Melissa Kruse lives on a 10-acre farm in Southern Minnesota with her husband, four children, and a small herd of beloved animals. Here, she and her husband grow herbs and handcraft products for their skincare line inspired by nature, Herbal Beauty Soap. Melissa feels very fortunate to be self-employed, loving the freedom to be creative and to have her kids involved in her and husband’s work. Melissa has been studying the healing and medicinal benefits of plants for about 10 years and is currently enrolled in an online herbal academy. She uses this knowledge in the creation of our natural bath and body products. Melissa ensures that you will never find any sulfates, parabens, fragrance oils, mineral oils, or artificial preservatives in the Herbal Beauty Soap products as they only use high quality natural ingredients.
How have the items you make evolved? How have you evolved? Currently I’m enrolled in an online herbal academy. I’m always learning new things about herbs, plant oils/butters, and how to incorporate them into skin care. I also create products out of necessity. When we need to buy a bath or body product from the store (most recently deodorant and toothpaste), I’ll learn how to make it, test it on friends and family, perfect the formula and add it to our line. New products also evolve depending on the season. Last year I launched our summer line that consisted of sun block, bug repellent, anti-itch salve, cooling spray, and burn relief salve. I am currently expanding my baby and maternity line. I also encourage customers to give me their feedback and suggestions on new products and scent blends.
Also, because of my expanding knowledge and love of herbs, we are reformulating all of our products to be more herbal based. Our product line also has a new look. This update is exciting, and I feel like it represents who I am more now than when I started the business. I feel fortunate that I get to share my creativity and passion through my products.
I enjoy creating new scent combinations for our products. I get a lot of inspiration while in my herb garden smelling different herbs and mixing them together. I try to recreate the fragrance and experience in a bar of soap.
Being a mother now it is important for me to set a good example to show my kids that you can earn a living by doing what you love, but to also expect challenges along the way and find creative ways to solve them. My husband and I are evolving as a business team which helps strengthen our marriage and parenting too. We are getting better at planning, managing time and finances. With the responsibilities of 4 kids, two piglets, chickens, bees, lambs and self-employment, and more those skills become crucial!
Our most recent purchase was a still, and we’ve been enjoying creating hydrosols from some of the herbs we grow. We plan to use these hydrosols in our products.
Why is local important? It’s important to shop local so that you continue to have access to fresh produce and high-quality products. It’s a habit you have to form. Once you start buying locally and notice the difference in quality, freshness, and craftsmanship, it’s hard to go back to the product that was shipped in from miles away. We are increasing the local ingredients that we use in our bath and body products. We are currently using camellina oil grown and pressed in southern Minnesota, local beeswax, and herbs. It’s great to have a connection with our local ecosystem through what we purchase.
How has living in Minnesota influenced your creative work, specifically through Herbal Beauty? The seasons. I know a lot of people dislike the harshness of Minnesota seasons, but they inspire and motivate me. In the winter we relax, cook, craft, reconnect with family and friends, and dream about next year. It’s when we make our business plans, set goals, come up with new product ideas. Spring is the time when we start seeds, plant gardens, bring our dreams to life, hatch eggs, and start production for the Farmers’ Market. Summer we harvest and preserve our food, sell our goods at the Farmers’ Market, reconnect with customers and vendors and relax at the lake. We get to finally experience the colors and scents of our flowers and herbs as well as the flavor of the produce. Fall is when we wrap up the garden and get ready for next year and the busy holiday season. Depending on what we have for animals we also butcher in the fall. Another thing I like about Minnesota is the variety of plants that we have. The mountains and deserts of the west are beautiful, but around here the soil is so fertile that it produces a much greater variety of plants for me to learn about and use.
What is your home community like? Does it inspire you creatively? We live on a 10-acre farm that is full of projects and possibilities. I like to surround myself with my passions and creations. My husband and I inspire each other. We are always bouncing ideas off of one another and brainstorming how we can bring an idea into reality. Our strengths compliment each other. I come up with a new product idea, and he makes the tools to produce them efficiently. My kids inspire me with their excitement and endless enthusiasm for life, plants, bugs, experiments; it keeps me young at heart and the creativity flowing. It’s important for us to give our kids the space they need to be creative and make messes. They also participate in our projects and receive a hands-on education.
Why are sustainable practices and ecologically friendly beauty products important to you? I think about my kids and want them to experience the beauty in the world that has been so inspiring to me. As business owners, we are in a position to have an impact on the ecosystems from which our products are derived. We use organic and sustainable palm oil to protect Orangutan habitat. We also use fair trade shea butter, recycled plastic bottles, and local and organic ingredients.
Do you feel like Herbal Beauty allows you to contribute to something larger than yourself? It means a lot to me when someone has benefited from using my products. I like connecting with people. That’s what I love about the Mankato Farmers’ Market. It gives me a chance to listen to customers and give my recommendations. And when someone comes back to tell me their skin feels better, I feel like I’m having a positive impact on someone’s life. When people are confident in their skin, they feel more at ease.