We sat down with Sajani Amarasiri of Kola Goodies to chat about finding nutrition somewhere other than salads, her Sri Lankan roots, the perks of being naughty and nice with your wellness routine, and what it's like launching a business during a pandemic.
She also shares with us some mind-blowing facts about the benefits of gotu kola, a super-powered adaptogen she's helping introduce to Western wellness rituals.
Thank you for your time Sajani! Can't believe you launched Kola Goodies just a few months ago- congrats on all the success. Now for the interview:
Tell us a little bit about how you first became interested in finding nutrition solutions somewhere other than just the usual salads.
I didn't grow up eating salads, so when I came to the US 10 years ago I had to completely get used to new eating habits.
I was a student living in dorms and with no kitchen I missed home food so much that my brother who lives 2 hours away in Ohio would drive up with some Sri Lankan curries on weekends whenever he could. I was also missing home and not just the food- this was my first time in America and only like the 3rd time I have ever flown!
I could never really fully get into the salads and craved different (more flavorful, more varied, more exciting) ways to get my veggies and greens.
When did you know you wanted to launch your own brand? How did you discover your niche?
I had the idea maybe like 3-4 years ago, and wrote it down in my one note where I keep a list of ideas. And I think it was a few things that brought it up:
- Being aware of the fact that I am not eating as many veggies I should be in day to day life, but every time my mum would visit me in Seattle I would be eating so much more just by having the Kola Kanda she makes (yes she even made it when she was visiting)
- The growing awareness and openness in the west to try out traditional, new and natural ingredients from the east, and these ingredients becoming much more common.
- And then finally making the decision to leave corporate and try connecting my roots to the west and try it out, that's what eventually brought Kola Goodies to life.
PS doubly impressive- this isn't Sajani's first business! She also runs a co-working space in Colombo, Sri Lanka called Colombo Cooperative.
What are some of the biggest lessons you learned when you were first starting out? Any advice for someone trying to strike out on a business venture of their own?
Don't discount the experience you have had so far even if it's not in the same industry/field, draw from your experience and value that experience, it's made you, you.
- Be patient with the learning curve, there's a lot to learn.
- Establish the values for yourself and your company early on, even when it's just an idea because this came in handy when we were faced with tough choices (like whether to launch a new biz during the pandemic)
- Do yourself a favor and start a Gantt chart with weekly schedules from ideation to go-to-market, especially when you are a Soloprenuer this will help keep that crazy busy mind a little more focused because you don't have to worry right now about something that doesn't need to happen for another 3 weeks.
What's the secret to making a really great Golden Glow Turmeric Latte or Kola Kanda?
Good ingredients, authentic knowledge of how they work together, and a good attitude. :)
What's it been like launching a business in the midst of the pandemic? Why do you feel it's especially important to make your products available to everyone right now more than ever?
It's been a good way to dedicate my focus in an effective way. We had planned for a late March/early April launch and because of COVID-19 our supply chains were being impacted and we didn't have all the planned products ready for launch.
We went ahead with what we had because times like these are when you have to refer to your values and make decisions on how you want to show up.
We started Kola Goodies with an intention to bring forward our culture to the modern-day and we had to show up in the way Sri Lanka always has, resilient through all the toughness it had endured. I also wrote a little about it on Medium here.
Tell us a little about the science behind some of the ingredients you use in the goodies. What does each one help with?
Here are some benefits of gotu kola which is harder to find on the internet. Gotu kola powder is the key ingredient in our GO-TU Power Move and in our savory Super Green Latte.
Gotu kola is also referred to as the “herb of longevity” in Ayurveda and has been in use for thousands of years. Here are some key benefits*.
Brain power: Gotu kola is a rejuvenative nervine, it is often recommended for balancing the nervous system. Studies show that Gotu kola promotes cerebral circulation, which helps with focus, concentration, and memory.
Beauty power (internal + external): Gotu kola also helps protects our existing collagen and helps create the building blocks for new collagen.
Gut power: Gotu kola is known to have potent antioxidant effects, neutralizing many of the free radicals that cause cell damage at the molecular level. It has been theorized that these properties may provide protection against stomach ulcers and certain cancers.
Plus Centella Asiatica (often just called Centella) is rich in amino acids, beta carotene, fatty acids, and numerous potent phytochemicals. Extracts have been found to calm inflammation, speed wound healing, stimulate new cell growth, build collagen, and improve circulation.
And here's a quick guide on Ashwaganda, which is the adaptogen featured in
* Here at Confidants, any information on adaptogens, herbs, or other wellness products are not intended or approved as medical advice. As always, consult with your medical professional if you have questions about consuming or using in your wellness routines.
Is there something small you try to do every day to stay healthy? Any recommendations for workouts, stretches, wellness strategies to incorporate into our lives?
Don't take wellness too seriously, don't let it become another source of stress.
Just focus on doing what's good for you and balance it out. I love being naughty and nice; I love a great pasta, but I also make sure to have a Super Green Latte start to my day and drink about 2-3L of water a day.
I indulge in things that make me happy, and then do at least a 20 min workout (Peleton app is free right now for 3 months! and you don't need to have a bike for it!) or go for a long walk in the neighborhood. That's wellness to me.
What's the smallest thing you've done that's had the biggest impact on your life?
Going to Canada to spend college Christmas holidays and then meeting my husband on that trip.
What's something (book, podcast, tv show) that you've been really into lately? Any recommendations for us to check out?
Podcast: The Happiness Lab
Series: A New Earth with Oprah (10 episode series with Eckhart Tolle),
Show: Never Have I Ever on Netflix (a great lighthearted comedy/teen show on first-gen American life),
Book: Factfulness book by Hans Rosling (data-oriented perspective to stay objective through times like this)
Online Class: Masterclass - so far I've done Anna Wintour, Kelly Wearstler, and Jeff Goodby & Rich Silverstein