Silver Thread and Golden Opportunities
25 Years of Natural Awakenings
photo by Eileen Laibinis
The year was 1994. America Online opened the first gateway to the World Wide Web; Jeff Bezos founded the fledgling behemoth Amazon; and Deepak Chopra installed the first bricks on his path to enlightenment with the publication of his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams.
Perhaps not coincidentally, genetically engineered tomatoes entered the U.S. food supply that year, spawning a GMO food revolution that transcended the age-old debate between pesticides and organics. Frankenfoods, as they are called, were the leading edge of a cultural awakening.
Meanwhile, in the sleepy, sun-drenched beach town of Naples, Florida, Sharon Bruckman—a dreamer and entrepreneur in her own right—was quietly laying the foundation for what would become the largest franchise publishing network in the natural health industry: Natural Awakenings magazine.
“America’s natural wellness and sustainability movements were in their infancy when we started,” says Bruckman. “Now the seeds that were planted in fertile soil are benefiting people nationwide, as well as throughout our precious planet.”
Woven from the threads of grit, inspiration and perhaps serendipity, the magazine was a tapestry of health, healing and mindfulness. Its successful Naples debut was quickly followed by a second edition in Sarasota.
By 1999, it was clear that Americans had a voracious appetite for well-researched, practical information about the latest natural approaches to nutrition, fitness, personal growth and sustainable living.
The Natural Awakenings franchise was born that year, conceived as a local magazine in many different communities—now 74 markets in the U.S.—anchored by a national editorial team that explores and anticipates the latest trends in mind, body and spirit. Readership of the print magazines is 2.8-million strong, plus a broad online and digital reach.
Bruckman’s holistic-minded passion for health, wellness and integrative therapies has awakened in like-minded entrepreneurs a desire to embrace her mission. As Paul Chen, publisher of the Atlanta franchise puts it: “Awakenings of the heart speak to our desire for deeper and stronger personal relationships. Awakenings of the mind speak to our desire to learn more, faster, and optimize our mental capacities. Awakenings of the soul speak to our desire to develop greater love and compassion for all living beings equally and an increasing understanding of and connection with whatever it is we believe lies beyond our small, individual human selves.”
The magazine, in turn, has awakened its readers to new ways of connecting both with their communities and each other. Natural Awakenings has become a go-to guide for local community events, products and practitioners in all of its markets.
“We love to spread light,” says Bruckman. “Natural Awakenings has played a significant role in fueling the wellness revolution I saw emerging all those years ago, propelled by the kindred spirits who read, advertise and contribute to our magazines. Our publishers are torchbearers aligned with the vision of a healthier world and the mission to facilitate that transformation.”
During a lifetime of holistic-minded entrepreneurship, Bruckman, a constant gardener, continues to personally tend each new crop of ideas that germinate on the pages of her magazines which bear the imprint, “Healthy Living, Healthy Planet.”
By identifying and responding to a simple need in one community, she has tapped into a universal spirit that exceeded her wildest expectations. “If you have the heart, vision and enthusiasm to help make the world a better place, a greater force just might step in to enable success beyond anything you imagined. The real ‘natural awakening’ is about each of us waking up to who we truly are and the kind of world we can create together.”
We can’t always be shaded by the trees that we grow, yet after 25 years, the seeds Bruckman planted have branched across a nation and borne fruit that will make a difference in countless lives for many years to come.
It is my honor to join her on this journey as Natural Awakenings celebrates its silver anniversary.
Jan Hollingsworth is the national editor of Natural Awakenings magazine.
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This article appears in the January 2019 issue of Natural Awakenings.