I am woman hear me roar... in numbers too small to ignore?

Two statistics inspired Naomi Whittel, CEO and founder of Gainesville, Fl.-based Reserveage Organics, to launch Developing and Advancing Women in Naturals (DAWN): Women represent a mere 1 percent of CEOs, though they’re responsible for nearly 80 percent of (increasingly health-conscious) purchasing decisions.

“As a female CEO with more than a decade of experience in the natural products industry, I certainly know the challenges that women face in business today,” said Whittel. “I realized we needed a forum in which women could come together to share their strengths, accomplishments, mistakes and ideas, and empower ourselves as a collective force.”

Through seasonal newsletters and annual conferences (the first is tentatively set for spring 2012), DAWN will provide resources and networking opportunities for women in the natural products industry, while improving sustainable and socially responsible business practices.

“Executives can help upstarts and ambitious young women, and at the same time, we can all assist those less fortunate through collective philanthropic initiatives,” she said. 

The dawn of DAWNNaomi Whittel

Launched at Natural Products Expo East 2011 in Baltimore, DAWN already has secured 1,000 members, which Whittel hopes will reach 3,000 by the end of 2012. Her ultimate goal? To increase the percentage of female executives from 1 percent to 4 percent in three years.

Ambitious, yes, but Reserveage’s own growth has been impressive since its launch in 2009. Annual sales have increased 64 percent from 2009 to 2010 and the company holds 30 percent of the resveratrol market share.

For Whittel, entrepreneurship and networking are critical to increasing the number of successful women executives in this industry and to gaining worthy recognition for their products.

“There is no denying the difficulty women face in achieving high-level positions in business, especially in larger corporations, which is why I advocate for women to become entrepreneurs,” she said. “When women start their own companies, based on their unique and individual interests and visions, they are better equipped to show the world what they are capable of, and to be judged on the merits of their products and their company alone.”