Sara Panton, Co-Founder, Vitruvi
Whether for pleasure, stimulation, relaxation, healing, or simply to set the mood, essential oils are one of our favorite things mama earth has put on this planet (avocados being the #1 favorite thing, of course). So when we found a company that was taking these ancient healing tools and giving them a modern, sexy, functional makeover to line our apartments with, it was like that feeling when someone creates an after-dinner chocolate treat that has probiotics in it (oh wait...).
Meet Sara Panton, co-founder of vitruvi. Together with her brother, Sean, Sara took a cue from her studies of preventative medicine and created a coveted brand based on the benefits of how scents can influence the brain (all wrapped up in chic, modern packaging) as well as information on how to incorporate these essentials into your daily life.
Can you tell us about your story and how Vitruvi came to be?
After completing a degree in Global Health I started medical school studying preventative medicine. It was then that my passion for scent started — I was in my first year and we were learning about the cranial nerves, the 12 nerves responsible for how we see, hear, taste, smell, etc...I became pretty inspired by how scent could influence the brain and questioned why people didn’t use scent more strategically.
Sean, my brother, and I were living together at the time and I had come home from classes and told him about the concept. He built a website and we started working on creating the concept together. From there, using my background in Global Health and Sean’s understanding of entrepreneurship and his ability to make anything happen we came up with the concept for a collection of essential oil products that would help people use the science of scent in their daily routines. Our goal was simple — to create good looking essential oil products that were completely natural and added a little much needed self care to the lives of people during their modern hustle.
During my Global Health degree I had been working for the Nobel Peace Prize nominated charity we.org and that experience took me to Kenya and taught me a lot about social entrepreneurship. I had always been passionate about learning the health and wellness practices of other cultures but the experiences of studying health in different cultures and working abroad became experiences that are deeply rooted in the foundation of vitruvi.
To create our collections we took techniques used traditionally for perfume making an instead of using synthetic perfumes used pure and 100% natural essential oils. With this complex technique we created a scent for waking up, for working, for meditating, for sleeping which meant that no matter how much someone was traveling, or how hectic her day was there was a grounding moment with a scent that was designed to associate with that ritual.
It was really about helping establish rituals by taking botanicals and oils that have been used traditionally for centuries and redesigning them in a modern way. A year after we launched the concept it started to gain traction — I went on a one year leave from school and Sean quit his job. It’s been three years since then and we haven’t looked back. What was once a passion project we worked on late in the evenings is now what I get to do all day everyday and there is a deep gratitude that comes with that — with getting to live out your passion.
Why should one use essential oils? What's the difference between using a diffuser and roll ons?
I love essential oils because there are endless uses for them and they are multi-functional. Meaning you can have a peppermint oil that is can be used as a natural mouth wash, you can clean your bathtub with it, or diffuser it into your home to make your home smell ultra fresh. With the right recipes there are endless ways to use essential oils and it means you can buy less products and instead have a simple home apothecary of oils that you can mix and match creating 100% natural and completely custom products for personal and home use.
Here are a couple examples of the different methods of using essential oils:
- Aromatic Benefits: There are the aromatic benefits which is the benefit of the scent molecules when they touch the part inside your nose called the cribriform plate and it is there that the effects of the scent make way to a different part of your brain. This sensation explains why the scent of peppermint oil or lemon essential oil help us feel more alert and energized whereas lavender essential oil helps to make us feel relaxed. This reaction to the brain would be an example of reasons to diffuse essential oils or rolling them on your wrists and smelling the aroma.
- Topical Benefits: Topically essential oils can be used to help relax the mind and body. Topical application is only conducive to some essential oils because some of them can irritate the skin. Examples of topical application such as roll on and mists is to help the essential oils to sink into the skin and helping to leave the benefit of the aroma on your skin. For example, our Balance Roll On was made to help you unwind and relax during stressful times of the day. By rolling it on with the sleek metal roller ball and rubbing the oil in the Lavender and Sweet Fennel stay on the skin and help to calm you throughout the day.
- Properties Benefits: There are a wide range of ways to use essential oils everyday outside your personal care rituals. The actual physical properties of many essential oils make them useful in your home. The molecular properties of Sweet Orange essential oil makes it able to break down grease and it can be used in pots and pans to wash your dishes naturally. Tea Tree essential oil has anti-microbial, anti-fungal and antiseptic properties. It can be used to clean and disinfect anything from your cell phone to your bathtub and it a beautiful way to clean things in a really natural way. For recipes on how to blend it properly for cleaning see our website receipts section.
Why do scents have associations with memories?
I think most people have experienced the sensation when you smell the scent of a cologne a former boyfriend used it takes you back to memories in an instant without even being able to register why. The thing that makes the olfactory nerve (the cranial nerve responsible for scent) different than the other nerves is that it bypasses an area of the brain called the Thalamus (the switchboard of the brain). Instead of a sensation (smell) going to the thalamus first and getting a conscious reason for smelling it, certain scents instead trigger different parts of the brain. Which is why you can often have a scent remind you or take you back to a memory before you can even register why.
What's a common misconception about essential oils?
Being in the essential oil industry now for four years I think there are misconceptions about the quality standards of essential oils. People hear words like ‘Therapeutic Grade’ and associate that to quality of essential oils. At vitruvi we are focused on providing the absolutely highest premium quality essential oils on the market and many of which are certified organic. Before reading claims about oil ‘grades’ it’s more important to know how the oils are sourced, what methods they are produced with and if they are 100% pure and as a even better benchmark, are they organic. Having tested thousands of essential oil samples over the past years I can say without a doubt that is the best method for associating and determining quality of the oils you use in your home and on your body.
How do you incorporate scents into your daily routine?
I’ve created some pretty solid rituals into my days since starting our company, and much of it stems from when we were first researching different customs and traditions from different cultures.
Here is a little snapshot of some of the ways I use essential oils throughout my day.
7:30 am: I add 3 drops of organic peppermint oil to 1 cup of water and use as a natural mouth wash.
9:00 am: At the office I usually have peppermint, or Spruce + Grapefruit in our office diffuser.
11:00 am: At the office I use our Still Mist or Balance roll on (secret tip Balance Roll On oil also makes an amazing nail oil. I often use it to moisturize my hands and nails while I travel and the aroma calms me down)
7:00 pm: When I get home I do a mix of Lavender + Eucalyptus + Geranium in my home diffuser which is in my living room.
8:00 pm: Workout — I use Wake Mist before my workout and after.
9:00 pm: Shower, I use 8 drops of Rosemary oil and rub it into my scalp after adding conditioner. Rosemary essential oils has been shown to support hair health and promote hair growth.
10:00 pm: Evening I do a face steam by pouring hot water into a bowl with 5 drops of Grapefruit and Bergamot, I place a towel over my head and my face over the steam for 2-3 minutes and it helps open the pores.
11:00 pm: Use 10 drops of lavender and 7 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil in the diffuser beside my bed.
People like to say never mix family with business - how is it working with your brother?
There is no doubt about it — Vitruvi wouldn’t exist without Sean. His energy and his ability to make things happen are inspiring. I also don't think we could have moved as fast and gotten to where we are right now without being brother and sister. We’ve always been very close and there is a natural trust and understanding of each other that allows us to move through decision making or bringing up tension points honestly. Creating a business is hard and we’ve been through a good amount of struggle — Having each others back and knowing that your cofounder is 100% as devoted to the adventure as you are is the reason we are where we are. It’s a grind, and you better like who you’re working with.
How do you guys balance each other out?
Sean and I have very complementary skill sets and being in a co-founder relationship we’ve found it most effective to let each other take the lead on certain parts of the business and to have one point person for certain tasks, conversations etc. We are both aligned in where we want to take the company and operate in a very grounded way that you can only do with a sibling.
Where is the best salad, cookie, and taco in Vancouver?
Best salad: Field & Social makes incredible salads. Also Virtuous Pie is my favourite Vegan pizza place in the world and their salads are insane good.
Best Cookie: The ‘Power Cookie’ at Wholefoods …. (I’ve eaten probably hundreds of these with my best friend as we do our seawall walks on the weekends)
Best taco: Tacofino. For sure.
What do you want your legacy to be?
It’s really simple. Our aim is to help women take care of themselves in simple and natural ways that are good for them and the environment. Our products are meant to elevate a woman’s day and our hope is that vitruvi products support her as she takes on the world. Even if just for 30 seconds, we want her to feel in control and that she has products and a company that care about her well-being. Whether that be using Eucalyptus in the shower in the morning to wake up, using a Focus Roll On at her desk while she is having an intense meeting or a Sleep Mist in the evening to ensure she gets enough sleep. We care immensely about women, and personally if I know that the products we create add some support, respite, empowerment, energy or relaxation to a woman’s life — Then I think that is a pretty profound legacy.
Our goals are full circle — We want to create this legacy while creating an outstanding company to be a part of. Vitruvi is a team and Sean and myself are dedicated to creating a world class company to work at. We are working to create a company that sets new standards in personal and professional development, supporting our teams to implement their own self care and wellness goals and to not take ourselves too seriously but our work incredibly seriously. We have a blast at our office and the people we get to work with everyday means the world to me. That’s really what it’s all about.