Maven Made creators Emily Kittrell (left) and Bethany Frazier. (Photo by Monica Escamilla)
Walk through the doors of 2330 Monument Ave. and you’ll feel no different than if you had walked through the doors of most any other home along that stretch of the famous street in the Museum District.
In the living room to the right, there is a TV humming, and two boys on the floor, watching intently. Oriental rugs cover hardwood floors. Ornate chandeliers dip from the high ceilings.
But this is no everyday home: This is the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond, a nonprofit that provides home-like housing to seriously ill children and their families. On this particular day, several young women congregate in the foyer, discussing the logistics to house some potential visitors. As if this were a bed-and-breakfast, the women volunteers consider which suite would be the best fit for the family.
“The goal is to help guests feel the most at home so [they] can focus on their child’s needs,” said Allison Santos, Director of Development at RMHC.
The community of volunteers and other partners makes this mission come to life, says Santos. From home-cooked meals to private bedrooms, the home-away-from-home vibe is perpetuated throughout the McDonald House. Attention is paid to detail, down to a vial of essential oils — designed to encourage sleep and rest — placed on each bedside table. The oils, a combination that of chamomile, lavender, sage and almond, is called Sleep Serum, and it’s from Maven Made, a Richmond business.
Bethany Frazier and Emily Kittrell began the company in 2014, and have donated product to the Richmond facility because Frazier is familiar with the Ronald McDonald House through personal experience. Her younger brother, Bret, battled childhood leukemia (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia).
Frazier witnessed her brother’s hair disappear, watched her parents grow weary, and sat through mentally exhausting doctor’s appointments full of updates, details and probabilities. Her family was offered a haven in the Ronald McDonald House in Augusta, Georgia. The charity provided laundry facilities, transportation, comfortable beds, and an understanding community of other families that helped carry her family through an uncertain challenge.
“As a sister, sibling, parent, friend, you have to take care of yourself at the end of the day,” Frazier said. “You’re giving so much time and energy to that person. The hospital is draining.”
When Frazier, who is also a food blogger, was invited to cook and blog about a recipe from a special edition of the “Southern Living Christmas Cookbook” to raise awareness and funds for the McDonald House in Richmond, she was taken back in time. She and Kittrell decided to donate the brand’s Sleep Serum to the Richmond location. The product, she says, signals guests that it’s OK to rest and get much-needed slumber.
“A lot of people who stay with RMHC are not from Richmond,” Frazier says. “We thought that if they were able to see representation from a local company that we might play an even larger role in helping them feel at home.”
“It’s another reminder that the Richmond community is thinking about them,” said Diana Villarreal, RMHC’s Community Engagement and Volunteer Manager.
Maven Made began as conversations whispered during lulls in the 9-to-5 office that they once shared. Today, they sell their products in nine different stores and on Etsy, and want to have their products for sale in stores beyond Virginia later this year.
Frazier began experimenting with essential oils in 2013 when she was struggling with cystic acne. Her doctor wanted to prescribe Accutane for a second time, but she was determined to find another way. She was introduced to essential oils by an aroma therapist and eventually created her own facial serum.
When Kittrell and Frazier became close and were mutually hungry for more creativity and income, they decided to build upon this concept. The two developed new products and Maven Made was born. They’ve also collaborated with local businesses, creating a custom beard oil with Main Street Barber, and a custom room spray with Shockoe Slip Yoga. They want to stage workshops at local stores and businesses where guests can create and blend their own products. And as Maven Made has grown, it has been able to support local nonprofits beyond Ronald McDonald House, including Richmond Doulas, and Bon Secours’ A Woman’s Place lactation center.
Learn more about Maven Made products at etsy.com/shop/MavenMadeRVA. The Ronald McDonald House Charity in Richmond holds its annual Red Shoe BBQ fundraiser from 6 to 10 p.m. on April 29 at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center. The event features a barbecue dinner and music by Jackson Ward. $40. rmhc-richmond.org