Madre Yerba’s body products stay true to the purest ingredients
Morena Taylor-Benell creates all-natural body products, earrings, clothing and more.
After Morena Taylor-Benell moved to Madison from northern California as a teenager, her mom would send her lotion from an independently owned natural store in Berkeley. As an adult, Taylor-Benell continued to use that same lotion, ordering gallon containers shipped to Madison.
While natural products had always been important to her, they became even more top of mind once she had her first child. After using the lotion for years and spending a fair amount on shipping, one day Taylor-Benell decided to look more closely at the label. That’s when she realized she had no idea what was in her favorite lotion or how to pronounce certain ingredients.
“I was like, ‘[Why] am I spending all this money slathering this stuff on me and my baby?’ ” Taylor-Benell says. That’s when she decided to create her own body products using natural ingredients, seeking out oils, butters and beeswax to make her own formulas.
Taylor-Benell started with a whipped body butter and gave it to friends and family. From there, in 2013, she launched Madre Yerba and learned how to make all sorts of body products. Madre Yerba means “mother herb,” which felt right since she was infusing herbs in high-quality oils and then mixing them with essential oils and butters. The goal was to use materials that were as raw and unrefined as possible.
In seven years she’s expanded to lip balms, baby oil, baby powder, body scrubs, bath salts, cuticle oil, deodorant, hair and beard oil, cuticle butter and perfume oils. Most products are vegan and everything is edible — she does not use additives (like scents, colors or flavors), preservatives or chemicals.
“I like to use things that are pure to nature,” Taylor-Benell says. “Everything I make for your body, you could put it in your mouth.”
While Madre Yerba is primarily known for its beauty products, Taylor-Benell also creates earrings, scrunchies, headbands and children’s clothing. She was originally inspired by the colorful cloth and pure shea butter her friends brought back after visiting Africa. She uses fabrics from Africa, specialty shops, local festivals and craft stores — she’s also experimented with designing her own patterns to be printed on cloth.
Taylor-Benell remembered a maker at a flea market in California who made fabric Africa-shaped earrings, which inspired her to add her own rendition to her shop.
A seamstress friend of hers created earrings in the shape of Africa and Wisconsin, and when those ran out and Taylor-Benell asked for more, the friend instead taught her how to make them herself.
“I basically just got a sewing machine and started figuring out how to [do it] — just like I did with the body products. I did the earrings and then I looked patterns up and I was like, ‘Oh well, maybe I can do this,’ and then I changed shapes. I still have so much to learn about fabric and sewing,” she says.
Before launching Madre Yerba, Taylor-Benell had never made body products, used a sewing machine or started a business. But she’s learned along the way, taking business classes, attending entrepreneurial events, participating in the UpStart program through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and completing a course through Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp.
Prior to COVID-19, Taylor-Benell worked at Alliant Energy Center to sell her products and assist event staff. Stuck at home, she kept creating, and she now makes cloth face masks from all the colorful fabrics she typically used for earrings and other projects.
She’s also continued to make beauty products. Over the years, her clients have told her that the items have helped eliminate skin issues like eczema or fungus.
“The products that you put on your skin — or you consume that’s not just food — also has a big impact on your hair, your skin, your nails,” Taylor-Benell says. “I definitely think my products are beneficial to people.”
Maija Inveiss is an associate editor at Madison Magazine.
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