By Susan Hitchcock
Founder & Host Emerita of Women in Leadership
Still in her twenties, Natalie Flanders is a truly inspiring young woman who has accumulated experiences, accolades, and wisdom far beyond her years. She’s an entrepreneur, a non-profit founder and Certified Non-Profit Professional (CNP), Reiki Master, Sound Practitioner, and a Certified Trauma Support Specialist!
In her private practice, Natalie Clare Healing LLC, she works with hundreds of people, mostly adults, and provides deep mental, emotional, and physical healing through retreats, workshops and one-on-one sessions.
Starting in elementary school and continuing through college, Natalie has received numerous awards, e.g., Inspiration Leader Award (Girl Talk – 2011); Servant Leader of the Year (Georgia College & State University – 2016); The Giving Tree Award (GCSU – 2017); and a Daily Point of Light recognition by former President George H.W. Bush in 2017. Given those accomplishments, it’s safe to say that there’s quite a story about the how and why behind Natalie’s life and career journey so far – especially her passion for volunteerism and helping others.
Although her parents have lived in other parts of the country, Natalie and her siblings grew up in Norcross, Georgia. She’s been supported and encouraged by her parents in all of her endeavors, but Natalie credits one of her elementary school teachers in the 4th or 5th grade with providing her first opportunity for volunteer service. “I loved it!” she said. “Later, in the 8th grade, I was introduced to Girl Talk, Inc. founded by Haley Kilpatrick. Girl Talk, a 501 3c nonprofit organization was created to mentor middle school girls to help them deal with the pressures that teen girls face, issues like peer pressure, self-esteem, and bullying. There were chapters in 48 states and in several countries.”
Getting involved with Girl Talk sparked a special passion in Natalie even as a 15 year old. She also served on the Teen Board, explaining, “We were invited to meet with executive women at major companies around Atlanta, like Coca-Cola. This opened the door for me to the world of networking as well.”
Another key influence in Natalie’s early life came from spending some of her summers in mountains of New Hampshire with her aunt. Her aunt sold essential oils and was trained in Reiki. (Note: Reiki is a Japanese form of energy healing, a type of alternative medicine.) “My aunt hosted women from across the country and as an entrepreneur, she gave me insights into the entrepreneurial side of her healing practice. This became very beneficial in my own career path,” Natalie said.
Finding her path
When Natalie chose to attend Georgia College & State University (GCSU), she had no idea how the next four years would evolve. Not only did she matriculate through her college courses and earn a B.S. degree in psychology in 2016, in her junior year she started her own nonprofit, Girls Grow, patterned after Girl Talk but for a different level of participants. “I asked for and received Haley Kilpatrick’s blessing (Girl Talk founder and now Natalie’s friend). Then, by myself without a lawyer at the age of 22, I went through the entire process of securing 501 c3 approval for Girls Grow as a nonprofit organization.”
That experience was both a challenging and rewarding one for Natalie and a part of her continuing growth and development as a leader, but perhaps the most impactful experience occurred in her senior year. It was then that she had what she refers to as “a spiritual awakening.” Dealing with her own mental health issues, likely exacerbated by her intense commitment to her college and volunteer work, Natalie found herself experiencing deeply personal mental, emotional and spiritual feelings. These inner feelings – a revelation of sorts – began to direct her career path, and alter the course of her life.
By the time Natalie finished college, Girls Grow had over 30 volunteers working in three schools. However, she decided to leave the organization because it wasn’t her dream to scale it. Instead she went through training, got certified in Reiki, and moved to California – even though she’d never been there and didn’t know anyone there. “I’d always wanted to live by the ocean,” she said. “I was also concerned at that time that living in Georgia I might be judged by people who didn’t understand what I wanted to do with my life. I thought California would provide me freedom and more acceptance.”
Natalie didn’t find California to be quite what she expected. “I guess I was naïve,” she said, “the people in my profession seemed more for show, and not truly authentic. So I returned to Atlanta where I’ve felt completely accepted ever since.”
Health, Career, and Finding Balance
At 24, Natalie’s health took a negative turn when she was diagnosed with endometriosis. She had multiple symptoms, including “brain fog,” and that left her unable to even drive. Going through this made her question her own value or worth because she was no longer able to help others and that had been her entire identity. Fortunately, Natalie began to accept her reality and learned to slow down. “When I did, I started focusing more on those closest to me – and finding a better balance.”
Today with her physical and mental health in a good place – she still sees her own therapist who’s also Reiki trained – Natalie is thriving in her practice. She’s able to help people once again through her workshops, retreats and individual coaching sessions. “I teach Reiki and conduct sister circles, community circles and womb healing. Through my body-based approach, I help my clients get to a relaxed and peaceful state, learning to calm their nervous system. During the pandemic, I also developed and sold herbal products, but that’s not really my primary business today.”
What Natalie’s most proud of is the way she’s learned to show up for herself as well as others, and to balance the two. She’s learned to give help as well as receive it.
Natalie’s clearly in the early stage of her life and career with a lot of runway ahead, even though she’s already made a significant impact as evidenced by her past awards and recognition as well as the positive feedback from her clients. “My vision or my dream,” she said, “is to balance, to be a mother one day and to continue to help others through my healing practice. I’m also working on a book based on all my experience working with preteen and teen girls and with women.”
Reflecting on her volunteer and “giving back” roots from childhood to her professional helping role today, Natalie Clare Flanders has proven she’s smart, determined, independent and focused. There’s absolutely no doubt that she can and will accomplish many more amazing things.
Interview & Profile by: Susan Hitchcock, Founder of The Age of SHEroes
Explore more of Susan’s Shero interviews and articles by visiting Women in Leadership.