How mum Gemma Gardner turned depression into a new business

When Gemma Gardner was medically discharged from her 14 year army career, she was devastated. But she turned her setback and depression into a positive opportunity by retraining as a nutritionist and starting a business to help others.

What’s your career background?

After my nine GCSE’s and two years at college, I joined the Army in 1999. I was there 14 years achieving Sergeant in the Staff and Personnel Support (SPS) Branch of the Adjutant General’s Corps.

All SPS personnel are soldiers first and serve alongside and administer every Unit in the British Army, Regular and Reserve.

Why were you discharged from the army, and how did that feel?

I was medically discharged 16th February 2014. I can tell you the exact date because I suddenly felt very down and dejected. Not only was I in a lot of physical pain, but I had lost the life in the Army that I loved so much.

Why did you decide to retrain as a nutritionist?

I needed to do something to fight my out of my desperate situation. I was on crutches and the pain killers weren’t working for me. I needed to get back on my feet and to be able to focus on my four children.

I found that a complete change of diet started to work for me. I needed to understand more and started to talk to others about my story.

How did your studies help you?

Some of the best nutritional foods and products are the ones that have always been there – ordinary, trusted, but somehow in our modern busy lives neglected.

People might need to change what they put into their bodies for many reasons:

  • To support their immune system.
  • To cleanses their digestive system.
  • To gain some energy.
  • To soothe and promote healing and renewal
  • To hydrate their body.

There are lots of ways in which nutrition can help, and has helped me.

What is Holistic Dreams and why did you start it?

Since ancient times, people have known the healing powers of nutrition and holistic therapies. However, holistic well-being providers are often too busy helping the people they serve.

It is hard for them to look at the big picture and market their talents – seeing through the details to make the right marketing decisions can be tricky and daunting.

With my business management training and experience providing HR administration and financial support to every member of an Army Unit (which could be up to 700 strong) I knew that this work was my calling.

Holistic Dreams helps wellness providers and therapists make the best of their marketing budget. I now work tirelessly on their behalf. We are stronger together.

What kind of people do you help?

Directly and indirectly, with the help of some wonderful therapists, Holistic Dreams helps people that have health and wellbeing issues. I shout out to everyone I meet, ‘Don’t suffer in silence – there is help out there.’

My personal journey over the past two years is a powerful lesson to everyone and is the foundation behind Holistic Dreams.

I’ve built some true lasting friendships along the way. Michael Kearney is my business partner in Holistic Dreams. Michael has a very successful Reiki business called Peace and Light. Weekly Reiki from Michael is helping me fight through my leg pains and focus our shared vision.

What’s been the biggest challenge in starting a business?

Funding is an issue. We needed deep pockets to pay for the overheads – running a business, preparing, organising, publicising and providing Holistic Dreams events is expensive.

The small fees that therapists pay won’t cover out initial outlay for a while yet. We’ve made some personal sacrifices to get Holistic Dreams off the ground and we really believe in its potential.

And what has been your proudest moment to date?

Being proud to be a mum and being a wife – and taking ownership of my life and realising that depression and anxiety are not part of who I am.

I’ve moved on to ensure that the Holistic Dream is available to everyone – the whole family – from babies to grandparents and all the mums and dads, aunts and uncles out there. I stood at my first Holistic Dreams events and marveled at how well everyone was joining in and having fun.

What’s your vision for Holistic Dreams?

All our events now focus on family wellness. Each event is getting bigger and bigger as we grow and serve more and more people that need help and support in their lives. We have four events scheduled for June 2015 (you can find out more about our upcoming events on our calendar).

Social media is a big part in the way that we connect with people. I want everyone to share our posts with their friends and families – Facebook, Twitter, Google +.

How do you balance work and your family?

Both Michael and I find that our families are truly inspirational. They give everything, asking for nothing in return. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to help all the people that we see at Holistic Dreams events.

What tips do you have for other aspiring business mums?

Follow your dream! Mine was a Holistic Dream and I’m so proud of it. I just knew that I had to share my experience and dream with others.

It is amazing that when you start to talk about your dream, you will find others that share your goal. Seek them out and low them to help you on your journey. Build your own team as together you are stronger.

You can learn more about Holistic Dreams on their website.