...is the founder of Apothicare, a body care company working to empower people. Through elderberry syrup, tea, and deodorant, lip balm, and more, Kirsten aims to help people improve their health and therefore, lives. As a holistic health professional, Kirsten is passionate about teaching people from all walks of life about the basics of holistic health philosophies. Kirsten graduated from The Evergreen State college in 2012 with a degree in Holistic Health focused in Western Herbal Medicine and Reproductive Health. In 2010 Kirsten completed her Permaculture Design Certification and doula training to find a more sustainable approach to health and wellness. Through Apothicare, she has been able to bring quality sustainable products to the market place in Minnesota.
Talk about the beginnings of Apothicare. What inspired you begin this endeavor?
Growing up my parents fostered the belief in myself and my three siblings that we could do anything that we were passionate about. I went through many phases from artist, photographer, social worker to landing on herbalist in 2006. Growing up around the Mayo Clinic and seeing people take a pharmacy of medications everyday was not something I wanted for myself. Herbalism was my answer, this was a way that I could help myself and others take control of their health choices, while being a steward to the environment.
At first it was hard to find programs and educators in herbalism, being so new to this idea I had a hard time knowing where to look. Through my brother Caleb, now an organic farmer north of Menominee, WI, I found out about The Evergreen State College.
During my years at The Evergreen State College I was able to design degree in Holistic Health focused in Western Herbal Medicine and Reproductive Health. During school I returned back to Minneapolis by way of something unique to Evergreen called Independent Learning contracts. This was important to me because I wanted to learn not only the plants of the Pacific Northwest but plants that grow in my native Minnesota where I would return someday. During my year in Minnesota I interned with a Clinical Herbalist at Sacred Journey Healing Arts named Cynthia Thomas, took classes from Matthew Wood and Lise Wolf. I completed a lot of my studies independently and had weekly Skype meetings with my professor out at Evergreen.
When I returned to Evergreen to finish my final 6 months of college, I became good friends with Anneliese. We took a class together entitled Reproduction Birth and Power. She was on the Midwifery track, so we connect over our passion for herbs and birth. Our time together was filled with making kraut, kimchi, deodorant, soaps and long conversations. Over the years since I have returned to Minnesota and continued to create these crafts on my own and occasionally with the willing friend; trying to perfect my recipes. Selling some products here and there.
It wasn’t until the Christmas of 2014 that my friend Joel bought some of my elderberry syrup as a gift for friends. The one of the recipients loved the taste, packaging and health benefits of the product and as a temporary buyer at a local co-op, she put me in-touch with someone that handled all the requirements needed from new vendors. This is what gave me the push I needed to take my passion out of my kitchen and start pursuing it as a business. I am really glad I did.
Since I have started doing markets earlier this year I have received numerous feedback from customers and heard amazing stories. I feel like I have truly found my calling; this was a career I was hunting for, where I cannot only help myself but help others. Plants are amazing chemical factories! I don’t think I will ever get bored or stop learning.
Where did the name come from?
I had been brainstorming after my original name Herban Body had been butchered a few times. I wanted a name that people could pronounce and get a good idea of what I do. We came up with names that just didn’t seem to fit for example “Botanical Boutique”. While chatting with a friend and telling her what names we had come up with, we came up with Apothicare out of Apothic Body. That name rang true to what I wanted my company to become and the people I would help.
Can you talk about your tagline: "Sustainably Minded Body Care"? What does this phrase mean to you?
To me, sustainably is a key aspect in how I run my business. In an ideal world I would have everything come from our bioregion and be compostable and/or reusable with packaging. I have spent days hunting for solutions to sealing my products that don’t add to the waste we will inevitably add to landfills everyday. With some help I found a company in Wisconsin that produces cellulose shrink bands. A little earlier on it took me a couple months to compromise on adding the 4 oz elderberry syrup to the line because of the screw on plastic lid. I felt like people were less likely to reuse these over the 16 oz swing top bottles and I offer give anyone that returns bottles a $1.00 coupon to use on their next purchase.
The goal in the next few years is to purchase land so that I am able to grow more of my own herbs in a permaculture model and cut down on transportation. Until then I source my herbs from herbalists and companies that truly believe in being good stewards of the land. I know I’ll never be able to grow all the herbs that I use because somethings simply do not grow here. When sourcing herbs I do some research, for example, I know Micheal down in New Mexico has an 80% propagation rate with his Osha when the average is around 40%, then he takes his starts and plants them out on his property and only harvests them every couple of years because they are biennials. I feel good about buying this at risk plant (according to United Plant Savers) from someone that is not out there decimating the wild population and is still respecting the life cycle of the plant. In addition when we support these growers it keeps the cost low and the incentive to wild harvest down.
I also want people to have access to good herbal products. This is one way they can take care of themselves and their families in a financially feasible way. I know for some families regularly buying a $14 bottle of elderberry syrup is expensive, or a $7 deodorant and that is why I offer low-cost classes to the community. I love to see people share in my passion and take steps to improve their health.
So to me “Sustainably Minded Body Care” means to support ourselves, the land and our community buy doing business with like minded groups and reducing waste whenever possible while fostering empowerment in the individual to take over their health.
Why is local important?
Local is important because it not only directly puts that money back into our local economy to build a health and prosperous community but to inspire creativity and add culture to our community. When you buy locally you help that local business owner pay for their child’s education, clothes and local business owners support other local business owners, which will continue to build.
How has living in Minnesota influenced your creative work, specifically through Apothicare?
Minneapolis has a vibrant community of local craft makers, artist and farmers the community in Minneapolis is great about supporting us.
My primary herbal mentor Cynthia Thomas is a local herbalist that has supported my venture with her kind words of encouragement and advice and without this support I don’t know if I would have made it as far as I have.
With the help of urban farming policy changes in recent years I have been able to grow more of my own medicinal herbs in a holistic system and have had support from groups like the Tiny Diner Urban Farm with teaching classes.
With the support from Derek Grams, the Owner of Signature Cafe in the Prospect Park neighborhood, I was able to produce my products out of his commercial kitchen with little risk of over head costs.
Mastel’s Health Foods in St. Paul is the oldest health foods store in the Cities and they have work with me on the wholesale front giving be tips to make my business professional and successful. Mastel’s loves to support local small businesses being one themselves.
Without people like this in our community, I’m not sure if our local entrepreneur would thrive.
What do you see for the future of Apothicare?
We (my husband and I) would like to buy a farmette where I can continue to expand the production of my own medicinal herbs in a permaculture model using as many natives as possible. I have a soft spot for native plants and find them ecologically important after years of working at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary.
At the farm we hope to build a classroom that duals as a production space for all my products, while Luke my husband will have his own space for this wood crafts, a new venture of his.
I would like to see the production of Apothicare products become as much of a closed ecological system on our land as possible while continuing to inspire people to become good stewards of the land and their bodies.
Do you feel like making and creating through Apothicare allows you to contribute to something larger than yourself?
Apothicare has always been bigger than myself. If this was just about myself and generating the most income possible I could have taken many short cuts along the way. Apothicare is part of the movement where people are starting to realize our ecological and physiological responsibility. I do my best to be environmentally conscious but with outside factors like regulations, consumer demands, current products on the market and financially feasible all play a part too.
When given the to opportunity to talk to my customers at the markets I try to meet them where they are not a lot of people are aware or knowledgable about herbal medicine, so I like to take a little time to do education about my products. Then this may inspire them to dig deeper into their health and start blending teas for themselves or make their own deodorant. This builds skills and reduces waste. Don’t get me wrong I love making products for people, but I also love helping them to help themselves. It would make me very happy to know I had inspired someone to make their own tea for gut health.
Through the markets this year, I have become part of a community of local craft makers and farmers that truly work together and support one another in many ways. It is an amazing feeling to be supported/coached by veteran craft makers then turn around and support others with their business.
Check out Apothicare here: http://apothicare.us/