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    Small Business Assistance Center Proves Valuable Resource for Nature’s Delight Natural Foods
    Corlis Johnson’s desire to start a business that helps people work through their health and wellness problems the more natural way was born from her experience dealing with her own health-care challenges.

    Johnson opened My Natures Delight Natural Foods & Herb Shop in Winter Haven in 1992, several years after she graduated from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee and began a career as a pharmacist. She says it was during her early years as pharmacist, when she was in her early 20s, that she had to deal with some personal health matters that had surgery as a possible solution. She says she refused the surgery and instead relied on her faith in God, her prayers, her knowledge and her training to begin a quest for — and ultimately discover — an alternate path for her recovery.

    Feeling compelled to follow a “destined path of healing,” Johnson says she left her pharmacy practice to begin rigorous studies in nutrition and herbology. She says what she learned and shared with others quickly became a demand, eventually leading to the opening of My Natures Delight and a new career for her as a holistic pharmacist, functional medicine practitioner and cancer coach-educator.

    Located at 3015 Cypress Gardens Road in Winter Haven, My Natures Delight offers a wide range of products. They include women’s health and skin, hair and beauty products; bioidentical hormone compounds; nutritional supplements; essential oils; homeopathics; anti-aging products; bulk and liquid herbs; bulk foods, grains, seeds and fruits; low-carbohydrate and wheat- and gluten-free products; organic foods and produce; and healthy frozen foods. Many of the projects carry Johnson’s own “My Natures Delight” label.

    Johnson says that through studies here and abroad, she has learned “how to treat the whole patient — mind, body and spirit — naturally.” She says the potential for science-based, all-natural healing is the cornerstone of her practice — and she lives by what she knows and shares with others. She says she’s enjoyed a natural lifestyle for more than 30 years.

    Johnson says her business offers a “one-stop-shop approach,” which also includes holistic health and wellness consultations with customers and clients.

    “What I really love is the consultations, doing teaching, seminars, workshops and speaking engagements,” Johnson says. “To see people come back to wellness, to see people happy, is really an amazing feeling.”

    For more than 23 years, Johnson has used her knowledge to help people from all walks of life nurture themselves back from poor health and sometimes despair to a better state of physical and mental wellness. And all along the way — from start-up through today — her enterprise has been nurtured by the Small Business Assistance Center in Bartow, FL.

    Johnson says that from the time she left her early work as pharmacist to just before she opened My Natures Delight, she was “always dibbling and dabbling in stuff” to make a living. Her work included some network marketing, which led her to a company that sold herbal products and nutritional supplements. She says it was during this time, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, that the idea for her own business began to solidify in her mind. She says a cousin of hers, an attorney in Miami, mailed to her a box of information from U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) about how to start a small business, but she says she just put the box aside.

    “My cousin told me about a lot of tools the government had to start a new business,” Johnson says. “I didn’t do anything with it at first, but then I decided to revisit the information after hearing about it from different places. ‘Hey, I need to check this out,’ I said.”

    The resources from the SBA later led Johnson in the early 1990s to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) of Polk County. At the time, the SBDC was a service offered by the Polk County government, under the umbrella of the CFDC. Today, the CFDC offers consultations, marketing assistance, seminars and resources for small businesses through its Small Business Assistance Center (SBAC). The SBDC is now affiliated the SBA and managed locally by the University of South Florida in Tampa.

    Johnson says her initial contact with the CFDC-operated SBDC, Marcella Stanislaus, provided her with business start-up “information, guidance and continual encouragement.”

    “I had a lot of thoughts in mind about what I wanted to do (with her business), and she (Stanislaus) was there on a consulting basis, to act as a sounding board — to help me fully develop what I had in mind,” Johnson says.

    Johnson says she even had the opportunity to travel to Trinidad with Stanislaus and other members of the SBDC staff to learn about international trade and trade opportunities for small businesses.

    Johnson says that since she opened her business 23 years ago, she and the small business consultants from the CFDC have remained in contact. She says she recently revisited the many free services the SBAC provides, leading to a series of consultations about marketing with Dawn Decaminada, the SBAC supervisor and certified business consultant.

    Johnson says Decaminada was the featured speaker at a recent meeting of the local chapter of the American Business Women’s Association. “I contacted her to come out and help, and Dawn has been out twice to the business,” Johnson says.

    In addition, she says, consultant Javier Marin of the SBA-affiliated Small Business Development Center has been very helpful in a number of areas, finding time for phone calls and meetings at the store.

    Johnson says that by staying in touch with the small business consultants, other doors have been opened to her. Just recently, she was one of 17 area business executives selected for the SBA Emerging Leaders Initiative, a new executive-level training program. Johnson says the curriculum has five modules: Business and Strategy Assessment; Financials; Marketing and Sales; Resources (People, Accessing Capital and Government Contracting); and Strategic Growth Plan Presentations. In the end, the program will provide each business represented with a three-year, tailored and strategic growth plan.

    Johnson says she’s “absolutely elated” that so many local services have been — and continue to be — available to her as a small business owner. She says she looks forward to implementing the tools, suggestions and models provided by the many consultants and instructors she’s met, and she looks forward to learning more.

    “Words cannot express the gratitude for the opportunities provided,” she says.
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