It’s officially cold and flu season, and Sara Gail wants to keep you healthy.
Most people in Colleton County don’t even know Sara Gail, but she certainly loves and appreciates Colleton County, especially the Commercial Kitchen.
Colleton’s Commercial Kitchen was especially designed for people like Gail who want to start new businesses and utilize the facilities. Gail owns RD Naturals, a product line she started in 2015, based on Daniel Island. RD stands for “Registered Dietitian.”
Gail’s company offers elderberry syrup and elderberry extract. RD Naturals Elderberry Syrup was inspired by evidence-based science and is formulated with fruit, spices, and honey to heal and protect.
“I started making elderberry syrup about three years ago for just a few friends and neighbors on Daniel Island,” said Gail. “My first few batches were in little jars with a handmade label tied to the jar with a string. The word got out quickly about my elderberry syrup, and soon I had a lot more orders. I decided to switch to bottles, design a label and create a website.”
The business started at farmer’s markets and has grown each year to where Gail’s elderberry syrup is sold in pharmacies and stores, as well as online.
But the most interesting fact about her syrup is that it is produced right here at the Colleton Commercial Kitchen.
“I have always loved science and making things from scratch. When I started learning about nutrition, my passion for healthy living just kept expanding and evolving. RD Naturals has been the perfect niche for me to use my background in chemistry and nutrition to help people live healthy lives. During cold and flu season, we make hundreds of bottles each week,” said Gail. “Most of the year, we are here at least once a week. When cold and flu season hits, we are here up to three times per week,” she said.
Gail said that people who feel sick can take elderberry syrup up to four times a day — so new bottles are constantly needed. Her two teenagers, Addie and Andrew, have helped, along with friends and family who help her label the bottles by hand.
Gail grew up in Northfield, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. She spent her undergraduate years at the College of Charleston studying elementary education and rowing for the crew team. She taught fifth grade before having two children and becoming a stay-at-home mom.
She developed an increasing interest in health and nutrition, and in 2015 earned a second degree in food science and nutrition from the University of Alabama. Following graduation, Gail completed a nine-month internship at Roper St. Francis Hospital and now, she is a licensed and registered dietitian.
In 2017, she opened a private practice, Sara Gail Nutrition, on Daniel Island. “I provide nutrition counseling for weight management, diabetes, digestive diseases, food allergies and offer food sensitivity testing,” said Gail.
She began to see the potential for her business and decided to expand beyond farmers markets. “I had a goal of seeing my products on store shelves. I contacted the SCORE business mentoring program and began meeting with a mentor,” she said. (SCORE is a source for free business mentoring and education and a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration.)
“In order to do take my business to the next level, I needed to find a commercial kitchen. My business mentor suggested I look at the Colleton Commercial Kitchen,” Gail said. “It was a great decision.”
When she comes to the Colleton Commercial Kitchen, Gail makes up to 300-400 bottles in one day there.
Jennifer Graham, the sales and marketing representative for RD Naturals, helps out tremendously in the kitchen. “I could not do without her because most of the time, we sell between 300-1,000 bottles each week,” said Gail.
She does make other thing besides the elderberry syrup, but the benefits of this the syrup are so great that they make up most of her sales.
Elderberries are particularly rich in flavonoids, especially anthocyanins which are responsible for their deep purple color. These powerful antioxidants reportedly work to keep the immune system strong and resilient. Elderberries also contain antiviral agents, compounds so potent they are thought to deactivate viruses.
Viruses are unable to multiply on their own and need to get inside a healthy cell to do so. Elderberry compounds create a barrier around healthy cells protecting them from viruses. If elderberry is taken within 24-48 hours of the onset of cold or flu symptoms, it may slow or stop the virus from spreading, which reduces the severity and duration of the cold and flu.
“Providing an all-natural product that helps people stay healthy is very gratifying,” said Gail. “The most exciting thing about this process is that it was not planned. It just happened from a single Facebook comment, and I just went with it. I have learned so much through this process. Thanks to my business mentors at SCORE, the Colleton Commercial Kitchen, and help from friends and family, I have learned so much about running a business. Every day is an adventure with new challenges, and I can’t wait to see where this leads,” she added.
RD Naturals may be launching a new product this fall. In the meantime, Gail plans to continue expanding into more retail locations and increase her online presence to become a prominent retailer nationwide.
Currently, she is on the right path to becoming known across the United States. Since she started shipping her products, they are being sold in almost every state including Hawaii and Alaska. RD Naturals are also sold on Amazon which has given the products a lot of national exposure.
With the syrup in popular demand, she decided to make some more child friendly.
“We have made the transition to graduated droppers for our Elderberry Drops. This will make dosing much easier than actually counting out the drops or estimating,” Gail said.
RD Naturals Elderberry Drops are an extract of only elderberry using glycerin as a solvent. It is sugar-free but has a sweet taste (because of the glycerin.) It does not need to be refrigerated and has a shelf-life of one year from date of bottling.
The two-ounce bottle is designed for travel, holding as many doses as the large 16-ounce elderberry syrup bottle but concentrated. This is also “baby-safe” since it does not contain honey.
“I like to add a dropper full to my club soda just to give it a little flavor. You can also take it straight from the bottle. Almost all kids love this because it tastes sweet and does not have sugar, so it’s not going to be harmful to their teeth,” stated Gail.
Since its inception, RD Naturals has continued to grow as the benefits of the syrup create believers out of hundreds of people each day.
Her customers feel that they cannot do as well without the elderberry syrup, and Gail knows that she can’t help all these people without the Colleton Commercial Kitchen. Her syrup is also available at Hiott’s Pharmacy.
For more information go to www.rdnaturals.com.