Jacquelene and Angelo McHorse, owners of Taos Pueblo startup Bison Star Naturals, say they started from “humble roots” – picking native herbs and flowers from the valleys of north …
Jacquelene and Angelo McHorse, owners of Taos Pueblo startup Bison Star Naturals, say they started from “humble roots” – picking native herbs and flowers from the valleys of north central New Mexico and infusing them into soaps they realized were better than what they could find in most stores.
“Years ago, I made soap as a hobby,” Jacquelene McHorse said, “but we never made it into a business until recently. Inspiration came from having a child because my skin and hair really dried out after having a baby, and so we opened it when she was about 9 months old, just out of need for our own personal use.”
Their carved bars of soap, stamped with an image of a Buffalo with a star on its rump, made a big splash when they began selling to locals at Red Willow Farmers Market in early 2013 and then at Taos Farmers Market in 2015.
Since they formed a limited liability corporation in 2018, their roots have grown – and in a big way.
In the past year and a half, their family business has landed accounts with several local businesses, including Manzanita Market, Cid’s, Taos Mountain Outfitters and Millicent Rogers Museum. They’ve also started selling outside Taos County, to the Institute of American Indian Arts and the Museum of Native American History in Santa Fe.
Most recently, they gained approval to sell their products during a trial period at the Albuquerque International Sunport, which they hope will become a permanent buyer of their products.
Their success, Angelo McHorse said, comes from a willingness to work hard and put in long hours. He says any startup with little initial funding must be willing to make sacrifices in order to stay in business. That work ethic is on full display at their home base on the westside of Veteran’s Highway at Taos Pueblo, where they also live and raise their two-year-old daughter, Judy.
On Tuesday (June 18), Jacquelene McHorse held Judy in her arms at their plot of land as she welcomed customers into a small workshed where little shrink-wrapped bars of handmade soap and bottles of lotion sit on display. Nearby, her husband directed a contractor operating a tractor that was scooping out mounds of earth where their new production facility will be built and – they hope – a new line of products will be created.
“It’s going to be complete with all of our machinery and all of our equipment to create all of our products, including our soaps, lotions and liquid soap,” said Angelo McHorse. “I’m really excited that we will have enough space to also do a lot of [research and development] to complete a full suite of body care products.”
He and his wife are planning to introduce a body wash, shampoo and conditioner to their product lineup, which they plan to create with the same “culture of abundance through agriculture” which Angelo McHorse says were impressed upon in him as a native of Taos Pueblo.
“We’re really ingrained in the culture of the land,” he said. “That’s really what influences my business, because we’ve always been agricultural people that’s provided a lot of food for not only our people, but for others as well.”
He said that he, his family and a group of friends that stop by to lend a hand are working on the new production facility Monday through Saturday, from around 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
He hopes that visitors will stop by – not only to check out their products – but to experience a way of life he described as a “new modern lifestyle,” grounded in living sustainably, off the land. He and his family are also working to build a nature walk where they will grow many of the plants that go into their products.
“It’s full of cedar, willow, wild greens, mint, currants, plums, chokecherries, all sorts of things,” he said. “Different wild flowers and herbs and medicines that are found throughout this property.”
It’s also where they plan to build the home where they will raise Judy, who already seems to share her parents’ affinity for what grows in the ground.
The wild rose they use for one of their most popular soaps already grows on-site.
While explaining how their Wild Rose Bar is made, Jacquelene McHorse held open a brown paper bag with the soft pink petals that go into each bar of soap. Judy stuck her little hand in and pulled one out, holding it proudly in the air, inspecting it with big curious eyes.
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