Freedom Apothecary: A NoLibs Retailer Centering Self-care for Women of Color

Recently opened up in Northern Liberties, Freedom Apothecary is a retail and event space offering skincare and wellness products from women-owned brands. Their mission, which centers women of color, is to educate women on clean living, self-care, and to offer experiences that help build community.


Business partners and friends, Morrisa Jenkins and Bonkosi Alyssa Horn, are the driving force behind Freedom Apothecary located at 736 N. 2nd Street. With a name inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem “Caged Bird,” the retailer aims to help customers “cultivate the sense of freedom within, and have space to be free in who they are and what they do,” says Horn.


Jenkins and Horn launched their official business partnership in the summer of 2018, and their serendipitous friendship formed a few years ago, as a result of Jenkins spotting Horn and her then-lavender hair coming out of a restaurant, a few chance encounters later helped them propel their friendship forward.


It’s undeniable that Freedom Apothecary is designed to offer its customers a special space, that’s full of intentionality, from its bright and earthy decor, to its calming scents, when you walk into the store, it feels like a much needed oasis in a gritty city.


From stocking women-owned holistic skincare brands and wellness products like CBD oil, books, and spirituality tools like tarot cards, to offering in-house facials, Jenkins and Horn have crafted a retail sanctuary where “women empower women.”


“In addition to the retail space, we will host workshops and experiences, offer educational resources to come and learn, and tap into what living a clean lifestyle looks like, and for women to come and connect with each other, and build community,” said Horn.


Horn also hopes that women’s empowerment will happen through having uncomfortable, but necessary conversations on social issues like “race in the beauty industry, and panel discussions on what it means to be a working woman/mother.”


Her goal is to offer, “A space to talk about the things that more people wished we brought to light, so that we can actually make a change.”


When it comes to the idea of “clean living” Jenkins and Horn are giving their customers access to clean beauty and wellness in an unpretentious way, that focuses less on fitness and diet, and more on honoring your needs.


For Jenkins, clean living goes beyond nutrition or beauty and is more about making choices that make you feel powerful and whole.


“Clean beauty is a vehicle that’s been my realm for the last four or five years,” said Jenkins. 

“It’s about just taking care of yourself, and knowing that you don’t have to go for the toxins and chemicals.”


And for Horn, who has worked in health and wellness industry for the last ten years, a clean lifestyle looks like “knowing what you put into your body,” which she considers the “most basic form of self-care.”


Self-care as a practice, and not just a concept, is central to Freedom Apothecary’s philosophy and its owners personal lives. These days self-care is definitely a buzzword in conversations about wellness, but it is a necessary practice for women of color, especially Black women.


“It [self-care] shouldn’t be radical, it should be normal. But it currently isn’t normal, the goal is to normalize taking care of yourself,” said Horn. 


“My big goal in this industry, is to show that wellness doesn’t always equal fitness or diet. I want to emphasize that self-care is wellness, and address the things that inhibit self-care. Wellness, is the things you do for yourself, so that you can be whole and complete for yourself and others.”


While Jenkins called to mind writer, womanist, and activist Audre Lorde’s quote on self-care.


“It’s political warfare, we [Black women] have to be here and be whole and be healthy for what could be a revolution,” she said.


Although Jenkins and Horn are transplants to Philadelphia, the gentrification that has taken place in Northern Liberties, isn’t lost on them. As the only Black women business owners on their block, they’re aiming to give customers from all walks of life, not just access to a unique and inviting retail space, but to a community and powerful conversations.


“I hope that upon and entering and leaving the space, customers feel welcomed and valued, and like they gained some valuable information and experience,” said Jenkins.


Horn emphasized that Freedom Apothecary is a space for all women to come and share their stories, “A lot of our experiences and events will bring race into the conversation but if you don’t have that same experience, you can still add value,” she said.


“It’s about feeling more empowered and more connected, sharing all perspectives and listening.”


There are far and few spaces in the city that center the experiences of women of color, and of Black women especially, and having an event and retail space that not only gives its customers the tools to achieve wellness, but the conversations necessary to achieve community, is a truly unique offering.


On how the two would like to see Freedom Apothecary grow within its first year, Horn said, “At the end of the day we are a lifestyle brand, but we are bigger than our space, and bigger than our products. We want to be known for what our mission is, and be bigger than this space, and the connections that we make.” 


If you’re interested in clean beauty but have no idea where to begin, start by making a visit to their bright, airy space with it’s cozy corners and endless selection of products to help you look and feel your best self; and consider attending their upcoming workshops and events if you’re looking to engage in cultural conversations in a way that feels open and unbiased.