Meet the boss mares behind the successful all-natural supplement company.
From the magazine
Elizabeth Ehrlich and Kimberly Ercius grew up like any other horse-crazy kids.
They grew up in North Salem, NY, riding every chance they had. Both remember their dad blasting The Beatles while they talked endlessly in the backseat about trail ride routes, horse care, homemade tack soap recipes, upcoming shows, which horse needed a soapy bath, and brainstorming show names for new ponies.
Everything revolved around their desire to be with the horses. After college, they followed different career paths. Ehrlich became a securities litigator at Sullivan & Cromwell in Manhattan and Ercius went on to be an eCommerce and marketing consultant.
More than two decades after their last drive down the bumpy roads of North Salem, they now are the owners of Equine Elixirs, creator and manufacturer of the equine industry’s leading innovative, all-natural and wildly popular supplements for everything from ulcers to hoof support.
Starting Out Small
It all happened quite naturally, no pun intended. Ehrlich’s mare, Bella, had ulcers that didn’t respond to traditional gastroprotective treatments. Out of frustration, she researched equine ulcers and experimented with different formulations that replicated what horses would eat that could also serve as a successful gastric maintenance product.
After consulting with veterinarians and significant testing, Ehrlich created a particular formulation of all natural ingredients. It wasn’t long before word got out that her effective, all-natural gastric supplement had finally improved her mare’s ulcers. Barnmates began asking her to create the formula for their horses, which turned into her renting an extra feed room at the barn so she could manufacture it in small batches for others.
That product, now known as Ulceraser®, has since gone on to help tens of thousands of other horses.
Eight years after her first production of the product, Ulceraser is now mass produced using custom equipment in Equine Elixirs’ own 20,000 square foot warehouse in Wellington, FL, under its founder’s watchful eye.
“We don’t do contract manufacturing because I want to oversee all quality control in my facility, using my equine only machinery, with my employees,” Ehrlich tells The Plaid Horse.
During Ehrlich’s first two years in business, she would consult Ercius on branding and marketing.
“She called me constantly asking for help with eCommerce and marketing,” says Ercius. “I always tell her that she was the most demanding non-paying person I had ever worked with. But, I was excited to be back in the horse world, which I missed terribly.”
After the first few years of informal partnership, Ercius and Ehrlich agreed it made sense to focus exclusively on growing the business together.
Since that time, they have launched thirteen products (with three more on the way in the next year), have a new custom packaging system in the works, and are looking to take on even more warehouse space for their future projects.
A Strong Foundation
As kids, their parents didn’t want them to compete against each other at shows.
“We alternated between showing on weekends and being each other’s groom,” says Ehrlich.
Growing up rooting for each other meant their individual successes and failures have always been shared. It is that foundation of teamwork and partnership that they believe is their greatest strength.
“In many ways I feel like we have always worked together,” says Ercius.
Today, Ehrlich oversees product research and development, operations, manufacturing, and distribution, while Ercius is in charge of eCommerce, marketing, branding, advertising, social media and PR.
People regularly ask them what it’s like to work with a sibling. For them, the answer is quite simple.
Both report that it is the most fun, exciting, and unbelievably fortunate thing either of them could imagine. Do they fight? Never. Do they disagree? Sometimes. But their tremendous respect for each other’s opinions and areas of expertise makes working through any obstacle as easy as it could be.
“Luckily, the vast majority of decisions we make during the day fall very clearly into one of our lanes,” says Ercius. “Rarely is there a decision that truly needs to be made by both of us, but when there is, we can confidently present our different opinions, and ultimately support the decision of whichever one of us has more experience or a better gut instinct on a topic,” says Ehrlich.
Then and Now
In hindsight, they chuckle about how their homework styles as kids were very accurate predictors of their business strengths and partnership styles.
Ehrlich would start her homework immediately, and focus for hours without interruption until everything was complete. Ercius, meanwhile, would sit down, organize every pen and pencil by color, and focus on the presentation of her homework before even beginning.
These days, Ehrlich will call Ercius with a new product idea and before she’s finished explaining the technical concepts, Ercius will start rattling off product names, packaging, color palettes, and product personalities.
Though neither of them set out one day with the intention to build the Equine Elixirs brand into the full line of supplements that it has become, they couldn’t stop themselves from getting excited about new ideas and bringing them to life.
In hindsight, the decision to leave their respective careers seems obvious, but they could not have predicted that their childhood love of horses would bring them back to their original passion.