Meet the Maker: Sweets Elderberry
, by Amber Chase
, by Amber Chase
In 2016, Stephanie Rickenbaker found herself tending to a budding business selling elderberry syrup. She had begun offering porch pickups of hand-bottled elderberry syrup to a Facebook group of Charlotte-based moms, and the group quickly grew to hundreds of steady customers. Rickenbaker rapidly adjusted her business model and soon turned her fledgling business into an enterprise with elderberry syrup in more than 380 stores. While growing the business, Rickenbaker knew she wanted to hand the reins to someone who could see the growth through, and that person was Morgan Smorgala.
Smorgala was a loyal and steady customer of Sweets Elderberry from the start, lining up with the other moms for porch pick up. Mirroring Rickenbaker’s own journey to starting the business, in the midst of multiple family diagnoses, Smorgala and her family had begun reevaluating how they cared for their bodies. They paid more attention to the foods they consumed, their water purification process, and sought out natural, holistic health solutions.
Smorgala remembers longing for a way to engage her entrepreneurial spirit while parenting. With her second daughter only seven days old, she recalls leaning over to her husband and saying “Sweets is for sale and I think we should buy it,” and, to her surprise, his response was simply, “Ok, yeah.” Turns out, they each were pining for a career that would afford her the flexibility and creativity she desired. Smorgala began working alongside the company in August of 2022 and fully dove into operations before taking over ownership in December.
Right away, Smorgala committed to immersing herself in the business, contributing to any and all parts of the business from partner relationships to production. When asked about what her work means to her, Smorgala says, “I really don’t want to be one of those owners who seems like they’re above any of the work....It’s such a blessing to see my kids but also have work I’m proud of.”
For daily use, Smorgala suggests incorporating Sweet’s shrub in cocktails or mocktails, freezing Sweet’s syrups alongside your favorite juice to make popsicles, or adding Sweet's tincture to your morning smoothies or nighttime tea. Smorgala marvels, “It’s uncommon to have a product that has won two Good Food Awards in such a short time, is versatile for daily use, and people truly love.”
Smorgala gets excited when she thinks about how far their acclaim has come, noting, “In our nation as a whole, people are starting to get back to the things that are on this earth to heal and help. Slowly, we’re waking up and returning to things that are nourishing to the earth and our bodies.” For Sweets, this means a transformation from educating their customers about elderberry to finding both familiarity and excitement when they discuss their product with new customers. More than anything, Smorgala is grateful for this return to nourishment and proudly a product that’s immune boosting, full of antioxidants, and brings joy to its customers.