Sara Panton is a modern designer bridging the worlds of science and technology with the beauty and fashion industry. After quitting medical school to cofound Vitruvi with her brother Sean, the two have grown the modern aromatherapy brand into an innovative company that supports women’s cooperatives in India and Kenya. Learn about how she found her grey and what advice she has for people starting out below!
How did you find your grey?
I was always motivated by the pursuit of academic excellence — I loved topics surrounding health and wellness, and was curious about traditional health practices around the world. My focus was on becoming a doctor. I planned on helping people in developing countries after I graduated, but I always loved writing and making things. While I was in medical school, I started a small blog with my brother Sean that shared stories about wellness and beauty practices from cultures around the world. It was my passion project. In the evenings and on weekends, I would go to the health food store to mix and blend my own body products and essential oils, which I would write about on the website.
Sean and I continued to work on the website almost every evening from 10pm to 12am for over a year while juggling our jobs and school. It was only three years ago but it really feels like a lifetime ago. When we started to turn the website into a business, it changed shape, and we realized that the website was where it all had started: creating oils, telling stories, and hopefully inspiring people to take care of themselves, to live with intention.
I think the lesson is to listen to the habits and hobbies that you would stay up late to do without any reward except working on a project you love.
What motivates you to grow and do great work?
I do everything for my family — My brother and I own and run Vitruvi, and we love sharing our progress and updates with our parents and extended family. I am also motivated to grow a strong and successful company for my future family – nothing makes me more fearless than doing something for other people. Beyond that, I am fascinated by potential and have always been curious about the idea of personal potential. I am motivated to do my best work by my curiosity about what can manifest from a fearless pursuit of excellence without self-limiting beliefs.
How do you live in the grey? How does your work relate to other aspects of your life?
My work is really a manifestation of everything I love. I am usually up early working with clients and stores in different time zones, I am busy filling orders, helping design new products, connecting with customers throughout the day, and am often working late as well. But I can’t imagine it any other way.
What is your favorite part of your work?
Hearing from our customers. Our products are so personal and I love hearing about how scents make people feel and the memories they have associated with them. Often someone will smell a Vitruvi product and tell me it reminds them of something from childhood, or a favorite summer they had, or a trip they were on. These conversations fill me with so much joy.
How did you become qualified enough to do what you love?
Oh yikes, I come from many years of post-secondary study of neuropsychology, global health, and then medicine. I think that after being in business and being an entrepreneur for a short amount of time, there is no such thing as ‘qualified;’ I think that the fearless pursuit of a project, doing your research, staying level headed and operating without ego makes anyone qualified to do anything.
How has your work helped you live a more fulfilled life?
I would say that it provides me with the creative pursuits that make me incredibly happy, as well as our commitment to supporting sustainable farming and women’s health clinics and cooperatives in developing countries. My biggest motivation to grow the company is to start sourcing larger volumes of oils from sustainable farms and to help support community development abroad.
What’s one thing you do every morning to get ready for the day?
Cuddle with my boyfriend — he gives the best hugs in the morning. Other morning essentials are peppermint yerba mate tea and a good stretch after a quick morning jog
What are three things you try to do everyday?
- Review my schedule each morning – I create lists each day of the categories I have for the day and what needs to be done for each to move things forward.
- Have a green smoothie – my breakfast is spinach, kale, mango, parsley, ginger, lemon and coconut water. This way, even if I skip lunch or don’t get a salad and lots of vegetables, I know that I’ve had a good dose of greens.
- Connect with a friend — I have a beautiful network of incredible women in my life who live around the world. A quick call with one of them always inspires me and makes the day even better.
What’s something you wish you had known at the outset of your career?
Stop planning and just start doing. Don’t wait for anything to be perfect, because you will be waiting forever. Launch your company / project / business when you think you are 60% ready and then edit and iterate after that. Many brilliant business-minded friends of mine gave me this advice when I was building Vitruvi but I didn’t listen.
What advice do you have for someone seeking mentorship and to build their network?
Make people a priority. Do not underestimate ending coffee meetings by saying “I would love to connect you with “ so and so”. I leave almost every meeting thinking or introducing that person to someone else who is equally as wonderful as they are.
For me life is about the people in it; I love connecting people and being able to introduce likeminded people brings me so much joy. Usually if you’re thinking about others, they are often thinking about you – it’s the law of karma.
How do you ensure your intentions become actions?
Write them down. I have literally piles of notebooks, scraps of papers and journals that have my dreams, intentions and goals on weekly, monthly and yearly bases. I think that there is power in intention, and being clear about the vision of your life you want to create, and intentionally asking yourself each day if your actions have supported the pursuit of that vision is incredibly important. The secret to anything is action.
What advice do you have for beginners in your industry specifically?
I would say just start. If you want to create a business, keep it simple. Create a simple website, know what your ‘lane’ is (i.e. What your business is) and stay in it, own it, and grow as your work grows.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Travelling. Nothing makes me happier than living out of a suitcase.
Exercise, I love doing spin classes and being outside. A jog on the beach, or on the seawall in Vancouver, and walks through Soho in New York make me incredibly happy.
How do you support and help people on your team to live grey?
I think when people are happy they do their best work. Sean and I both have lots of passions and work outside of Vitruvi, and we both support each other in our dynamic lives. I think if you know the person you work with has your back and wants you to succeed in life beyond your shared project, that is the best motivation.
Do you have a motto?
“Keep it simple” – Sean and I both like keeping things strong and simple. Clutter and overthinking, questioning and complicating things slows anything down.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?
“If not you, then who?”
If you want to do something, create something, change something – if there is something that you think no one else could do better than you – then you should make that your calling.
You can learn more about Sara and Vitruvi on her website.