My RD Journey

From Undergrad -> Internship -> RD -> Private Practice!


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Business Lessons Learned – Go With The Flow

Happy Memorial Day weekend! I thought about nixing this blog until next week; however, I was up early with my lovely feline friend (aka my cat) so I figured why not! If you have been reading my blogs lately, you will notice that this is the second blog in my “Monthly Recap” series. Back in April’s post, I set three goals for myself. I am super happy to say that I accomplished all three! These have been goals on my list for a while now; however, there is just something about having that accountability factor that pushes you to follow through. While it might seem weird to think I am being accountable to my viewers, it really helped me to focus towards having something positive to share for this post.

Lessons Learned
Be Accountable to Someone
I am always telling my clients to have someone to be accountable to (whether it is me or a spouse/friend). Again, in taking my own advice, I realized that having the accountability really helps to just give that extra push. I would challenge any business owner to identify their go-to person that they will check in with each month (or week). They can help you to review your goals, ideas, issues, etc.

Flow With Your Business
Your business will change every year or month even. Now, while this might not be a huge change, always be open to assessing and adapting with the needs of your clients. I have been changing some of my services and offerings to suit my client needs better. I now have a monthly fee for a coaching option between appointments. I use to think I would always just do the counseling and classes; however, now I want to have more time to myself so I am working towards more products versus services. My point here is not to pigeon-hole yourself into one way of thinking about your business. Always be open to opportunity and change for that matter.

Act First
One of my biggest downfalls is over planning and not acting. It took me so long to get an outline written for my book because I was worried about how I would sell it. Why does selling it matter if I don’t even have a product to sell?? I can often waste hours researching and planning to start something and then not even starting it because I am so wrapped up in the preparation. While I think planning is a great step, don’t get hung-up on it for an extended time. Yes, do some short research and then ACT.

Key Defining Moment
Health Fair Competition
This month, I attended a health fair for one of the companies I work with for weight management classes and also provide on and off-site counseling for. This company has a few dietitians they work with since they have a huge incentive program around wellness. At this recent health fair, about 7 different dietitians were there promoting their business and counseling services. Being the 5th dietitian in the row of tables, I was wondering to myself what sets me apart from them? We all do counseling and accept insurance, so what makes me special? One little edge I have to some is that I offer in-home counseling services and still come on-site for the company. Although, this really got me thinking about my brand and how I want to promote myself.

After the health fair, I had one client tell me that they specifically chose me out of the other dietitians because they were impressed with my professionalism, table set-up, and business cards. Now, I am not one to ever put down another dietitian and I thought some of the other tables looked awesome, so I simply thanked him and moved on in conversation. I was one of the only tables without a food sample (since I had planned a game instead), so I originally thought no one would be interested in what I had. Although I did have quite a few sign-ups for counseling and my newsletter, I still didn’t think I would be standing out as much from the other tables.

0524171435c-02For any health fair, I always bring my PorrazzaNutrition banner, handout holders, 1-2 handouts (tip sheets), info sheet about myself that I put in a plastic stand-up, 2-3 recipe cards, 1-3 coupons, newsletter sign-up + counseling interest list, business cards in my shopping cart holder, pens, and 1-2 visuals (I had an avocado this day + poster on salt). All in all I realized a few things, I always cater to different individuals with my variety of handouts/recipes, I have visuals to grab attention, I have an awesome business card holder that spurs conversation, I keep the table clean and tidy (especially since I didn’t have food to worry about), and I dress to impress. I set-up my table based on my experiences with previous health fairs and what looks visually appealing to me. I learned, in this moment, that comparing myself to others is so silly since we all target different clients and have our own ways of doing things. There may be many clients who preferred other tables based on their specific needs and what appealed to them. This situation was a huge moment for me because I made a commitment to always keep that professionalism and par level high, no matter where I am or who is watching, and to only compare myself to my past self.

Business Goal #1 – Revise and Upload 3 Meal Plans to my Website
I have been trying to brainstorm more products to add to my business and I realized that I have about 50 meal plans that I created for past clients. Why not update those to sell on my website?! So many clients ask me for meal plans and I usually don’t create them, but instead work with the client to brainstorm meal ideas. What I realized is what I want is not always what everyone else does, so why not just give them that? I will still have a personalized plan option and work with clients during their appointments; however, this can just be another passive income stream for me that still supports my clients’ (and potential clients’) current needs.

Business Goal #2 – Finish First Rough Draft of Book
This month, I worked on an outline for my book and I brainstormed chapter ideas. For next month, I want to put that all into a first draft. This book is the first to many ideas that I have, so I am excited to finally be in the writing process! I typically just write ideas down whenever they come and then dedicate a couple hours one-day per week (for now) to fleshing out those ideas and making them into chapters. I find for myself that I have a hard time writing at home and not getting distracted so I have been writing while between classes (since I take the train and am usually pretty early).

Business Goal #3 – Continue Building My Brand (Including Online Presence)
For this goal, I am going to continue with my blog, video, and social media schedules. I am also brainstorming what my “brand” will look like. I want to have everything integrated to match my passion and niche. I want to move away from 100% service and I feel that building more of an online presence is key to this.

What lessons have you learned this month? Did you have any defining moments or obstacles you overcame? Stay tuned for my upcoming blog’s on building YOUR brand!


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5 Tips for Speaking at Conferences

Welcome back to “My RD Journey!” If you read my last blog post, you will already know that this post is all about my first time speaking at a large conference (The Inaugural Women in Business Conference hosted by the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce). I was able to lead an individual breakout session and also serve as a panelist for a discussion on balance. In the past, I have lead seminars, given talks to students, conducted cooking classes and more; however, this was the first conference I was apart of. Today’s post, I will recap for you my (awesome) experience, plus give you tips that I learned along the way.

Tip #1 – Keep it Simple & Organized
I decided that for my individual session, I would touch on general nutrition (building a healthy plate) needs and motivation. I find with my clients that a lot know what to do; however, putting it into action is the hardest part. I wasn’t totally sure of my audience beforehand, so I tried to keep it basic and relate-able. I, for one, hate dry presentations, so I mixed up some of the general education with a few myth-busters throughout. I did use a PowerPoint; however, I didn’t put a ton of words on the slides because I didn’t want the audience to just be reading versus listening. I am definitely one that will completely stray from my outline, which isn’t a bad thing, so I didn’t want the audience trying to find where I was on the slides. One key thing here is that while having a lot of information is great, remember to keep it organized. Don’t jump around too much since you might lose the interest of your group.

Tip #2 – Allow Time for Questions
You can decide whether or not to have participants ask questions throughout your presentation or just at the end. I usually say that they can ask questions throughout if they need clarification; however, I do ask them to otherwise wait until the end. I do this mainly because I had a few instances where people just constantly asked questions and I couldn’t get through all the material. Sometimes the questions were relevant to the topic and other times they were too specific for others in the class to benefit from them. I let the participants know I allotted time for questions at the end and I stuck to my timeline to keep to that.

Tip #3 – Have Evaluations
Getting feedback on your presentation is key! Sometimes, participants in my seminars don’t ask any questions and their facial expressions lead me to think they are bored out of their minds. After doing a lot of different presentations over the years, I found that a lot of people don’t want to ask questions for a few reasons. Some think their questions are “stupid” – I have never had a “stupid” serious question. Some would rather ask questions individually after the session. Some are just taking in all the information and don’t have questions just yet. There are so many reasons for lack of questions. With all that being said, the evaluations are a great way for you to get feedback (positive or negative) and work out the kinks for next time.

Tip #4 – Come Prepared
Being prepared is a huge part of your presentation success. Know what your talking about so you are not just reading from your notes. Have your business cards available so the participants can follow-up with you later (possibly become clients of yours). Make a simple handout and pass it out at the end so you don’t end up with distracted participants. Know what setting is available for your presentation too. Do you have the ability to run a PowerPoint and if so, do you bring the hook-ups and laptop? Will there be tables for the audience or just chairs (important if doing writing activities)? Get as much information as you can beforehand so you are ready to go the day of. Being prepared will help you to eliminate unnecessary stress and be able to deliver an effective presentation that will engage your audience.

Tip #5 – Have Fun & Just Be You
This conference was such an awesome experience for me. I am so passionate about what I do and teach that after a presentation, I usually feel energized and invigorated. With practicing a lot over the years in different settings, I am now really comfortable public speaking and answering on-the-spot questions. I typically get at least a few attendees come up to me after with positive comments; however, I was totally blown away by the positive response at this conference. I had so many women come up to me throughout the rest of the day to introduce me to their friends, comment on the information, and speak to my enthusiasm and positive energy for the topic. It really is a crazy feeling to have people tell you that you are an inspiration to them. As a dietitian, I try to help others find a passion for nutrition and healthy eating; however, some days are just really difficult inspiring change. To know that I inspired a group of women in just 45-minutes was just so awesome (for lack of a better word).

So, if you are presenting in any type of setting, just remember that your enthusiasm and your passion can inspire others to make a change. Put your own spin on things and just relate to your crowd in any way that you can. The more you can connect the better the experience is for everyone.


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April Recap – Lessons Learned

April has probably been my busiest month so far in full-time private practice. I had two conferences, both of which I was apart of the planning process, 3 speaking engagements, plus my normal business load (clients and classes). I definitely thought a lot about balance and what that means for myself and my future practice. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I have been trying to change how I do business to allow for more free time.

So, this month (and those in the future), I want to share with you my “Lessons Learned,” “Key Defining Moments,” and “Business Goals.” I decided on these topics for a few reasons; one of which is that other RDs always ask me what I would have done differently (hence lessons learned) when starting my practice. I also always get asked how I keep myself motivated, which involves pivotal moments and setting goals for myself. My hope is that my monthly recap can help someone else in their practice or career in general.

Lessons Learned 
“Always assume there is something to learn.” “Don’t just show-up, but engage.” 
Sometimes when I think about going somewhere I question whether I will get anything out of it. I mean, after all, my time is critical for me to keep a hold on. I realized that you get what you put into ANY situation. If you want to learn, ask questions and be involved. Engage in conversations and do more than just show-up. If you approach situations with a mindset of knowing you will learn, you will.

“Take advice from the experts.” 
What is funny about this lesson is that I always tell people to see a Dietitian for nutrition help because they are the experts. Somewhere along the way I stopped applying this to my personal/business life. Instead of hiring an accountant for tax season, I figured I would do it myself. About 6 hours later, I filed my federal and state taxes, plus learned how to pay quarterly ones. I then realized I had two city taxes to file only days before the deadline. I tried doing the forms myself online and could not get the numbers to populate correctly. It basically kept saying I owed $0, which I knew was incorrect. After a brief panic attack, I realized that I had the business card of an accountant I knew from school AND I had just reconnected with him while on the train. Despite it being late notice, he helped me to figure out what I was doing wrong fairly quickly and all was well. What I learned from this was breaking down wasn’t going to solve a thing; taking action and figuring out a plan would. I also realized it would have been so much easier (and tax deductible) to have worked with him from the beginning instead of wasting all that time stressing and struggling through it on my own. While I am a huge proponent of learning for yourself, it is really important to know what your limits are.

Key Defining Moments 
PAND AME 
This year I was apart of the planning process for the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics’ Annual Meeting and Exhibition. To be honest, I had not gone in the past since I thought I wouldn’t get much out of it. It was such an awesome experience for me. Not only did I get to know some other great Dietitians, but I learned a ton! The best thing about it was that a few RDs came up to me saying they had read my RD Journey blog and had followed me to learn more about private practice. These were people I either never met before or those I knew from years ago but didn’t keep in touch. I also saw a few of my previous preceptors and one had said she still used materials I created for her programming. I was super proud of myself but also realized that I needed to continue on the path I was on to build my brand and products even further.

Running for the Train
Since I really hate driving downtown for my cooking classes, I have been taking the train instead. This means I walk about 1.2 miles to the train station lugging all of my stuff for class. I had a lot of materials for my class last week, so I had a backpack full of stuff plus a rolling suitcase. I had a difficult class attendee who was arguing with me about olive oil being bad for you since it is controlled by the MAFIA, yes the MAFIA. This attendee also said doctors have nutrition certs and you should trust them for diet advice. Needless to say, I was a bit flustered, which then led to me being a careless and cutting my thumb with a knife. Not sure anyone noticed; however, fast forward to me rushing to clean-up to catch the train on time. I ran 3 blocks with a huge backpack and a rolling suitcase all while holding a paper towel on my bleeding thumb since I couldn’t find band-aids. Two ladies also yelled to me, “Run! You will make it. We believe in you,” which just added to the level of crazy. I made it with 3 minutes to spare (only because the train schedule changed and I didn’t realize). So, I am standing there sweating with a bleeding thumb and said to myself, “Never again.” This day was a huge defining moment for me because not only was the afternoon stressful, but I was doing all of it to not even represent my own brand. I definitely had a lot to think about while walking the 1.2 miles home.

Business Goal #1 – Do more as PorrazzaNutrition and less as a contract worker to build someone else’s company.
I made the decision this month, to cut back on the number of cooking classes I do for contract work (see train story above). Not only was the pay not adding up in terms of the time spent, but I also realized these classes are just providing income in the short-term and not allowing me to grow as PorrazzaNutrition. I made a commitment to myself to really focus on doing things that will build my brand and provide income, even if it is in the long-term. This is a huge mental shift for me since I am walking away from quick income; however, long-term, I know this is the best route.

Business Goal #2 – Create and upload at least 3 YouTube videos in May. 
As some of you may know, my drive for video creation was halted when I was in a car accident about a year and a half ago. This is another piece of my business that will not only expand the individuals that I reach, but also, create passive income in the future.

Business Goal #3 – Create a solid outline for my first e-book.
I keep saying that I want to write an e-book and telling people my plan; however, all I have done is write down topics. So, my goal for this month is to actually get more of an outline together and brainstorm chapter specifics. I got so caught up in formatting and how to write the book that I lost sight of the fact that the content is the most important thing. Who cares about formatting and selling when you don’t have a product yet? Priorities!

What lessons have you learned this month? Did you have any defining moments or obstacles you overcame this month?

Stay tuned for next week’s post for my thoughts on my first conference speaking engagement!