Grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine, friends! It's time to cozy up around the table, snack on a cheese board and learn all about my newest guest in the Kitchen Table Series, Shannon Mayernik. Shannon and I met a few months ago at our local Northern New Jersey Tuesdays Together meeting and we hit it off instantly. I loved hearing her unique story of becoming a herbalist and I thought you all would love her just as much as I do!
With Earth Day right around the corner, April felt like the perfect month to highlight Mayernik Kitchen and all that Shannon and her husband are doing to keep things au naturel! There may even be some bees involved... just sayin'!
NAME || Shannon Mulligan-Mayernik
BUSINESS || Mayernik Kitchen
TITLE || Herbalist/Plant Medicine Maker
LOCATION || North Haledon, NJ
COFFEE OR WINE || Coffee anytime before 5 p.m. and wine anytime after 12 Noon - I could never choose between my two great loves.
Tell me a little more about Mayernik Kitchen and how you got started!
Mayernik Kitchen was established in February 2015. It was an idea that came to me while prepping to get my certificate through the Academy of Culinary Nutrition which was to start that fall. I started blogging and creating recipes but nothing was consistent.
Fast forward to Labor Day weekend of 2015, and Matt, my husband, was out harvesting his second quart jar of oregano from our garden. Matt came inside, asked me, “what are were going to do with two quarts of oregano?” He then opened a bottle of wine, and told me he had an idea. We sat for hours in our sunroom coming up a subscription box of 5 homemade herbal products that we’d send out monthly to our subscribers.
We selected a few good friends to try it out for free and to get some feedback, and from there we launched the Mayernik Kitchen Apothecary Box. We had a few subscribers for about a year but it just became too much for us to produce 5 new products monthly. So we took a step back from the Apothecary Boxes and concentrated on products that we knew would make an impact on someone’s life.
We are now able to put more thought and herbal practice into each product we make. We also educate our clients on the herbs we use and how they should be using the products. Our number one selling product is our Handcrafted Organic Elderberry Syrup.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Honestly, each day is so different. Depending on the time of year, you could either find me out in the garden, foraging wild herbs, organizing dried herbs in our home apothecary or researching herbs that we plan to use in one of our products.
Because spring has just arrived, we are so excited to get out in the garden. We can spend hours on the weekends outside planting, harvesting, and bundling herbs to dry. During the cooler, winter months, I catch up on educating myself, planning for next years garden, and making medicine from herbs we grew throughout the summer months. The work of this business tends to go along with the seasons so it’s always changing.
How do you balance work with your personal life?
This is an easy one. Mayernik Kitchen is such a huge part of my everyday life, it never seems like work. I’ve always been interested in plants and nature so creating content and sharing what I know comes easily. My first job was working in a greenhouse at the age of 15 and that is what sparked my interest in plants. As I got older, my love for nature, being environmentally friendly, shopping for local food and now growing and foraging wild plants has become my culture.
What do you think your unique mission is?
Teaching others about herbal medicine that can be found right outside their backdoor. When I first got into herbalism, I was so surprised how many local “weeds” could heal the body and mind. Now that I am a few years into my practice of herbalism, I can identify dozens of plants that can help burns, bruises, ear infections, digestion and so much more.
The mission of Mayernik Kitchen is to educate on other ways of healing besides the traditional western medicine we all grew up with. A little less than 100 years ago, herbalism was the primary methodology of healing.
Within the past few years, we feel there is a revitalization among individuals who seek natural remedies. It’s not just for the hippy dippy tree-hugging folks, it’s for the mothers of young children and health-conscious adults.
What do you feel is the hardest part about being your own boss?
Sometimes I have a little bit of a problem focusing. You know when your mind has 10,000 ideas, and you just can’t seem to get them all out onto paper quick enough? Yep, that’s me. On those days, it’s best for me to just distract myself with something non-work related and come back to the task at hand. A walk in nature always seems to help me refocus.
Another hard part about being my own boss is if the to-do list doesn't get done, I have no one else to blame but myself. When that said to-do list is sometimes never ending, it can become a bit overwhelming. Again, a walk outside, a cup of tea, or a chat with a friend helps ease the stresses of trying to get it all done, all the time.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a creative project, blog, and/or business?
My advice for starting a new project or business would be to find someone else who has the same passion and partner up with them. Running a small business can get really lonely at times and it can feel like you against the world. But if you find someone who you can bounce ideas off of, celebrate accomplishments with and learn from, it can make the process so much easier. I am so grateful to say that my business partner is my husband and I would not want it any other way. We both have such a strong passion for plants, herbal medicine and educating others that it was never a second thought to not jump into this together.
How do you stay motivated through the ebb and flow of being an entrepreneur?
In our business, it really comes down to trying new things. We are always throwing ourselves into new projects to learn more and to better ourselves and our business. By the time you are reading this, Matt and I will be the new proud parents of 26,000 bees. Yes, you read that correctly, we are now backyard beekeepers. A huge reason why we got bee’s was to make sure our garden was always being pollinated in order to grow the best herbs, fruits and vegetables. We rely on a good crop yearly, so this will not only help us produce better products, it will help us expand our knowledge on something new.
What do you believe is the most important factor in building an authentic and successful brand?
One Word - Transparency
We not only provide products and education to others, we live it every day. We feel in this day in age of social media, we need to be real. You could walk into our home any day of the week and find seasonal organic food, herbal medicine in the form of tinctures, salves, teas, and infusions and piles of books teaching us something new.
What has been the most rewarding part about doing what you love on a daily basis?
I think the most rewarding part of sharing our knowledge of herbalism with others is hearing how someone used one of our products and saw amazing results. We have many repeat customers/clients who now swear by a specific product and it’s an amazing feeling to know that they are supporting our mission 100% and are also sharing it with their friends and family. We love when someone learns from us, and passes that knowledge onto someone else. It’s a circle of learning, which is something you can never take for granted.
Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon? If so, can you share anything about it?
Nothing set in stone just yet but we are in the process of getting a few weed walks and herbal product making workshops on our calendar for the next few months. Oh and our family might be expanding once again, with a flock of ladies….aka chickens! Welcome to the funny farm.
Do you have any other questions for Shannon? Ask in the comments below!