It's All in the Family for Moringaia
Located on the Caribbean island of Dominican Republic where Moringa trees happily grow under a sun-drenched sky, you can find the industrious Barshi family. In 2012, agroforester Ben-Yam Barshi made a discovery that even the in the most drought-striken parts of the island, Moringa trees had no issues flourishing.
Known locally as El Árbol De La Libertad (Tree of Liberty), Moringa trees provide shade, attract pollinators, and hold the earth to avoid mudslides. They have been praised for their traditional use as food and medicine (Moringa leaves and seeds are also packed with rich nutrients) for over a century, yet their popularity is only starting to resurface. It quickly became clear to Ben-Yam that for the benefit of both people and the planet, more Moringa trees needed to be planted. So he set out to make a product that would create a demand for Moringa in rural communities. Together with his sibling Elah Barshi, they founded Moringaia, a mission to end deforestion and regenerate the soil.
The more Moringa trees are picked, the more flowers they produce. The more they produce, the more people will want to plant it, and the more the farmers and the earth will prosper.
Following their core mission to end deforestation by helping plant more trees and regenerate the soil we live on, Moringaia Skin Care was born eight years later. Making nourishing and truly natural skincare from the Moringa trees, is the means that allows the Barshis to fulfill this vision.
Read on to learn from co-founder Elah Barshi what it's like to run a mission-driven skincare brand with her family.
How is it working with your family members?
Working with family is fun and motivating, though, of course, as with any team, there are also challenges. Our brand values reflect our family values, so working together on Moringaia is very rewarding. We all have very specific strengths and skills, which allows us to work together, and as a young company, everyone wears more than one hat, so we’re constantly learning and growing.
What skills do each of your family members have that positively lend themselves to the creation and success of Moringaia?
It starts with all of us being very connected to nature and core mission, and everyone brings their own unique experience and expertise. Ben-Yam’s vast knowledge and passion for the earth, together with an innate entrepreneurial spirit, is what grounds it all together. My experience in art, design, and marketing gives the brand its voice and visuals, and our parent’s 30+years of starting a business from the ground up makes sure we’re dotting all the i’s and t's.
What is your experience with Moringa?
Naturally, I first heard about Moringa from my brother. I love using Moringa powder in water as an energizing drink, and of course, use Moringaia products every single day.
Do you have your own lab or farm where you grow the Moringa trees and botanical ingredients that you use to formulate your products?
Our farm is the heart and soul (soil) of our brand. Located on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic, we grow Moringa and local species like Chinola (passionfruit), Papaya, Mangos, and over 100 different tropical fruits. Our goal is to have a food forest that provides an abundance of productive variety so that when it’s Auyama (pumpkin) season, we can eat Auyama three times a day :). Many of our food crops also make their way into our personal care products as an integral extension of our brand values.
Every ingredient in our products has a story that combines caring for the planet, caring for people, and sharing the benefits. Everything from Moringa seeds, Cacao Beans, Turmeric Roots, Macadamia Nuts, and Bee-Friendly Beeswax helps grow and support the sources of our base ingredients.
We make our products in our solar-powered lab with an all-female team. Manufacturing our own products ensures the quality of the products and the work environment. Since we believe our raw ingredients should be as least processed as possible (think: processed foods vs. fresh foods), we do all that we can in-house. We only press our Moringa seeds once to retain as much of the natural properties as possible (as opposed to other manufacturers who might press the seeds more than once to get “more” oil out of it, but the quality may suffer).
Explain some of the sustainable practices you take to create Moringaia.
Any ingredient we use takes into consideration its source. If we use it, it must contribute to more of that resource being sustainably produced. If we don't grow it directly, we find farmers to support all around our island. From farm to lab to skin, we make sure everything from cacao to turmeric is as clean, pure, and natural as it gets.
For example, moringa flowers are loved by bees and part of our regenerative mission is to provide them with plenty of food. We also find it essential to support our local beekeepers by buying their byproducts to help sustain their efforts and increase bee populations.
There are some ingredients that do not grow in our climate, and therefore rely on international suppliers for a minimal part of our formulas. In this case, we also pay particular attention to the sustainability of our base resource before adopting it into our products.
How has being from the Dominican Republic influenced your brand?
Growing up in a beachtown on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic, we were always surrounded by lush greenery and nature. If it wasn’t surfing before school, it was a trip to a local waterfall on the weekend. From a young age, we learned to appreciate and give back to our surroundings, people, and the earth. We grew up with an immense and deep sense of gratitude, which carries into everything we do at Moringaia today.
How is your brand benefiting the communities where Moringaia is created?
Every time we revisit the communities that provide Moringa seeds for us, we see more and more Moringa trees around thanks to the value the trees provide to their growers. This not only provides socioeconomic benefits as we can now purchase more seeds, but the trees also provide shade, attract pollinators, and hold the earth during heavy rainfall - especially important in deforested areas.
What is your favorite Moringaia product?
It’s hard to pick just one. I alternate between Fresh Bloom and Clear Skies Face Serums depending on how congested my skin is, and always have our Glassy Waves Lip Balm. I use it three ways around my eyes, to keep my eyebrows in place and of course as a lip balm - it’s definitely a multi-tasker. However, if there’s one product I can’t live without - it has to be the Salvation Balm.
What is on the horizon for Moringaia?
We are about to celebrate our one year official anniversary and we will be launching a ‘Dedicate a Moringa Tree’ program, where anyone can dedicate a tree to someone on our farm and we’ll send them a certificate with the location.We are also currently developing new formulas using local ingredients. We can’t wait to share!