How I Thrive: “A routine that helps me thrive is daily exercise for my mind”, with Donie Yamamoto of Vital Pet Life

An Interview With Ming Zhao

Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine


Another routine that helps me thrive is daily exercises for my mind. I work with a coach who helps me visualize the goals and future I want to manifest. At the same time, we work on eliminating any barriers or fears that may impede that process. I find these routines help me find my flow during my work day and when I do my productivity and satisfaction are so much higher.

At times it feels like wellness or elevating one’s wellbeing, is diametrically opposed to high achievement and high performance in one’s career. The stress, mental energy, long hours, lack of restful sleep, a preoccupation that result from a high-achievement life seem to directly inhibit wellness. And yet, in order to sustain the creativity, flexibility, mental acuity and resilience that are necessary for high performance, wellness and wellbeing of the mind, body, and soul are also mandatory. So how do we achieve both? This is the question I’m hoping to answer through conversations with high-achieving women who have gleaned and are practicing their own philosophies on maintaining their wellbeing.

As a part of this series about what successful women leaders do to thrive, both personally and professionally, I had the pleasure of interviewing Donie Yamamoto. Donie started Vital Pet Life when she couldn’t find a soothing, all-natural product to relieve her dog Tuxedo’s dry, itchy, coarse coat and skin. After trying other products from big-name companies and not being able to pronounce half the ingredients, she began researching her own clean, sustainably sourced, toxin-free solutions. She is a 2019 Tory Burch Foundation Fellow, her first product Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil has earned the coveted “Amazon’s Choice Badge” and she is creating authentic relationships with non-profit organizations that share a common mission of animal welfare, outreach and compassion.

Thank you so much for joining us, Donie! Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

My journey as an entrepreneur has always been interesting and often taken unexpected turns. Being a woman entrepreneur in the Philippines was difficult. I started with very little capital and family support. In our culture, it was not acceptable for young women to become entrepreneurs at a young age. I had to defy a patriarchal society at that time to pursue my dream as an entrepreneur. I opened my own clothing store in the lobby of a local hotel and never looked back. Not only did I have to learn to communicate with my customers and employees, while managing my business, but I had to also overcome the challenges of being a female business owner.

In 2009, I met my husband Kyle, and in 2011, we decided to move to the US. I had to make the difficult decision to close my business and leave my five dogs behind with my parents.

The new set of challenges that faced me in the U.S. culturally and geographically, tested me emotionally and psychologically. From being financially independent and having self-fulfillment owning a business to being a nobody. I fell into a depression, lost my drive and forgot who I was and what my dreams were until fate brought me to Tuxedo; a handsome, personality-filled terrier mix. An acquaintance asked Kyle and me to dog-sit Tuxedo for a week. As his owner began traveling more, we began taking Tux on weekends, then a whole week, to now 4 years later — officially owning him!

Tux was having dry, itchy skin and fur issues, which I thought was part of being a wire-haired terrier with very coarse hair. After trying products from big-name companies and not being able to pronounce half the ingredients in these products, I began researching our own clean, sustainably sourced, toxin-free solution. I began adding a specific Wild Alaskan salmon oil to his diet. Miraculously, his fur got very soft, and all his dry, itchy skin problems resolved. I began giving it to family and friends to see if it helped other pets.

Healing Tux enabled me to crawl out from my dark place and re-emerge back into the world, feeling fulfilled and useful. Tux helped me heal myself and rekindle my love and concern for the welfare of animals. Growing up in the Philippines, I always saw stray animals, referred to as “street dogs”, roaming my community. I couldn’t understand why no one adopted or rescued these dogs. Healing Tuxedo, as well as the injustice I felt for the stray animals overseas, planted the seed that grew into my passion to heal animals and give back to rescue animal shelters. My husband and I started Vital Pet Life in our living room with no real plan. Three years later, we’re preparing to launch our third product, I’m a Tory Burch 2019 Foundation Fellow and our original product, the Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil has earned the coveted “Amazon’s Choice” badge.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?

I opened my first business, a clothing store, on August 8, 2006, which is in the monsoon season in the Philippines. Because of the wild rainy weather and other maintenance issues, the hotel pool was closed. Ironically, I’m selling swimwear in the lobby of a hotel with no working pool. Undaunted, I would tell every potential customer that came in to buy my swimwear and go to a nearby pool at the Marriott Hotel, right around the corner from the hotel where my store was located. I was thinking out of the box and determined to flip a negative situation into a positive one.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture and work life?

There are so many factors involved in creating a fantastic work culture and work-life. Personally, creating and building a supportive community of like-minded women, peers and entrepreneurs changed my life. Starting and running a business from home can feel lonely at times. Of course, my husband and my dog Tuxedo are with me, but as I build my Vital Pet Life business, I longed to be part of a community of other entrepreneurial women, with whom I can collaborate, brainstorm and share my dreams.

Being a 2019 Tory Burch Foundation Fellow was a long-time dream of mine, both because I admire Tory Burch’s business acumen as well as her mission of giving back and empowering entrepreneurial women. Her 2019 Fellow’s program brought together 50 dynamic women, all striving to grow and develop their businesses. Knowing that the Fellowship program also awarded grant money to further each Fellow’s business education, motivated me to apply.

I’m a believer in lifelong learning and have always wanted to attend the Women’s Executive Leadership Program at UC Berkeley; the program is unique in that it is designed by women for women. It addresses specific strengths and challenges facing women entrepreneurs in today’s complex corporate world. The program incorporates high-ranking women speakers from top Silicon Valley companies. I knew this four-day program would give me a sense of ownership over my leadership potential as well as embracing the different female forms of power and leadership. I also added to my community of fellow women entrepreneurs with whom I now count as friends which continues to enhance my work culture and life.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule.

Can you share with our readers two self-care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

I try to practice pilates as much as I can. I try to go five times a week to a local neighborhood studio. It helps me focus on my body, get out of my head and into the zone where I can focus on my body. It’s the Lagree method of pilates, which is a high-intensity, low-impact workout that stimulates core strength, cardiovascular endurance, balance, and flexibility.

I’m fortunate to live in a neighborhood close to a nearby park, where Tuxedo, Kyle and I can hike. We clear our minds, talk and enjoy being in nature. I find that nature is a great equalizer and cleanser of the mind. Nature helps us decompress from the stress of our day.

Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

I love going to my neighborhood Pilates studio for a class at the end of my day. No phones or screens. It’s my happy place. I focus on my body for 45 minutes, visit with my friends and leave feeling centered, calm and present.

Another routine that helps me thrive is daily exercises for my mind. I work with a coach who helps me visualize the goals and future I want to manifest. At the same time, we work on eliminating any barriers or fears that may impede that process. I find these routines help me find my flow during my work day and when I do my productivity and satisfaction are so much higher.

Finally, can you share with us two routines that you use to help your heart, your emotional or spiritual life to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

Reading books helps my heart, emotions as well as my spiritual life to thrive. Being an avid reader enables me to get outside of my world and take a step into another’s life; whether it’s reading about another entrepreneur’s journey or an introspective spiritual read.

Interacting with animal rescues keeps me humble and fills me with gratitude. I feel fortunate to meet these unsung heroes who dedicate their lives to finding homes for these sweet homeless animals. Every week I either am wrapping and sending or delivering products to donate to local shelters or planning to attend an event at a rescue, with whom we’re working.

When life is very busy, and you cannot stick with your ideal routine, are there any wellness practices, rituals, products or services for your mind, body, or soul that you absolutely cannot live without?

I have a meditation practice that I do every day. It has increasingly helped me feel grounded and balanced. In the 21 minutes it takes, it guides me through The Six Phase Meditation; talking about compassion & love, gratitude, forgiveness, future vision, planning your day and finally the blessing.

Sleep is very important to my wellness and rejuvenation. If I need to solve a problem or focus on an idea. Some people walk or reach out to a colleague to process, but sometimes I sleep. A short nap helps reset my brain.

All of us have great days and days that are not as great. On days when you feel like a rockstar, what do you do? What does that day look like, and what did you do to get there?

On the days that I feel like a rockstar, I find that I’m in a flow, in a productive and positive rhythm. When I’m fortunate enough to be in this flow, I can work for hours.

In contrast, on days when you feel down, what do you do?

When I lived overseas, I used to dress up. It felt like putting on armor to change my energy, vibration, and mood. I find that here in the US because I work at home, I have other strategies. Often I’ll go for a walk to break a mood or find my flow. I might also take a short nap, which also helps to clear my mind.

Do you have a story about the weirdest, most bizarre or most humorous wellness experience, treatment, practice, or practitioner that you’ve ever partaken in? If you do, we’d love to hear it.

Recently, I traveled to Morocco and found myself in a traditional hammam spa in Casablanca. No one spoke English but I communicated with my masseuse with my eyes. Traditionally in these spas, you share the room with other local women. I kept checking in with my masseuse and communicating with her with my eyes and in English, despite the fact she couldn’t speak English. I was asking her how her day was going? None of the local women ever speak to her and she found it funny that I kept talking to her. She answered me, translating through my friend while laughing that she was tired of scrubbing and massaging women all day. After my massage, the masseuse only invited me to join her for tea. My friend, who has been going to this local spa for ages, had never been invited for tea. So funny.

You’re a high achieving business leader, and you also have family and loved ones that may require a different side of you at home. How do you leave the executive at the door, and be the most loving caretaker at home?

I’m fortunate to work with my family; my husband Kyle and our dog Tuxedo. When we need a break, we might go on a hike or a walk in the neighborhood. I always try to cook lunch or dinner for us as a way to nurture my family.

Is there a particular practitioner, expert, book, podcast or resource that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?

Every entrepreneur should read “Body and Soul” by Anita Roddick. I read this book a long time ago, and the principles and vision of Anita’s have stayed and helped me to have the courage and to dream. She writes about bringing your passion, values, and honesty to your business. She built her business on sustainability and transparency, years before these terms became common business buzzwords. Even if the book was written in the 1990s, everything she wrote then guides and inspires me today in running my business.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Our goal at Vital Pet Life is to create a compassionate and socially aware business that makes a positive impact within our community both donating products and volunteering at local shelters.

What differentiates Vital Pet Life from big box Pet Wellness companies is that we create authentic relationships with non-profit organizations that share a common mission of animal welfare, outreach and compassion.

My goal is to continue building relationships with rescues in my community. I work closely with local rescue organizations Wags & Walk, Dogs Without Borders and Sweet Paws Rescue, who recently saved 30 Golden Retrievers in Massachusetts. Each dog left their facility with donated food and a bottle of our salmon oil.

Wags & Walks in Los Angeles educates young children and their families with their bi-monthly Wags Kids events; specifically, the popular Paws & Pajamas Program where children ages 6–12 and a parent bring their favorite books and read to the shelter dogs. They also have a Wags Kids Winter Camp filled with holiday crafts, one on one time with adoptable pups and the chance to ask questions to qualified trainers and vets, who are on hand.

I know the powerful effects first-hand of bringing a pet home. Every day I’m grateful for the positive impact my dog Tuxedo has on my world; creating a loving family with my husband Kyle and me.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

I love Terrence Mckenna’s quote “Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.” This quote sums up my life. I always try to be courageous in living my life, dreaming the impossible and just committing.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Instagram @vitalpetlife, @donieyamamoto

Thank you so much for these great insights!



Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine

Co-founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare. Ming is an entrepreneur, business strategist, investor and podcast host.