We drank adaptogens with HW Harris, a former fashion executive and the owner and operator of the new adaptogenic brand Eleven TLC located in Ponce City Market (next to Batter Cookie Dough). Our drinks of choice: shroom brew, pink drink, and beau-tea-ful. HW opens up about her career, its effect on her physical and mental health, and her mother.
What does wellness mean to you? The idea of wellness and it being really inclusive is something that we talk a lot about. Our logo is a rainbow and we kind of created our own colors of the rainbow because we really wanted it to be this idea of what is the new inclusive and how do you create your own identity to reach all people without any type of barriers. The idea of food and what you put into your body and what you put onto your body as well goes hand in hand with stress and how we deal with that itself and the emotions.
Tell us about your background (with/without adaptogens) and opening an adaptogenic beverage cafe. I was in fashion for 20 plus years. I worked for a lot of youth brands. I started off at Ralph Lauren, then I went to Abercrombie. Probably the 3rd person hired at Abercrombie. I helped start Holister. Probably 12 years ago, I was traveling 250-260 days a year. I was so stressed out. I was always running. I never felt like I could do enough and had enough energy to do everything I needed to do. So, I ended up seeing a functional medical energy worker and practitioner and I started a new regimen with her and all of sudden everything started to shift. I saw the benefits of taking the supplements and the herbs and all the adaptogens. Then I started to shift the way I was eating and that made a huge difference.
What/who inspires your work? Ten years ago, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer and we changed her protocol. She should technically not be alive and in some type of full-time care. Her long-term memory is still there but her short-term memory is gone. Over and over, I saw the benefits of what we were putting into our [bodies]. I kind of woke up one day and said you know what, there’s nothing left to say for me in fashion. I wanted to just try something different. My daughter. I feel like the luckiest person because we never thought we were going to have kids. I look at the youth and I’ve always been inspired by young people and all the energy around it. And I think about this time we live in which is exponentially changing so quickly. The pressure. The stress. All the things that are happening throughout the world right now, and it’s only getting compounded and will continue to get that way.
What is your value proposition for adaptogens (at Eleven TLC)? At Eleven, we’re really focused on the beverages and shifting the dialogue of how people see health and wellness. We believe that this is a lifestyle, so we started off doing the tinctures. We talk a lot about the fact that the drinks have to be delicious first and then it has the benefits around it and it supports you. Once you start drinking things that have low sugar, that’s less processed, that’s clean because we talk a lot about the environment and the ingredients being as clean as possible and supporting sustainability, you start to see these little shifts and hopefully, the idea is to start shifting the dialogue around health and wellness. The drink you’re having now has less than 2 teaspoons of added sweetening which is honey. The fact that you can have a drink like that, that’s clean, that’s delicious, it still tastes good but it’s not as heavy ladened. That one has ashwagandha, it has blue butterfly, it has lavender, it has l-theanine. All these things support relaxation. It makes you feel at ease and comfortable.
What are your top 3-5 adaptogens? What we have found is that people are most excited about Ashwagandha and they ask me the most questions about. If I were to access what I’m seeing and I try to watch the consumer a lot because we are learning right now and are in our test stage. What I see them really wanting is either energy, something for stress and anxiety, and beauty. So I feel like there’s this opportunity for us to shift the conversation of what you’re putting into your body, the focus around the environment, the focus on being kind to yourself, inclusive, and all these things are the inspiration of what we’re doing.
What is your current beauty and wellness ritual/routine? I am so simple. I don’t like a lot of stuff and processes because I used to do it and sometimes I think it looks pretty in the camera, but by the time I’m done taking a shower, all I want to do is is slap on some cream and be done with it. I use Vitamin E and then I just put some lavender oil and some essential oils into it and I mix it and that’s what I put on my body. I can’t remember the name of this cream. Someone just gave it to me. She does this beauty blog. It’s something like it’s basically saying it’s the best cream ever or this sh*t is good for you or something like that. I’ll find the name of it. It’s this rich serum and it’s pretty fantastic. And I’ll use Retin-A some times. If I could, I’d use a little more Retin-A.
What is your daily ritual for minimizing stress? At the time when I was so stressed out and I was really looking for alternatives, I started meditating. I did a lot of different practices and I have for the past 15 years. I started with TM. I did a lot of breathwork. I’ve done Kundalini. I think there’s a balance of understanding what’s happening on the outside isn’t necessarily what’s happening on the inside. It’s really our perception of how we look to understand and how we respond and how we separate ourselves from our emotions. We tend to think we are our emotions and we let it cause all the stress and anxiety. Also, I’m careful about what I allow into my sphere, and if I find I’m too much news or reading too much negative stuff, I minimize and shut it down. Also, I try to reset my expectations. Even when something is challenging, it’s an opportunity for us to reset and reevaluate and regroup and move forward.
What was your first memory of stress? As a young kid. I remember going to school and feeling stressed. One of the things I’m extremely passionate about is education because I feel like education is the one place as a kid and it’s so important for the future generation. I remember as a kid not being able to follow in mathematics. I remember when I checked out of math and it becoming difficult for me and uncomfortable for me for the rest of my life and I thought a lot about that. It’s one of the first memories I have of stress. I don’t understand this and no one is explaining it to me and I can’t figure out how to do it. In these little moments, I always remember that. Especially the kids now, they’re having to learn online and what that must be like where you don’t get the hands on or there’s not enough teachers to help support an individual kid that needs more support.
What’re your plans for the future as a business owner? I just want people to like and get excited about the drinks and I hope we can open a few of these soon. When I think about this journey around health and wellness, it needs to be accessible for all people. That’s the journey I’d like to go on. I believe the way we see wellness isn’t accurate. It goes back to this idea of root cause and availability and making this a conversation where people can understand it and get excited about it. You can’t fix your health and your mental wellbeing by taking one thing. It’s a total, holistic perspective.
What’s your vision for the future of wellness? I believe we need healthy communities. We need our kids to be healthy. When you’re inflamed it makes you angry, it makes you short, it makes you mad and causes all this stuff. It even starts with the food you’re eating. In so many ways, as a community, to get healthy together is the biggest win. It’s everyone who’s growing the food, to what you’re putting onto your body, into your body, to the health practitioners, to people resetting and having better conversations, to how we’re teaching our kids to think, what to say. We have a lot of work to do. Eventually, we want this to be the way we all live to be. A little healthier because we all feel better and we always talk about feel good from the inside out. We hope this brand takes off, and it’s fun, and people understand what we’re doing.