Member Spotlight: Caitlin Bernhard of Azalla Wellness + Education

I recently sat down with Caitlin Bernhard, founder of Azalla Wellness, co-founder of Azalla Education, and member of the Greenhouse, to learn more about her work and her journey as an entrepreneur.


Can you tell us a little bit about your business?

So I started Azalla wellness really to provide some liability coverage as an independent contractor working for cannabis certification clinics. Then I was about to start a CBD sales shop with all locally grown locally processed products and the space for me to do consultations and certifications on site.

And that was in March 2020 and then of course everything fell through and I had to take it all down. So I pivoted and was then planning on doing mail order things out of the house. So I started figuring out how to do wholesale and mail order and creating a website to do consults. And then, with the help of coaching, I realized that I really didn’t want to do the sales of products and deal with all the wholesale work and really focused more on the consulting, continuing to do certifications as well.

So, it’s really been evolving over the past few years!

Right now with Azalla Wellness I’m offering integrated health coaching and also a lot of cannabis education and individualized consultation, and as a nurse practitioner I also can offer cannabis medical certifications in Massachusetts and New York. And even if I’m just doing a certification, I try to bring in some DIY wellness and some tips about herbs and some individualized focus.

And then with Azalla Education, we’re really focusing on bringing education first to dispensary employees and industry workers as in an effort to extend the education to the consumers. Because we can’t talk to all the consumers. And they’re not asking us questions, they’re asking the dispensary industry workers the questions. So we’re educating the people who are actually talking to consumers. And then eventually planning on educating healthcare professionals as well.


What is it that first brought you to working with plants?

 

I grew up really out in the woods, and I played with plants from very early on when I was right next to a swamp. And we would go out in the swamp, and, you know, explore the frog eggs and even throw them at each other sometimes which I know is not good but we did it and then just really investigating. I was playing with mushrooms and seeing what would happen if we buried them and came back to them. So I was just always really curious about plants and my environment.

So it’s just always been an interest of mine, and when I was in college I got really into living off the grid and sustainability and how I can do everything myself. And I remember when I was 18 and my friend taught me about comfrey and how to make a comfrey salve and that was the first annual comfrey salve. So it’s been a lifelong interest.

What is it that first sort of inspired you to turn this passion into a business?

I think it was a lot of frustration. I’m a nurse practitioner and I came to nursing after the 2008 recession in an effort to find something a little more stable, because I’d been a massage therapist and yoga instructor at that point. And when everything shifted I thought I would find something a little more stable. But then I was so frustrated with the medical system and the pharmaceutical-industrial complex and just feeling really, really sad about where it ended up. So as soon as I was able to work with cannabis as a nurse practitioner I jumped on it.

And it was big, you know, to plunge into a scary place with not a lot of security, which is interesting because that’s how I came to nursing is looking for security and then I found it and I hated it and I left as soon as I could!

To take care of my personal wellness I had to get back to something I was more comfortable with, which is actually this place of not knowing what’s going to happen next, all the time. Not having that security and avoiding the status quo..

So if you could put your finger on how you define success for yourself, what would that look like?

Honestly, one of the biggest things is having two hours every morning for my wellness routine. That’s huge. And I know that I have really committed to that over the past couple of years since I’ve not been in the nursing job. It’s just been life changing and being able to have that time every morning and then to have spontaneity in my schedule and to go for a walk when I, you know, try to catch the dusk light in winter, instead of leaving in the dark to go to work and then coming home after dark. Things like that that’s really that that shows me that I’m living the life I want to live.


So can you give us a typical day in the life of Caitlin on the days that you’re working in your herbal business?

I’m up around 7:30 or 8. I write in my journal, meditate, and do yoga, then eat breakfast. And then I start seeing some clients, usually on the phone, and I work on projects.

I have lunch. And, you know, I love working from home because I’m also eating well and I’m able to, you know, fit in some laundry or some tasks around the house, and then I get that evening walk in.

And then, this is something that actually needs to change, after dinner I’ll often pull up the computer and continue to do tasks as I watch TV and hang out with my family.

Because there’s this part of me that’s like well I could do this as well. And I’m looking at how productive I’m being at all hours, so there’s a bit of a drive for productivity that doesn’t stop in the face of having a really relaxed schedule.

What would you say is the most important skill that you’ve learned on your path as an entrepreneur?

I’m still not feeling very competent in marketing but I also feel like I’ve gained a lot of knowledge around marketing that’s been really helpful.

And actually, it’s not that I’m not competent, it’s just that I’m still kind of waiting for social media to just go away. And it’s not going to [laughs].

But I learned so much about it, that when I talked to other people about it. I can really speak to marketing things, it’s actually surprising how much I’ve learned just about how to post on multiple accounts, you know, and which posts should go where. So even if I don’t do it I’m knowledgeable about it so that’s a skill that I’ve definitely been learning.

Then I’m creating my new company Azalla Education. Starting from scratch being super intentional going forward and having this understanding of why we’re doing it. To use Bud to Bloom terminology, there’s the root: why we’re doing it, the structure, the stem:  how we’re going to do it. Now we’re getting into the flower: marketing, and how we’re going to let people know. And now starting to see some of the fruit of the harvest.

So that’s been huge just, a different way of looking at business, and then doing it very intentionally is creating something a lot stronger.

What would you say has been your biggest challenge?

The marketing, I just like to be behind the scenes, I always have.

I like to do costumes. I like to go out in costume. So I don’t necessarily want my true self to be out there on the screen or in people’s faces. So that’s the biggest challenge for me. How can I balance letting people know what I do and how to find me with still maintaining my privacy. I like to do research and the behind the scenes work mostly.

What do you think has been your greatest reward in the choice that you made to follow this path?

One of the big rewards is has been learning about how I don’t need that security of the full time job with the benefits and a 401k, and that I’m actually somehow doing better financially and in terms of my health and wellness. So much better than I was when I had a secure job with a clear trajectory of increasing pay and benefits and things like that.

So that’s been a huge benefit is just learning that it doesn’t have to be that way.

What is it that you feel you gain the most from being in community with other herbal entrepreneurs?

It’s so nice to connect with other people, especially during such a weird isolating year that we just had, and we’re still having.  We’re all still pretty isolated. So that’s been really nice to connect with people and then to air out challenges, and then hear that reflection back from others experiencing the same challenges when I might think that I’m going through it alone. Or thinking I shouldn’t mention something because everybody knows about this already, I’m sure this isn’t a problem… but then everybody’s saying “oh me too, me too”.

So I think that’s been really helpful and then just making some connections. All the people who we’ve been visiting with for the last year. I love to see what they’re doing and support their businesses.

Anything else that you want that you would want folks to know about you or your journey?

While I like to be my own boss, do my own thing, live my life, or be in charge of my life I also love collaboration. And that’s been something that I’ve been learning over the last year too. Is how to collaborate effectively with people and that I’m always open to more collaboration, and I’m excited for future collaborations down the line.

 

Does Caitlin’s story resonate with yours? Want to collaborate with her? Share below if you’ve had any similar experiences, or if anything Caitlin shared with us inspired or gave you insight into your own business! 👇🏼

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