In the most age-appropriate way for your kids, explain what climate change means while ensuring they understand they have the power to help keep Earth healthy. With so many robust resources and sites to give parents ideas and strategies for fun activities, it’s never too late to fight climate change. I have a friend who taped on her fridge a handmade glossary with drawings from her kids of the key terms; Climate, Global Warming, Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Footprint and Fossil Fuels, as a thoughtful reminder every time someone grabs a snack.
As part of my series about companies who are helping to battle climate change, I had the pleasure of interviewing Donie Yamamoto.
Vital Pet Life is a certified WBENC women-owned business, based in California featuring a curated line of clean and sustainable pet wellness products. Donie founded Vital Pet Life in 2017, after moving to the US from the Philippines six years earlier and in 2019 was named a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow for outstanding entrepreneurship. Her mission is to build an environmentally conscious brand who works to heal and support local animal shelters and rescues.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Although I’ve always been entrepreneurial, my current career path was purely accidental. My husband and I noticed our dog Tuxedo was having dry, itchy skin and fur issues, which we attributed to him 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, I began researching my own solutions, starting with adding a specific Wild Alaskan salmon oil to his diet. Miraculously, his fur became very soft, and all his dry, itchy skin problems resolved. Vital Pet Life was born. Healing our dog Tuxedo planted the seed that grew into our passion to heal animals, give back and work directly with local animal rescue shelters.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
Our small yet mighty family-run business is disrupting the big box pet industry by creating clean and eco-conscious pet products for our passionate customer community. Our guiding mission is to create a positive impact in our community, leading by example. I’m proud to be a certified WBENC woman-owned business. As the nation’s leading certifier of women-owned businesses and a leading advocate for women business owners and entrepreneurs, the WBENC believes “diversity promotes innovation, opens doors, and creates partnerships that fuel the economy.”
I strive to make thoughtful decisions with our products, our community and our planet. When we began sourcing our first product Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil, we wanted to make sure we weren’t depleting the ocean’s salmon supplies. As a conscientious pet wellness company, our first responsibility is to design our products responsibly, with as light a footprint on the planet as possible.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
I’m so proud that our hero product Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil is now Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified 100% sustainable. The renowned MSC blue fish label is only applied to wild fish from fisheries that have been certified to the MSC Fisheries Standard, a science-based set of requirements for sustainable fishing. Our bottling facility is also MSC certified, for a full circle of sustainability. It’s a gamechanger and win-win for our brand and the conscious consumer. They don’t have to compromise or choose between what’s right for them, their pets or our planet.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
I’ve always been sustainably-minded in my personal life and when I started Vital Pet Life, my goal was to be a responsible citizen of the planet with our products as well. I think people assume that sustainable products cost more to make, are less profitable or have a slower market growth. In 2020, we’ve seen steady growth even as COVID continued into Summer. Coincidentally, we saw a webinar from Randi Kronthal-Sacco, with the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, confirming that “Sustainably marketed products have really been driving growth…They haven’t been affected by COVID, in fact they’ve actually grown and they should continue to increase…This shows that businesses can do well and do good.” The NYU researchers found that brands who prioritize sustainability not only have profitability but have higher customer loyalty. I absolutely agree and our passionate customer community is living proof of this loyalty.
The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
1. In the most age-appropriate way for your kids, explain what climate change means while ensuring they understand they have the power to help keep Earth healthy. With so many robust resources and sites to give parents ideas and strategies for fun activities, it’s never too late to fight climate change. I have a friend who taped on her fridge a handmade glossary with drawings from her kids of the key terms; Climate, Global Warming, Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Footprint and Fossil Fuels, as a thoughtful reminder every time someone grabs a snack.
2. If you don’t already, start a weekly family visit to your local farmer’s market. Possibly a Meatless Monday dinner plan, explaining to your kids that methane from farm animals accounts for a large percentage of the world’s heat-trapping gas emissions and therefore an all veggie meal might help.
3. Challenge your kids to use alternatives to traveling by car; jump on a local bus (post-covid-19), walk, or ride bikes when possible. Fun fact is that biking or walking 10 miles each day instead of riding in a car can save up to 1.9 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere every year.
4. Talk about plastic. Plastic’s impact on the planet is immense. Ask your kids to make a list of ways they can reduce their use; make paper straws so as not to use plastic ones that harm sea life and other animals. Organize a neighborhood or beach trash cleanup and always opt for a cone when getting your favorite scoop of ice cream. No plastic spoons or cups to throw out. A couple not-so-fun facts are that single use plastic items account for 40% of all plastic waste and 88 million tons of plastic trash flows into the ocean every year.
5. Start having dinner conversations about how to get others on board to help save our planet and oceans. Write a letter to the editor in your local or school paper about climate change. Reach out to your local mayor, Senate or House representative to ask for help to create new laws to regulate and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Empower your youth to know that change begins with their engagement.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Join a community of fellow entrepreneurs with whom you can collaborate, brainstorm, and share your dreams. Creating and building a community of like-minded women has changed my life.
2. Be patient with whatever life brings at the moment. This is a daily lesson I’ve been learning during Covid-19, both personally and as the owner of an Essential business.
3. Take advantage of all the different types of lifelong learning, whether it’s experiential or more formal. I foster my love of learning in building leadership potential, strategies for increased sustainability, researching new products, their ingredients, as well as methods of formulation.
4. Giving back as well as paying it forward is an important element in maintaining a fulfilled and healthy work environment. My husband and I are true animal lovers and are actively involved in working with and giving back to rescue shelters in our neighborhood and throughout the US. Growing up in the Philippines, I saw too many stray dogs ignored. I dreamt of creating a compassionate and socially aware brand making a positive impact in my community.
5. Slow down; breathe, take a hike, and meditate in order to be more productive. This might sound counterintuitive, but as an entrepreneur, I’m always focused on my business and the never-ending to-do list. If I don’t give myself these quiet moments, I’ll feel overwhelmed and burn out.
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?
I’m so grateful for my husband Kyle, who is an integral support both personally and professionally. Together, we’re a team and the nucleus of Vital Pet Life. Kyle is responsible for our technology and infrastructure and is always strategizing and gleaning new ways to improve our business, both with structured classes or from friends and colleagues in the tech and business world. Because our roles are complementary; we’re interconnected without overlapping. We built Vital Pet Life together and without his support and love, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
A potential silver lining I’ve experienced during the isolation of Covid-19 is an opportunity to simplify my life. Being more resourceful with less and getting back to basics has brought comfort to me as I’m home with Kyle and Tuxedo. Surrendering to what is happening around me, being thoughtful and grateful for the simple things.
Do you have a favorite life lesson motto? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
I have two favorite life lesson quotes; Never Give Up and This Too Shall Pass, both messages of compassion, perseverance, and hope in the face of challenge.
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!