The first executive director of Women In Nutraceuticals believes the current climate for women is much better than it has been in the past, and companies are taking notice—but there’s more work to be done.

Sean Marcy, Freelance writer and photographer

March 6, 2024

7 Min Read
Rebecca Takemoto, executive director of Women In Nutraceuticals

At a Glance

  • Colleague of WIN executive director described her as “completely unflappable.”
  • Rebecca Takemoto is charged with leading an organization that has grown rapidly thanks to an army of volunteers.
  • Initiatives under Takemoto include job board and upcoming launch of clinical trials database.

Women In Nutraceuticals (WIN) Executive Director Rebecca Takemoto is charged with supporting the ambitious vision and plans of the nonprofit group’s board of directors, which includes nurturing the professional advancement of women in the nutraceutical industry.

Founded in 2022, some of WIN’s key priorities include increasing the number of women on corporate boards and growing investment opportunities for women-owned businesses. The organization also is focused on supporting better opportunities for emerging female leaders, as well as pursuing the growth of women in science and women’s health research in the nutraceutical industry.

Takemoto, whose hiring with announced in December, agrees she’s a natural fit and brings specialized knowledge that immediately attracted her to the position.

“My career has always been a meeting planner for associations,” she said in an interview with Natural Products Insider. “My very first client when I opened my firm 25 years ago was the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. I landed in this integrated health care space really early on.”

Karen Howard, a WIN board member and one of Takemoto’s long-term clients, suggested her as a potential leader for the organization, Takemoto shared. Howard, who is a director at large for WIN and the CEO and executive director of the Organic & Natural Health Association, recommended Takemoto after knowing and working with her for more than 22 years.

Related:Advancing gender equity in the nutraceutical industry

“She is completely unflappable,” Howard said in a phone interview. “That’s the first thing I noticed about her. She has a rather unique ability to bring resources to the table without you even seeing how much work it is. She makes everything look like it’s supposed to be, and that it’s always been that way. It’s a level of professionalism so intuitive I wouldn’t be able to put it in the job description.”

Takemoto said she is “figuring out where our holes are with the idea of putting big projects together. That’s why they hired me.”

Army of volunteers

Since its founding, WIN has grown rapidly, thanks to a legion of volunteers that Takemoto described as “unbelievably dedicated.” The nonprofit gained so much momentum in such a short period of time because it had “the right people at the right time doing the right thing,” she opined.

One of the biggest challenges facing the organization, she said, is to organize the massive pool of talent the group has attracted. Coming in the form of volunteers, this talent is what drives the organization — and what Takemoto insisted makes WIN a “winning” organization.

“We have 75 volunteers with a professional structure and a corresponding job,” Takemoto shared. The volunteers, who she described as rockstars, do the bulk of the work.

“When I first got started, I could not believe that there were so many volunteers,” she reflected. “I have never seen this before with any organization that I have worked with. Such passion. They are all professional women, and they know how to get stuff done.”

Takemoto emphasized women are not the only ones drawn to WIN. She also lauded men affiliated with the group who are “putting in lots of work.” For instance, the group’s treasurer is Doug Reader, CEO of Arizona Nutritional Supplements, and its marketing co-chair is Kevin Hawke, COO and partner at Know Agency, a marketing firm.

The majority of the leadership team, however, is comprised of females, including WIN’s chairperson Karen Todd, VP of global brand marketing with Kyowa Hakko, and WIN’s president Heather Granato. Granato is president of consulting firm Nutrachievement and recently served as VP of partnerships and sustainability with Informa Markets.

Mentorship program, clinical trials database

Takemoto is proud of WIN’s six-month mentorship program aimed at improving such soft skills as empathy, creativity, effective communications and critical thinking. The program was launched in January and WIN ultimately chose about 15 mentees.

WIN representatives “found a really specific mentor for that person. It’s unlike any other mentorship program I have ever seen,” Takemoto said. “Because they spent so much time ensuring it’s a match, there is someone in the industry who is a perfect match to help that person meet their professional goals. We just started, but I am confident we are going to see real growth.”

Takemoto said WIN is learning a great deal through the mentorship program, and one of the group’s strategic priorities is to expand the program to support members at all levels of their careers.

She commented on another area of focus for the nonprofit group: growth in women’s research.

“WIN is working to raise awareness for interesting research being conducted by our amazing members, and to get that information in front of companies that could support the work,” Takemoto explained in a follow-up email in late February. “We want to help groundbreaking researchers form collaborations with other scientists and with potential donors.”

She mentioned a few initiatives in the works, including the planned launch in a few weeks of a clinical trials database searchable on WIN’s website that will allow its member researchers to post information about clinical trials they are performing.

“We are also promoting research in our monthly newsletter in a new 'Research Corner.’ Lastly, we are in the beginning stages of what I jokingly refer to as the 'Database of People Doing Cool Things,’” Takemoto added. “We want to have a place where WIN members can nominate or refer other WIN members. When someone asks if I know of a really good regulatory consultant, for instance, I want to be able to go to a trusted source and offer up a name.”

WIN funding sources, job board

WIN obtains its funding through two streams, including $100-per-person membership fees. Takemoto said there are more than 700 members in WIN, so there is a strong base and the membership contribution to the revenue stream is “not small.”

She also said the organization has corporate sponsor packages that range from $5,000 to $20,000.

WIN’s sponsors support the group’s “vision of gender equity within the nutraceutical industry,” provide a financial contribution and often volunteer their time, according to the organization’s website.

Supporters of WIN include a diverse group across the supply chain of the nutraceutical industry. Among others, sponsors range from branded ingredients supplier Artemis International and B2B e-commerce marketplace Ingredients Online to biotech and krill harvesting company Aker BioMarine, botanical testing firm Alkemist Labs, and phytonutrients and herbal extracts manufacturer Sabinsa.

Takemoto’s strategic plan also includes helping people find jobs. WIN launched a job board in 2024, and it’s not just for women, she said.

Any company or member can post a job on the website. The job board is available on the member-only portal. She said in a recent interview that one job posted had already been filled.

Funneling professionals to female experts

Takemoto believes the current climate for women is much better than it has been in the past, and companies are taking notice.

“At this point, I don’t think there is a lot of pushback against women. There is not a real desire to keep women out,” she said. “I think it’s more the world set up a social system different than men, where the whole network is based on, ‘I got a guy.’ It’s not that they don’t want women to do it; we as women just haven’t thought about it.”

Cautioning she doesn’t “mean this in a derogatory sense at all,” Takemoto recognized “the ‘backroom deals’ that happen all the time in the world.”

“As we all know when we were looking for our first jobs, who you know is an important part in finding what you want to do. Men have just been better at that,” Takemoto observed. “Whether it happens on a golf course or long ago in a men’s social club, it’s where a lot of stuff happens. It’s all about helping women do that better, showing them that it’s OK to do these things.”

She expressed support for developing a robust list of women who “are really great at what they do” and directing people to that resource.

“I feel that men are better with that list. Again, you know when you hear, ‘I have a guy [who] does this,’” Takemoto remarked.

She asked, “Why don’t we have as many women like that as a resource in the front of our brains?”

Fortunately, with the help of Takemoto and WIN’s army of volunteers, nutraceutical professionals searching for C-level talent — or the next big deal — may become increasingly accustomed to hearing, “I know an incredible woman who does this.”

About the Author(s)

Sean Marcy

Freelance writer and photographer

Sean Marcy is a writer and photographer originally from Connecticut. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/photojournalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Soon after starting his first job in Northern Arizona at Larson Newspapers, publishers of the Sedona Red Rock News and Cottonwood Journal Extra, he was accepted into Barnstorm: The Eddie Adams Workshop.

While working intimately with Native American tribes on the Yavapai-Apache Reservation, Marcy was recruited by the Peace Corps and sent to serve in Mongolia, where he spent three years teaching herders children, and an additional three documenting Mongolian countryside life, especially Buddhism. This work became a book called Tankha in 2018.  He was the founder of the Snow Leopard School in Tsetserleg, Mongolia, and in 2002 he was the first person to cross Mongolia by motorcycle.

In addition to human interest photography, he has worked for several automotive publications including Motor Magazine (Australia) and Road & Track. After many decades on the road, Marcy lives in North Granby, Connecticut, where he and his wife Sara have three children and an Irish Wolfhound.

He can be reached at [email protected]

Subscribe and receive the latest insights on the health and nutrition industry.
Join 37,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like