Elizabeth Ehrlich on Lessons Learned Becoming an Unintentional Entrepreneur
Three years ago, Elizabeth Ehrlich had no idea she was on the verge of starting a thriving equine supplement business. At the time, she was simply a full-time lawyer and amateur rider looking for an effective (and affordable) way to improve her horse’s gastric health after treating her for ulcers. After doing extensive research, she took her newfound knowledge to the feed room. She had no idea what the future had in store for her. In the time since that first foray into feed room, Ehrlich quit her job and dove head-on into the equine supplement industry
Ehrlich’s brainchild, The Equine Elixirs, is a line of all-natural supplements. The products currently include Ulceraser, for digestive support; Positude, for hormone support; and Tidbits, treats with gastric health benefits. Ehrlich has several more supplements in the testing phase. Two of these products will be available in early 2020—an immunity/antioxidant blend and a daily-dose calmer. Her client list boasts the best of the best. Top athletes and programs such as McLain Ward, Scott Stewart, Jimmy Torano, North Run, Beacon Hill, and more sing her praises. Since her humble beginnings, the brand has exploded. She’s gone from hand-mixing ingredients in a feed room and lugging buckets to the UPS store for shipping to customized machinery in a warehouse and ordering literal tons of ingredients at a time.
“I assumed I was going to be a lawyer for the majority of my life. This is definitely a revelation!” Ehrlich said. “At first I thought it would be a side business. But then everybody who sampled it wanted more. It got to the point where I was being asked to make it again and again, and I always said yes. I was still working at the law firm, and in the morning, I would park the car in the garage at the firm and bring the buckets inside with me so I could ship them out. I’d be shuffling onto the elevator clutching boxes and buckets, dressed in my suit. It got to the point where I really struggled to carry everything into my office in the mornings. Somewhere in there, I thought, ‘Wow, this might be the real deal and I might do it full-time.’ But I don’t know that I really knew for sure at any point that it would be as big as it’s gotten.
How’d she do it? Here are a few of the best lessons Elizabeth Ehrlich has learned about building a successful business.
Get Your Steps In and Use Your Connections
When Ehrlich knew she wanted to start promoting her first product, Ulceraser, she took to the streets. She toted a bucket of Ulceraser around the horse show at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL, and actually talked to people about trying it.
“At the week I was at the office, and on the weekend, I would go to the show,” said Ehrlich, who lives in Palm Beach, FL. “I’d walk around with the bucket thinking, ‘Oh God, people aren’t going to want to make eye contact with me!’ I certainly didn’t want to pressure people and make them feel uncomfortable. But I knew a lot of people at the show, just from having spent as much time there as I did and having grown up in the Northeast riding. Luckily, I was able to spend time with the people I knew who were using the product with such success that they were eager to introduce me to other riders and trainers at the showgrounds. A warm introduction is always preferable. If you are friendly with someone and they’re able to make an introduction, or at least give a potential referral a heads up, that’s helpful.”
“Even to this day, I remain pleasantly surprised by how welcoming people were to the idea. The people who were definitely not interested and didn’t want to be approached about a new product were few and far between. Almost everybody was willing to listen. I was, and still am, overwhelmed with the positive reception that people usually give,” Ehrlich commented.
Related: This lawyer left his career to start a success equine sports data company
Do Your Research
As a lawyer, Ehrlich was comfortable doing research and finding evidence to inform her supplement development. “I spent years reading cases in law journals,” she said. “I did the research, I understood the problem, then I read about all the potential solutions.
“In terms of presenting the products to people, I think the thing I learned the most was how important it is to demonstrate that you’re well informed and well spoken, and aware of the different issues. If you are informed, I think you can get pretty far and people will be interested,” she said. One top hunter rider warned Ehrlich she was a tough sell and not particularly interested in supplements, Ehrlich recalled.
“When I was talking to her about the product, she interrupted me at one point and said something along the lines of ‘You must have spent a lot of time in school because you seem really smart.’ I remember being very flattered that she interpreted anything I was saying as coming across as smart or well spoken. Whether she ended up using the product or not, I had made a good impression, and that was important to me.”
Treat the Customer Well
Excellent customer service is a hallmark of Equine Elixirs. Ehrlich does a majority of the interacting with clients herself. Her phone is constantly buzzing with orders and questions from customers. She’s also eager to hear about how a customer’s horse is responding to the products.
“It’s something that comes very naturally to me,” she said. “The most important thing is to answer everyone’s questions, make sure their horses are happy, and make sure their concerns are dealt with. It’s not a written policy or anything; it’s just something I feel in my core. It motivates all of my interactions with people throughout the day.”
Expand Your Horizons
As the supplement business expanded, Ehrlich expected to learn more things like nutrition or how certain herbs and ingredients work. She didn’t anticipate getting an education in engineering machinery and commodities trading.
“I didn’t realize that I was going to become so heavily involved in manufacturing,” she laughed. “I work with a company in Michigan now that customizes machinery based on a particular formula or ingredient, how you organize your warehouse, how many units you want to produce per hour, and so on. To now have my own engineering and mechanical consultant is kind of crazy. It never occurred to me that I’d be so involved in machinery—creating it, installing it, maintaining it.”
“Another thing that’s surprised me is the amount of time I spend talking to commodities brokers,” she said. “Never in a million years did I think I would be watching the markets on commodities like split peas and lentils and pumpkin seeds. I never paid attention to things like the trade war with China and the tariffs before! Now, every time I hear the news, I’m on the phone with my commodities broker talking about how quickly we can get a container on the water. Machinery and commodities are two things I never thought I’d be thinking about.”
Related: Adrienne Marciano knows a little something about starting a successful small business.
Even though Ehrlich’s new venture can be a bit all-consuming, she doesn’t mind. “There’s nothing else that I want to do. If I could choose what I want to do on a daily basis, I am doing it. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I spend all day thinking about horses,” she said.
“I love coming up with the new products. When I come up with a new idea for something that I want to put together, I become so excited about it,” Ehrlich continued. “All I want to do is read about those types of products that exist and read about that body system. My mind starts going wild with all the ways that we could address these common equine problems. Then I start ordering ingredients, and I get so excited about the next two weeks that I’ll have all the new ingredients arriving at the warehouse that I’ll get to play with and experiment with. I get excited waiting to see the lab values and trying it on horses that I know have a specific issue, to see how they respond. Then I get really excited about getting feedback. Then I have to create packaging, and I get excited about picking out a name, and it just goes on and on. Every part of it is exciting for me.”
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Equine Elixirs leads the field in all-natural, equine supplements to ensure the health of the horse. Ulceraser®, a forage-based supplement for gastric health and ulcer prevention, and Positude®, an orally administered proprietary blend providing hormonal support, are all-natural, effective, and affordable solutions for improving horse health. Tidbits™ are the gastric health support treat for the unicorn in your life. Learn more at www.equineelixirs.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Written by Molly Sorge
Molly Sorge is the managing editor at Jump Media, LLC.. Molly lives in the Richmond, Va., area with her husband, son and two dogs.