True story: Kathryn Higgins never intended to start her own company. However, the demand for her homemade, herbal concoctions became so great that she founded Motherlove, which specializes in organic, herbal products that support pregnant mothers and newborns. Read our interview with Higgins to discover the product that has traveled the world with her and the aspect of her business that makes her most proud.
What inspired you to start your own company?
When I became pregnant with my first child, I created salves and tinctures for myself that I shared with my friends and family. I had already spent years learning about the edible and medicinal uses of herbs, and in 1985, I began providing edible and medicinal plant walks on our land in Rist Canyon, Colorado. In 1987, someone from a local store took one of my herb classes and asked to carry the products that had worked so well for my friends. I was very excited that the store was going to sell these products, but never anticipated that it would turn into a real company! I decided to call this newly founded company Motherlove, for Mother Earth and motherhood.
Tell us about your professional background before founding Motherlove.
I didn’t have a professional background before founding Motherlove. I’ve always had an interest in plants and grew a garden of vegetables, flowers, and herbs every summer. In the 1970s, I started learning about the wild plants that grew in the foothills where I lived. I attended evening classes at the local university taught by a professor who had written a book on the uses of wild plants. He also took us on weekend plant-identification hikes. I started incorporating these plants that I gathered, along with my homegrown herbs, into my first medicinal and body care recipes. It was a lot of experimentation!
What were the biggest challenges in getting the company off the ground?
When I founded Motherlove, I was living outside of a city, so there were a lot of logistical challenges. We had a property in the mountains that was at the end of a dirt road, so the UPS truck would only come once a week to pick up the products. We didn’t have a computer or a fax machine, and our phone line was shared with the neighbors, so it was difficult to run a business.
For many years, Motherlove was just me. I picked all the herbs myself, made the products in my kitchen, sourced the bottles and jars, packed up the products, organized the shipments, and did the finances. I had young children in the house, who often loved to help, but it was a lot of work.
On top of that, herbal products for pregnancy and childbirth weren’t yet a thing. Not many people were familiar with herbs, and even fewer trusted them. I worked very hard to build connections with healthcare providers, such as lactation consultants, midwives, and nurses. Once they were able to try the products and see that they were effective, they became very excited to recommend them to their clients and friends. Getting these healthcare providers onboard with recommending herbal products was a big turning point for Motherlove as a business.
How do you source ingredients for your products?
In the beginning, I picked all the herbs myself. Some came from my property and eventually, I started asking local organic farmers to grow some plants for me. I continued to do all the gathering myself.
As Motherlove grew, we needed to find larger organic farms from which to source our ingredients. My youngest daughter is now responsible for sourcing all of Motherlove’s ingredients. We get samples of the herbs, do third-party testing, and get certification papers from each supplier.
Tell us about the Nurturing Life Giving Program.
Ever since Motherlove was founded in the 1980s, I wanted to be able to give back. It wasn’t until 2005 that I had the financial stability to really make a difference; that’s when I started the Nurturing Life Giving Program. Every year, Motherlove gives a portion of our sales to nonprofits that focus on women, children, and the environment. It’s important for me to show my gratitude to the community that has given me so much, and I’m proud that this program is part of Motherlove and our business model.
What’s your favorite Motherlove product, and why?
I use Green Salve almost daily. It’s the first product that I ever made in the 1970s, living in a tipi, chopping wood, and hauling water. Green Salve soothes scrapes and immediately takes the itch out of bug bites. My children grew up using it, and it’s the first thing my grandchildren ask for when they have any boo-boos.
Which product do you recommend most often to people who are unfamiliar with the brand?
Motherlove has a niche product line—we make herbal products for pregnancy, birth, baby, and breastfeeding. When I meet expecting and new mothers, I recommend Nipple Cream. It’s our bestseller and works wonderfully to soothe sore nursing nipples. It also makes a great lip balm, moisturizes cuticles, soothes chapped noses and cheeks, and more.
I almost always carry Green Salve with me, so I recommend that to pretty much everyone. It helps provide relief from itchy mosquito bites, helps reduce bruising, and is my go-to product for any skin irritation. I’ve recommended Green Salve to countless people who love the outdoors, as I do, and it has been all over the world with me.
Any advice for newly pregnant women?
I’ve worked with thousands of pregnant women over the years, and one thing I’ve noticed is that pregnant women are much more aware of what they’re putting on—and in—their bodies, now that they’re carrying another life. I think this is wonderful and I always encourage people, especially pregnant women, to read labels. Be mindful of what you’re using on your body—clean, organic, products without any chemicals or artificial ingredients. Learn about the ingredients that are in the products you love.
Tell us about some of your personal wellness rituals.
To me, wellness is not just your physical health, but also your mental health and spiritual well-being—doing what you love, what makes you feel good. Being in nature helps me check all those boxes. I love going on walks in the mountains and on a beach. I enjoy gardening, picking herbs on my property, and making my own salves and tinctures. I also just sit in nature and listen to the sounds.
Apart from that, I love dancing and watching the sunset with a glass of wine!
What does your ideal weekend look like?
My ideal weekend is to simply be out in nature, enjoying the outdoors.
What’s something that’s always in your bag or at your desk?
I’ve never been a desk person. In my more than 30 years at Motherlove, I’ve rarely been seen at a desk—I’m always moving around. I do like to have a rubbing stone with me, specifically an agate that I found on the beach and polished to be nice and smooth.
When you think about your business, what gives you the greatest sense of pride?
That’s a great question and one I often think about. There are two parts of the business that fill me with pride. One is simply being able to provide effective, organic products to pregnant and nursing women at this very special point in their lives. I’m always touched when people share how our Nipple Cream, or More Milk Plus, helped them achieve their breastfeeding goals. Or how our Diaper Balm was the only product that helped with their baby’s diaper rash. It amazes me that these are the same products that I created in my own kitchen years ago. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to share my knowledge of herbs with so many people.
I’m also incredibly proud of my daughters’ involvement in the company. I began making products when I was pregnant with my first child, and she is now the CEO of Motherlove. All three of my girls have been involved with Motherlove since they were born and are all still involved to this day. They know what is possible when you follow your passion.