Meet Stephanie Rickenbaker of Sweet's Elderberry
Charlotte, North Carolina
Stephanie Rickenbaker hand selects premium Elderberries.
Stephanie Rickenbaker gave little thought to how her daily nutrition, habits, and wellness practices—or, rather, lack thereof—affected her health. That all changed when her husband was diagnosed with leukemia. Like most conventional cancer treatments, his required a cocktail of toxic medications. Even after that, he continues to take a medication that, although instrumental in treating his cancer, are tough on organs, like his liver. Around the time his treatment began, about ten or so years ago, a family friend reached out to Rickenbaker. This woman, a health coach, wanted to discuss diet and disease
Their conversation launched Rickenbaker’s lifelong pursuit of wellness. She began to read about natural remedies and clean living, and she started introducing certain practices into the family’s household. She went totally plant-based, cut out dairy, and started experimenting with home remedies, from fire cider to shrubs. Of everything, an elderberry syrup made with European elderberries, local honey, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves was a family favorite. “A lot of these remedies don’t taste good, but the syrup was delicious,” she says. The fact that her family loved it wasn’t the only part of the elderberry syrup that stood out to Rickenbaker. She immediately noticed the effects: her chronic allergies cleared, her preschool-aged daughter (nicknamed “Sweets”) avoided the typical sniffles and bugs, and the flu rarely touched their household. Converted, Rickenbaker started sharing bottles of the deep purple elixir with her mom friends. In 2016, her Facebook group of Charlotte-based moms started offering porch pickups of their handiwork and artistry. Inspired by the community, Rickenbaker casually listed the elderberry syrup to any interested takers . . . 130 came back requesting a bottle. Amazed by the response, Rickenbaker rapidly adjusted her business model. “I had to quickly figure out how to make it on a bigger scale . . . and I wanted to do it the right way,” she says. She dove into researching food production regulations, took a food handling course, and got proper insurance.
A friend let Rickenbaker borrow her commercial kitchen space to produce the syrup, and after a couple of months, she fulfilled the 130 orders. That was just the beginning for the elderberry syrup—“moms LOVED it,” Rickenbaker says. They raved that it helped their sick children and cleared allergies. Word of mouth spread, along with demand. Rickenbaker spent the next five years building out the Sweet's Elderberry product line. She created elderberry shrub, extract, tincture, and at-home syrup-making kit, each of which used all-natural ingredients and antioxidants to support healthy immune systems and improve health. In 2021, Sweet’s Elderberry got its very own commercial kitchen, ensuring that they could always have fresh product to meet the ever-growing demand. Today, Rickenbaker concentrates on marketing and sales side of Sweet’s Elderberry. In her past career, she worked in medical and pharmaceutical sales. Her passion for promoting Sweets Elderberry is demonstrated by the 200-plus retailers who sell it. “I’ve always loved selling, but it’s always been someone else’s product,” she says. Sweet’s Elderberry’s ties remain rooted in family health and wellness. It works with six nonprofit organizations that support causes for pediatric cancer research, Levine Children's Hospital, Charlotte-based foster care, and blood/platelet donations. “All partnerships are close to my heart,” Rickenbaker says.For ideas of ways to use Sweet's Elderberry products, check out Rickenbaker's suggested beverage recipes.