After six years as executive director at Farmers' Market of the Ozarks, Lane McConnell revamped the classic market experience. She helped bring in cooking demos and contests, and arranged events and elaborate market dinners until word of FMO spread beyond the Ozark mountains. Under her care, the market ranked 15th on The Daily Meal’s list of 101 Best Farmers' Markets in America, and she helped beef up nearby farmers' markets in Ozark and Branson.
Then in late 2017, McConnell announced she was saying goodbye to FMO and launching her own business – Mama Lane’s All Natural. The skin care line started with six items including lip salves, body butter, vapor rub and hand and first aid salves, and McConnell spent a few weekends back at FMO. This time, though, she was there as a vendor. Some six months later, Mama Lane’s features more than 30 products from bug spray and beard wax to diaper creams and face wash. Shoppers can load their carts on McConnell’s Etsy page or find her line at more than 20 stores around Missouri including Columbia, Springfield, Jefferson City, Mountain Grove and Branson.
What made you decide to leave FMO and start your own business? Although it was a hard decision to leave a business that I developed, I knew it was time I grew my own aspirations as an entrepreneur. I’ve made a lot of these products for a few years now and was giving them to friends and family just as gifts. But one friend kept encouraging me, “You have to sell this, this is the most amazing stuff.” My excuse was I was too busy with work, but I’ve helped others develop their businesses for years. If it wasn’t for Stacey encouraging me, I don’t think I would have had the courage to go out on a limb and follow my heart.
What was the first product you ever made? It was the vapor rub. Caston, my oldest son, has really sensitive skin. Even Vicks VapoRub makes him red and itchy. I have a friend who is a naturalist, and she’s been a wealth of knowledge on which supplements and herbs and essential oils to use. She taught me how to make a soft rub that was coconut oil-based. I added beeswax and camphor crystals to open the sinuses, and began using this on my kiddos for sinus and allergies. Once I started Mama Lane’s, we sold about 150 tins of the vapor rub in a week all because of one simple Instagram post of me making it at home.
Where do the recipes come from? Some recipes were family recipes that have been passed down, like my first aid salve. But some of the newer items like the lip balms and face care line are new recipes I've experimented with. I started off making sure I wasn’t competing with my market vendors, like soap. There are already people making great soaps, but no one was making salves at the time. I also wanted to make sure these are products my family and friends use and that they work.
What are some of the key herbs and supplements used? A lot of the salves have different mixtures of echinacea, comfrey leaf, St. John’s wort, rose, chamomile, lavender, plantain, beeswax, Vitamin E and there’s even aloe vera and neem oil the first aid salve. That salve is even safe on your dog. We use it on our Aussie shepherd for hot spots and on the kiddos for every scratch and boo boo that comes their way!
Was it overwhelming moving toward a more natural and homemade skin care regimen? It can be a bit overwhelming going natural, and I was there five years ago when my kids were little. My suggestion is to start slowly and learn as you go. But you don’t have to make everything yourself. You can chose local businesses that make these natural products and then you can know you are helping a local too.
How does your connection to farming influence your skin care line? I think as a farm family you learn to be resourceful. You’re always asking yourself, “Can I make this?” But I never thought I would be making my skin care products for retail. I also now farm with my family as well, so Mama Lane's came at a great time. I do have a big entrepreneurial spirit, and my family is my best test subjects! I like to say our products are kid-tested, and they are. We use these products on our kids and our friends use them in their family as well. We try to make it a big family affair, and that was a tip I picked up from the market: customers love to know the families that are making, growing, raising the products they buy. So, you will see my kiddos and friend's kids with me at events and as part of our social media marketing.
What business tips did you pick up while helping other vendors and small business at FMO? The importance of marketing and branding is something I learned at the market after working with vendors to brand their own products to the public. I made sure that once I launched Mama Lane's, I had consistent branding from my business card and product labels to my Etsy store and social media platforms. In addition, I learned hot to understand the demographic you are marketing to. I feel like a lot of times people come into the market with a great product, but they don’t know who they are selling to or how to market their products. I think that happens with a lot of small businesses. A farmers' market is the perfect test market for products because of the vast array of customers that shop each week, therefore a business needs to have their branding set when they launch.
What was it like to move from being market director to being on the other side as a vendor? It was humbling and fun! You usually only hear the negative things as the manager. But being a vendor I was able to see things from a different perspective, both from a vendor and customer level. I love working with my customers, and I now understand how proud my market vendors were when someone told them they loved their tomatoes, pizza crusts or even artwork. I’ve always wanted to have that connection with customers, and now I get to make products for their families and that is so rewarding!
Mama Lane’s All Natural, Branson, Missouri, 417.766.8711, etsy.com/shop/mamalanesallnatural