Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Eileen Brantley, Lead Herbalist and Co-Owner of ILA Nutrition LLC., located in Covington, GA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I co-own a health and wellness product + lifestyle company called ILA. ILA stands for I Love Adaptogens because all of our products are built around our herbal adaptogenic formulas. Our customers are busy, on-the-go millennials to boomers looking for convenient, delicious & healthy ways to improve their resiliency to life's challenges.

Tell us about yourself

Hi! My name is Eileen, and I am a Clinical Herbalist & Nutritional Therapist turned product innovator as a result of some serendipitous interactions that occurred during my master's program at UGA. I was studying Agribusiness at the time, focusing on medicinal herb production in the US, when my business partner, Amy Saleh, and I decided to enter one of our products into a shark-tank-like competition offered through my program. As a grad student with an entrepreneurial spirit, I co-owned a small herbal tea & education company called Herb Girls Athens that was gaining traction in town. Lo and behold, we won the competition with one of Herb Girl's best-selling blends, Rally. In fact, one of the judges was so moved by the blend that he called us the next day in hopes of developing a partnership to bring our products to a larger audience. From there, our two sister companies were founded: ILA & REV.

The original formulation that started it all, Rally, is a balanced herbal blend designed for mixing into coffee to help fight the 3'o clock crash. The rally features a unique class of herbs called adaptogens that increase adaptive energy reserves, or one's ability to handle stress with grace and ease. We've since formulated variations of this blend to go into energy bars. ILA is the plant-based line, while REV features higher protein from grass-fed whey and collagen.

Throughout this whole entrepreneurial journey, my motivation has always been my desire to promote the proper use and understanding of medicinal herbs and food in general. At the heart of herbalism is not learning which herbs do what - it understands that your body is highly perceptive and wise beyond measure, always trying to communicate with you and direct you on the path towards greater health and vitality. One can never achieve their optimum state if they don't learn to listen to their body, and studying herbalism beckons one to do just that. As someone who has dealt with chronic disease since childhood, the sense of calm, wonder, & grace I've received working with herbs and natural, personal means of healing has totally transformed my outlook on life. When it comes to health, there is no easy way out - but taking the long road, really digging deep, and uncovering underlying patterns of imbalance and dis-ease, will always provide healing. The world of product development has presented me with unforeseen challenges and pain points, but it's this mission to spread awareness for true health via herbalism that keeps me pushing forward.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment as a business owner has been the development of adaptability - which is quite a lovely realization, given my companies are built around adaptogens! I've heard the saying that most people wouldn't start a business if they knew all it entailed, and I think about this a lot. This position has forced me to exercise parts of my brain I never have before. It's pushed me well beyond my comfort zone and demanded great leaps of faith at times. While I wouldn't choose to be put into these uncomfortable, trying situations, I am beyond grateful for them. Owning a business means you must be ready for anything and willing to push your limits; you must be adaptable and resilient in the face of a letdown. Today, I can confidently say I have these attributes, and it's all thanks to choosing the entrepreneurial path.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

To me, one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner is the virtually endless list of things to do. Unlike other 9-5 jobs, if you own a business, there's a temptation to never shut your brain off. There's always competition that could be doing more work to get ahead of you, so there's a need to always be doing a little bit more to get ahead. While at the moment this appears to be sound logic, it can quickly lead to burn-out, resentment, and (while we are in the field of holistic health) adrenal fatigue. For me, this has definitely been the most trying aspect of starting a business: learning to quiet that endless list of to-dos and taking a break from the constant desire to be a success.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

My top 3 tips for someone interested in starting or growing their business is to focus on your network. I once heard that "your network is your net worth" and believe it to be 100% accurate. You can go so much further when you are always looking to build a relationship. On that note, my second tip would be to build relationships with every aspect of your business. Rather than just focusing on people who can directly help you, think outside the box when it comes to a potential partnership. Diversifying in this way often provides you with help and support in ways you couldn't have foreseen. My last tip is connected to my previous answer: create intentional time to shut your brain off and take a break from work. It's way too tempting to work all the time, but this never ends well.

Where can people find you and your business?

Instagram(Rev Life):
Instagram(Herb Girls):

If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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