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Valarie Sakota of Barbari: Why It’s So Important To Take Small Steps Forward

Take small steps forward: People often get overwhelmed by the big goals, which can paralyze people into stagnancy. When we started our business, we took it one step at a time and focused on whatever we could manage to do ourselves. It can feel like you’re not doing enough, but after a few months or a year, you look back and realize that you’ve done a lot!

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Valarie Sakota.

Valarie Sakota is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Barbari, responsible for brand strategy and product development. Valarie brings 8 years of brand development and campaign strategy across national and international campaigns for brands including Adidas, Barre3, Puma, Google, as well as Emmy nominated work with Netflix. This experience can be seen within the very DNA of Barbari’s premium brand, which has earned the company recognition in Popsugar, Forbes, Condé Nast Traveler, and more.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Born and raised an Oregonian, I received a BFA from the University of Oregon before starting my advertising space career. During my college years, I started experimenting with smokable herbs to mix with my weed as an alternative to tobacco and realized that I desired herbal spliffs because they helped me lessen the amount of THC I was consuming. Plus, I could get creative with the flavor pairings and enjoyed crafting my blends. Fast forward to 2016, when cannabis became recreationally legal in Oregon, I was experiencing burnout in my career and revisited the herbal smoking blends of my past and started to conceptualize a way to get that into the THC market in my state.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?


Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Diving in headfirst. When I started my career, I was young and eager to roll up my sleeves and create. That put me in a position where I was willing to work very hard for small opportunities. I ended up giving too much of myself away, which led to burnout and impacted my self-esteem. It took me a long time to learn the value of my time, ideas, and creativity.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My Co-Founder (and longtime friend), Meryl Montgomery, recognized some sliver of potential in my vision for Barbari and joined forces with me, bringing all of her tireless energy and bravery. She helped us to establish benchmarks and organized our processes in the early days of the company. Still, most importantly, she helped me understand that our trajectory was much bigger than I had ever considered possible. She is the passionate, persistent, and innovative wind beneath my wings (LOL).

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

Our goal (and I hope the actual effect) is to build a brand and create products to encourage customers to find their perfect balance. Every single person has different needs, desires, and tolerance levels. Still, we are often sold products in a one-size-fits-all manner, which strips us of our ability to get to know our own personhood’s nuances. We create low-dose, effect-based hemp, and cannabis products so that our customers can create their desired outcome, whether that is a relaxed buzz or a playful high, at their own pace.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

  1. Lean into your mistakes: Take them as learning opportunities and not failures.
  2. Take small steps forward: People often get overwhelmed by the big goals, which can paralyze people into stagnancy. When we started our business, we took it one step at a time and focused on whatever we could manage to do ourselves. It can feel like you’re not doing enough, but after a few months or a year, you look back and realize that you’ve done a lot!
  3. Build-in work/life balance: It can be so easy to work long days or work through the weekend etc. that the rest of your life and relationships accidentally become a second priority. Honor your leisure time as much as you honor your work responsibilities, give yourself time to recoup both mentally and physically. It’s so essential for your health, mentality, and your productivity.
  4. Let yourself get bored: When you don’t have a list of responsibilities distracting you, you create space for reflection or weird, creative, and innovative thoughts.
  5. Get plenty of sleep: If you can get away with it, lean into your circadian rhythm. Wake up when you’re ready to wake up and if you just need to sleep in a little more, hit that snooze button.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Shorter workdays. I know I’m becoming a broken record, but I believe in moderating the amount of work we do daily.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

Not to be contrarian, but I received a lot of advice about building a business. It can often be misleading or distracting to listen to another person’s perspective on what leads to success. The fact is, every business has its unique challenges, and it’s important as a business owner to understand those in and out. Where one company might see positive results, another might run into pitfalls. That is to say, I think starting your own business inevitably requires constant problem solving and flexibility. There are many paths to the right answer, and as long as you are comfortable in that journey, you’ll be able to find (and define) your success. Maybe the one thing I wish someone told me before I started is “take all advice with a grain of salt.”

Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Sustainability. In a way, it encompasses all of the above. As the founder of a CPG company, I’m reminded daily of how much waste a single company can produce. Then layer in the number of resources and energy that makes raw ingredients, turn those into products, and shipping them to the consumer is a massive web of consumption. One of the benefits of being a small startup is that we can begin building sustainable systems into our company’s foundation and build upon them as we scale. Unfortunately, sustainability can be a costly endeavor, especially for small businesses, so my next mission is to figure out how to make sustainable solutions more economical.

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

Thank you for these fantastic insights!



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