The explosion of natural remedies has taken over the wellness world, and while some of the options aren’t enticing, others have helped countless people find cleaner options. Elderberry is definitely on the top of that best-bet list, and Holly Cooper is leading the pack in Seattle with her blossoming company, Seattle Elderberry.
The Kentucky native has celiac disease, so she’s always been invested in understanding nutrition and ingredients. Plus, as a former competitive cross country and track runner, keeping her instrument highly tuned was essential right from childhood. Now, as an entrepreneur, barre instructor at Barre 3 and mom, her overall well-being is perhaps even more important. So she’s helping not only others, but also herself, benefit from the superfood with her syrup. Read on to hear more from this vivacious, holistic-minded mom-preneur.
SBS: What was your journey that led you to your own company?
Holly Cooper: I started making elderberry syrup after my first child was born. I was looking for a natural way to keep my family healthy, and I kept reading about elderberry syrup. I made some, and my family loved it. I started making elderberry syrup for friends and family (we lived in Ohio at the time). My husband's work brought us out to Seattle, and I started posting in some local parents' groups and the response was incredible.
In 2017, just a few months after my third child was born, I officially launched Seattle Elderberry. I'm also a fitness instructor at Barre3 in Ballard, and I feel incredibly lucky to have three jobs—as a mom, business owner and instructor—I love.
SBS: What are the beneficial properties of Elderberry? What drew you to work with it versus other natural remedies?
HC: Elderberries are amazing. They’re packed with flavonoids and antioxidants, which our body uses to help boost its own immune response. There are so many natural remedies available today, but I didn't love the price of many supplements. And, I wanted something that I could make myself. Elderberries are usually readily accessible, so finding all of the raw materials wasn't too difficult when I first started.
I also graduated with a degree in biology, so I wanted some hard facts behind using elderberry in a medicinal way. There are a decent number of studies that show the efficacy of elderberry to reduce the severity and duration of flu symptoms. Elderberries have long been used as a natural remedy, and I'm glad that we're beginning to understand a bit more about how they function.
I'm also obsessed with our syrups because they are only made with organic ingredients, and those ingredients are simple. We only put in what the syrup needs, nothing more. We never use anything artificial, and we don't sweeten the heck out of it. We add just enough so that it's delicious. Washington residents get a double-punch of benefits: We use a local, raw honey from right here in Washington state.
SBS: What should people know about using elderberry for health and/or for other purposes?
HC: I think the name ‘elderberry syrup’ can be confusing to some people: This isn't something you put on pancakes. You can take it as a shot daily, mix it into your favorite smoothie or add it to sparkling water. It also makes a mean cocktail when paired with a bit of booze and ginger beer.
The antioxidants in elderberry may also help to protect the body against a variety of diseases. In addition to being tiny powerhouses, the elderberries are very low risk, meaning there aren't many contraindications of using elderberry. So, it's an accessible option for a multitude of people looking for ways to stay healthy.
SBS: What are other remedies you like, and how do you use them? What are others that are overrated?
HC: I'm just starting to use CBD oil, mostly to help with sleep. I have a farmer friend down in Oregon who grows his own hemp plants. I love direct-sourced goods because you know right where they came from.
And, we have quite the arsenal of natural remedies in the Cooper house. We have a homeopathy kit, essential oils, and a few secret products that I'm working on. If anyone is ever feeling sick, we're dosing up with elderberry syrup, a zinc supplement, and upping our probiotics and vitamin D. We had the flu pass through our house. (I know! The family who makes elderberry syrup is not immune!) But in relation to several other families we know, the duration of our symptoms was short-lived. I swear by the homeopathic remedy oscillococcinum. Such a powerful (yet safe) remedy to have when the flu is swirling around.
I think you've got to be careful with kids supplements or gummies. Those are packed with processed sugars, artificial flavors and dyes.
SBS: How did you get into teaching fitness?
HC: I have always loved moving my body. Running was my passion for a number of years. The exercise made me feel good, but the community was even more important. Some of my best friends are girls who I used to run with in high school.
After having my first baby, I had a lot of pelvic floor and abdominal strength issues. That made running feel horrible, so I started to venture outside of my comfort zone. I found out that working out at home was the easiest thing to do with a new baby, and I built up a small home-gym. During my second pregnancy, I found Barre3 and started doing their online workouts. A few studios opened up near me, but we had just decided that we were relocating to Seattle. It just so happened that a new Barre3 studio was opening within a month of our move.
I strolled in during their opening week, introduced myself, and asked if I could audition to be an instructor. I had a few friends back in Ohio who were both moms and instructors, and I thought it would be a good fit for me as I was a mom of two, as well.
SBS: What do you love about Barre3 specifically?
HC: First and foremost, it's sustainable exercise. I've had my share of exercising as punishment and beating my body up with workouts. But this is different. I get a fantastic workout, but my body (and mind) feel more balanced, as well as stronger. Secondly, it's that community piece. I knew that moving to a new state would be difficult, so I wanted to jump all-in with like-minded folks. Barre3 is a constant source of support, encouragement and friendship.
SBS: How do you keep it all going? What are your tools?
HC: I see a therapist each week: I'm in my early 30s, and I feel like I'm finally finding myself. I think that having a regular routine of self-reflection is so helpful, but I know that for me, I need to go somewhere on a regular basis to sort everything out.
I've only dabbled in meditation (with apps like Headspace), but I appreciate the space it creates for me to just breathe. My life is crazy right now. I have one kid in elementary school, one in preschool a few mornings a week, and a toddler on my hip at all times. I have two sitters that I use about three to five hours each week, which barely gives me any time, but it's just enough.
I also have an amazingly supportive husband, and an incredible group of friends who keep me going. There are so many things I want to do better, but I think I've come to a point where I realize that there is no way I can do them all right now! Also, the beauty outside keeps me going: One glimpse of the mountains or an afternoon at the beach brings me so much joy.
SBS: What have you learned running your company?
HC: What haven't I learned! I just take it all step by step, day by day. I'm incredibly impressed with other small-business owners. I don't think anyone truly understands how much of yourself and your time you put into your small business. I'm still a little bit shocked every time someone leaves a five-star review. Not that I don't think we have an incredible product, but just that other people are so bought in. Seeing something grow from being made in my kitchen to being shipped nationwide (and even worldwide) is pretty surreal. I love the chance to work with other people. From giveaways to meeting other producers to meeting people when they come pick up from my front porch, the people keep me in this.
SBS: What's your own wellness routine?
HC: I teach four classes a week at Barre3 (two classes, twice a week), and I try to take two classes per week. I'm so thankful for this routine, because it's four chances I'm guaranteed to move. We walk to and from school each day. I'd love to eventually hop around to different studios to try out other workouts (and better understand backgrounds that my clients are coming from), but that's just not doable right now. I used to be way more obsessive about exercise, and it was a numbers game for a while, like how many miles can I run? Or how long can I run for? Honestly, I think life got so full, and my body said, ‘I don't like running,’ and that's when things shifted. I'm grateful to exercise because it clears my mind, it keeps my body strong, and it gives me a chance to just be me.
Holly’s SBS Mantra: Be Kind. That's how I approach most of my issues in business: Kill them with kindness. But really, I could be irritated and rigid with my customers when an issue arises, but what benefit does that give anyone? I'd rather be genuine and kind, and do my best to make whatever the issue is right. Kindness doesn't mean letting people walk all over you, so I've had to Be Brave at times, too. There are some business decisions I've had to make that made me feel so nervous, but in the end, they were right. Bravery and kindness can go hand in hand.
The best, zaniest part of being Holly: I'm really genuine: What you see is what you get. I can be kind of awkward, but I'm outgoing, smart, driven, happy and grounded. Oh, and I'm awful at pop culture and common sayings, and sometimes I get my body parts mixed up. There have been numerous classes where I'm talking about correct knee alignment but I call that joint an elbow. Goodness gracious!
Holly’s Seattle Faves:
Healthy Restaurant: Ba Bar
Splurge Restaurant: Frankie & Jo’s or Percy's & Co.
Fun Activity: Going out for coffee, being outside, an alone time
Calming Activity: Breathing
Kids Activity: Beach days!
Yoga Studio: Seattle Pilates Collective
Fitness Studio: Barre3
Athleticwear: ALO pants and Old Navy tops
Books: The Herbal Antiviral by Stephen Harrod Buhner
Online Resources: https://www.jannyorganically.com/ and Libro.fm