In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, WBENC-Certified WBE Soraya Benitez, Founder & CEO of MommaBear USA, shares how her Hispanic and Colombian roots shape and fuel her business and the inspiration behind it.
Growing up in Queens, New York, as the daughter of two Colombian immigrants was an adventure. My Dad was born and raised in Cali and my Mom in Bogota, Colombia. My dad grew up on a farm, at the foot of the Andes Mountains. Surrounded by so much vegetation and natural wildlife shaped who he is. He always had three to five different-sized machetes lying around his tool shed, sharp and ready for use! Each in their original indigenous leather cover.
A machete is a powerful tool for clearing brush. For Colombian farmers, they are a ubiquitous all-purpose tool used to carve trails through tropical forests and to slash out sugar cane crops, in particular. About 80 percent of all sugar cane in Colombia is concentrated in the Pacific coastal state of Valle del Cauca where my dad is from. There, sugar cane represents 50 percent of all local agricultural production. Colombia is listed as one of the world’s “megadiverse” countries, hosting close to 10% of the planet’s biodiversity. Worldwide, it ranks first in bird and orchid species diversity and second in plants, butterflies, freshwater fishes, and amphibians.
Exposure to so much natural habitat can explain why traditional remedies are an integral part of Colombian culture. So it should not be a surprise that growing up in a
holistic home we had healing herbs in our pantry and fresh fruits and veggies stocked in our fridge. “Nature’s remedies” my dad would call them.
On the weekends, we would go to our local park, Flushing Meadow. At the entry to the park, there were bushes with little berries on the ends. My dad would take them, wash them off and eat them. Something we were taught in school never to do! Instinctively, he knew they were blackberries and would give us a few to try.
In our bathroom, we had a small box of baking soda sitting in the corner of the sink. My dad would have us dip our toothbrush in it and use it to brush our teeth. We thought it was the grossest thing ever. He would explain that growing up he didn’t even know what toothpaste was, but rather his family would use baking soda to brush their teeth. He would speak to its benefits among other things, keeping teeth and gums clean by killing bacteria that lead to gum disease. This was even before Arm & Hammer started selling toothpaste!
Growing up in a Hispanic home with deep holistic traditions is a part of who I am as an adult, parent, and business owner. I was raised with the motto ‘la tierra siempre provera,’ the earth will provide.
I’m grateful for all the ways my parents taught me to honor and respect nature and the environment around us. We are a mission-driven company that cares deeply about our customers and our community. In honor of the beautiful landscapes of Colombia and all of our wonderful Latin American landscapes, half of which are covered by mountains and forests, we donate a portion of our sales to the ‘The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees” campaign which is a major forest restoration effort to plant a billion trees
across the planet.
Currently, our pouches are made with at least 51% post-consumable material, and we are working toward getting this to 100%. We are also working toward our internal goal to remove more plastic from our packaging.