How a Louisiana Entrepreneur Grew a Thriving Nutraceutical Company Out of Her Kitchen
It was 2010 and entrepreneur Andrea Leyerle was annoyed that she and several family members were battling a common but unpleasant seasonal illness.
“I am not the type of person who handles sickness well,” she says. “I take it as a personal insult that I let myself get sick.”
Seeking a solution, Leyerle started researching cold and flu remedies and stumbled upon the medicinal properties of elderberries, a common plant that is used around the world to prevent and treat a variety of ailments.
That research led her to try some black elderberry syrup from a store. She was immediately impressed with the results. “I was just really taken aback by how much better I felt and how fast I felt better,” she says. “I was deeply convinced that I never wanted to be without black elderberry syrup.”
Leyerle, who says she was always attracted to a self-reliant lifestyle, decided to start making her own elderberry syrup. Today that experiment has grown into Andi Lynn's Pure & Custom Formulary, a successful retail and online nutraceutical business that has spread across Louisiana and beyond.
Leyerle offered some of her elderberry syrup to friends on Facebook and quickly sold 40 units. At that point she thought she might have a business. “If this is something that’s this impressive for me, I’m obviously going to share it with the people I love,” she says. “It’s continued to grow from there.”
By spring 2011, she had set up shop at the Denham Springs farmers market, where she would continue selling her products for several years. At the same time, she hired friends throughout south Louisiana to distribute the product. “Our strategy was that we’re going to keep ourselves healthy and we’re going to make sure all our friends stay healthy,” she says.
The approach paid off and the brand continued to grow as word of mouth spread.
As the brand grew, Leyerle set her sights on setting up a more professional operation and expanding the business. She rented a diner kitchen that closed at 2 p.m. daily, and she and her husband would work from the afternoon through midnight, only stopping to take her children home for bed.
As the company expanded into other products, that meant sourcing more ingredients, such as honey from a farm in Denham Springs. “I remember the first time we bought a gallon of honey, I thought that was a big deal,” she says. “Now we’re buying 55-gallon drums at a time.”
Leyerle says that while the ideas and ingredients that make up the elderberry syrup are traditional, she believes the company’s handmade approach and dedication to the craft of preserving culinary and medicinal herbs has helped it resonate with customers.
“I’m proud of it and I get personal satisfaction that I made this remedy,” she says. “I know this is a quality remedy that is going to deliver and you’re going to feel better after you’ve had some. That’s what keeps me going.”
Gearing Up For Growth
Over the past seven years, Andi Lynn's has expanded its online presence, landed in 150 retail locations in eight states and branched out into products such as soaps, ciders and salves. It also has built a team of salespeople and a kitchen crew to help support further expansion.
To achieve its expansion and other long-term goals, the company has been working with the NexusLA Investment Readiness Program for high-potential early-stage businesses based in southeast Louisiana that want to raise capital. Leyerle says the program has helped the company move beyond the day-to-day and focus on strategic growth.
“I have a new creative vision to really see where this thing can go,” she says. “I have been connected with some really great people. They’ve really helped me see a path to further success to be nationally recognized.”
Despite the company’s rapid growth, Leyerle still regularly sets up shop at the Mid City Makers Market in Baton Rouge to sell her products and interact with customers. “The ability to serve as many people as I can now and see that scale and play it out is really exciting,” she says. “I never thought in a million years this is what I would be doing.”