Women in Business: Linda Kahler, President, Rainbow Light

Spanning three decades of leadership as the President of Rainbow Light, Linda Kahler plays a hands-on role in guiding the company's business expansion, leadership in product innovation and quality, marketing, brand building, and staffing and creative team development. Under her leadership, Rainbow Light introduced the industry's first line of food-based, one-per-day multivitamins, Just Once® that today remains the number one selling natural multivitamin on the market.

Kahler's commitment to environmental stewardship led to the company's launch of the industry-first, 100 percent recycled, 100 percent recyclable EcoGuard™ bottles. In addition, her long-held passion for delivering health performance results to natural products consumers, as well as mothers and children worldwide resulted in a partnership with Vitamin Angels® to develop an innovative, high-impact global aid program that has led to more than 38 million supplement donations to-date.

Kahler's interest in the health and supplements industry began as a teenager while working in a progressive health food store. Today, as she continues to expand Rainbow Light, she remains committed to making a difference in people's health in a way that recognizes the integral relationship between personal and planetary health.

How have your life experiences made you the leader you are today?
I'd say that standing alongside loved ones going through some of life's hardest challenges has taught me that showing up with grace and courage to support each other is really the most important thing we can do. This has taught me humility and gratitude for everything I have in my life, the importance of empathy for others - and, as a leader, just how important expressing appreciation, gratitude and support can be. Encouragement and inspiration as a leader are grounding principles - I try to work from a place of pure intention, clear direction, and caring leadership, especially in the most challenging of leadership situations.

How have your previous employment experiences aided your position at Rainbow Light?
I was introduced to a dedicated group of people starting an industry committed to community service at the retail level while I was in college and working in a health food store. My store served as an education and community center for sharing knowledge and best practices for personal and planetary wellness. This foundation combined with the ability to innovate has cultivated Rainbow Light's mission, guiding principles and long term success.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Rainbow Light?
Three highlights, which I see as a very significant industry contribution, have been creating a viable business model for success by bringing values-based innovation to our products, to corporate social responsibility programs and to sustainability in business practices.

Rainbow Light created the food-based category, benefiting not only the hundreds of thousands of consumers that place their trust in us every day by choosing Rainbow Light for their dietary supplement needs, but also the many consumers who choose other food-type vitamins. I'm especially proud of our #1 prenatal leadership spanning over 25 years, with a franchise and track record for innovation that grows yearly. Capturing the trust, supporting the healthy pregnancies of moms-to-be, and being there at such a critical time for families is very gratifying. But perhaps the contribution that is closest to my heart is our 30 year history of good corporate citizenship, which we have recently formalized as our Circle of Care. I believe that corporate responsibility is a vital form of customer service and one of the honors of business leadership.

As the founding supporter of Vitamin Angels, we've helped provide life-saving nutrition to mothers and babies in the U.S. and around the world since 1994. Through the Circle of Care's growing network of aid partners, we're working to foster a vibrant state of health in moms and babies everywhere. Rainbow Light has donated over 40 million vitamins through Vitamin Angels over the years, and we were honored to receive our Founding Supporter award from Howard Schiffer of Vitamin Angels this year in celebration of their twentieth anniversary.

Another aspect of our Circle of Care is environmental stewardship, something that has always been very important to me. Almost 25 years ago, I commissioned Rainbow Light's first environmental impact study to establish best practices for reducing our packaging footprint. From there, we partnered with leaders in sustainable packaging to develop our trademark, 100% post- consumer-recycled Eco-Guard™ bottles. By repurposing existing plastic, we not only help keep our oceans and natural habitats pollution-free, we reduce carbon emissions seven-fold over glass and greatly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Made from 100% recycled and infinitely recyclable FDA-approved plastic, Rainbow Light now keeps over 10 million bottles from entering the waste stream every year.

Why did you want to start your own business?
While in college and working in a health food store, I was deeply moved by the transformative impact simple changes in diet, lifestyle and supplement use can make in people's health. I remember a particular woman who used this practice to fight cancer and return to health after exhausting the options available to her through allopathic medicine. Since then, helping people transform their own personal wellness as well as fighting global malnutrition have been commitments to which I've not only dedicated myself, but also our company.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
Stay true to your vision, of course, but also to keep your feet on the ground with the "business math". Know the importance of a strong business plan and track against it closely. Also, always be open to learning from those around you, even from most unusual and surprising sources.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I'm blessed with a loving, generous-hearted husband who's incredibly supportive. He comes from a big Italian family and while he's incredibly passionate and hard working in his career as well, his values skew so strongly toward family and personal happiness that it helps me keep it real. He's been a great teacher for me in that way.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I often see women struggle with self-confidence and communication style and how that relates to managerial courage and communication in the workplace. Understanding that expressing ourselves in a way that can be heard and respected by our male peers, bosses and employees can sometimes feel uncomfortable, but I always think it's important to develop a repertoire of communication styles to be able to adapt to different audiences and needs, while still staying true to the intention and objective at hand.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Early in my career I had the benefit of working with a therapist who helped me in an area of personal transformation I was interested in at the time- seeing myself differently in the world, and letting go of some of the self-imposed limitations I'd picked up along the way. While perhaps not a traditional "mentor" this experience was incredibly helpful in allowing me to find greater comfort, confidence and happiness in pursuing my own path over the years, both personally and professionally.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I've had the opportunity to work with many capable, brilliant women during the course of my tenure at Rainbow Light. I am truly very fortunate to find inspiration all around me, every day. I am deeply grateful for the dedicated people I have the privilege of working with at Rainbow Light. We have a strong team and we all inspire each other to stay on mission toward creating a stronger state of health for people and the planet. We've also recently partnered with an amazing group of "Life-changers" - women who bring unparalleled dedication to their causes and their life work, and we are honored to feature each one of them in our "Life-changer" campaign.

I was incredibly inspired and impressed by a moving tribute given by an amazing young woman at the 20 year anniversary celebration for Vitamin Angels last year in Anaheim, CA. Howard Schiffer's daughter, Eliana Schiffer, gave a heartfelt presentation with poise and passion to a gathering of industry luminaries and Vitamin Angel supporters that honored her father and the amazing work that Vitamin Angels is doing around the world. In the process, Eliana also burst onto the scene as a present and future leader for us all to keep an eye on. I can't wait to see what comes next in this brilliant young woman's future.

What do you want Rainbow Light to accomplish in the next year?
Rainbow Light is at the brink of another great company transformation and growth surge, which has begun already over the past year or so. In the coming year, we'll see the convergence of a growing market demand with many more consumers seeking out healthier lifestyles and natural solutions to their families' health needs; the continued expansion of scientific validation behind natural health therapies; growing understanding among our customers of the connection between the health choices we make today, and the long-term impact on the health of ourselves and our planet. Rainbow Light is uniquely positioned as a longstanding trusted health ally to our core consumers in each of these regards. I look forward to the coming year, to being able to leverage this #1 most trusted position to reach out, anticipate and satisfy the growing demand for more consumers and families to achieve greater personal wellness for themselves, their families while along the way having a positive impact on the health of our planet and global community.