Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work in the nonprofit world? Have you considered STARTING your own nonprofit some day?

In the episode, I chat with dietitians Ashley Carter and Jasmine Westbrooks about their experience launching the nonprofit EatWell Exchange.

They share exactly what it took to get started, how they fundraise and serve the community, where they envision the nonprofit going long term, and their best advice for anyone considering launching a nonprofit today.

The Unconventional RD Podcast Episode 046 - How to Start a Nutrition Nonprofit with Ashley Carter and Jasmine Westbrooks

What You’ll Learn

  • How Jasmine and Ashley came up with their nonprofit idea
  • How a nonprofit differs from a for-profit business
  • The specific steps to found a nonprofit
  • Creative ways to raise money for your cause
  • How to pivot your fundraising due to the pandemic
  • Ashley and Jasmine’s best advice for aspiring nonprofit founders

More About Ashley Carter & Jasmine Westbrooks

Both Ashley and Jasmine are registered dietitians who set out to bridge the gap between healthy eating in low socioeconomic communities and nutrition education. EatWell Exchange’s sole mission is to provide nutrition education and accessibility to food with a focus on culture. Thus far they have taught 4,000 people and fed over 2000 people within 3 years.

Connect with EatWell Exchange

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Episode Show Notes

Erica Julson: Well, hello, and happy Black Friday/Cyber Monday week if you are listening live to this podcast episode. I wanted to give you guys a heads up on what's going on in my business, and what offers I have available for my three online courses. As you may or may not know, I have three courses that teach dietitians and other wellness professionals how to get found online. I teach something called search engine optimization, which is how to create content that actually gets found on the internet when people do Google searches. I have a whole course on that, which is basically the foundation, in my opinion, of online business.

Erica Julson: That's far and away my most popular course, so I just want to start with that one, but that one is available for enrollment during Black Friday. I also have a course called Make Money Blogging, that teaches you six ways to actually monetize your website once you have an audience and you have that traffic. Then I also have a course on email marketing to help you learn how to build your audience on an email marketing platform, keep in touch with them, keep them engaged, and then automate some of your sales processes, so you're not constantly live selling everything at all times.

Erica Julson: Those are my three courses that I've got going on. As of right now and as it has been in the past, those courses have just been open for enrollment at any time, but that is all changing. In 2021, I'm going to be taking all of the sales pages off my website after Cyber Monday, so the last day to enroll in any of my three courses at the current pricing is going to be the last day of November, so November 30th. That will be the last day, Cyber Monday. Last call, you can join now. Once you're in my courses, you get lifetime access to the current versions and any future updates and upgrades that I make to the content in the coming years.

Erica Julson: Basically, what's happening is I am no longer just going to have the courses up and available to enroll willy nilly, I'm actually going to be creating some evergreen webinar marketing funnels that will be in place throughout my business. There will not be just a freely available enrollment page for you guys at any time. That's changing for 2021. As a part of that as well, the prices for my courses are going up significantly, so the SEO course is going to be the first one to go through this revamp. We'll hopefully be relaunching in January 2021 with a bunch of new updates, upgrades.

Erica Julson: It's going to be amazing. It's already amazing, but it's going to be even better as this will be the third iteration of this course, basically. The course is going to almost double in price from what it is right now in January when it relaunches. If you have been possibly on the fence about joining any of my courses, now is a great time to get in. Just a reminder as well, each course has 20 something CEUs attached to them as well, so it's a great opportunity to fill up your continuing education bank for the next round of your certification cycle.

Erica Julson: That's basically what I'm doing, a Black Friday/Cyber Monday "last chance sale." Just head to my website, theunconventionalrd.com, and click on the courses tab if you're interested. I do also have a bundle offer, so if you purchase all three of the courses, you save an additional 15% off the current already low prices, so a lot of people take me up on that. Again, if you buy now, you're in forever. You're good to go. You walk in the lowest price before they basically double in 2021. That's what I'm doing for Black Friday.

Erica Julson: Hope to see you inside my courses and inside my private students only Facebook group. That's where I interact with people the most, and give a lot of really detailed help and guidance. I'm excited about that. But other than that, I would love to dive right into today's episode. This is my first ever interview with two people at the same time, so there's three of us here today. I'm speaking with Jasmine Westbrooks and Ashley Carter. They are both registered dietitians who founded a nonprofit called EatWell Exchange.

Erica Julson: I have seen questions about starting nonprofits or getting into the nonprofit world in The Unconventional RD community on Facebook. For those of you who are new to this podcast, The Unconventional RD community on Facebook is my free Facebook group for anyone to join and talk about unconventional revenue streams that we can create as dietitians. Ashley and Jasmine are in that group. I invited them to come on the podcast today to talk about their experiences starting a nonprofit so that you guys can see behind the scenes what goes into it, all the different hurdles you might run up against.

Erica Julson: I asked Ashley and Jasmine about some of the biggest lessons that they've learned and their best advice for anyone looking to start a nonprofit today. We're chatting about specifically their experience with their nonprofit, EatWell Exchange, and they've taught over 4,000 people and fed over 2,000 people over the last three years since starting this nonprofit. They're great people to learn from. Definitely give them a follow, and check them out on social media after this episode, but let's dive right into the conversation.

Erica Julson: Hi, Ashley and Jasmine, thank you so much for being here today on the podcast. You guys are both the founders of a nonprofit organization called EatWell Exchange. Can you start by telling us a little bit more about your nonprofit and what you guys do?

Jasmine Westbrooks: This is Jasmine, y'all. We have EatWell Exchange. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides nutrition education and accessibility to healthy foods, both socioeconomic communities with a focus on culture. We have amazing programs that we serve to the communities that need it the most, communities that may not have access or the best, I guess, nutrition education quality to know what type of foods to eat, but also really having accessibility to that food.

Jasmine Westbrooks: We've been able to have community gardens in Haiti and in Sebring, Florida, and a culinary program where we're working with kids from age five to 17. We've been asked to speak at different community churches and other great organizations that really want to learn about nutrition, but we can't forget that focus on culture, because we want people to eat the foods that they love that's their preference, that has some cultural relevance, but putting a little spin on it if it's not as healthy, but you'll be surprised there are a lot of foods that are from different cultures that are extremely healthy, so that's something that we have the choice to do.

Erica Julson: That's awesome. That's so inspirational. I think a lot of people listening are going to be like, "What? You guys built that? I want to build something like that." That's what I'd love to get into today is learning more about how the heck you even came up with this idea and how you started it and that whole process, but I guess before I go into those questions, could you guys each individually also just give us an introduction to yourself, maybe how long you've been a dietitian, how you got into it, that type of thing?

Ashley Carter: My name is Ashley Carter. I have not been a registered dietitian yet for a complete year. September will make a year. I did things in a little reverse order. Honestly, we're going to tell you the story of how we founded EatWell Exchange, but it was not planned. We actually started having events before we had a name for our nonprofit. Things did not go as planned, and one of the plans was for both of us to be dietitians before actually launching EatWell Exchange, but there was a need, so we just went with it.

Ashley Carter: I'm from Miami, Florida. I gained an interest in nutrition. When I went off to college, I was an exercise science major, but then I took one nutrition class, science of nutrition. I fell in love. I was like, "Okay, this isn't easy, but I enjoy it," so it made all of my courses a little bit better, and I decided to switch over to the dietetics field after taking that class. I have been working in the nutrition field for about eight years now. Even though I'm just becoming a dietitian, I still have a lot of years of experience, a lot of years of counseling, especially with lower socioeconomic populations.

Ashley Carter: When I was in college at Florida State, I was a pure health educator there, so I did counseling for different students that had, not eating disorders, but they had a lot of questions when it comes to disordered eating. I have a lot of experience when it comes to counseling in different demographics.

Jasmine Westbrooks: Ashley is amazing as you can hear.

Ashley Carter: Thanks, Jas.

Jasmine Westbrooks: I'm Jasmine aka Jas. I've been a dietitian for about four years, and I currently actually work at a diabetes facility full-time, which we'll get into some other things that we do, but I have the nonprofit EatWell Exchange. I got into nutrition in school because of family history and some family medical conditions that really hit my family at one time. I'm like, "Okay, medication is just not it. There has to be preventative ways and other treatments that can help my family," and that made me discover that dietitians do exist.

Jasmine Westbrooks: I changed my major from pre-veterinary medicine to nutrition and dietetics. Ever since then, it's been a fun rollercoaster to be on.

Erica Julson: Well, then based on those backgrounds, how did you guys come together and come up with the idea to launch nonprofit?

Ashley Carter: This is the funny story. Like I said, it was not planned at all. Jasmine and I along with our other founder, Deirdre, we all work together as nutrition educators, so we all love our job. We all like to talk about nutrition. I met Jasmine actually working for that job, so that's how we got our work relationship where we would go out to lunch together and things like that. Then we started to develop more of a friendship, and we all just started to talk about our dreams and goals, because at this time, all three of us were nutrition educators.

Ashley Carter: We were not dietitians yet. We're all struggling to get into the internship, so we really bonded over that experience of writing personal statements and reading each other's resumes and everything like that. We talked about our goals, and one thing that all three of us had aligned with is that we all wanted to make an impact to our communities. We all have family members that are suffering from diabetes, from cardiovascular disease. For myself, personally, actually, both of my parents are deceased from health conditions that could have been prevented.

Ashley Carter: We all just have a desire to make a difference, so we talked about that desire, and we all said... I remember telling Jasmine one day we were at brunch, and I was like, "After we're all our RDs, we should travel the world together, eat food from different cultures, learn about their cultures, and find out what they're doing better than we're doing here in America, and just start adapting some of their recipes, and also taking our foods that are working well for us and our cooking methods, and spread those across the globe."

Ashley Carter: We wanted to do a global exchange of food. Jasmine is like, "Oh my goodness, I'm so excited. When we're all registered dietitians, we'll do this together." This brunch happened in December. January, Jasmine calls me and she's like, "Oh my God, somebody wants our nonprofit to go to Montego Bay to do a nutrition program." She's so excited. Jasmine's like, "Ashley, I cannot believe this. We got invited somewhere." I was like, "Jasmine, I'm so excited too, but there's only one problem. We don't have a nonprofit."

Ashley Carter: I was like, "We don't have a name. We don't have anything. We don't even know what to do," but we had a program already booked. This was in January, and we incorporated EatWell Exchange in February. We had to find a name, so we all were just looking and bouncing ideas. We found a name. We got ourselves Incorporated. We learned more. We talked to our friend who's a lawyer, and she helped us make sure that we're not doing anything that's illegal. We just worked with a financial advisor.

Ashley Carter: We just called all the friends that we had, and just picked their brains, and just kept asking them questions, and we founded EatWell Exchange.

Erica Julson: Isn't that the best though? It's almost like when something external happens, that just pushes you to do it. You probably needed that.

Ashley Carter: Yes.

Erica Julson: It makes it sound almost less intimidating than I had it in my head. I mean, I hear the word nonprofit, and I'm like, "Oh, that must be super..." I don't know. It must require a lot of paperwork, and it sounds intimidating to me. Maybe we can talk about that next. What is a nonprofit, and how is that different than just a regular for-profit business?

Ashley Carter: When it comes to a nonprofit, the main difference is your goal is to cause an impact. Your goal is to create a change. There are for-profits that create a change as well, but usually, their goal is to generate revenue. For ours, our goal is solely to make an impact into the community, but of course, as we know, with any nonprofit, whether it's for Light the Night like childhood cancer, whether it's for the Humane Society, no matter what the purpose of your nonprofit is, you need money. You need funds to create change.

Ashley Carter: Whether you're a nonprofit or a for-profit, you always have to generate revenue. A lot of people think that because you're a nonprofit, that you're not supposed to have money, but that's not the case. Actually, the more money you have, the better because that's how we're able to have a Culinary Academy, and that's how we're able to have a garden locally in Haiti, because we have funds. Th main difference is that your goal is to cause an impact and also having a nonprofit separate, so what you're doing is separate your business from yourself, which is important.

Ashley Carter: I can decide, or Jasmine can decide that she wants to go out and feed 100 families, but if there's any liability if anything happens, then Jasmine or Ashley will get sued. But when you have a nonprofit, it separates yourself from the business, which is important because even when you're doing good deeds, there's always a chance that things can go wrong. You always want to make sure that you're covered and you're protected so that you don't lose your personal assets because of your business.

Ashley Carter: That's for a nonprofit or for-profit. You should always have an LLC or separate business to separate the funds. Also, it allows you to track your expenses better too when you have a separate entity that is your nonprofit.

Erica Julson: Is it the same format as setting up say an LLC or a corporation or something? It's just like a different piece of paper you fill out, or is it more involved?

Ashley Carter: It starts off the same. In Florida, we have to go to Sunbiz to create your organization. You'll do that for an LLC or for a nonprofit or S corp, any type of business that you're running. But for nonprofits, you also have to get tax exemptions. You have to get your state tax exemption, your federal tax exemption. You also have to fill out paperwork with the USDA every year, your solicitation agreement, which pretty much states that it shows how much money you plan on generating from funds and from donations, and that you're going to use that money for the purpose that you're stating.

Ashley Carter: It's saying that while you're collecting money... Well, actually in order to collect the money, you need that USDA solicitation agreement first.

Erica Julson: How long does that whole process take?

Ashley Carter: It doesn't take too long. Jasmine and I, we do it together. We rotate all of the paperwork so that both of us know how to do everything, because it's great to know. It doesn't take a lot, but the hardest part that I can tell you is that you don't know what to do. What I mean by that is when you start a nonprofit, first, you do your Sunbiz, and you're like, "Okay, great, we have a name. We're incorporated. We're done." Then you're like, "Oh no, I need a tax ID number." Then you're like, "Oh, wait, but I need this," and then you'll apply for a grant.

Ashley Carter: They'll say, "In order to get a grant, you need to have this." There's always this big web of things that you didn't know even existed that you always have to have. It's important, because with a nonprofit, you're getting the federal exemption, the state exemption, so you want to make sure that everything lines up. You want to make sure you're doing everything by the books. That's why we do have a lawyer a part of our board of directors, because with a nonprofit, there's so many rules, so you never want to get in trouble from not knowing because that's not an excuse.

Ashley Carter: You have to do your research. You have to be knowledgeable.

Jasmine Westbrooks: It reminds me a little bit too of when we all first passed our exam, and we have to have all these different types of, "Oh, you need this." If you're in a state where you have to have that, what is it, the LD type licensure, you have to fill out the paperwork for that, and then you have to do the paperwork for the national registration number. Then you have to create your pathway of what you think you're going to do with the CDR. It's kind of like that. They all fit in together.

Jasmine Westbrooks: Like Ashley said, it can be a little intimidating at first, but what I found is that when you do get those things, when you have those numbers that you know you need, like your tax ID, it gets easier when it's like, "Oh, I need my tax ID. Got it," or, "Oh, I need my state exempt. Got it." The first time, it's just like, "What is this, and why do I need it, but you do need it? You do." It's funny because Ashley always says this too that 501(c)(3) shows some respect on your nonprofit. It really does.

Jasmine Westbrooks: People always say, "Oh, I have a nonprofit," but that 501(c)(3) really makes you official in the sense when you're applying for grants and when you're applying for bigger things, instead of just have a nonprofit, but I don't have that paperwork to back me up.

Erica Julson: That's so insightful. I feel like this is a whole new world. When you have a nonprofit, basically, any money that you generate goes back into the nonprofit in some way. There's no "profit" left over. Is none of the money that you generate taxable? Is it tax free, because it's a nonprofit?

Ashley Carter: Right, because it's a nonprofit, it is tax free, and your money should balance out at the end of the year. If we have a fundraiser as an example, and we earn $20,000 from that fundraiser, from our fundraisers throughout the year, by the end of the year, we should close out at zero. We actually file our taxes every year just like any other business does. A part of the tax form, you have to show that whatever you brought in, whatever donations you got, your sales, everything you do throughout the year, it has to balance out with the programs that you're doing in the community.

Ashley Carter: Our tax form is pretty detailed. We actually have to list all of the programs that we're doing. Well, we put numbers and demographics because everything that you fill out in your tax form is public knowledge. Right now, you can look at EatWell Exchange's tax form from last year, and you can see how our money was divided. That's another thing a lot of nonprofits have to remember that this is public record, so you want to make sure that if you're generating funds, and people are donating to you, that you're using that money the way you told people that you're going to use that money because they can see.

Erica Julson: Another thing I had no idea.

Jasmine Westbrooks: That's something that we've been good at too, because that's how we get more donations when people see, "Oh, wow, you traveled this many miles to do this, or while you serve this many people." The money that's not in your account just sitting there is the proof that you've done that. You don't want the money. Somebody once told us like, "You don't want the money just sitting there, and to be like, "Oh, I have this many thousands," but how is it going back into the community in order to make the difference, to make the impact and serve?

Erica Julson: I used to work in research. When you're doing research, and you're trying to get a grant or something, it's similar where they're like, "Okay, you better spend this. It's like a penalty if you don't spend it."

Ashley Carter: Exactly, because that's what the money's for.

Erica Julson: That's true. Do you forecast what you're projected to bring in so that you know how much you can do throughout the year, or is it like you get the money, and then you decide what to do? I'm just thinking of the grant example. You had to come up with a super detailed like, "This is where this money is going. This is why I need this much," but I guess in the nonprofit scenario, it's not like you're necessarily asking for grant from the government or something. I'm not even really sure. You're getting donations, or how do you get most of your money?

Jasmine Westbrooks: Most of our money comes from donations or fundraisers that we have, so for example... I'm sure we'll get to this regarding COVID. One of the things that we did was if you want to donate, if you click on our website or our Instagram, you can see where you want your money to go. You may want to contribute $10 to the local community garden that we're working with, or contribute $10 to feed a child that's in our culinary program. It does help to categorize it in that way so that they'll know where money is going to, but you'll also know too.

Jasmine Westbrooks: That is something that you do have to keep up with. Regarding fundraisers, it's pretty much the same because our fundraisers like our cultural chef cook off, that's always been our fundraiser that we try to do each year. With that, we're able to host all these courses or classes in local areas of where the Chef Cook-Off was held so that people can see, "Oh, I went to that Chef Cook-Off. Now, they're making a difference two or three weeks later at serving these kids from the ticket that I was able to buy for the Chef Cook-Off."

Jasmine Westbrooks: That's the way that we look at it.

Erica Julson: Do you get paid to do any of this, or how does that work?

Ashley Carter: Not yet. Jasmine and I both have full-time jobs at this time, so we are still working full time, and that's how we are living our lives. That's how we're able to survive from our full-time jobs. Eventually, one day, we hope to get to the point where EatWell Exchange is our full-time job, and we're making enough impact and we're bringing in enough fun so that Jasmine and I can do EatWell Exchange full time, because there's a lot of opportunities that we have to turn down because of our jobs.

Ashley Carter: We're both higher up in our jobs, our nine to five, so when it comes to EatWell Exchange, we have to make that decision sometimes. A lot of times, we have to choose our employment. It's difficult for now, but we hope that as we continue to grow, we'll be able to do EatWell Exchange full time, and receive our payments from EatWell Exchange.

Jasmine Westbrooks: Even one of our mentors... Shout out to Hebni Nutrition Consultants. They're amazing. They pretty much do the same work that we do in Orlando, Florida. I remember us talking to them, and for them, it took them about seven to 10 years of work in their full-time job, and then doing all these classes and things for free, and so they were able and have the capacity to really apply for grants. Then with grants, they want to know exactly where your money is going.

Jasmine Westbrooks: That's often consisting of hiring people to help you get that impact or that purpose going, so it takes a minute. It really does, unless you're starting off with just a ton of money. You know exactly where you want it to go. But for most nonprofits, I mean, you do get money from grants, and that's something that we're working on. We're trying to get into the grant process instead of just donors to fund our purpose or what we're trying to do.

Erica Julson: Makes a lot of sense. Do you guys take volunteers or interns or anything, or is it just you guys?

Ashley Carter: Yes, we do take volunteers. We have a sign up on our Instagram. We have a Google Doc, where you can sign up to be a volunteer. We do have a great amount of people that have signed up, and we typically have volunteers participate in different activities. Some volunteers, they like to come to events, and help us set up and help us run the event. Other volunteers, we have a lot of students from FIU, who are amazing. They're dietetic students there, and they volunteer to help us do things like curriculum.

Ashley Carter: They want to help us plan out the activities, and they want to help us with newsletters and different things like that. We are always taking volunteers, because essentially, it is the two of us when it comes to events. Jasmine lives in Sebring, and I live in South Florida, so we don't even live in the same city. Typically, for an event, Jasmine will be by herself with 50 kids in the garden, trying to figure it out, so she'll have community volunteers. We do have community partnerships.

Ashley Carter: The same for myself at the Culinary Academy, it's about 200 children that are in the kitchen. Yes, it's a lot of children. It's a lot of people that we work with, so our volunteers really make a huge impact.

Erica Julson: How do you get connected with all these opportunities? Who do you reach out to if you want to do a community garden or a cooking academy or something like that?

Jasmine Westbrooks: Instagram is honestly like... Ashley's amazing with Instagram.

Ashley Carter: Thank you, Jas.

Jasmine Westbrooks: Me not so much. Sometimes, I'm like, "Oh, I have this idea," and then I'm like, "What do you think of this?" She'll put it into pictures, attention grabbing things, very creative behind me, and I'm like, "Exactly what I wanted." Instagram, for sure, social media, but also just being out there... I was on another podcast talking about that too, how I feel like some dietitians, sometimes, we just want to stay in our little group at other dietitian conferences and workshops, but t's so important to go out into the other healthcare professional arenas, and it's okay to be the only dietitian in the room.

Jasmine Westbrooks: You're actually going to make a lot of connections. Of course, you're going to have to debate on carbs. Why are carbs good or not from a doctor, whoever? They may not believe that, but there will be one person out of that group that will be like, "Wow, I really resonate with what you're doing. My grandmother or my mom has this, and I would like to know more about what you do." I always stress that to other dietitians like, "Get out there," but also in other arenas, where there may not be a dietitian present, and you're able to network and connect too.

Jasmine Westbrooks: Ashley mentioned something too. Think of it this way as well. She has 100 Kids in the kitchen, right? That means there's a lot of parents around picking those kids up. How many of those parents have 100 parents that are picking them up may have a church that needs that nutrition counseling, nutrition class? You make that contact based on the services that you provide. Out of the 100 kids, I'm sure there's 10 to 15 parents that are like, "Oh, I want y'all to come and do this at my church."

Jasmine Westbrooks: "Oh, I know somebody that knows somebody else that needs this program, and would love to fund you." You have to look at it from different avenues, and don't be afraid to go into those different avenues and be the only dietitian because word on the street is there's not that many of us in the nation, right?

Ashley Carter: Another thing just to piggyback off of Jas really quickly is Jasmine is the queen of walking in the room. What I mean by that is she has done presentations in front of physicians, with nurses, and even if she sees a presentation happening, she's like, "Oh, so which dietitian is going to talk about heart disease?" They're like, "Ha? We don't have a dietitian." She's like, "Oh, okay, well, just let me know if you need a dietitian, and I'll be available." It's so important because a lot of times, and she does...

Ashley Carter: We have some of them up on our Instagram page, actually, where she just did a talk about diabetes, being young with diabetes, and also talk about heart disease. Originally, those conversations did not include dietitians. The nurse practitioner after she already posted the event actually came back and reached out to us and was like, "Hey, maybe we should have a dietitian a part of this." We're like, "Yes, you should." It's important for us really to get... I know when I was in my internship, they always had dietitians lived in the basement.

Ashley Carter: It's always important for us to get out of the basement, and get into people's... We have to get in their face, and show them like, "This is what a dietitian does. We don't just help you lose weight. We don't just come into your room and ask you if your food tastes good. We're not dietary. We're dietitians. We have a large scope that we learn. Our internship is brutal." We learn a lot, so we don't gather that information to just talk to each other and to critique each other.

Ashley Carter: No, we give this information to change the world. The only way to make an impact is to be seen, to be heard and to have a seat at the table.

Erica Julson: I know this is not exactly the same, but that's part of my mission with teaching dietitians, SEO and search engine optimization. If you have the passion to create content and write about nutrition or whatever, it needs to be found. There's a strategy behind it, and by not understanding that strategy, we're letting anyone else take over the nutrition blogging sphere. There's so much potential for all of us in person and online, I think. It sounds like Jasmine's like the in-person go getter, and Ashley's the Instagram champion, so you got a good combo.

Ashley Carter: Exactly. Jasmine's like the executive producer, and then I'm the actor or vice versa sometimes actually, because we go back and forth. Jasmine, she'll create content. Sometimes, she'll tell me like, "Oh, this would be a good post, or I saw this quote, or I read this information." She'll send me an article, and then I'll take the article, and make an Instagram post with it. Then after somebody contacts us and says, "Hey, we love your posts. Can you do an interview?"

Ashley Carter: Then I'll tag Jasmine back in and say, "Hey, do you feel like doing this podcast?" She's like, "I'm on." We both tag back and forth with who's Batman? Who's Robin? It works out.

Jasmine Westbrooks: Yeah, it's a good balance, and that's important. If you're going to partner with anybody with a business, you have to balance it out, and I guess, not necessarily know their strengths and weaknesses, but more of know your gifts and your skill set, and then learn your partner's gifts and skill set, and you all work that out.

Ashley Carter: That's another thing when it comes to having a partner. Me and Jas, I don't consider us like business... We don't have a business background. We're dietitians. We care about food. We care about helping people, so sometimes it's hard when you start a business because you don't have that knowledge. We'll never pretend like we do. We're learning. Every single day, we're learning. We're reading. We're buying books, and reading all types of articles, but I can be very honest with you, when we started EatWell Exchange, I wanted all of us to be strong in every area.

Ashley Carter: I felt like everything should be the same. I thought that if I was working on a presentation, Jasmine and Deidre should be working on that presentation with me. I thought if Jasmine was talking, we should all talk together. That was my mindset coming in. Now, it's completely different. We separate everything. We divide and conquer, because you're not going to be good at everything, so it's important for whoever wants to start a nonprofit or a business to realize that you and your business partners shouldn't be twins.

Ashley Carter: You should actually be close to opposites. That way, you can complement each other, and balance each other out when you need it the most.

Jasmine Westbrooks: Exactly.

Erica Julson: Sounds like me and my husband. Back to generating revenue for the nonprofit, I know you said you have donations and people can donate on your website. Are there any other ways? I know you mentioned you're going to start getting into applying for grants. Can people just become a sponsor on those, and make a recurring donation, or how does that all work?

Ashley Carter: Yes, we do have a donor box, and the link is in our bio for our Instagram. With donor box, you can choose to give one time. That's what Jasmine was explaining earlier, how you can say, "I would like to give $50 to the Culinary Academy. I would like to give $20 to the garden," but also have donor box that has an option to be a reoccurring donor. We actually have just started getting more reoccurring donors which we love, because you can give any amount. Someone gives us $5 every month, and we are jumping for joy every month that we get that email for $5, because it makes a difference.

Ashley Carter: We know... Jasmine and I in our real lives are extremely frugal. It doesn't matter how much money we make. We're always trying to make sure that we're not overspending in our personal lives, so that carries over to our nonprofit. You would be amazed to see how many children we can feed with a small amount of money. Any amount that we get, we're trying to really apply that full amount to the biggest extent for our community. Any donation we get is appreciated, and the reoccurring donations help us ensure that month to month to month, we'll be able to continue our programs.

Jasmine Westbrooks: The fundraiser I was mentioning, like Chef Cook-Off, everybody doesn't understand sometimes, or, I guess, resonate sometimes with your purpose of your nonprofit, and that's okay. But if you give people something fun like the Chef Cook-Off event, that's something fun that people want to go to. Pretty much, the Chef Cook-Off is where we get four different chefs from different cultures, and they compete like the version of Chopped on Food Network. Give them something fun like that to do and know that, "Hey, that $50 ticket is going to be fun. I'm going to be able to have drinks with my friends," but also, it's actually going to a good purpose.

Jasmine Westbrooks: Now, you may not have the person that wants to buy the shirt or wants to contribute to the community garden, but they want to have fun, so you have to look at different ways how people can give in different ways where it's going to be beneficial and resonating to them as well.

Erica Julson: Almost putting on an event planner hat.

Jasmine Westbrooks: Yeah.

Ashley Carter: Exactly.

Jasmine Westbrooks: Ashley's in Miami, and Miami is like a party city. They want to have fun behind why they're contributing to a purpose, and that's something that Ashley is been really good with figuring out that audience like, "Hey, they like to party and would like to have fun and be out and be social. How can we turn this into a fundraiser, but at the same time is making a difference? Hey, did you know that you can put this on your taxes, that you gave?" Something like that, that really resonates with them.

Erica Julson: Just before I move on, was the donor box thing that you talked about, is that a tool or a program that you use to collect donations, or were you just saying donor box like, click a button or something?

Ashley Carter: It's a website. It's a website donorbox.com, I believe, or donorbox.org, but we have the link on our bio for our Instagram. Once you go to donor box, you can search for EatWell Exchange if you're going directly to the website, and it will show you whatever goal that we have. It will say right now, EatWell Exchange is trying to raise $1,000, and then you can choose how much you would like to donate, and specify which programs. You can also choose if it's going to be a one-time donation, monthly, weekly, annually, whatever you'd like for your donation to be.

Erica Julson: That's like a tool. Do they help you keep track of everything, so it's easier for reporting purposes too?

Ashley Carter: Definitely, and also for tax purposes as well, because that's one of the benefits of being a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Any amount that you donate to us is tax exempt, and at the end of the year, you'll receive your document showing that you gave $50 to EatWell Exchange, so now you can write off $50 from your taxes. The same goes if you donate $1,000 to EatWell Exchange. You can write off $1,000 from your taxes. For people that owe taxes every year, that's a great way to help.

Ashley Carter: That's a great way to help offset, because when you show that you make a certain amount of money, but you're giving money to the community, it's a tax write off. I'm not saying you'll never owe again, but at least it can decrease some of the amount that you owe, and it's going to a great cause.

Erica Julson: Cool. That's really helpful. I think people, if they're thinking about starting a nonprofit, it helps to know some of the nitty gritty stuff like that like, "Oh, this is a tool I could use to collect donations or whatever." I'm just curious with everything that's happening now with the pandemic and all this, have you had to pivot with your events and your offerings? How is that going?

Jasmine Westbrooks: We literally were planning for our Chef Cook-Off. I think this is the third annual Chef Cook-Off, and then COVID happened. It's funny because when it first happened, I remember calling Ashley and being like, "I think we're supposed to cancel this, because of the social distancing and everything." At first for us, that first, I want to say, maybe three to four weeks, it was kind of like, "Oh, we can't have any events. We can't really go to different organizations, and teach to them in person like we want to."

Jasmine Westbrooks: But then we found a way because then we start to see that other organizations that still needed our help were willing to do things virtually, so actually able to work with some children and talk to them about hydration with this teacher, and all the kids were virtual because I think they were finishing up school or something at that point. She was able to do that. We were able to work with another nonprofit called Manhood on the Go, where they teach young boys ages 12 to 17 about how to be good men and how to really shape their character, so we were able to do a virtual type of teaching to them about eating right as athletes.

Jasmine Westbrooks: We're able to really work on a lot of things for us behind the scenes for COVID that we needed to do. Whether it was the mugs that we have, the coffee mugs or the tea mug that talks about black health because that's something that we're really strong about, regarding just, unfortunately, health disparities in certain minority groups, we're able to brainstorm on more things that we need to get done behind the scenes, like I mentioned. It actually worked out. At first, it seemed like it just put everything on pause. Kind of like the rest of the world, everything was just on pause for about two to three weeks.

Jasmine Westbrooks: We're like, "Okay, what do we do?" We had to pivot and make it work for us.

Erica Julson: Well, that's inspirational. I mean, it totally makes sense. It's not like the whole world stopped. Just everybody went online.

Jasmine Westbrooks: Exactly. That was another benefit, because remember, for us, Ashley mentioned too Instagram is amazing for us. From that, we were able to brainstorm, really see what people wanted to see on our Instagram page and what people really reacted to, and so it allowed us to really learn who our audience was, and build our audience in that way. I don't know how many followers... We've gained so many followers. I think we had a goal of 10K, and we were able to work with somebody that was really good with social media, and were able to train us, and we were able to gain our 10K followers from, what, I think it was 3,000, 4,000 followers in a month, almost a month.

Erica Julson: Wow. Now you have that swipe up?

Ashley Carter: Yes.

Erica Julson: Where do you guys see yourselves with the nonprofit long term, your five or 10-year goals?

Ashley Carter: Oh, we have so many. We were actually just talking about this the other day. Our main thing is expansion. We want to ensure that what we're doing in Florida is going to happen in other places. We have done events. Jasmine has family in Atlanta, so she does do events in Atlanta. She's from Tennessee, so we're working or doing events in Tennessee. We're working with people throughout the U.S. and also abroad in Haiti. We have a partnership in Haiti, where we're trying to go every year, but, of course, this year, we will not be able to go, but we're still continuing our garden.

Ashley Carter: We're still feeding people over there. I'm sorry, they're feeding themselves with the garden, which is what we love. The main thing is just expansion and also just working with more professionals. We want to work with more physicians, with more therapists, with more personal trainers, and just really integrating culture and nutrition in every field.

Erica Julson: Well, I'm excited to watch you guys grow. I mean, I can't even imagine if even just one of you guys got to do it full time, you'd probably just be like, just take off.

Ashley Carter: That's the goal. That's definitely the goal.

Erica Julson: Now that you've gone through all this, and you've started a successful nonprofit, for anyone listening who is super inspired by your story and is like, "Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I want to do in whatever niche they're in," what's your biggest takeaway? What's your best advice for somebody who's at square zero but wants to start a nonprofit?

Ashley Carter: For me, my biggest advice is mentorship. You have to talk to people. You have to meet people. You have to just really learn. For us, we've mentioned I can't even count how many people during this interview, because we work with other nonprofits. We're constantly seeking people to mentor us. Even for us now, someone may look at us and say, "Oh, you reached 10,000 followers. You're doing great," but no, we want to work with people that have 20,000 followers so we can learn from them, so just always putting yourself in positions where you can be a student.

Ashley Carter: Even working with other dietitians, everyone is our friend. We love everyone. We don't see anyone as competition. Everyone is someone that we can learn from, so I would always recommend if you plan on starting a nonprofit or a business or even starting off as a dietitian, find a mentor in every area. Have a dietitian that can mentor you. Have a business professional that can mentor you. Have a social media coach that can mentor you. Find someone in every area, and even for us, we work with chefs a lot as well.

Ashley Carter: We have chefs that mentor us, because we know being a dietitian, we learn about food, but we really don't learn how to cook food. We take a foods course. Well, this is at Florida State. We took a foods course where we learned about how food's composed and how things change when it's cooked, but you really don't learn cooking methods like you should in our field because people constantly want you to cook. The main thing for me is just finding a mentor, constantly growing and just challenging yourself and networking as much as possible.

Jasmine Westbrooks: Just to piggyback a little bit off Ashley, as you meet those people, don't expect it to happen overnight. It's not going to happen overnight, and there's a reason for it. Just be happy that it didn't happen overnight, because if it happened overnight, you have to ask yourself, "Would I have been ready personally and professionally to handle it?" Whenever you tell people you have nonprofit, they're always going to say, "Oh, that's good." That's fine. We know it makes a difference, but don't be disappointing yourself. Don't be so hard on yourself, I guess, and just take it step by step, event by event, speaking engagement by speaking engagement.

Jasmine Westbrooks: Have everything in place, but don't feel like it has to be done by tomorrow or by next week, because that's how you learn. Like Ashley said, I would say the exact same thing. Just make connections. Talk to everybody. Get to know people. Use what they tell us in our education, again, the dietitian. Build rapport with people, not just with your patients, but with people that work in different fields, because we're needed. Sometimes, people don't even know they need us until they look deeper into, "Wow, I do need you."

Jasmine Westbrooks: Make the connection, but take your time and know why you're doing it, because that's what's going to be the driving force when it gets hard.

Erica Julson: Yeah, and I mean, it's going to get hard, so I love that advice. Similarly for starting a business, you got to know your why. You got to come back to that, or else, I don't know, you're just going to get super burnt out.

Ashley Carter: Another good idea when it comes to having your why, which is actually what one of my mentors told me recently, is she used the Pinterest to actually start her nonprofit. What she did is she went on Pinterest, and she found different pictures. She found inspiration, and she used that Pinterest to help develop her mission, her vision and her values, because we thought it was going to be February 2017, it has evolved. As far as starting gardens and the Culinary Academy and everything like that, we just originally thought of ourselves just talking to different people, just doing nutrition presentations.

Ashley Carter: That was great, but we just saw there was a greater need. It's okay to change what you originally set out to do as long as it still aligns with your vision. It's important to write your vision down, not just have it in your head, but write it down on paper, so that way, as you begin to evolve, you can always go back and say, "Am I still aligned with my vision, or did I lose my vision along the way?" What you're doing can change, but just make sure that no matter how much you change, you're still focused on the vision that you originally set.

Erica Julson: Such good advice. Do you guys have any last words to wrap this up?

Jasmine Westbrooks: Follow us on Instagram, EatWell Exchange (a little promo!) We have things on our website that are for sale like our mugs. We have a cool little backpack that you can purchase, all this appeal that you can get to support our programs, or just donate. If you know any community that may need our help, then definitely reach out. We're always happy to help, but also volunteers, if you want to volunteer, if you want to see some of the same things that we're doing in your community, but maybe you can be the volunteer to really put it out there and to be, I guess, we call it an EatWell helper ambassador, something like that, then we definitely want to have you on the team, and to see if we line up together and have the same purpose and vision like Ashley said.

Jasmine Westbrooks: Please, please, let us hear from you. We would love to.

Erica Julson: What's the best place for people to reach out?

Jasmine Westbrooks: Instagram is always number one, and email.

Ashley Carter: Right. If you have any event request, email is the best, because that way, we can actually follow up with you, but just for following us every day, seeing what we're up to, Instagram is a great source.

Erica Julson: This was a fabulous conversation. I learned so much. Thanks for being so open with your journey and all the details of how you guys got started.

Ashley Carter: Just another takeaway because I know that other people watching this may think if they want to start a nonprofit or not, I always say to go for it. Go for it. As long as you have a clear vision, you see something sustainable that you want to do, go on a loan if you think that's better, find a partner if you can, and just go for it, see where it goes. What I always recommend to do first is do the work. Whatever you want to do, do the work first, and then if you start to do the work and you feel that this work is impactful, you feel it's something you can continue, then keep going.

Ashley Carter: Don't pay for the incorporation, and do the Sunbiz and everything before you've done an event, because who knows, you may do an event and realize it's not what you want to do. If you want to do a nonprofit, do the work first and then just go for it because there's never going to be a right time. You're never going to be ready, so just start today.

Jasmine Westbrooks: Just remember that somebody's waiting on you, so just do it.

Erica Julson: I hope you guys got a lot of value out of that episode. As always, there are show notes available on my website, theunconventionalrd.com/episode046. Just a quick reminder since Black Friday is coming up this week if you're listening in real time, this is the last opportunity to join my courses. All of the enrollment for my courses, my SEO course, my Make Money blogging course and my email marketing course, all of the enrollment pages are getting taken down after Cyber Monday. I believe the last day to enroll is the last day of November, the 30th.

Erica Julson: Then after that, enrollment will be closed. When the courses are ready to be opened up again, beginning with the SEO course in 2021, the prices are going up by almost double, so it's like a $400 or so increase in the cost of the courses. Now is a great time to get in. If you've been thinking about joining my courses, if you join now, you have access forever and to all future updates and upgrades to the course content. If you buy now, you can get in at basically half off from what it's going to be in the future.

Erica Julson: Yes, there's 20 something CEUs per course, so it's a great investment if you're looking for some continuing education units for yourself as well. You can find information about my courses at theunconventionalrd.com. Just click the courses tab, and you'll see everything right there. If you are thinking about maybe joining all of the courses, I also have a bundle available so you can purchase all three at the same time and save 15% off the regular prices as they are right now, so you can save even more compared to what they will cost in the future.

Erica Julson: I just wanted to give you guys a heads up. That's what I'm doing for Black Friday this year. Again, theunconventionalrd.com, you don't need a coupon code or anything. This is just the last chance sale before I take down the sales pages, and rework my sales process for 2021. I'm excited to see some of you guys in the course or course and the private students only Facebook group, and get to know you guys better in the new year. Thanks. See you next week.

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Erica Julson is a registered dietitian turned digital marketing pro. She has over 12 years of experience blogging and building online businesses and has taught over 900 wellness professionals inside her signature program, SEO Made Simple.