Tell us about how the idea for Sakara was born.
This story deserves its own book, so we'll give you the short version to spare you the chapters... Danielle and I grew up in Sedona, Arizona, which is this mecca of crystals, vortexes, and mind/body/food medicine. Everyone around us was a shaman or a healer, we knew people that “ate sunshine” and our moms used to give us chlorella tablets as kids. It was a magical way to grow up because there weren’t limits on how to live— anything felt possible. We both moved to New York City for different reasons— Danielle was studying pre-med and biochemistry, and putting her way through school by modeling and acting, while I was working on Wall Street. While sharing a tiny apartment in Soho, we were both hitting our rock bottoms: Danielle had hit her limit of yo-yo dieting and debilitating body image issues and had gotten severe pneumonia from a 21-day retreat that included a 7-day water fast. I, on the other hand, was dealing with incredibly long hours at work, that included scarfing down meals in between meetings and drinking to excess as a means to “network with the boys.” This all had my chronic cystic acne more inflamed than ever, which had me desperate for a solution. We dove into the research to figure out how to heal ourselves and Danielle decided to study nutrition. We made it our mission to figure out what it would mean to eat in the healthiest way possible, no extremes but it had to work and it had to taste good (Danielle never wanted to diet again!). We spent years studying, researching and talking to everyone we could find — shamans, integrative doctors, gastroenterologists, acupuncturists, MDs— we found the common threads of ancient nutrition modalities like Macrobiotics and Ayurveda and cutting edge nutrition science to create what ended up as Sakara’s 9 Pillars of Nutrition. After a few weeks of eating this way, our lives were changed. It sounds dramatic but it's true. We felt incredible physically, but with that came an emotional and mental shift that I don’t think we could have anticipated. We knew this transformation couldn’t just be kept to ourselves and so we decided to start cooking these meals and delivering them to friends. Now we are a nationwide company and deliver to all 48 continental states - it's incredible, wild and we know we're only at the beginning.
Where did your love for plant-rich food come from? Was there a defining moment that shifted your way of thinking?
The research is what convinced us - the scientific research and experiencing our individual transformations. We know eating this way works.
Has health and beauty always been interconnected in your mind?
Beauty on the surface— having strong nails, luscious hair, glowing, even skin, good teeth— all of this can be obtained through food. Our bodies need the building blocks— amino acids, vitamins, phytonutrients, minerals— that nourished us and allow our natural beauty to shine. Feeling beautiful, confident, radiant, this comes from within and people pick up on it when we embody this effervescence. For us, when we are feeling energetic and healthy and balanced, that’s when we exhibit the most divine outward beauty. Inside-out beauty absolutely comes from health.
What’s your go-to meal when you’re looking for a beauty boost? Are they any foods you associate with feeling extra sexy?
Every Sakara meal is a “beauty boost”— chockful of detoxifying fiber, sulfur, greens, healthy fats, phytonutrients, minerals, amino acids, vitamins — all of these building blocks are amazing for skin, debloat, hair, muscle tone, and beyond. In these cold winter months, we’ve been reaching for our Beauty Chocolates to feel extra sexy, as our skin loves us for it. The plant-based collagen helps to retain the water barrier in our skin cells so that we stay looking fresh, plump and dewy no matter the forecast. Fiber and sulfurous veggies are sexy— sulfur is the beauty mineral that helps to detoxify the body by helping to produce glutathione— one of the most potent antioxidants. It also cleanses the blood, and aids in phase II of the liver detox. You can find sulfur in cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, alliums like leeks, garlic, and bok choy. We also make sure to eat our water— organic, water-rich plants help to hydrate the cells and leave our skin nice and plump and glowing.
How did you spend your time before Sakara was born?
Danielle: I studied biochemistry and nutrition (I'm a science geek), and Whitney was working on Wall Street. Through our own journeys of “rock bottom”. We like to say we turned our mess into our mission. We're grateful for those hard times because they're what compelled us to find this path. Everything that happened brought us here!
What’s been your biggest learning in the last few years since you started up your business?
When you're on a mission to helps others, you'll find a way to make it work. It's bigger than you. It's not about your success, it's about the success of those you're on a mission to help.
Did Sakara evolve the way you envisioned it or has it taken on a life of its own?
Sakara has always known what it wanted to be, no matter what we had in mind. We are just the lucky channels that she chose to manifest through. All along the way, we have had our own intentions, but the mission of transforming lives through food as medicine. Even at the start, we originally wanted to name the company Sakara — but through dealing with the registrar’s office, we ended up adding Life to the name, creating Sakara Life— this universe of Sakara knew better than us, and a lifestyle brand was born. It was never only about food, but transformation, healing holistically and taking flight. Living with pleasure. A life that starts with putting the highest quality nutrition into your body so that you are set up to be the best you can, in order to manifest your own personal dreams. To live the meaning of the Sanskrit word, Sakara, and turn thoughts into things.
What are you most proud of?
The results. We started Sakara because we wanted others to experience a similar life-changing transformation through food and nourishment the way we had. Just last year we delivered over 1 million meals and received thousands of testimonials from clients sharing how eating this way has helped them with everything from clearing their chronic cystic acne at age 35, to losing 40 pounds and feeling fabulous for their wedding, to getting back to feeling like themselves again or even getting pregnant after years of trying. These types of testimonials are what keeps us going every day. We know eating the Sakara nutrition protocol is powerful and we are so proud that others get to bask in their own glow.
How does working as close friends influence your business?
Knowing each other as long as we have (since 7th grade in Sedona, Arizona!), and sharing experiences like moving to New York City together and even being on the same high school volleyball team, we’ve developed this innate and unbreakable trust. It has helped us to be at two places at once, because we know the other will make good judgments. We have a thousand decisions to make everyday running an operation as large as Sakara, and it’s been a beautiful thing to grow together and watch each other flex creative and strategic muscles when necessary. It’s helped infuse a sense of love and family in the workplace and into the product and service itself.
Any words of the wise you could pass along to those diving into business with a loved one?
Start and end with love. Hold space for each other that is outside of work where business isn’t the topic of conversation (can be incredibly difficult when the business feels like your life) but compartmentalizing is so important. Celebrate each other outside of work.
Where does your menu inspiration stem from?
We are lucky enough to work with some of the most talented chefs like Matthew Kenney and Mike Bagale to Michelin star chefs and our team led by women who have incredible backgrounds — their inspiration is stoked by different restaurants around the world and in the city and different healing modalities around the world.
What is it you’ve noticed most “Sakaralites” are looking to achieve?
We’ve always said that Sakara attracts the seekers — people looking for something greater to unleash within themselves, the next level of their potential. The philosophy of food as medicine helps people to sift through all the clutter and find “body intelligence” or our innate body intuition. When we can really listen to what our body needs, that’s when we’re able to go after our deepest desires without inhibition. Feeling confident and radiant is a mindset, and I think that ultimately, that’s what people crave is to find their best body. Sometimes people want to lose weight to feel that confidence while others want clearer skin and more energy. They know they can find that with Sakara.
What are your top five CAP Beauty favorites?