Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you’re from?
I was born and raised in Queens, New York, the oldest of three and child to two Colombian immigrants. Growing up, we didn’t have a lot. But we did have wonderful, caring parents who raised us with many of the botanic traditions common to their homeland of Colombia.
My father was born and raised on a farm in Cali, Colombia, near the Andes mountains, while my mom is from Bogota, the capital. My dad had to drop out of school when he was just a young boy to help his family financially. Going to the hospital was only for emergencies. Rather, Mother Earth was the best medical advisor when he or anyone in his family had a small ailment.
Growing up, he would always point out nature and wildlife everywhere we would go, even at our local playground. Near the entrance of our local park stood a big blackberry tree. My dad would pluck the blackberries right off and give them to us to eat. Whether it was chamomile and ginger for an upset stomach or honey and lemon for sore throats, there were always home remedies to help us mend. Interestingly, Colombia is the second most biodiverse country globally (per square kilometre, the country actually is the most biodiverse). There are more amphibian, butterfly, and frog species here than anywhere else in the world.
What inspired your business, MommaBear?
When my then four-year-old was sick with a cold, I remember he fought me tirelessly about taking his cough medicine. I was sitting on the couch with my husband and said to him, ‘If only he wanted his medicine as much as he loves his candy”! I asked my husband if there was anything like that on the market. He said, yes, this company has a cough product lollipop for kids (insert large pharma company name), I took one look at the ingredient list, which had about 12 things I could not pronounce, and I said to him, “NO WAY! This isn’t something I would want for myself, let alone my child”. As a caregiver and mom, I felt and feel strongly that moms want to know what is in the products they use, especially those that are consumed. Clean living and clean eating isn’t just a fad that is going away; I believe it is a way of life for moms of this generation. Thus began the journey of MommaBear.
Your dad had a mantra “La tierra siempre produce lo que uno necesita.” The earth always produces what one needs. How did his philosophy shape you as a mother?
As a mom myself now, I try to honour my parents’ herbal wisdom, love, and care by keeping my pantry stocked full of herbs and my fridge full of fruits and vegetables. I also use many of the same home remedies I was given when I was a child because they are steeped in generations of tradition and wisdom. The list is endless, from chamomile tea for upset tummies, to prunes for their digestive health, to magnesium baths for sleeplessness, .etc. If my kids are under the weather and I know I have something at home that can help, that is always my first choice, then an email to their pediatrician, followed by a trip to the pharmacy if, and only if, all else fails.
How are you feeling emotionally launching your business, and how has your support system been?
We are almost three years into it from idea to product. It has been one of the most rewarding feelings of my life. Still, It has been a roller coaster ride, which you hear from many entrepreneurs. The highs are wonderful, but the lows can have you feeling in the dumps. I do not think this career is for the faint of heart! For that reason, a good support system is incredibly essential in helping you get through it all. My MommaBears are my mom and sister, but I also have a few friends I lean on for career advice. I have a small informal advisory board of three people that I admire and respect. Sometimes you can have tunnel vision when you are looking at a screen all day—having people who support you and have been on the same journey can be invaluable when you are starting a small business.
Will MommaBear expand its collection of natural remedies for parents?
Yes! Over time, this has grown into more than a company; it has become a life passion. That is, to know that many common ailments can be helped in more natural ways than what over-the-counter medicines offer to do. We will never claim to cure anything, but we know that there are more natural forms of remedies for small ailments that will help. We are working on follow-up products, and we hope to have our next product (cold and cough) out in time for Flu season. We also have three more products in R&D.
As a mother, it’s important to take some time out for yourself. How would you recommend mothers, and women in general, do that?
This is so much easier said than done, isn’t it! It is important to be kind and cut yourself slack when you’re not perfect, and things don’t go as planned. Some of the best advice I have ever gotten regarding taking time out is this: No matter what is going on in your world, always make time for yourself. Some days it might be an hour, some days it will be five minutes. Some days it will be at 7 am, other days it will be at 9 pm, that’s ok. Use this time to do something that makes you smile and that you really enjoy. Call a friend, call your mom, buy yourself a coffee, get those shoes you want, and for goodness sakes, eat the cake!
What have been some of the biggest challenges as a businesswoman while being a mother?
Time is my biggest challenge. My first job is Mom, and my second, entrepreneur. I know these moments with my children are priceless, and I will never get them back. So I know I need to prioritize my time accordingly. For one, I now recognize there are only 24 hours in a day (duh, Really?). Yes, moms are superheroes, but they are only human too. To make life easier, I prioritize my time better: I try getting as much work done as I can when my children are in school and after bed. After dinner, we have our shake-our-wiggles-Kidz-Bop dance parties. When I see their laughing and smiling faces, I know it’s been a good day!
What’s your morning routine?
Most of my mornings feel like the Tasmanian devil has run through my apartment! Still, flu season is just around the corner, so taking care of everyone’s health (my own included) is a top priority of my morning routine. For me, this includes drinking my lemon water. It’s loaded with vitamin C and a great detoxifier (not to mention easy to do, because I prep it the night before and leave it by my nightstand so it can be at tepid temperature when I drink it). I also make sure breakfast plates have at least one or two fruits (anything with vitamin C will do). If my kids have taken three bites, it’s a win!
Lastly, who’s your Mother Muse?
This might sound cliché, but my muses are all Mothers, whether stay-at-home or working full-time. Being a mother is the most selfless job in the world. Sometimes, my mom would eat way after we had put away the dishes because she wanted to make sure there was enough leftover if anyone else wanted seconds. This is what a mother does! Our company is all about making a ‘MommaBear’s’ life easier with grab-and-go remedies for small ailments. So much effort goes into all things motherhood, so anything we can do to make life easier really makes my day.
Their products are made with organic ingredients that are gluten, nut and dairy-free.
“We take incredible pride and responsibility in all we do. That’s why our products are made with ten or fewer ingredients that you can actually pronounce. We combine our herbal experience with the most natural form of sweeteners to create yummy, healthy products formulated to ease discomfort.”
Their products are ideal for children from 3-99. Under the age of three, we suggest you consult with your pediatrician. Children under the age of one should not be given honey. MommaBear uses cane sugar, a raw form of sugar that is less processed than table sugar. Unlike white refined sugar, which is stripped of all its nutritional value, unrefined cane sugar has the same vitamin and mineral consistency as sugarcane plant juice. Sugarcane juice is naturally rich in antioxidants, namely polyphenols, which helps defend against free radicals and toxins found in the environment.