Women In Wellness: Heather Florio of Desert Harvest on the Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing
Work, life, balance — Being able to practice a healthy work, life, balance helps reduce stress in your overall life. You want to be able to enjoy your work but then also enjoy time with family and friends. When I worked in the music industry I wasn’t able to unplug at the end of the day to spend time with family. I now realize how important that time is for me to be a mother and wife.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Heather Florio, the second-generation owner of Desert Harvest and has been an integral part of its operations since 1993. In 2012, with the retirement of her parents, Heather took over as CEO of Desert Harvest, bringing not only her management and operations skills, but her passion for helping, advocating, and educating with her vast knowledge on interstitial cystitis and women’s health issues. While Desert Harvest offers nutritional supplements and skincare to remedy a broad list of issues today, our story begins with the foundational passion to support those suffering from Interstitial Cystitis.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I am the second-generation owner of Desert Harvest and have been an integral part of its operations since 1993. When I was in high school I began working events Desert Harvest had going on and helping pack initial orders which helped me learn the ins and outs of the industry. When I graduated high school, I went to college in California and worked in the music industry for about 15 years. Once I had kids, I realized that I could no longer work 72-hour shifts on music tours and needed a better balance. In 2012, my parents retired, and I took over as CEO of Desert Harvest. I brought my management and operations skills with me along with my passion for educating and advocating for women’s health issues.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
2004 was a huge turning point in my life regarding my priorities and goals. In 2001, my husband had been injured while doing a military training exercise. In 2004, he completely lost the ability to walk. That year I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and my 8-month-old son was very sick in the hospital. The three of us were in and out of the hospital and undergoing surgeries. My husband was part of an experimental surgery that allowed him to regain his ability to walk. Creating a CBD line was a passion project for me. Watching my husband struggle with pain day in and day out was hard to watch. I wanted to create the safest, most effective long-term medicine for him. I’m happy to say I was able to do that successfully.
Our health scares gave me time to reflect and realize the importance of family support and being able to balance work with time for your loved ones. By having that family support, you can get through anything, don’t take anything for granted, and fight for your health.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Separating business and friendships. You can’t let personal relationships get in the way of the hiring process. I’ve learned over the years that keeping some kind of line between business and personal relationships is important.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mother is my inspiration. She started her own company in 1980 doing secretarial services for executives. She wanted to find a way to utilize her business and writing skills. She was a motivated entrepreneur who taught me from a young age to work hard. I helped her by answering phones and learned how to type at the age of eight. She worked hard during the day but focused on being a mom at home. That’s something I admired so much about her and apply to my everyday life now.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
My mother started Desert Harvest because her sister suffered from Interstitial Cystitis and there was no cure. I was diagnosed in 2016 with Interstitial Cystitis — as do 8–12 million people — and have made it a mission to bring awareness to this chronic condition. So many people put their lives on pause and suffer in silence. With the Desert Harvest super-strength aloe vera capsules, we restore their hope of getting their lives back. I hope that the products I create can take away their pain and bring awareness to a condition that rarely gets recognition.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Take time to unplug and live in the moment- On Friday’s we have “feel free Friday” time where we schedule time to put technology away and just be together. We go paintballing, go on hikes or simply just sit and chat.
- Recognize that your mental health is important- Many people put their mental health on the backburner, but it is important to acknowledge that it matters. Mental health is integral to living a balanced, healthy life and it’s important to take care of yourself. Being healthy emotionally can improve productivity and everyday life.
- Work, life, balance — Being able to practice a healthy work, life, balance helps reduce stress in your overall life. You want to be able to enjoy your work but then also enjoy time with family and friends. When I worked in the music industry I wasn’t able to unplug at the end of the day to spend time with family. I now realize how important that time is for me to be a mother and wife.
- Take small steps to improve yourself- Everybody has to start somewhere if they want to improve themselves. Even if it is just taking a twenty-minute walk outside it’s important that you even got out there. It’s better to take baby steps in order to maintain a lifestyle change so you don’t get overwhelmed.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help- There’s no shame in needing help throughout your life. Whether that is for advice or just to vent about something there are resources for these matters.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would empower people to acknowledge that their mental health is such an important aspect of their wellbeing. Pain receptors are in constant communication with the brain, which can become muddled as a result of chronic pain. A lot of people don’t recognize that and the fact that it can really deteriorate one’s mental health over time. I would start a movement for people to know that their mental health is important and to put time aside to care for themselves.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Don’t hire people based on friendship but instead on their business capabilities. You’ll not only fail to grow your company but also potentially destroy friendships in the process.
- Work doesn’t get easier the further you climb the ladder and the more you achieve. You have to work hard to keep your business alive. I have a passion for helping others so that helps me stay motivated to create amazing products for my customers.
- Put time aside each day to unplug and do something other than work. Being able to maintain a health work, life, balance is key to enjoying the work you do. I unplug at the end of the day to spend time with my family and friends.
- Everyday isn’t going to be perfect. It’s hard to predict the future but know that you’re going to have some off days and that’s okay. Making mistakes is part of growing up and allows one to learn lessons to carry on with them.
- Know how to understand what the demand for consumers is. When the pandemic began I saw the spike in demand for hand sanitizer. Desert Harvest adapted and understood the market and came out with a product that was needed, hand sanitizer. I also knew that I wanted to make a hand sanitizer that was effective but had clean ingredients.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health is especially important to me. A lot of people can’t afford mental health resources, and I want to be able to help support access to help for others. A passion project of mine is putting together and funding support groups so that people in chronic pain have access to these mental health programs. This is still a work in progress but one of my priorities.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights!