Through her well of alternative-medicine resources, Essex resident Charlotte Gibson is helping clients educate and advocate for themselves.
Photo by Sarah Jordan McCaffery
Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” This is the mantra behind Wellness Connect, a personal alternative-medicine “wellness concierge” that will address your wellness issues or concerns—from acute injuries to deeper energy healing—and help you connect with the right practitioners, founded by Essex resident Charlotte Gibson.
Gibson, who operates the company out of her 17th-century New England home, says she never set out to create her own business, but after balancing an active lifestyle with taking care of her ailing parents and managing the various health issues of her four children, she found herself offering advice to others on their own wellness journeys.
When Gibson was pregnant with her fourth child, her eldest son (seven years old at the time) was suffering from neck pain, and she found herself going from doctor to doctor without getting any real answers.
Eventually, Gibson found an acupuncturist in Middleton who could help her son with his neck pain, but that same year, he had strep throat seven times and antibiotics were no longer working. “I needed to find alternative medicine,” Gibson says. So Gibson began contacting practitioners.
“Sometimes you’re given those things to deal with so you can help others,” Gibson says. “I would ask practitioners to come to my house; I would make a healthy lunch and we would talk about things.”
Five years after it was founded, Wellness Connect has become a well-respected resource offering a list of practitioners that are not only experts in their specific modality, but whose services have been personally experienced by Gibson.
“We live in a world of technology, but 95 percent of my business is word of mouth,” Gibson says. “Some of the [practitioners] I tried out prior to starting my business, or through my own experiences. Others were through friends. I try to keep it intimate.”
Disciplines offered via Wellness Connect range from holistic healing systems such as acupuncture, Reiki, and Ayurvedic medicine to mindfulness, dream analysis, flower essence therapy, and nutrition and grief counseling. And with the growth of the company comes a newly launched project, WC Farmacy.
“I realized that a natural progression to Wellness Connect was to grow and create my own product that met my standard as a trusted resource. I think we are in a time where people are open to alternative remedies and having a better understanding of the long-term implications of some medications and what they are eating.”
Working out of her kitchen, and with herbalist Emma Scully, Gibson develops balms, creams, salves, and tinctures made from organic botanicals grown on First Light Farm in Hamilton. So far, WC Farmacy has put out three products—Immunity Boost, Arnica Crème, and SuperMoon Calendula Flower Essence—but the full line, which will also include remedies for sleep, menopause, and digestive issues, will be gradually released starting with the next product in the lineup, a gut tincture Gibson will start testing this spring.
“My fear is that people become overmedicated,” Gibson says. “Layers of medicine can sometimes create anxiety, which in turn creates more stomach problems.”
This new product will be near and dear to Gibson’s heart, as not only does her mother have colitis, but she herself was just recently diagnosed with it. “It’s interesting to research,” Gibson says. “I would feel so proud to help people feel better.”
Wellness Connect also provides speakers and workshops ranging from nutrition to finding your life purpose, and is involved in several school and corporate wellness programs. “This allows for education and empowerment,” Gibson says. “When I consult with a client, I am helping to guide them to the appropriate practitioner. I provide them with other resources to empower themselves, because it’s not always economical for people to go to weekly appointments when insurance isn’t taken,” adds Gibson, who often works pro bono. “We want to make sure things are affordable.”
A trip to the company’s “headquarters” in early December for its annual holiday market has proved that there is no shortage of interest in alternative medicine and homeopathic and handcrafted products. Gibson’s home was abuzz with a range of practitioners and local vendors, including Kimberly Nolan, who owns and operates True Grit Farm on a parcel of leased land in Ipswich. She raises chickens for meat and eggs, as well as exhibition chickens for the Topsfield Fair.
“I sell chicken and eggs to restaurants, retail stores, and farmersʼ markets,” says Nolan, who met Gibson through Nolanʼs mother, an acupuncturist. “As a vendor, I connected with a different population of the local community. While I shared stories about my farm in Ipswich, I felt a sense of entrepreneurial support. The vendors’ products may differ, but there are many parallels about being a business owner,” Nolan adds.
Some of the vendors, like Nolan, are new to working with Gibson and Wellness Connect. Others, like Shari Driscoll Card, owner and florist of Blush Flower Design in Hamilton, are seasoned veterans. “I’ve known Charlotte for years,” said Card at the event. “It’s an incredible group of women that she’s brought together.”
That idea of womenʼs empowerment is a big component to Wellness Connect. “There is a deeper piece to it all; it’s about women supporting women,” Gibson says.
“I wanted to create a space for women to support one another. I believe women, whether working full-time, part-time, or at home, continue to be at the forefront of their family’s health and wellness. Oftentimes, they are caretakers to their aging parents and caregivers to their children.”
“Wellness Connect has reawakened aspects of myself that I had forgotten about, especially as a mother caring for my family and children,” says Caroline Buttner, a client of Gibson’s, who came to Wellness Connect through “a decision I made to heal and care for my spiritual health.” “I realized I had forgotten to take care of myself,” Buttner adds. Buttner, who has known Gibson for 18 years, says she uses Wellness Connect mostly through their events and workshops and has attended workshops focused on such topics as past life regression, writing, and how to incorporate selenite into your meditation practice.
Also at the holiday event were a myriad of practitioners providing free mini sessions, including Gloucester-based Ayurveda Wellness Healing, LLC, run by Wyndee Egan, Lynn Connor, and Kim Sardo, whom Gibson met through another client when she and Sardo were just starting out.
“It’s been a great relationship,” says Sardo, a registered Ayurveda practitioner with the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA). “There is no one that I know who connects wellness people. And she doesn’t overwhelm with modalities. With some people, it’s all about a business, but [Gibson] has a close-knit group of people whom she works with—people whom she values as experts in their modality.”
Sardo adds that her relationship with Gibson and Wellness Connect has not only meant exposure for her business, but that she has personally benefitted from it as well, whether it be through a dream workshop, grief counseling, or any number of other events.
With Wellness Connect being so successful, Gibson has a lot of stories to tell about those she has helped, but the one she recalls most is one of a little girl who, back when the business had just started, was having stomach issues.
“I didn’t want to impose, but I also wanted to help,” Gibson says. “I sent her to my nutritionist, and her blood test revealed that she had gluten and dairy allergies. And one day in the car with her mother, the little girl said, ‘Mommy, I’d still be getting sick if it weren’t for Charlotte,’” recalls Gibson.“There’s no ego in that. You’re just a part of helping someone feel better, and that’s amazing.”