I recently sat down with Kathryn Holmberg, founder of Wild Way Botanicals and member of the Greenhouse, to learn more about her work and her journey as an entrepreneur.
Can you tell us a little bit about your business?
I started Wild Way Botanicals in March 2020 and I’m located in Easthampton, Massachusetts, which is the traditional territory of the Nipmuc and Pocumtuc.
I started Wild Way Botanicals after many years of it being a dream and having worked and been a part of other herbal companies or small businesses that had a focus on holistic health. And in the back of my mind I knew that at some point I wanted to step forward on my own and see what that felt like.
So, in March, 2020 when I ended up leaving my previous job, coinciding with the pandemic beginning, I had this big open space to give Wild Way Botanicals my full attention and full energy. I started offering small batch apothecary products, mostly focused on locally grown herbal teas and working with farmers in Western Mass and Vermont.
And then also making products made from plants that I grow in my community garden. Offering some glycerin and tinctures and flower essences. That morphed into creating seasonal ritual boxes, which had more plant educational material and rituals for the different seasons and the different plants. So people were able to go a little bit deeper into working with each plant.
What’s the short version of what brought you to working with plants initially? What inspired you to work with plants?
So growing up in Vermont was a huge part of it, because I spent a lot of my childhood outside which was such a huge privilege to be able to be that connected with nature and have land that I was able to really foster a relationship with as a child.
And so that was really my first initial connection with working with plants – just being a little kid and talking to all the plants and being in the garden. It’s always the highlight when I look back on childhood memories.
And then that morphed into different interests with plants. So I went to the University of Vermont, and I thought I wanted to be a farmer, so I was really into agriculture and farming, and that morphed into more naturalist skills and outdoor education.
And then my senior year of college I was introduced to herbalism and it brought all these different pieces together.
So it’s been a lifelong journey, but it’s kind of had a beautiful morphing along the way. And what I’ve discovered, working with herbalism, was that it was a really beautiful kind of coming together of what my heart was really longing for.
What was the moment that helped you see and realize that you could do this as a business?
There’s two moments that stick out the most.
One was when the seed first got planted, which was, again, my senior year of college, and my senior capstone internship was with Urban Moonshine. And I knew I wanted to do something in herbalism when I left school so I started working with them and at that point I still didn’t know exactly what I was looking for because I was so new and their whole thing was that they were this very small business.
Jovial [King, the founder of Urban Moonshine] started in her kitchen, selling at the farmers market, and then it turned into this very vibrant local business in Vermont. And being a part of that, at such a young age – I was like 21 or 22 – really helped me see the possibility.
It was just such an inspiration to me seeing these women who were also young moms be so passionate and so connected to the community and really creating a business doing what they love.
And as time went on, I ended up being a part of a worker owned Co-op. And it was really small so there were four of us that owned and ran the business at Brattleboro Holistic Health Center.
And so THAT was also really empowering because it was like a crash course in running a business with other people. I learned a lot and was also just really inspired by that model and the collaboration and the ability to create and inspire through building a work environment that felt really good.
Both of those experiences were moments in my life where I knew I wanted to continue on that path of being more of my own business owner.
How do you define success for yourself in your own business?
So this has changed a lot for me in the last couple years. Especially through really redefining that definition from my work in The Greenhouse and having that space to really think about what that actually means to me.
I had such this black and white thinking around it for so long. When you’re starting a business, I’ve found that if I didn’t meet my picture of success right away, all of a sudden I was beating myself up. And so being more on my own has been very helpful to really take that step back and think about, what does success look like for me?
At the core of what I keep coming back to is really around creating a life that feels really nourishing to me.
And for me, that’s a lot around being able to live and work with the different seasons and cycles of each month, especially with living in New England. Being able to create work where you can be more active in the summer and start winding down in the fall and have more rest in the winter and time to dream. And then put your projects into motion in the spring. So creating a life where you’re really able to live in those cycles has been really life changing for me and really has felt like “okay, wow, this feels like success for me.”
And especially with being in the Greenhouse every month, having the New Moon Call and the Fulll Moon call creates that cycle and it makes me feel so much more aligned with each month. Allowing myself to not have to be at one level in life but having those ebbs and flows.
When you’re working in your business, are there any things that you like to have on that daily pattern, that daily cycle?
Yeah, so, I love to wake up and have a morning practice. It helps me have some distance from the internet and my phone in the morning. It also just helps a lot with feeling connected to myself for the rest of the day so having a morning practice, and then usually in the morning is when I work more with the actual plants so, blending teas or organizing the apothecary.
And then in the afternoons, I’ll go from doing more like filling orders, going to the post office, organization, and then have a little bit of space usually I like to get outside and then transition into doing more either computer work so if I have to work on my website, or if I’m creating educational material working on that. Or, if I’m working on a project with someone else and have set up our zoom meeting for them. So kind of blocking off the day into these different sections.
What do you think has been the biggest challenge for you?
Over the years, the biggest challenge has felt like self accountability and self worth. Having to find those structures within myself versus being accountable to other people.
So really showing up for myself, has been a real learning experience. Feeling like I’m worthy to do that. Feeling like I’m worthy of having this opportunity to do this whole experience. And when I am wanting to create something, actually showing up for myself to make it happen.
What do you think is the most important skill that you’ve learned on your path as a business owner?
Creating rituals. I think this connects back with self accountability but creating routines is where I’ve fallen in love so much with creating rituals for myself, but really like creating these rituals and routines to show up. And in the end building intention and meaning into them. So that I feel connected to it and not turning it into like this thing I feel like I have to do or another mundane task.
And so I found that really building these different foundations for myself of “what do I need and what are ways that I can create these routines for myself?” that feel meaningful for me.
Another piece is that I have found that there is a lot of pressure to go it alone, and having all the answers. And I found that asking for help has been a skill that I’ve had to learn, and it has opened up so many doors and allows for that like collaboration feeling than feeling like I have to do this by myself, or else it’s not me.
What do you think your greatest reward has been so far in your choice to do this?
I feel like my greatest reward has been feeling in alignment with myself and feeling like I’m creating something from my heart that I genuinely want to share with others.
I also feel the rewards coming from the inner work that I’ve done through the process of being in the Greenhouse and starting my own business, but also learning where I can go with this in terms of more community building. More of bringing people together, more educational experiences. Even though that’s future dreams it already feels rewarding because I know now that doing this work, and the inner work involved with starting a business, is going to allow me to show up to create those experiences, and those gatherings that I feel are needed in the world right now.
What is it that you have gained or hope to gain from being in community with other herbal entrepreneurs?
Oh, so much. I think the scariest thing about starting your own business, or venturing out on your own, is that feeling of being alone. And even though it’s been through the computer, it’s just knowing that there’s other people there that are going through similar experiences.
I think this is in the Greenhouse more [than the free community], but when we have calls or questions and how often people are really synced up, and if someone’s going through something. How many other people are like, “oh yeah I’m resonating with what you’re saying I feel the same thing.”
And so having that feeling of “okay, there’s other people that I’m connected to, even if I’m not seeing them every day in person.” But you start to feel their presence, even though it’s more based online, but feeling that presence of others.
Going through similar experiences or knowing that if I have a question or if I’m going through something that’s challenging, I can reach out, and it is there.
And that really does hold you a lot when you’re starting something on your own.
Is there anything else that you would like people to know either about you or your business or your journey?
So one of the things that I learned the most and have been most affected by being in the Greenhouse has been the idea of dreaming outside the box and dreaming bigger. When I started studying herbalism, I found that there were so many people I looked up to, and was inspired by. And I saw what they did, and I kind of created these boxes of “okay, as an herbalist I’m allowed to be a product maker or a clinician, or a teacher.” And I have found through being in this program that dreaming outside of those boxes that I created was what I have longed for the most, and has been why I have felt so much uncertainty in the past of what I meant to do with herbalism and starting this business.
Putting myself out there as offering products has been this first step into now dreaming up this bigger idea of what being an herbalist means to me and I feel very inspired and excited to start stepping into that this year, and creating something that’s outside of those initial boxes that I built for myself.
You can learn more about Kathryn and Wild Way Botnaicals by subscribing to her website here, and following her IG here!
Does Kathryn’s story resonate with yours? Share below if you’ve had any similar experiences, or if anything Kathryn shared with us inspired or gave you insight into your own business! 👇🏼