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Heather Florio, CEO of Desert Harvest

In 2012, Heather Florio took over a business started 20 years earlier to help her mother’s sister find relief from interstitial cystitis (IC), a painful bladder condition that affects up to 12 million people. Aloe vera capsules that her mother and aunt had purchased at an alternative health conference helped alleviate symptoms, but only if her aunt swallowed nearly the entire bottle.

Undaunted, Florio’s mother hired a chemist to develop a proprietary, super-concentrated aloe vera extract and, with her husband, launched Desert Harvest to sell this product and other aloe vera supplements as a side business to her own writing career. resumes.

When Florio took over, the company was generating just $1 million in sales. With no business experience other than event planning experience, she began initiating new medical research into the company’s products, strengthening relationships with physicians, adding international distribution, and more. Under his leadership, Desert Harvest increased annual revenues to $10 million, a 900% jump in nine years.

I had the opportunity to interview Florio recently. Here are some of the highlights from that interview.

Jill Griffin: What is Desert Harvest’s business focus?

Heather Florio: We started nearly 30 years ago as a supplement company selling aloe vera capsules made with a super-concentrated aloe vera extract to provide relief from interstitial cystitis, a painful bladder condition that affects up to 12 million women and men. We now offer a range of nutritional supplements and skin care products – all made with the same aloe vera extract – used to help people with a variety of under-served and under-recognized health conditions. We focus a lot on pelvic health issues, so we’ve recently added pelvic wands and a book that provides a holistic view of treating pelvic issues.

Griffin: What’s the difference between your aloe vera products and others?

Florio: We have developed a patented, concentrated formulation of aloe vera that is much more potent and effective than typical aloe vera products. The challenge was to make it safe for high dosages and long-term use. Aloe vera naturally contains anthraquinones, a chemical compound that can irritate the colon, damage the liver and kidneys, and lead to colon cancer in the long run. Our formula filters out all anthraquinones and insoluble fibers and also uses a patented drying process to remove all moisture. It takes about 89 full-grown aloe leaves to make a 180-pack of our Aloe Vera Super-Strength Capsules.

Griffin: Your parents started the business. How did you get involved?

Florio: My parents started the company in 1993 to help my mother’s sister, who suffered from interstitial cystitis. I was always involved in Desert Harvest in some way because it was a family business, but my full-time job for 15 years was doing events for the music industry. That job dried up during the last recession, and by that time my mother was ready to retire. I took the job in 2012 and dedicated my heart and soul to it because I had interacted with many of our customers for years and knew how much our products helped them. The irony is that I myself was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis in 2016, so for me it became not only a passion project, but also a very personal one.

Griffin: You took over in 2012, when Desert Harvest was 19 years old and with an annual revenue of $1 million. In the last eight years, you’ve grown to $10 million. How did you get this?

Florio: Desert Harvest was a side project for my mom because she already had a full-time career. She was a career expert who wrote for publications like Barron’s and the Wall Street Journal and spoke at places like Harvard and Yale on career issues. The company grew primarily on word of mouth for the first 19 years because the product spoke for itself. When I took over, I started by applying some basic marketing principles. Over time, I expanded our product line, strengthened relationships with physicians, added international distribution, and much more. I also initiated medical research that expanded our understanding of aloe vera function in the bladder with several US and international studies. All of these things have driven our growth and continue to do so.

Griffin: Let’s go back for a minute. Can you explain what interstitial cystitis is?

Florio: Imagine having a urinary tract infection that never goes away. We’re talking agonizing bladder spasms, excruciating burning, urinating 50 to 80 times a day, and painful sex. It is debilitating and prescription drugs often provide very little relief. Our customers say that our Aloe Vera Super-Strength Capsules are so effective they bring them back to life.

Griffin: What other conditions do your products address?

Florio: Our Releveum skin repair cream helps people suffering from radiation dermatitis, redness, scaling, scaling and pain that can be caused by radiation cancer treatment. We created it to help our chemist’s daughter who was being treated for lymphoma and is now used by radiation oncologists around the world. As an aside, every year during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we donate a portion of our Releveum sales to fund nipple reconstruction tattoos for women who have had mastectomies.

Our Aloe Vera Gelé and Aloe Glide are primarily used for skin care and women, with approval from the National Eczema Association and pending review from the National Psoriasis Foundation. Our B-Complex product with aloe vera provides the benefits of B vitamins without B6 which irritates the bladder (exacerbating the symptoms of interstitial cystitis) as well as causing complications for people with a genetic disorder known as an MTHFR gene mutation.

We also entered the CBD space with our patent-pending CBD/aloe vera capsules. A University of Colorado study showed that our product increases the absorption of CBD into the bloodstream by 25%, and a McGill University pain research study examining how pain receptors in the body respond to our CBD-aloe vera combo will be released. this year.

Griffin: This year you also became the first US supplement company to ditch single-use pill bottles in their packaging and switch to a refillable smart bottle and compostable bags. Tell me about it.

Florio: It’s about doing our part to fight climate change. First, by the end of 2022, we will be phasing out all of our plastic single-use supplement bottles and transitioning to plant-based compostable bags that even have plant-based ink. Second, we partnered with an Israeli company to develop a smart pill bottle that can last for five years, sync with an app on your phone to remind you to take your pills, and remind you when to re-order. This will also help if you have an elderly parent or are a caregiver for someone who can’t remember if they took their medicine. For every bottle sold, we’ll take a ton of plastic and garbage out of the ocean. When the bottle reaches the end of its life, we will send a postage-paid return label to the customer for recycling. Next, we’re working with a company to try to provide more sustainable packaging for our skin care products.

Griffin: What business lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Florio: Innovate. I create That’s one of the biggest things for me. I want what I do and create at Desert Harvest to impact and change people’s lives. For example, we are currently innovating new technologies to better diagnose pelvic floor conditions, developing a collagen pill with one of the highest amino acid profiles on the market, creating a new women’s health platform, and designing a study with a New York hospital. England that could lead to new therapies for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The lesson is that you can change the world if you have the will, imagination and determination to make a difference.

How do you use innovate?

1 The fashion industry is always desperate to innovate. 2 We must innovate to progress. 3 We must constantly adapt and innovate to ensure success in a growing market. 4 Their ability to innovate has allowed them to compete on world markets.

What is an example of innovation? The company plans to continue innovating and experimenting. This may interest you : Electricity bill more than doubled for local businesses. The company has innovated a new operating system.

How is innovation used in everyday life?

Five ways to be more innovative every day

  • I hear. Listen, watch, wait. …
  • Have something different for breakfast. This may interest you : NCET Biz Tips: Juxtaporing art to grow your business. Humans are creatures of habit. …
  • Work with others. “The place where innovation most often stalls is in nurturing it from the seed of an idea to a fully developed product. …
  • Accept risks. …
  • Look for blue.

How is innovation used?

Fundamentally, innovation means introducing something new to your business. On the same subject : Maximize business value with data-driven strategies. This can be: improving or replacing business processes to increase efficiency and productivity, or to allow the business to extend the reach or quality of existing products and/or services.

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How can I be innovative?

Here are 10 things you can do at work to make it easier to be more innovative each day.

  • Start conducting stand-up meetings. Your whole energy changes when you are standing. …
  • Look for inspiration. …
  • Get a friend. …
  • Choose small projects. …
  • Reverse your assumptions. …
  • Bring it to Life. …
  • Ban things. …
  • Get out of the office.

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What is innovation in business?

Business innovation is an organization’s process for introducing new ideas, workflows, methodologies, services or products.

Why is innovation so important in business? Innovation is often necessary for companies to adapt and overcome the challenges of change. Promotes growth: Stagnation can be extremely harmful to your business. Achieving organizational and economic growth through innovation is key to staying afloat in today’s highly competitive world.

How is innovation used in business?

Innovation refers to creating more effective processes, products and ideas. For a business, it can mean implementing new ideas, improving services or creating dynamic products. It can act as a catalyst that can make your business grow and can help you adapt in the market.

What is innovation an example?

The first electric vehicles introduced in the car market were also an innovation, and the new batteries with longer autonomy that do not stop coming out are also an example of innovation.

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