Today we’d like to introduce you to Betsy Hjelmgren.
Betsy, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
In 2008, pregnant with my youngest child, I decided to stop dreaming about opening a private practice in nutrition and actually take the leap. Desiring flexibility, autonomy, and the opportunity to provide a deeper level of nutrition care than what was available in a critical hospital setting. I headed downtown Chicago to meet with a SCORE volunteer, to learn how to navigate this new terrain of running a practice. My husband, a high school teacher in the north suburbs, went to his 100+ students with business names we had brainstormed together based upon what was available still as a .com. By a rating process, Feed to Succeed was born, and I resigned my position at Lurie Children’s Hospital (then still Children’s Memorial Hospital). My first break came in January 2009 when Feed to Succeed partnered with a pediatric gastroenterologist in Glenview to provide nutrition care in her clinic.
Soon thereafter, we partnered with another pediatric office in Skokie. And from there, Feed to Succeed began to grow. In those early days, we had no office and so we either saw patients in conjunction with other practices, or we went and provided services in the patient’s home. With my unique specialization in pediatric nutrition and depth of experience from Lurie and prior to that Rush Children’s Hospital, it was not difficult to find families who needed nutrition guidance. Every year during the first five years of Feed to Succeed, our patient load doubled. Finally, it became more than I could manage on my own, and I invited another pediatric dietitian from Rush Children’s Hospital to join me in my quest to provide the best nutrition care to children in the Chicago area. Gia Diakakis became the second Feed to Succeed dietitian. As demand for nutrition services grew, we were approached to become credentialed with the Illinois Early Intervention program to provide services to those children age zero-three years old who were at risk of delayed development.
After joining forces with Early Intervention, it became quickly clear that we needed more expert pediatric dietitians. Our team continued to grow and we have expanded as the demand has allowed. We currently have 4 dietitians and one office manager. One year ago, this month (September 2018), we moved into our own office in Glenview, where we continue to grow and develop new ways to meet the needs of our community through private consultation, classes and seminars, early intervention services, and more.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has been curvy and twisting along the way. I have found a pattern in it. Every time the business slows down or growth stalls, I inevitably reach a point of panic. At those times, when I sit back and reevaluate the situation and readjust, we have then had our greatest moments of growth. It takes a little fear to push us past where we think our limits lie, and the nudge us into the next risk. When the fear sets in, some people quit and clear the path for those who will fight through and come out stronger. You cannot stay in one place and stay one size and expect to grow and thrive. Feed to Succeed is not a stagnant object, but a living, breathing and evolving concept. A year ago in June 2017, I was ready to walk away and go back to working in an office for someone else, where I could come and go and leave my work at work. An important business partnership was dissolving, we needed more space but didn’t have the finances to move, our billing company was closing down and we were not receiving payments for work already completed. I was exhausted and discouraged. Fortunately, at that time, we had built a team of people who were invested and not going to let me give up. It was that summer of 2017 during which we pushed our hardest through the murky waters and had to take out our first loan. We hired a better billing company, found an office space, and reestablished our mission and vision. A year later, we are better off than ever and still finding new ways daily to help those who need nutrition guidance find their path.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Feed to Succeed – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We provide medical nutrition therapy to infants, children, and teens up until the age of about 20 years old. Most people assume this means we work with kids who need to lose weight. But that is nowhere near an accurate description of our job. The goal of medical nutrition therapy is to use food and drinks to treat a medical problem. Certainly, that can include obesity, which is a medical diagnosis. But it also includes failure to thrive, GI diseases such as Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies, growth problems, nutritional deficiencies affecting optimal development, and many more situations. The dietitians at Feed to Succeed are all licensed and trained as registered dietitians. We all have the background of working in a clinical pediatric hospital setting with a team of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other allied health professionals. Each of us has further specialized beyond kids and nutrition, as we have amongst us a board-certified pediatric nutrition specialist, two certified nutrition support clinicians, a sports dietitian, and a lactation consultant. And additionally, of the 5 women who make up Feed to Succeed, 4 of us are mothers, which gives us a particular empathy towards other parents who are struggling to do the best they can to raise happy, healthy children. Our approach is supportive, partnering, and empowering.
Often it feels as if the media, by and large, is only focused on the obstacles faced by women, but we feel it’s important to also look for the opportunities. In your view, are there opportunities that you see that women are particularly well positioned for?
In our work, we are on the front line with other moms. As a mom, I don’t think there is anyone who can relate to my joys and heartaches as well as another mom.
- Address: 901 Buccaneer Dr. N
- Website: www.feedtosucceed.com
- Phone: (847) 724-8015
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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