A Fresh Start
Sint-Niklaas With determination and creativity, a local artisan carves a life for herself making all-natural, small batch skincare products.
Every so often in life, we come to a crossroads of deeply impactful decisions. More significant than the day-to-day choices we face, these meaningful moments define who we are, what we stand for, and where we want to go in life. They have a ripple effect, potentially enabling those who witness our actions to be inspired—if we make the right choice. For Andrea Davis, the crossroads she found herself at in 2014 was one of those times, and the positive impact her choice made on herself, her family, and the community around her will ripple for years to come.
Andrea Davis was new in town in 2014; she moved from Kentucky to Beaufort with her husband, Josh, years prior, and the pair, along with their son, Russell, decided to settle in the Lowcountry after he got out of the military. They knew no one in the area, but they wanted an adventure—something new and exciting. So they found a home, found work, and began putting down roots. At the time, Andrea was pregnant with their second child, and she was doing well in her banking career, earning a promotion not long after settling into Summerville. At twenty weeks pregnant, though, Andrea suffered an incompetent cervix, and her body went into labor without warning. After a traumatic hospital visit, Andrea lost her baby, who she named Elijah. Mourning the loss, Andrea struggled with the idea of going back to work, but the company with which she was employed made it clear that she was allocated just three days of bereavement time to deal with the tragedy, and nothing more. Her first days back, it seemed every customer had a baby with them or had an issue dealing with a death certificate—two topics that compounded her emotional pain over and over again. The reality of the situation sank in, and after a week or two back at work, Andrea Davis met her crossroads.
“I recognized as long as I was working in these types of places, where I was not a priority even in my darkest days, I would not be happy,” says Andrea. “And I know that situation is not unique to me—so many people lose friends and family members close to them and they’re just a number at their place of employment; they’re just expected to show up back to work and not be affected. I didn’t want to be around that insensitivity. So I quit.”
At first, Andrea had no plan. Dealing with severe depression, she worked her way through the valleys of darkness that come with grief and loss, and eventually found herself wanting to create. A lifelong creative, Andrea was always involved in poetry contests, choir, band, science camps, and music in general when she was younger, assuming one day she would be a journalist or a musician. But what she found during her time at home after the passing of her son was something totally unfamiliar to her, but just as exciting: soapmaking. Browsing Youtube for creative pursuits, she came across a tutorial and was enticed by the idea of taking raw ingredients and transforming them. She tried her hand at the process, failing in her first attempts, but not giving up. Soon, she found her rhythm, and began developing a real skill for the art while reading, watching tutorials, and practicing as much as she could. An idea began to spark.
“I realized I wanted to create a place where people—especially women—could feel like they’re valued and their experiences are valued,” Andrea explains. “I want them to know that they matter, even in the most basic way. That’s why I started it. I was feeling horrible and miserable and trying to fight depression, and wanted to find a creative way to help people get to a better place along with me.”
With that, Motherland Essentials was born–a name Andrea came up with “in 15 minutes.” As a black woman, the connection to her motherland of Africa was important, and many of the ingredients she uses come from the continent of Africa. The idea of motherland crosses all nations, though, Andrea says, as the very best ingredients come from mother nature, from the land itself, no matter what someone’s homeland may be. The word “essential” emphasizes the fact that self-care should be a priority in life, and Andrea says it includes more than people traditionally believe.
“People throw the words ‘self care’ around,” says Andrea, “And there’s this idea that it means bubble baths and bath bombs. Of course, I make those, and I do those things, and I believe they are an important part of a self care routine. But self care may also be ugly. It may be screaming or allowing yourself to cry. I want to emphasize that taking care of yourself has many sides, and they’re all important, and essential to being better in general.”
When Andrea Davis created Motherland Essentials, she began testing the market to see if her concept was viable by setting up her booth at local farmer’s markets, often with her children (including her youngest son, Khari) in tow. With extremely positive feedback about the all-natural, small-batch products she created including handcrafted soaps, lotions, bath bombs, body butters, and more, she dove in, perfecting her brand and offerings. Preferring the intimate connection of a farmer’s market over other sales channels, Andrea thrives in the environment of being able to recommend products directly to a customer and hear their feedback immediately, always striving to do better. In addition to markets, her soaps have been featured in the Gibbes Museum store, and are also in West Elm downtown, The Station in Park Circle, at Fresh Future Farms, and other small businesses around the Lowcountry. As business began to pick up, Andrea also started offering soapmaking classes, a popular experience that has been on pause due to Covid-19, but one she cannot wait to get started once again.
In 2020, despite the economic downturn, Andrea Davis and Motherland Essentials have seen an increase in support, and the artisan was able to hire another woman named Asia to help keep up with orders, always striving to be the type of empathetic business owner she wished she had back in her banking days. She is looking at acquiring a warehouse space and expanding her availability in local and regional stores.
While Motherland Essentials is a product of a hardworking visionary named Andrea Davis, she credits her family with supporting her along the way. Her husband Josh, who she says is “the coolest person ever” offers his support any way she needs it, while 11 year old Russell is her honest product reviewer, and recently helped create an Autism Awareness-themed soap, raising money for the cause. Four year old Khari tries to help with packing or cutting soap, and can often be seen on Andrea’s back, wrapped up in a toddler carrier and watching his mama achieve her dreams. Being deeply involved in her children’s lives while running a business is not always easy, she says, but it is rewarding.
“Mothers often feel like we can’t do a whole lot outside of parenting because many of us are the primary caretakers of our children,” Andrea says. “And that is a very real concern, but you just have to navigate it differently. You have to move differently. For me, I wear my son, I involve them in the process, I bring them to markets….I think it’s important for them to see me making this happen. For us, it works.”
For Andrea, the path to achieving her dreams was one that was most impacted by a critical step, and one that people are often terrified to take: the very first one.
“I just think, especially right now, that everyone is looking for answers and trying to find their way,” says Andrea. “I want to encourage people to just start. If you have an idea, just start. Don’t wait for perfection, it’ll never happen. Just begin, and if it doesn’t work out the way you want it to, you can pivot and learn from it. At least you tried it. And that’s what matters most.” AM
To learn more about Motherland Essentials, visit motherlandessentials.com or check out @motherlandessentials on Instagram and Facebook.
by Jana Riley