The daughter of two Colombian immigrants, Soraya Benitez was exposed to many natural/homeopathic remedies as a child that were native to her father’s home of Cali, Colombia. Her parents always kept her and her siblings healthy with simple, natural products. Today, she is the Founder and CEO of MommaBear Organics, a Company that makes artisanal, organic lollipops and suckers that aid with common ailments. Hispanic Network Magazine (HNM) spoke with Soraya to find out more about her WBENC-certified organic lollipop company and how certification has helped her journey to success.
HNM: What is MommaBear USA and how did you get started?
Soraya Benitez (SB): MommaBear Organics is a women-led, BIPOC-owned company dedicated to providing functional candies for common ailments. Our herbal lollipops are organic and free from GMOs, gluten, dairy, high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. Our lollipops are artisanal and made in small batches with carefully sourced herbal and organic ingredients proudly hand-crafted in the USA.
Several years ago, when my then toddler was sick with a bad cold, he fought me tirelessly about taking his cough medicine. I was sitting on the couch with my husband and said to him, ‘If only he wanted his medicine as much as he loves his candy!’ I asked my husband if there was anything like that on the market. He proceeded to show me a cough product lollipop for kids. When I looked at the ingredient list, I turned to him and said, ‘NO WAY! It had several ingredients I could not pronounce including FD&C Blue a common food dye linked to asthma and other ailments.
As a caregiver and a mom, I feel strongly that moms want to know what ingredients are in the products they use. Clean living and eating aren’t a fad that’s going away. I believe it’s a way of life for families of this generation. Thus, began the journey of MommaBear Organics.
HNM: How did you learn about small business certifications for women and minorities? Why did you decide to pursue certification and which ones have you received?
SB: When I attended the Fancy Food Show in New York City, I came across a few booths that featured the WBENC logo. After learning from several small businesses about the positive impact it had on their business, we decide to embark on the process.
HNM: What were your trials and tribulations on the road to certification? How has certification helped your business?
SB: It was an incredibly detailed and lengthy process. I had to plead with my bank for a few necessary forms! In the end, I am grateful we applied for certification. We have attended some wonderful networking events and met some amazing women who are true leaders in their respective industries.
HNM: What perks have you embraced from being certified, for example, have you connected with any of the mentors, peer-to-peer resources, financial advice, attended conferences or conventions, etc.?
SB: We attended a recent WBENC cocktail reception in New York City where we met with and heard from some inspiring executives. We were able to connect with someone from Amazon and discussed some of the issues we were facing with this channel. It was incredible to be able to connect with someone live, given we had spent months trying to reach someone to no avail! We will continue to lean on WBENC’s vast array of resources.
HNM: If you could offer one piece of advice for women business owners thinking about certification, what would you say?
SB: Absolutely apply for it! Being a small new business is hard enough and comes with enough trials and tribulations! Being part of a community of smart, like-minded women, along with WBENC’s strong and deep network, will be invaluable to our small and growing business over time.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Soraya Benitez & MommaBear Organics