Indiana State University Newsroom

Diet Plan: Indiana State grad receives support to open business

July 12, 2013

When Sarah James casually pondered starting her own business while surfing the Internet last summer, she stumbled onto a website that jolted her - and the idea - into reality.

James, a registered dietitian who graduated from Indiana State University in 2003, has opened Nutrition to Grow, an outpatient consulting business providing nutritional guidance and dietary plan development to clients. James launched her business in June, nearly a year after she discovered the website of the West Central Indiana Small Business Development Center housed in Federal Hall at Indiana State. While James had considered starting her own business, the support and advice she received from the business development center guided her in making that a reality.

"They help you become more organized and understand the process of opening your own business," James said from Nutrition to Grow's office in downtown Terre Haute. "It wouldn't have happened if I hadn't found them."

The center is part of the statewide network that provides a variety of services and support to small business start-ups to promote job growth in Indiana. While on the business development center's website, James took the organization's business survey. Within a week, James had a consultation with Heather Strohm, the center's director, to begin discussing the plan for Nutrition to Grow.

"It's motivation. Sometimes you get scared, especially thinking about your own business," James said. "Having that full support behind you, that's what pushed me along as well. Every time we sat down to meet, I'd get more excited about it."

James and Strohm began meeting regularly every two weeks, at times even more frequently. The business development center, which receives part of its annual funding from Indiana State, provides many of its consulting services to for-profit businesses at no cost.

"One of the things that Sarah had was the practical experience, but she didn't have a lot of the business experiences," Strohm said. "One of the first things we did was spend time developing a business plan on how she was going to structure and operate the company, market the business and things of that nature."

Strohm and Dick Pittelkow, a business advisor at the center who also worked closely with James, developed connections with different organizations in the Wabash Valley that served as additional resources for Nutrition to Grow, James said.

"They work well together, and they have other services as well, not just here in town," James added. "If they can't help, then they contact their counterparts (in the state Small Business Development Center network) to help out as well. They pretty much answered every question" I had.

Since James has worked as a registered dietitian in the Wabash Valley, she already has developed relationships with doctors in the area, Strohm said. As a registered dietitian, many insurance plans and Medicare will help to cover doctoral referrals, such as when people are diagnosed as diabetic, for James' consulting services.

She also accepts clients interested in creating diet plans. She has a focus on childhood obesity, though changing a child's diet sometimes requires focusing on the family's overall health.

"I am interested in pediatrics and childhood obesity, but children don't feed themselves all the time. Nine times out of 10, you've got to educate parents to be healthy in order for kids to be healthy," James said. "That's where I came up with the idea of doing family counseling."

While Nutrition to Grow has opened, the relationship between James and the small business development center has not ended. James recently received an e-mail from Strohm to remind her about a meeting to discuss customer policies in greater detail.

"The service keeps going, which is wonderful," James said. "You still have that backup, and it's nice to have someone who walked you through the steps to still talk to you and e-mail you and check up on you."

For more information about Nutrition to Grow, visit More information about the Indiana Small Business Development Center can be found at

Photo: (ISU/Tony Campbell)Dietitian Sarah James, an Indiana State University graduate who received support from the West Central Indiana Small Business Development Center to open her business, Nutrition to Grow. The business development center, which is located in Federal Hall at Indiana State, provides a variety of services to entrepreneurs and for-profit companies to promote job growth in the Wabash Valley.

Contact: Heather Strohm, regional director, West Central Indiana Small Business Development Center, 812-237-7676 or; Sarah James, owner, Nutrition to Grow, 812-917-4229 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or