Michele Harbin has always been her own “Plan B” meaning she built a personal brand by doing her best and being her authentic self. In following this mantra, Harbin, a long-time bartender and salesperson, was able to (almost) seamlessly transition from late nights of slinging drinks to a career in natural health. The certified nutrition coach, is the founder of health and wellness line Harbin Hollow whose sales broke $50K in the first year and products are sold in 50-stores. Yet, as someone who once prided herself on staying up until the sun rose, Harbin understands how hard it can be to stick with a healthy routine. Therefore, the nutritionist, whose desire to lose weight was the original motivation to clean up her diet, wants to make a healthy lifestyle comprehensible to anyone no matter their knowledge level. She does this literally by selling super affordable, bite-sized portions of superfoods, like her bee pollen pods, and figuratively by writing about acronyms like GRACE, which explain the five pillars (Gratitude, Rest, Awareness, Clean Eating, and Exercise,) that are critical to her own health overhaul. Harbin, whose goal is to demystify superfoods, is proof that one can use their addictive personality to their advantage.
Let’s talk a bit about your background pre-healthy lifestyle and career.
The common denominator in my life is the ability to build genuine relationships. While bartending I felt like I lived inside of a giant party, which was good and bad. (Laughs) When I got sober, I was scared of losing my status as the last man standing on the dance floor. However, I realized that it was the atmosphere, more than the boozing, that I liked about partying. I incorporate what I enjoyed about that lifestyle into work now.
Why were you drawn to self-medicating?
Growing up, there was a lot of pressure for me to take care of my siblings. I grew to resent this motherly role because I wasn’t prepared for it. After I left the house and went away to college, I didn’t want responsibility. I was also high functioning and could stay up all night and still get straight A’s.
What was the turning point where you straightened yourself out?
Every time I would stop drinking, I would drink more. Simply realizing that I was in a shame cycle made quitting drinking a lot easier. I stopped beating myself up and instead, had compassion for my addiction.
You also taught college. What did you learn in that profession?
I taught communications at a community college, which I loved because it showed me how different everyone’s perspective is. My students ranged from 17-year-olds to senior citizens so I had to tailor my teachings to a wide range of demographics. The ability to adapt to every walk of life is a skill that I learned as a bartender.
When did you decide to become a nutritional coach?
I became interested in nutrition because I wanted to lose weight. In 2017, I completed my certification to become a coach online yet, decided afterwards that coaching wasn’t for me. That December, I started a blog where I shared my recipe for elderberry syrup, which is one of the products that has helped me to reverse an autoimmune disorder as well as high blood pressure and cholesterol. From there, things went wild!
How were your other recipes developed?
In Portland, Tennessee, we are famous for strawberries. One year I sponsored the annual strawberry festival and was encouraged to sell a product there, which inspired my Superfood Preserves. From there, I created my bee pollen pods sold in one-teaspoon servings, which you can put in your smoothie or mix into your granola. The stores love the concept because they can break the sheets down to single-serving cups, put the pods in a basket, and encourage people to try it for $1.
What’s the best compliment you’ve received in regards to Harbin Hollow?
“I have more energy and get sick less because I use your products.”
What is your favorite thing about what you do?
I love that one bottle of our elderberry syrup supports seven to ten local entities. By shopping small, $0.65 on the dollar stays in the community.
Why do you think Harbin Hollow has been so successful so quickly?
I have a strong sales background and zero problem cold calling stores. Most of my sales come from walking into a shop and asking if the owner wants to try my product. It’s so important that people get a sense of your vibe and voice in real life versus sending out blind emails.
What has been your personal secret to getting and staying healthy?
The realization that self-growth is an ongoing adventure. I also am an advocate of therapy, exercise, and being forgiving with oneself. At a certain point I realized that we are all addicted to something, which is when I realized that I could use my obsessive nature to spread my mission.
You are also excellent at the follow-up as demonstrated by how we came to be sitting here: we met at an event and you reached out after.
As an entrepreneur, you have to be proactive and keep yourself on people’s plates—without being obnoxious. (Laughs) Fortunately, because I am a people-person making the first move is ingrained in my personality.
Any last words of wisdom for us?
It’s smart to slow down and come up with a strategy rather than just catching balls as they come your way. I also believe, after years of working from the couch, in having a designated office space, which has helped me to maintain discipline. Lastly, I swear by “To Do lists,” for staying focused. Does it get any better than checking tasks off a list? I feel so productive!