For many of us the start of college is all about the excitement of discovery and new beginnings, while a few of us look forward to the fun, freedom and parties. But for Michelle McGlade, her freshman introduction was anything but a party, although it did prove, in the end, to be the start of a new beginning.
Plagued by daily chronic migraines and diagnosed with fibromyalgia, McGlade found herself, at such a young age, in constant pain, stressed out and with nothing to help her but the many prescriptions provided to her by her doctors. This new stage of her life, let alone college, was not what she had anticipated or hoped for. Out of pure desperation, McGlade decided there had to be something else besides pills to help her, and after the start she was having, was ready to try just about anything.
“There was a person in my life who really got me on the track to wellness and it happened to be my flute teacher,” said McGlade, who played the flute in the wind ensemble in college. “She was really into holistic medicine and into eating organic and natural foods and she is the one that I really credit with helping me find a path to being a 100 percent better. I was 100 percent better.”
And just like that, McGlade immersed herself into holistic therapies and focused on really cleaning up her diet, eliminating sugar and dairy. Within a year she was virtually symptom free and off all of her medications, convinced her more natural approach to her health was most definitely the key. Upon graduation, McGlade found herself entering the corporate world, despite her newfound love and interest in holistic therapies and soon, due to everyday work-related stresses and time management, fell into old, unhealthy habits.
“After I got done with my undergrad degree, I remember thinking I should have been a physical therapist, or maybe I should have went to med school or something like that,” remembered McGlade, who since her foray into the holistic world, had always felt a nagging feeling that she was meant to go further with it. “I was already on this path and so kind of ignored that little voice inside of me and I went out into corporate America and had a really great go at that. I think it was just being dissatisfied enough with my career not going in the direction that I wanted it to go and being a lot more confident as just a women in business, that I can do it, that I finally just took the leap and I walked away.”
It took 15 years before McGlade finally walked away, at which point she was just finishing up her MBA program.
“My career wasn’t moving forward as quickly as I wanted and so I was frustrated. I was frustrated and I was confident. Those are two really powerful things together,” said McGlade, who to the surprise of her family, after her many years of schooling and corporate business work, decided to go back to school, for acupuncture.
“I was lucky enough, I have a wonderful husband who is extremely supportive and has unwavering belief in me. He said if that’s what you’ve got to do, that’s what you’ve got to do,” recalled McGlade. “So I had support literally at home 100 percent, but sure I think my family thought I was crazy. My brother was like, ‘Oh you’re going to be a hippie now?’ I think that they were skeptical and they had seen that I had had so much schooling that that just sounded crazy.”
“I was extremely focused,” continued McGlade. “When I left my job I was 35 and I was like, I’m not just going to be an acupuncturist, by the time I’m 40, I’m going to have a full on clinic, I’m going to be a fabulous acupuncturist, I’m going to be meeting a team of practitioners and I had an extremely clear vision – it was unwavering.”
After three years of acupuncture school, McGlade quickly set out to achieve all of her declarations and found herself to be truly in her element. Not long after, she established Bellacu, a Minnesota clinic of co-operative practitioners, offering not only McGlade’s specialty in acupuncture but also massage therapy, facial rejuvenation, homeopathic and naturopathic medicine and even nutritional counseling. Within a year, McGlade knew with Bellacu that she was on to something, receiving an award from her local chamber, being featured in local magazines and seeing a real uptick in interest from perspective customers and the like.
“I really believed that our Western model isn’t necessarily a one size fits all, nothing is by the way, I don’t think that of acupuncture either. And I believed that we needed to be treating the emotional causes of disease in our society and that holistic practitioners have a stronger model to do that right now,” said McGlade. “I think that’s really where I was coming from at the time. I didn’t want people to suffer like I had suffered, I mean, literally there were no options for me but to be medicated and I wanted more for people.”
Working, finally, on a platform she was most passionate about, McGlade grew Bellacu in leaps and bounds, supported by her long career in the business world and the knowledge of what it was like to grow up in a household that did not understand the holistic approach. She has, however, since closed Bellacu but remains dedicated to holistic coaching and other business endeavors via her website.
“What the clinic taught me was that, at the beginning I just thought I wanted to be a business owner and this wonderful acupuncturist, but what I learned about myself in that process was I loved building things, I’m really great at building, and I love, love, love coaching other people to be successful,” said McGlade. “I noticed I would get more engaged when I was talking to the other practitioners and just hearing ideas on how they could grow their business. I noticed that other practitioners started to come to me for advice and guidance in their practice, and I thought, ‘this is what I’m supposed to be doing. How did I miss this?’ I didn’t know that about myself to be honest, I didn’t know that I would really enjoy that but I see how it makes so much sense now.
“It was a roundabout process,” continued McGlade. “Since I started my practice, almost four years ago, I knew that I might write a book about it and so I kept notes in a journal. And late last year I decided I was going write the book and get it published and I’m in the process of that right now and that was the catalyst. I didn’t decide that I was just going to leave my practice. I created a clinic that doesn’t need me and I did that from the beginning because I didn’t want to be a business owner that everyone needed to be there, I wanted to grow leaders and empower people, so that’s the type of business I’ve developed and that is what enables me to explore these greater capabilities that I have. It was deciding to get the book published that was what got me in this direction.”
Focused on having the holistic industry appear more professional and comfortable for the many of us so used to the way and word of Western medicine, McGlade has noticed a huge lack of business knowledge and experience within her industry. Noting that those who enter the industry all have the drive and want to help others and are, undoubtedly, well trained in their specific field, McGlade points out that they often forget they also need to be a business owner and for so long, those two ideas just never combined as they should.
“I’m extremely passionate, as I’ve already said, about raising the bar in our industry,” said McGlade. “I think we need talented healers, and we have that, but we need really strong business thinkers and we need them to show up professionally in the marketplace so we can compete in a greater way and that is where I’m hoping to play a role – I am playing a role.”
Having built her coaching brand primarily online, McGlade has worked with individuals all over the country and even across the pond in the U.K. and Australia. With a love for networking and interacting with so many to further a cause she believes so strongly in, McGlade is watching her dreams come true, making up new ones every day. She’s even launched a podcast called, The Business Exchange for Wellness Entrepreneurs, where she interviews individuals in the holistic industry from all over the globe.
“I have found a really great love for podcasting and interviewing other practitioners and spreading that message for them, so I think you’ll see that grow,” said McGlade.
With new plans constantly being formulated, McGlade still maintains that her coaching is a huge focus right now. Recognizing that not everyone will always be open to giving holistic therapies a chance, McGlade is still confident that as long as the industry can work towards presenting itself in a professional manner and dispel the long running misconceptions about how much education it’s practitioners really go through, that they could at least find their usual naysayers to have an open mind.
“I have tons of women, because women are greater users of holistic medicine, and they will get their husbands, or partners or boyfriends to come in and they’re like, just do it, just do it once. And they’ll come in and they won’t even believe it, they don’t even want to be there in the first place and so guess what? They’re not going to come back; it’s not going to work for them,” explained McGlade. “Instead of suggesting them to go try one thing, what I’d much rather them do is just be open to the possibility in their mind and so if they hear that their friend is going to an acupuncturist or their daughter wants to try essential oils for something, instead of being a naysayer, I’d much rather them say, well I hope that works for you, I hope you find the answer you’re looking for. I’d much rather them do that than be pushed into [this] just to try something once that they’re not even enthusiastic about.”
Close to launching the book she started some four years ago, McGlade has a lot more that she wants to accomplish and a lot more goals that she is sure to start turning into reality, though all to push ahead her dream of changing the face of the holistic industry for the better.
“I’m not ashamed to say I have a really big vision for myself,” proclaims McGlade. “I never thought big enough for myself, I always thought only as far as I could see. I try now to make my goals sound completely ridiculous because when they sound ridiculous then I know I’m striving big enough.”