CREATED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE OUTNET
Adaptogens may not be part of your daily routine, but Sasha Sabapathy thinks they should be. The 30-year-old turned to the stress-balancing herb when suffering from burn out during a hectic few years in New York and was so impressed by their benefits she returned to the UK to introduce them to a stressed, tired London audience. Glow Bar, her millennial-pink space on Mortimer Street, now houses a full range of adaptogen-laden products, as well as a holistic café space and infra-red sauna spa, relied upon by legions of wellness-seeking women.
Here, Sasha reveals her inspirational story, tells us what she thinks makes a great business and the style secrets she relies on for success…
Being An Entrepreneur Is In My Blood
When I was a kid I used to collect rocks from the garden, paint them and sell them for charity. When I couldn’t find rocks, I would sell my old comic books. My parents are both entrepreneurs themselves, so clearly, it’s in my blood. My dad reminded me of this when I started Glow Bar – he said they should have known I would end up doing my own thing, because I always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
My Journey Came About Very Organically
I was studying in New York a few years ago, and during my first year there I burnt the candle at both ends, and I crashed. I had really bad anxiety and I couldn’t get out of bed. So, I went to the student health centre and they immediately wanted to prescribe me anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, which I was really against. I’ve never been a fan of intense pharmaceutical medicines – my family are from Malaysia so we’ve always been more into natural remedies – turmeric, aloe vera, ginger etc. So, I resisted, and a friend of mine recommended a herb, called ashwagandha. After two weeks it really started to help. There was a morning where I got out of bed to brush my teeth and had a penny-drop moment; every morning in the few months before that I had found just getting up impossible. I experienced a series of these micro-changes, which inspired me to take a series of blood tests with a naturopath, which showed I had been suffering from cortisol fatigue – my cortisol levels had gotten too high because my body was under so much stress that it crashed. Ashwagandha had helped reset those levels and got me back to a happy cortisol level.
Ashwagandha Isn’t As Kooky As People Think
It’s an adaptogen, which is a family of healing herbs. They’re prevalent in Ayurveda, Shamanic healing in South America, traditional Chinese medicine and Jahmoo tonics in Indonesia and Malaysia, and they help the body adapt to stress and its various manifestations by regulating your cortisol levels. Our generation is experiencing more cortisol fluctuation than ever before because we’re under so many different strains. So, they’re basically your new best friend for fighting stress, which we could all do with.
The Business Was Born To Help Burnt-Out Londoners
I moved back to London because I was tired of my old job – after graduating in NYC I was working in advertising, but knew it wasn’t for me. The more time I spent with my friends back here the more I realised adaptogens just weren’t on their radar at all, which made me think there could be demand for a brand that made them more interesting and accessible for women in the UK.
The Process Was Pretty Chicken And Egg
I started creating the adaptogen products, but this became so time consuming I fell out of a regular gym routine – something I really crave. Whenever I visited Malaysia, I used infra-red saunas – they’re a really effective way of emulating the deep sweat and endorphin release you get from a work-out – so spent a lot of time moaning about not being able to find them in London. I never considered the products the end goal – what I really wanted was an interactive space where customers could try them and ask questions – and that’s when I realized the two concepts could live together. Infra-red saunas are less hot than traditional saunas, so they heat you from the inside, which is great for clearing toxins. I was attracted to both them and the adaptogens for the same reasons – thanks to their ancient healing powers that were helping me live a modern lifestyle. And so Glow Bar was born.
Clothes Are A Way To Get Your Message Across
Like it or not, people judge you based on how you look. That doesn’t mean you need to have perfect make-up, or that you’ll be judged for not having a blow dry – it means the clothes you put on your body can express the kind of business person you are, and what you’re trying to achieve. I rarely dress in a corporate way, and that’s a conscious decision – Glow Bar is a very relaxed environment, and we’re a brand for every type of women. I don’t want to alienate anyone or give off the impression I’m just someone who sits behind a desk and isn’t relatable. I want to portray that I’m just like every other girl.
It’s Important To Present Yourself Well
I’m not part of the old school mentality which demands you have to go for an interview in a dress and heels, but clean clothes are essential – look ironed and presentable, and show you’ve given some thought as to whether your outfit is appropriate or not. There’s a time and a place for things like mini skirts and crop tops, and an interview isn’t one of them. I would never judge someone coming in in trainers, jeans and a cute top, but it’s about being respectful of the environment you’re in. Brush your hair and have a clean face.
The Suit From Today’s Shoot Was Amazing
It was so relaxed and impossibly soft. I looked really chic but didn’t feel uncomfortable, and for me that’s key. I do a lot of public speaking and presenting, and it would be the perfect outfit for that; I’m going to speak at the National Theatre about mental health in a few weeks, so may just tap it for then. It’s also so on brand for Glow Bar. It’s pink and feminine but powerful and comfortable, so it’s a great way to represent my brand in public.
It’s Possible To Have Fun With Fashion And Still Look Professional
My advice is to rock the high low trend. I’d love to wear the blouse from today’s shoot with wide leg denim and my new Prada sandals – that’s the perfect example of balance. I actually always rely on a great pair of shoes to make any outfit look presentable. If I add stylish shoes to a casual edit, I know I can look appropriate for a nice restaurant or bar but still feel comfortable and like myself – and that’s the most important thing of all.
I Feel So Lucky To Have Found My Passion
I never even considered that I could start a brand centered around a passion of mine. I always thought businesses had to be really serious. Because of my advertising background I always assumed starting my own business would involve running my own agency – I didn’t envisage creating my own version of a product I had fallen in love with. It was really organic – I never had boxes to tick. It’s lovely when something grows so organically, as that’s when you know you’re doing something true to who you are.
Finding The Right Space Was The Biggest Obstacle
It had to have two floors – I wanted the saunas to sit in a colder, quieter retreat than the shop and café space. I also wanted Glow Bar to be in Fitzrovia and wasn’t prepared to compromise on that; the brand was designed to be attainable and accessible for millennial women, and with so many big brands and media agencies based there, it felt like the right place for that demographic. Then, when we finally found a space, we had to go through a Dragons Den-like process – my landlords are the Crown Estate, and they’re pretty hardcore. They want to guarantee all the brands that rent their spaces are on brand and gel with the rest of their portfolio. So, I had to pitch three times, and had to make changes based on their feedback, and then we had to wait ages for planning permission. It was over a year between starting to look for a space and beginning the building work.
There Needs To Be A Network To Find Mentors
I wish I had mentors when I was starting out – I would have been able to save myself a lot of headaches. I’m lucky I have family who are experienced in business who I could tap, and I have a few mentors scattered around the industry now, but finding someone to guide you when you’re starting out is really tricky if you haven’t been plugged into the start-up community before. There should be a Tinder for them.
My Advice Is To Be Patient
It’s easy to get excited about your concept and to want everything to happen immediately, but it’s never going to happen like that – don’t compromise just to get things done quicker. Also – get an accountant.
Responsibility Is What Keeps Me Up At Night
Before you create a business you only have to worry about yourself. But once you begin to employ people, you’re suddenly responsible for their livelihoods. Having employees rely on you, and having all that rent to pay, can be overwhelming and humbling. Life becomes bigger than your immediate needs.
Changing People’s Attitude To Wellness Is The Best Bit
Someone who worked for me told me I changed her life. Health and wellness had, to her, always been weight related, but at Glow Bar we never count calories or talk about weight – we’re all about nourishing food and drink and caring about your health and wellbeing. She said after working with us for a few months she had really learnt to love and accept herself. Hearing things like that is incredibly rewarding – I never set out to do that.
The Business Really Hit The Zeitgeist
It’s been a success because we’ve come in at the right time – people are realising wellness is more than just going to the gym and losing weight. It’s about mental health, spiritual health, and having a 360 approach. People are looking more to the past than ever before with their wellness practices and offering the building blocks for that is what makes us unique.
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