s a r a p a n t o n - v i t r u v i
We know a girl boss when we see one, and Sara Panton, of Vitruvi, is nothing short of one. She's taken aromatherapy to a new level along with her brother, Sean, whom she runs the company with. It goes a lot further beyond just being a scent company - Sara was in medical school and running a blog when Vitruvi started to emerge out of the knowledge she was getting in school, blended with the cultural background she got while traveling around the world with an NGO. This girl knows how to carry out a vision, build a team, and build a brand like none other - we're so excited to share her story.
How are you? Is this a typical day for you?
I'm doing really well, a little tired after one of our busiest weeks for the company. I'm currently sipping on my third espresso at 4pm, so yes haha this is a very typical day for me.
Let’s zoom out a little bit, how did you get to where you are now with Vitruvi? Tell us about that journey.
In hindsight Vitruvi is a combination of my all my passions that I've explored at different times in my life that came together. My curiosity with botanicals and wellness rituals started when I was completing a degree in Health Sciences with a focus in Global Health. As part of that degree I had to research different wellness and health practices around the world and became fascinated with the subject on medical anthropology. During those years I was also working for an Nobel Prize nominated charity that was doing brilliant work in over 8 countries. I was fortunate to be able to travel a lot with them and to learn about the cultures of the places we worked in.
From there I started medical school and the concept for the blog (which would later become Vitruvi) began. Sean (my brother) and I were living together and were interested in the concept of human potential. We started a simple website that we built in the evenings after work and med school -- Sean created the website and I did the writing. We started an interview series that asked people about their daily rituals, and the habits that allowed them to do the great work they did -- it was all about living with intention and the simple habits and rituals that keep people grounded.
I was full time in med school and our class started learning about the olfactory nerve, I became fascinated with the science of scent and how if affects different parts of the brain. I started experimenting with mixing my own essential oils to apply during different parts of the day and Sean and I started sharing the practices on the website. Long story short -- People identified with the concept of 'modern rituals' the simple daily tasks that we do everyday that keep us grounded and the benefits of using traditional oils and botanicals in a very modern way.
Two years later and we've launched two collections of our essential oil blends that are sold in over 100 stores in 5 countries. We still love telling stories on our blog about the daily rituals of people in our community and around the world.
"In hindsight Vitruvi is a combination of my all my passions that I've explored at different times in my life that came together."
You work very closely with you brother Sean - what is that relationship like and how do you split responsibility?
Sean and I have always been very close. Working with a sibling is a different level of commitment and trust. We move through decisions and conflicts so quickly because in the end we are family and that comes first. Sean is brilliant in business and understanding sales and operations needed to keep us rolling. There wouldn't be a sticker, box or product without him. I work alot with our larger stores, as well as formulations of the products.
What is the importance of scent in our daily lives?
Scent is incredibly important in our lives. It is our most powerful and under-utilized sense and allows us to prompt different parts of our brains. What we smell affects us as much as what we eat -- boosting our moods, calming us down, staying on task and productive. All of this can be influenced by strategic scent pairing. The inspiration for our collections are to create strategic scents that allow people to weave the benefits of scents throughout the modern day.
What are your personal rituals?
Morning -- Espresso. Always, every day. It's genetic, my dad is equally an espresso person. We grew up with it.
News -- I read the news quickly each morning (I think it's good for perspective), and I also read WWD and The Business of Fashion each morning, I'm in the business so it's good to know what's going on.
Calling my parents -- I usually give them a call on my walk to or from the office. To check in.
Evening -- Green juice. I make green juice 'shots' at our home every night. My boyriend and I call them our "shots" - it's a wicked mix of ginger, parsley, celery, lemon, lime, and coconut water.
Baths -- Baths are my thing. I try to have a bath once or twice a week. It's my happy place. When I'm traveling the first thing I try to do that evening is have a bath.
What are your biggest takeaways from turning a passion project into a reality?
Self doubt is healthy to an extent when you're starting something -- it makes you check things out and question concepts and potential. Then when things start to take off, park it and fearlessly pursue what you're working on.
Beyond Vitruvi, what are you passionate about?
I'm really passionate about fashion and technology and the worlds of wearble tech and how it will penetrate the beauty industry. I consult with other brands in NYC and London about such topics. I have also always been very passionate about micro-financing and supporting women's financial independence through business and entrepreneurship in developing countries as well as in our own country.
Describe the Vancouver maker/entrepreneur community. What is your role in it?
Hah, I don't know if I have a role in it. But there are some very talented brands in Vancouver that make brilliant products -- it's cool to be considered part of it.
What has been the happiest accident in building Vitruvi?
Hmmm, such a great question. I think it would be ending up being able to work with my brother and spend my days with a team I adore and generally just love spending time with. Our team is so cool, I just admire everyone on it.
Where are you most productive?
In the morning, first thing in the morning - the first two hours from 6am to 8am. We work a lot with stores in New York and on the East Coast so getting up early to talk to them is necessary and when I get most of my tasks for the day done.
Who inspires you?
Beyond my mom and the incredible women in my life all of whome are kind and selfless and brilliant, I really look up to women who have started companies: Tory Burch, Diane Von Furstenberg, Tamara Mellon (the founder of Jimmy Choo). I spoke with Tamara and her wisdom and insight and truly helpful advice was so refreshing and appreciated.
What is the first thing you notice about people?
Their energy, if they seem authentic or if they are guarded. I'm into people who keep it real, I hate bullshit and ego. It's so 90s.
Where do we find you on a day off?
On the seawall, the ocean is my happy place and 30 minutes by it I am a different person. It gets me back to me.
Do you have a mantra?
"If not you then who?" It's a really powerful question that gets me back in the game when I'm tired or having a hard time. It reminds me how much I love our company and that I would be so pissed off if someone else got to do it :)