Chestnut Herbal School

Jewelweed: Student Business Spotlight

Interview by Meghan Gemma
Photography courtesy of Jewelweed

Jodi McKee, owner of Jewelweed herbal apothecary.

Jodi McKee, owner of Jewelweed health and wellness boutique.

An Interview with Jodi McKee of Jewelweed

We recently had a conversation with Jodi McKee for our Student Business Spotlight series. Jodi is the proprietor and herbalist behind Jewelweed, a small-batch herbal apothecary and healing venue located just outside of Minneapolis, MN. The shop was named in honor of the local wildflower that grows prolifically nearby. Jewelweed offers an exclusive in-house seasonal line of handcrafted products made with organic or locally-grown and wildcrafted plants. They also stock a beautiful array of goods sourced from small makers and artisans, including herbal remedies, flower essences, essential oils, green beauty products, incense, tea and drinking cacao, and so much more.

Our Student Business Spotlight is a series featuring Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine graduates, their work, and the wide variety of professions herbalists can choose from. Jodi is a graduate of our Online Herbal Immersion—1,000 hours of our personal mentorship in sustainable herbalism and herbal career building.

Jodi, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you were first called to work in the field of herbal medicine?

I’m a mother of three boys and that’s where it all began for me. I was 25 when my oldest son was born (he’s 27 now), so I was very young and had never encountered anything other than traditional Western medicine. He was born three weeks early and was sick all the time. He had RSV and we had a lot of hospital stays, 911 calls, and tons of emergency room visits for his asthma and allergies. I did everything the doctors suggested up until he was five. Then there was a moment when I knew I needed to figure out something different. And so I started looking for alternative treatments. I found a brochure for an herbal class. I went to the class, and the teacher—Lise Wolff—ended up becoming my long-term mentor and friend. I brought my son to see her and through a combination of diet, lifestyle changes, and herbs, his health turned around in a year. My son never had allergies or asthma again. It was big.

Then I went on to have two more boys. My kids have now been raised on natural health and herbs have become a lifestyle for us. Herbal medicine is a little bit unusual where we live and so as a young mother, I was always showing my friends the plants they could use for bruises and this and that— the things that we all know and use as herbalists. That’s how I started in herbal medicine and those were the early roots of Jewelweed.

An interior view of Jewelweed herbal apothecary.

An interior view of Jewelweed.

Please tell us about your herbal business. What does it offer your community?

Jewelweed is a little retail shop. It’s 600 square feet and located in Wiseta, which is a suburb of Minneapolis on Lake Minnetonka. We sell high-quality, small-batch herbal remedies, flower essences, essential oils, and green beauty products, along with our favorite books, teas, and crystals. The shop is an invitation to explore what healing is for each person who comes in. I want it to feel like a safe and accessible place for people to engage with their healing.

How did you know opening Jewelweed was the right career move for you?

From a really young age, I wanted to have a store. I used to set up garage sales in my yard and sell rocks that I found. When I grew up, I got a degree in accounting. Later, I went into design work and remodeling and had my own little design studio. I also had a store that sold home furnishings. While it was fun, and I loved the work and the people I worked with, it just stopped feeling fulfilling. So I sold that business and took some time off. That’s when I studied with the Chestnut School. From there, I just couldn’t get the idea of an herbal store off my mind. Yet I’d never been to a store like the one I wanted to open.

To be honest, opening Jewelweed was the scariest thing I ever did. It was also the most fun, and I really felt called to do it. I was never 100% sure it was the right career move because it was terrifying, and I didn’t know if anyone would come. But now I know it was the right move. I just listened to that internal voice, my calling, and to what felt really fun and exciting. And that ended up being Jewelweed.

Nature organizing kits at Jewelweed herbal apothecary.

Nature organizing kits at Jewelweed.

What do you love most about running Jewelweed?

I love the people that come in. It’s like a sitcom—you don’t know who’s going to walk in the door. And I love the relationships that happen—people who come in offer what they know, and I offer what I know, and we both end up better for it. We have regulars, we have new people, we have people who come in every summer or winter when they’re in town. I love the herbal match-making: introducing people to plants and stones and seeing what sparks their curiosity or interest. I feel lucky to witness and be a part of this. At the same time, I’m an introvert, so it can be exhausting. But it’s fun at the same time. My customers enrich my life so much. I get to share what I love with them, and we all walk away better. It’s really healing for me, and I hope it’s healing for them.

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered running an herbal business?

Running a retail store is a lot of work! We’re open six days a week and on our feet all day, interacting with people. Which, as I said, can be both joyful and exhausting. So I really have to balance my life in other ways, like having plenty of quiet time at home. Maintaining that balance is so important and always on my mind.

Jewelweed smoke bundles.

Jewelweed smoke bundles.

The logistics of owning a business are also a big deal. I have a business degree and experience running businesses (Jewelweed is actually the fourth business I’ve started), and it’s still a lot. There are so many things to manage: the website, the store floor, payroll, social media, marketing emails, keeping up with technology, etc. Learning all these different pieces and integrating them into the different aspects of my business can be overwhelming at times, even for such a little shop. I’m lucky I have good help, so I don’t have to learn and do everything myself. When I first opened Jewelweed, I thought I was just going to be selling my herbal remedies and hosting classes, but in the last year, I haven’t been doing these pieces I love as much because I’m just running the business end of the shop. My intention for the coming year is to get more help where I need it so I can get back to why I opened Jewelweed—which is connecting with people and plants.

What inspired you to study with us at the Chestnut School? How has your herbal education, especially the business training inside our programs, supported your business?

I’ve already owned several businesses, so I started Jewelweed with a lot of business experience under my belt. But what drew me to the Chestnut School was Juliet Blankespoor’s style and her eye for beauty. I know it sounds crazy, but when I saw her photos of the plants and how beautiful everything she does is, I knew I was going to take her program as soon as it became available. It was life-changing to realize how important beauty is and how beauty itself can be healing, especially when beauty is backed up by wisdom and truth. Juliet really showed me how to present my business in a beautiful, accessible way. That spirit is so present in Jewelweed and allows me to combine my design training with my herbal training and running a shop. Jewelweed is a place where beauty comes alive and people who visit can feel it and experience it.

A Jewelweed gift box filled with items to nourish the heart, mind, and body.

A Jewelweed gift box filled with items to nourish the heart, mind, and body.

What are three herbs that are essential to your herbal practice/business and why?

Well, one, of course, is jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). When I was thinking about what to name my store, ‘jewelweed’ just immediately came to mind. It grows everywhere where I live—all around my house, along the lake, and right across the street from my shop. I just love jewelweed because its flowers are so tiny, and you really have to look for it—it’s not loud or in your face. That’s how I am—I don’t like to be the center of attention. Jewelweed was also a plant that really helped me in my last pregnancy. I was having some trouble with my kidneys and I was designated as high-risk. I needed to go to my OB and a nephrologist constantly. So I went to see my local herbalist and teacher, Lise Wolff. She put me on drop doses of jewelweed, and within a couple of weeks, my kidney numbers regulated, and I didn’t have any trouble with the pregnancy whatsoever. My son is 17 now, and he’s been working in the shop with me since he was 12.

The second herb is yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and I always tell people that it was one of the first plants I worked with. When my boys were little, they were always getting hurt. So they always had yarrow in their bag, and they used it all the time. Even their friends would ask for it. It’s such an amazing blood remedy and a powerful healer for bruises and cuts. And it works fast. Plus, it’s really accessible and it grows everywhere. When Jewelweed first opened, yarrow was the plant I always loved to introduce people to.

The third herb is tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum), a plant I learned more about from Juliet than anybody else. The first summer I was in the Chestnut School, I ordered seeds and grew it. I like to say I had a love affair with tulsi—I was eating pesto and drinking the tea every single day, and I was talking to everybody about how it’s the best plant! It’s really special and so uplifting. If I could only plant one herb, it would be tulsi because I cannot live a summer without holy basil in my garden.

Jewelweed journals.

Velvet-covered Jewelweed journals.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those just starting their herbal education? What advice do you have for budding herbal entrepreneurs?

What I like to tell people who come into the shop feeling overwhelmed because there are so many herbs, is to just learn about what’s in their yard or neighborhood. To just go be with the plants themselves and figure out what’s around you. For people who aren’t comfortable with wild plants or weeds, I suggest they start in their garden. That’s why I love Juliet’s teachings; she makes everything beautiful and accessible—the wild weeds and the plants from the garden. So you don’t have to start with 50 plants, just start with one plant, or two plants, or three. And if that’s all you learn your whole life, that will be fine. Personally, I always like the plants that are around and aren’t too expensive. I love plantain (Plantago spp.) as a first plant. I love yarrow and even some of the grocery store herbs like thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus). Everybody can get them.

It’s similar when starting a business. What skills do you already have? What’s available to you and easy to learn? What’s natural and easy to get started? When I started my business, I didn’t jump right into Jewelweed. I began teaching classes and selling medicine out of my house. I wanted to see if people were interested and wait before making a big investment. From there, my vision grew more and more. I feel so excited that the landscape of herbalism is changing and that up-and-coming entrepreneurs, maybe people reading this, are the future.

The Lucid Dreamer's Toolkit by Anima Mundi is sold at Jewelweed.

The Lucid Dreamer’s Toolkit by Anima Mundi at Jewelweed.

What do you think is next for you on your herbal journey?

There are a couple of things—something for myself and something for my community. For me personally, I’m just entering the menopausal years. So I’m working with plants in that way. I want to be able to teach others what I learn and experience in my own body. Also, I’m excited for this time in general. My last son will go to college next year and I’m asking what will that look like for me. What do I get to do?

My broader focus is returning to the reasons I started Jewelweed in the first place—I want to create community around plants and healing. I want to talk about the idea that we’re all healers, and there are plants right outside our front door that can help us heal. If we understand that, we can care for the plants and the land a little bit better and then see how the land’s health reflects the health of our own bodies and families. What I’m saying without saying it is: if people quit spraying their yards, if we quit poisoning our plants and our water, we can use them. And so I’m hoping to help people make the connection between their own health and the health of the world around them.

An interior view of Jewelweed herbal apothecary.

An interior view of Jewelweed health and wellness boutique.

We’re so proud of our students!

We hope this interview inspires you to check out Jodi’s products and support a small woman-owned herbal business. And perhaps you’ll find some ideas for your own herbal business. You can connect with Jodi on Instagram and via the Jewelweed website. To see what our other graduates are up to, check out our Student Herbal Business Directory.

Want to take a deeper dive into medicinal herbs and their uses?

Our 1,000-hour Herbal Immersion Program is the most comprehensive handcrafted online herbal course available, covering botany, foraging, herb cultivation, medicine making, and therapeutics.

The Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine online Herbal Immersion Program.

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2 thoughts on “Jewelweed: Student Business Spotlight

  1. Emily McQuilkin says:

    I love that you started as a business major that really encourages me. I a a current public relations major and really want to work for the environment or like a shop you have. Do you have any suggestion on how a PR degree could work in helping the environment or living a natural life?

    • Melissa Quercia says:

      There are numerous ways in which a degree in Public Relations could prove to be advantageous for folks interested in environmentally-focused careers and lifestyles. For instance, you could work for environmental organizations that you admire and assist them in connecting with businesses or individuals in the community who can support their efforts. There are plenty of amazing non-profits and other environmentally-oriented businesses that could benefit from the expertise of a PR specialist in order to further their environmentally-focused objectives!

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