At BHAV, we believe in empowering women to find unique ways to embrace their cultural heritage. We started 'The Culture Connection' to explore the impact (both good and bad) of heritage on a variety of incredible women, and understand how it continues to play an influential role in their lives. We invite you to join us on this journey, with the hope that you find value in these conversations.
Sajani (@drsajanibarot) is the founder of the The Skin Consult (@theskinconsult) and a Pharmacist. Besides juggling these two demanding careers, Sajani has an interest in trying out new fitness activities and routines. She also enjoys cooking new recipes with a healthy twist and loves reading self development books and articles. Read on as she explains how her vast background in science and business has allowed her to create her own skin care consultant business.
On Her South Asian Heritage:
What's your background?
I am Indian, of Gujrati origin from the western part of India. I was born in Baroda, Gujarat and migrated to suburbs of Chicago at the age of 15 with my parents and older sister. Since, then i have called Chicago my new home until I moved to Jackson, MS in 2012.
How has, or currently does your heritage play a role in your life?
My Indian heritage has always been part of who I was and how I approached life. My dual citizenship in both India and US uniquely set me up to embrace who I was and my background. I never truly thought of myself as being different because of the community I was around. Growing up in Chicago, I was also very actively involved in my local BAPS mandir (temple) where I made friends with similar backgrounds as me. We were taught to be proud of our culture and how to let others become part of it.
However, It wasn't until I moved to Mississippi where I started becoming more aware of a cultural difference as I am in a less diverse environment now. In India, Chicago and also in college in Iowa, I was surrounded by people like me and never thought of myself as being different. But, now as I travel and meet more people from across all walks of life for my professional career, I feel immense pride in being an Indian because of the progress and achievement our community has made in this country in the last 20 years specifically in the field of health, technology, entrepreneurship and now even areas such as politics.
You have lived in a big city, Chicago, which for the most part offers a lot of diversity in terms of population. You now live in Mississippi which is probably much different in terms of the demographics than Chicago. How are each of these locations different for you and did you assimilate in a particular place more over the other? Did you find challenges in assimilating to the South? If so, how did you handle those challenges?
This is a very frequent question I get from everyone!
When I moved in 2012, I didn't know what to expect to be honest. I wasn't too well versed on the differences between the northern and southern cultures in the US, probably because I didn't grow up in US. At first I really enjoyed the difference in pace and the southern hospitality which is very real. My personality is very fast paced and I tend to speak fast, get to the point first and not do too many pleasantries. This was certainly a challenge for me when I first moved here. Before kids, I was constantly traveling for my pharmaceutical job so coming back home to MS was a good change of pace. Now since having kids, its given me more time to be here and actually get to know the community better. Its been very pleasant seeing how supportive people are for your business. Its also a great place to raise a family because of the emphasis the society here plays on your values, be it spiritual or family.
You are not only a Pharmacist but also now a entrepreneur/business woman! How has each of these careers shaped you as a person? What challenges if any, has that brought and how have you handled them?
I am really glad I spent the first decade of my career in the corporate pharmaceutical world where I got to develop my skills around communication, project management and deeply understand the inner workings of the drug development and clinical trials environment. In 2015, my husband and I also founded our independent pharmacy, Healthplus pharmacy and wellness which also was a good springboard of experience with launching a lifestyle business.
As such, my network is so diverse now because of that experience with pharmacists, physicians, scientists, marketers and now with my new business my network is growing leaps and bounds with leaders from the tech and beauty industry. Both continue to evolve me into a more insightful leader that can work with diverse teams and pull people from various backgrounds to join me on my vision of The Skin Consult, my latest and first start up venture.
Being a mother of two and juggling two careers (Pharmacy and your own business) must keep life extra busy! What advice do you have for busy moms who are looking to start their own business? What challenges did you come across in balancing motherhood but also pursuing your dream of creating 'The Skin Consult' and how did you overcome that?
I spent almost a year going back and forth on starting a business around evidence based personalized skincare. I was so certain that this was a problem that customers needed help with but I was too hesitant to take a leap of faith in myself. I kept looking for external validation to move forward . When I was pregnant with my 2nd child, I told myself that it was now or never. I have spent my entire career working really hard for someone else, why not do the same for my own business and build a company?
I had a very unique experience of starting my business in middle of Covid . We all know 2020 was not an easy year for any parent. I definitely faced many challenges myself to the point of affecting my mental and physical wellness. As a mother, we don't have the luxury of time anymore so every minute had to be used very wisely. Leading up to launch, I was very laser focused on the business in 2020 and just stopped doing anything fun. That meant often I was sacrificing my personal time in the first few months of launching the business. Now 5 months into it, I actually have a much better understanding of how far I can stretch myself before burning out and how to put separate personal time with kids from the never ending list of things to do for the business.
*TIP* If you are still thinking about starting a business day and night, then its a sign you need to go for it. That passion and drive will not come back again if you put it on the back burner waiting for your kids to get old. Ultimately, without the passion, pursuing a start up business is incredibly hard.
You started your own company called 'The Skin Consult'. Tell us more about how your platform works and what has inspired you to venture into the beauty/skin care industry? Being a South Asian woman, what do you feel you can most contribute to the industry? For example, are there any certain products or recipes that have been used in South Asian culture or ones that you have personally experimented with that have worked really well for you?
The Skin Consult is the first marketplace for skincare professionals to offer personalized skincare consultations, enabled by AI. I was very passionate about building a solution to make expert skincare more accessible and affordable. For years I struggled with skin and spent a lot of money at Sephora buying products that are marketed really well but don't show visible results. My time on Instagram blogging about skincare ingredients and routines also made me realize many women are in the same boat. Finding skincare professionals who know skincare products, ingredients is not very easy to find.
My second passion is digital health. I decided to use my passion for skincare, experience in pharmaceutical products and the growth of tele-health as the perfect tri-fecta for starting The Skin Consult. In addition, the aesthetic industry was hit hard in 2020, and I find immense satisfaction in knowing that while we help customers, we are also helping these skincare professionals make extra income by allowing them to use our platform for offering their services.
All our products are carefully vetted through a 4 step process with focus on ingredients. As such, the algorithm recommends evidence based skincare recommendations to build a custom regimen for each customer during their online video consultation. South Asian women especially struggle with hyper-pigmentation and dull skin. Our platform is helping many of these women and men find the right regimen and active based products that target their specific skin goals. I am excited to be bringing more options including custom prescriptions to our community in the near future as well.
What do you love most about South Asian fashion? Any favorite pieces/outfits growing up?
I love the fluidity of our South Asian traditional outfits and the ability to mix/match different pieces to create very unique ensembles. Growing up, I remember loving this Lucknowi salwar kameez. It was so soft and well tailored.
What's your favorite thing in your closet right now, or the piece that gives you the most confidence?
Dhoti outfits have been my favorite in the last few years. They are very comfortable but also pair so well with a nice pair of stilettos. I also enjoy a sleek pant sari outfit.
What's your go-to cocktail, spirit or drink?
What are you currently watching?
That chess show! (haha) 'The Queen's Gambit.'
Name of the best book you've read in a while?
'Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,' by Danile Pink.
Morning person or night owl?
What's 1 small thing you couldn't give up (daily ritual, accessory/personal item, etc.)?