Kha Povi Herbals: Honoring Earth and Native Culture Through Entrepreneurship

Left: Jars of Kha Povi Herbals rose clay face mask. Right: Kha Povi Herbals Founder Taylor Rose wearing Oxdx and Navajo Secrets Jewelry (Photo by Shaun Marcus)

Arizona State University student Taylor Rose, a member of the Santa Clara Pueblo of Northern New Mexico, founded Kha Povi Herbals to sell her herbal, organic and vegan bath products — completely free of chemicals, dyes, perfumes or fragrances. Kha Povi in the Tewa language translates to wild rose or wildflower, depending on the Pueblo. Her Etsy shop launched in spring 2020. Sales of Kha Povi Herbals products help Rose, a business and marketing major, offset the costs of her books and tuition. As a full-time student, she also works full-time in the car insurance industry, in addition to operating Kha Povi Herbals. 

Taylor Rose grew up “drenched” in her culture on the Santa Clara Pueblo. Her mother and grandmother were “heavy influences” in her life, and her entertainment and education were all tied to the land — “playing in the dirt, with different plants, making things out of flowers,” she says. 

Rose’s introduction to entrepreneurship came through her Pueblo’s local artisans — “pottery makers and jewelers who had pretty successful businesses; people taking their talents, whether it’s artwork, jewelry, basket weaving, or making moccasins to develop a name for themselves,” she tells Native Business. “It was very inspiring to me, because the culture is represented through it, and they’re making it a means to provide for their family.” 

For Rose, working with herbs and the gifts of Mother Earth was a natural pathway to entrepreneurship. “I have always been fascinated with the fact that as Native Americans we’re taught from a very, very early age that everything around us has many uses. Corn is one of our most sacred crops that we use for 20 to 30 different types of things, like prayer and food. We’ve made beverages out of it,” she reflects. 

Rose’s deep appreciation for herbs formed in elementary school, when elders would visit during “Indian Week” to teach the students “basket weaving, how to make rattles out of squash and gourds, how to bake bread, how to grind corn, how to go back to our traditional ways,” Rose explains. 

The grandmother of a student took her class on a nature walk across the Pueblo, where the harvested yucca root to pulverize the plant into a pulp to create a gently cleansing shampoo. Transforming yucca into something Rose typically saw purchased at the store opened her eyes to the wisdom of her people and an entirely new lifestyle. “I was absolutely fascinated with it,” she says.

Those ancestral lessons stayed with Rose. It shaped her outlook on creation, self-sufficiency, sustainability — and by contrast, mass consumerism, which has largely removed, rather than forged, relationship to the Earth. “It came from the Earth, into my hands,” she says of the yucca root shampoo, “and I don’t have to worry about what other chemicals are in it. I decided to grow my knowledge from there.” 

Today Rose sources herbs from her own garden, or those of family members on the Pueblo, or purchases them from the farmers’ market, to infuse in her line of organic, vegan bath products, Kha Povi Herbals. 

Kha Povi Herbals handmade soaps (left to right): oatmeal vanilla hemp soap, peppermint charcoal soap, and black tea aloe soap. (Courtesy Taylor Rose)

The origin of her herbs matters to Rose, so she knows they’re pesticide-free: “I know exactly where the herbs are coming from.”

She lists them, “Lavender, peppermint, chamomile, Indian teas, aloe, and yucca are all things that are able to be grown easily and locally. It grows wildly in my grandmother’s backyard.” And, after studying the immense benefits of hemp, she started incorporating hemp oil into her products as well. 

All paths seem to have led Rose in the direction of herbalism, alchemy of Earth’s offerings into product, and entrepreneurship. Yet her initiation was much more fluid and serendipitous. It was a school project at Arizona State University that paved the way to in-person sales, before compelling her market expansion through e-commerce. 

As a business and marketing major, Rose’s assignment required her to brand a hypothetical “startup.” While Rose made her own herbal, organic, vegan bath products, it hadn’t occurred to her to sell them. But the project inspired her to package her products, and design a logo. When Rose presented to her class, her classmates were so impressed they requested to purchase. “That’s how it transformed from just a marketing school project into an actual business,” she says. 

Word about her herbal bath products spread across campus. As purchase orders picked up speed, she launched an ecommerce site on Etsy this year — a great website to “get her feet wet,” she says.  

Within her first month of a live Etsy page, she sold out. “I realized it was something bigger than selling occasionally to my friends and family; I had customers from all over the country,” she shares, “especially with the demand for soap.”

Kha Povi Herbals’ mother’s day gift box set (Courtesy Taylor Rose)

Her Etsy page launched just before COVID-19 sunk its teeth into the U.S. “Soap really blew up. It grew immensely overnight,” she says of business orders. “I’ve also had a lot of requests for certain products like hand sanitizer, but it’s actually hard to get ingredients like aloe and rubbing alcohol nowadays. So it’s not something I’ve been able to do, but I would like to do.” 

Beyond her full-time student status, Rose works a full-time job in the auto insurance industry, separate from running Kha Povi Herbals. “I have days that I dedicate to school and work, and then most of my days off consist of doing things to shop and restock on all of my products,” she says. 

The motivated entrepreneur and student hopes to graduate by end of 2020, but acknowledges that with the pandemic-driven online conversion of classes, she lost some credits. Some classes required completion on campus. “COVID-19 has kind of thrown a wrench into everything with school,” she says. “But if everything goes smoothly, I hope to graduate by the end of the year with my business degree and a focus in social media marketing.”

Prior to the onset of the coronavirus, Rose was renting booths at local farmers’ markets to promote Kha Povi Herbals. “Everything hit and everything was put on hold. In the meantime, I’m going to continue, especially after graduation, to try and focus solely on growing my business as much as I can, until I’m able to actually set up my own shop,” she says. She’s undecided if that will be in Phoenix, her current residence, or back home at Santa Clara Pueblo, where she may return. “Santa Clara will always be home,” she adds. 

The most rewarding aspect of Kha Povi Herbals has been “hearing from strangers how much my products helped them heal physically, and also, spiritually and mentally, knowing that they’re not putting money into big corporations and they’re not spending their money on products that are completely submerged in chemicals and causing more damage to themselves and their bodies,” Rose says. “So it’s been super rewarding to hear that my products are providing a sense of healing to the people that use them.” 

Rose continues, “I created this business with the intention to provide the ancestral knowledge that I grew up with. I was taught the natural healing properties the Earth provides you with. …Earth provides us with so many things. You just have to know how to use it, and give back to the Earth for what the Earth gives to you. I’m beyond thankful that I’ve grown up with that knowledge, because it’s helped me to create a product that isn’t just something I make for profit, it’s something I make to help people. I’ve been blessed to be able to provide that.” 

Kha Povi Herbals in the Tewa language means wild rose or wildflower, depending on the Pueblo. “I use our Native language, because I think as Native American people, people think you don’t exist. People think you don’t really participate in the culture, or you don’t really know anything of the language. People think that our culture is dying,” Rose says. “And I want my business to show that our culture is very, very much alive. I use our language to this day, and I wanted to use it to represent my business and to teach people, and to let them know we’re still here. We’re still here. We’re thriving. We’re growing. And I’m just a girl from the reservation who left and now started my own business, and I hope to see it grow as big as it possibly can. But I think it’s a great way to let people see part of our culture,” she says of entrepreneurship.  

A jar of yucca clay mask (Courtesy Taylor Rose)