I think it’s a fairly safe assumption that all women love skincare products. From the high-end lines displayed in glass-enclosed cases, to the tried-and-true brands at Walgreens, and everything in between, women want the good stuff that smells lovely and makes their skin feel wonderful.
I enthusiastically support these women and proudly consider myself among them. I’ll easily go ga-ga over most brands at Sephora, but often find a similar bliss at the Walmart beauty aisle. Which is why I was so intrigued when Jessica McKay of Birdhouse Interior Design told me she would soon carry Yamerra skincare products at her retail shop, Birdhouse Collectible, located at the Mastercraft building on North 13th Street.
Jessica and I met for our routine coffee chat a few weeks ago, at which time she presented me with a lovely little package: four adorable pots of Yamerra’s hair and body butter. The minute the tiny tubs landed on the table, I immediately ignored everything Jessica was saying. I removed my rings, dug my fingers deep into the Home Sweet Home Honey Vanilla body butter, and slathered it on my dry and cracking hands. Within minutes my skin felt smooth and smelled just wonderful. I followed up that application with two other scents: Sensual Bliss Jasmine Sage and Be Bodacious Tangerine Grape.
Since receiving the Yamerra products, they have never been far from my side. One has found a permanent home in my handbag, while two others live on my dresser and on my desk. The continual application of the body butter has helped keep my skin moist and glowing as we enter the winter months.
And after using Yamerra, I just had to know more about the woman behind the butter. Below is a Q&A I recently conducted with Yamerra’s founder, Manhattan-based, Nigerian native Maryam Moma.
For the curious: the gorgeous photo you see is Maryam, shot for Yamerra’s advertising campaign. (Isn’t she just an angel?)
Let’s start with your story. I understand you’re not originally from the United States.
I am a 25-year-old Tanzanian/Nigerian from a family of seven: mother and father, three older sisters, and a twin brother. I grew up mostly in Nigeria and made several stops along the way (Ethiopia, Narobi, Tanzania, Paris, Philadelphia) to where I am now: New York City. I am very well traveled, and started traveling alone at the age of 14. I have always wanted to be a self-employed entrepreneur, coming from a family of smart, business savvy, self-employed entrepreneurs. My father is a gynecologist; my mother, an architect; and my two sisters – Arafa and Seluwa, owners of Selara Faces Make Up Studio and Spa in Nigeria. Living in New York has been an incredible experience so far.
Of all the industries to pursue, why skin care?
I founded Yamerra a few years after I graduated from Temple University with a degree in architecture. (Far off, huh?!) Although I enjoyed what I studied, it was not my passion. I have always been immersed in the world of beauty, skincare and haircare, and fashion, being a fashion model in the industry since I was 16.
I first got into mixing my own skincare and hair care products out of the need to improve my own skin and hair with affordable and natural raw materials. I discovered, after much research and testing other emollients, that shea butter is extremely restorative and healing for the hair and skin. Shea butter has many useful properties, among which are protective (incredible sunscreen properties) and emollient properties that are valued for skin and hair care. Shea butter has been a mainstay of African pharmacology for centuries. I decided to mix pure shea with essential oils and herbs to even enhance it more. I made it available for sale after four years of using it personally, and after it was used by friends and family.
As rich and nutrient packed as shea is, one of the reasons for including scent is that I did not enjoy the pure scent of shea, and started reading about and blending essential oils with the shea. I wanted to rejuvenate my skin and hair and also be left smelling delectable!
After a few years of solely using my own products, I was lucky enough to meet an incredible woman, a chemist who I have been working with ever since. She advised me to make sure herbs and essential oils did not clash to irritate the skin and hair; rather, to aid and restore it.
My steadfast project is to blend eco- and earth-friendly skincare and haircare with beauty and fashion. My primary goal is to promote earth-friendly ways to love and cherish the soul’s temple – our bodies. Yamerra achieves this by promoting the daily use of eco- and earth-friendly skincare and haircare products.
What makes your skin care line unique?
Yamerra is a self-created word that means “glorious.” It was essentially derived from client feedback that the product made them smell delicious and feel glorious. And it is a direct re-structure of my name, Maryam.
Yamerra is a one-hundred-percent organic skincare and hair care product line designed for the earth conscious and fashionable trendsetters. Yamerra is built on organic shea butter, which is infused with restorative herbs and essential oils to give the shea certain healing and rejuvenatory powers.
We offer an assortment of handmade organic products that fill the skin and hair care needs of a growing group of males and females, as well as children, and for all skin types. We have three product lines, a two-in-one hair and body butter, luxurious body soap, and a whipped body soufflé. They come in six, very unique varying scents: Lemon Fire Bliss Lemongrass, Sultry Mango, Home Sweet Home Honey Vanilla, Be Bodacious Tangerine Grape, Sensual Bliss Jasmine Sage, and In Spring Lusciousness Peach Peppermint.
Yamerra also carries a line for mothers-to-be, nursing mothers, and newborn babies (6-12 months), plus unique seasonal creations. Our ingredients, the herbal blends, the feel of the product, its scent-staying power, and its power to heal (each product restoring and providing a different function and serving a different purpose) is what makes Yamerra so unique and essential.
Where do you draw inspiration when creating a new product or scent?
My friends and family, great food and especially, my clientele. Yamerra is primarily designed with them in mind. I try to provide organic skincare that will nourish their hair and skin naturally, without any chemicals added to the products. It is also very important to me to also create and provide a product that is eco-friendly. The making of a new scent or product within the line is stimulated from new and better skincare and haircare herbal remedies, specific client requests and needs sometimes, and fresh, stimulating, nutrient-rich food. My food palette is extremely wide and sometimes I get inspired from the various types of food I have tried within different cultures.
What advice can you give other women who may have a small business idea?
I advise that women starting a small business to follow their hearts and stay true to their most original concepts. I must add that innovation, persistence, and determination to succeed in business must factor in. As long as these woman know what they want and go after it, stay punctual, organized, and run their company with integrity and an incredible smile (always), all will turn out well. Homer said, “And what he greatly thought, he nobly dared.” This should be their marching theme as long as they want to succeed.