Anit Hora had no idea what to expect when she departed the plane in Brazil.
She was alone with a backpack in a foreign country — where she was entirely unfamiliar with the native language, Portuguese — but she had a plan. She was going to fulfill her wanderlust and find herself in the process.
“I knew it was going to be an adventure, but I really didn’t know what kind of adventure,” Hora says.
The Brooklynite — who was born in India and raised in New York City — was content working as a knitwear designer for Talbot’s and the Calvin Klein Collection, among other labels, which she did successfully for about seven years. But she started having moments of doubt about remaining in corporate America for the long haul. As fate would have it, her 18-month solo backpacking trip through Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Peru and Colombia would bring Hora’s life full circle, reuniting the city girl with her traditional Indian roots and inspiring the creation of Mullein and Sparrow, a small-batch, vegan beauty company.
“The universe was really looking out for me,” she says.
Hora realized she wanted to study herbalism after visiting an Argentinian pharmacy, an experience she found particularly enlightening. Seeking relief from a cold, she requested over-the-counter medication, as she would in the United States. But in Argentina, medicine is seen as a last resort. In response to her request, the pharmacist asked, “Why would you want antibiotics?” “Are you really sick?” and “Did you try drinking tea?”
They were pointed questions that made her think.
Hora recalled her childhood, in which she first learned the principles of Ayurveda, an ancient form of Indian medicine. Her family would use holistic remedies to treat sickness, drinking warm milk with turmeric powder (otherwise known as a golden latte), for example, rather than taking a pill.
“It’s just a part of the heritage,” she says.
She decided to become a holistic esthetician and herbalist.
“I wanted to learn herbal healing from basically every country in the world,” she says, explaining that ingredients, and thus herbalism, varies with the native plants of each country.
When Hora returned to the States in 2008, she began creating wellness products in her Bushwick apartment from tinctures, tea blends, salves and herbal healing mixtures. Over time, she transitioned to beauty products — facilitated by ongoing product requests from her friends — with her company launching in 2012.
Mullein and Sparrow started with a single facial serum but has since grown to include facial mists, toners, washes, steams and masks, as well as facial and body oils, dry shampoo, exfoliants, cleansers, soaps, bath salts and an array of gift sets, with a skin cream and wet facial masks in the works. The components used in every product are specially selected by Hora, who discloses a list of all the herbal ingredients on her website, along with their benefits to the skin and body.
One herb that will always strike a chord with Hora is mullein, which is part of her company’s namesake. And it’s one that she, ironically, does not use.
“Mullein was the first herb that I learned in one of my herb classes,” Hora says. “I walked into this class — a hippy, dippy class — and a woman had a giant basket of herbs and said, ‘Pick something.’ And I picked mullein.”
Sparrow, she says, is simply a nickname given to Hora by her mother.
“(My mom) says, ‘You’re always hopping from one place to another.’”
For more, visit mulleinandsparrow.com.