, you know, for somebody that’s starting out. If I could go back, that is something that I would change, yeah.

Actually, that was the same kind of thought process I had when I first started my practice, too, because I just remember being so frustrated when things would get slow. And I would think, gosh, if I just did weight loss and everybody would come to me. But I just morally, ethically, like for my, you know, being an eating disorder survivor myself, like I could not do it And I just, you know, that was just something that was also important to me. So I totally understand. do you want to talk about some common misconceptions or myths that you’ve heard people believe when it comes to starting a private practice just coming out of internship?

Yeah, the first one I think we talked about a little bit earlier, but that you need X amount of years in clinical to be a successful private practice dietitian. I will say the only thing that clinical was helpful for me for was one just interacting with different patients. But at the same time they were not even remotely close to the patients that I work with in my practice. But just talking to people, getting to know different personalities and potentially like note taking, like you get really good at taking notes in clinical. Not that I use those notes in my private private practice, but just getting really quick at like typing up a summary was really helpful for clinical. Other than that your skills that you need to know like the business side of things talking with clients is so different. You know, you really, you can do whatever you want to do, Like clinical is not required and I rarely use my, you know, medical nutrition therapy like calculations and stuff like that in my private practice, just with my niece.

You mean you don’t have your calculator sitting right next to you and, like, typing out all the calculations?

And I don’t get me wrong, like I love tube feeds and TPNs. Like if I could do that, I’d do that all day long. But that’s not the majority of clinical, at least where I worked for the first year out of my internship. So yeah, you don’t have your calculator out all day, so it’s very different.

Yeah. When I worked clinical, I would see up to like 30 patients a day.

Oh, my gosh!

It’s insane when I think about it because, yeah, you have to get really fast. I would spend like the first three hours of the day just reviewing the people that needed to go see and then the rest of the time going to see them and writing notes. Oh my gosh, you get pretty efficient.


Yeah, Just kind of wrapping everything up, what would be the one thing you would want people to take away from this episode if they are in their internship right now and considering opening your private practice?

You have to know that you want it. Like if you want to go into private practice and you’re thinking about doing it in your internship, one, know that it is 100% possible. Two, like you have to believe in yourself. You have to know that this is something that you want to do. I think you have to know. You have to have a strong why of why you’re getting started, why you want to do it, why you want to pursue it. Because entrepreneurship is not easy. Like it gets hard. And that’s not to say that it’s not worth it. It’s 100% worth it. And this is me speaking in a time where I really am questioning a lot of things. I still say it is worth it to work for myself because I know, and I have a very clear understanding of why I want to do it, like I want to be able to. Provide for my family and not work 40 hours a week. and I have this vision to build a business with multiple dieticians and you know really just continue to grow my practice. you just have to really I guess soul search a little bit and know why you’re doing it and then jump right in like the higher business coach go all in. That’s also you know part of believing in yourself and knowing that this is what you want to do. So that’d be my my advice.

I love that. Thank you. So where can everyone find you?

The best way to find me is Instagram at Intentful Nutrition. And then I also have a podcast where you can find that, like on my Instagram bio. But the actively fueled podcast where we talk a lot about toxic culture and sports and burnout and really how to create a more supportive environment for athletes and active individuals so that they don’t feel shame or guilt or any of those things. When it comes to movement and food. those are the two best places to find me.

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming today. And everyone go follow Brooke on Instagram and we’ll see you next time.

Thanks, Courtney.

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    courtney vickery dietitian website brand designer

    Hi, I'm Courtney

    I'm a Dietitian turned Designer who loves helping weight-inclusive private practices get more clients with designs that stay true to their values & mission.

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