An Interview with Tanuja Dabir, owner of Saakori Lifestyle Inc. in Burnaby, B.C.

By Donna Marrin

Tell us about your business and how you started it.
Saakori Lifestyle is committed to creating ethical communities globally and encouraging respect for the Earth. We offer everyday items that support sustainable lifestyle choices, such as disposable plates made from palm-leaves and reusable fabric produce bags. The business idea was inspired by my childhood experiences in my native India, and the increasingly green lifestyle choices I see increasing around me these days. As a child, I often visited a small village in India called Sakuri. Away from my urban upbringing, Sakuri was where I was first exposed to the concept of simple and sustainable living—playing in fields abundant in millet; drinking cool, fresh water from a well; and eating meals from leaf plates! Hence was born Saakori, a company offering sustainable lifestyle choices to those who want to make a positive switch and an impact on planet Earth.

How did you come up with your unique name?
Since the business was inspired by experiences in the village of Sakuri, I thought Saakori would be the most appropriate name for the company.

What was your early vision for your business, and how has it changed over time?
I would like to see every paper/Styrofoam and plastic disposable plate be replaced by Saakori’s sustainable palm-leaf plates. This would take us one more step toward a zero-waste society, where even agricultural waste like palm leaves are used to make a useful plate that can be returned back to Earth without clogging landfills.

Your biggest learning curve?
Starting a business in an industry totally new to me was one of the initial challenges. I have learned a lot of things about entrepreneurship in a very short time. Every day offers a great opportunity to not only learn about various aspects of doing business, but also about life’s lessons of patience, hard work and having faith.

What makes your business stand out?
We respect the environment and offer consumers sustainable options, not only in environmental terms, but also in terms of manufacturing process. What comes from the earth as a leaf on a tree is repurposed into something useful and aesthetically pleasing, and can be returned to the earth again without harm. It’s a perfect example of the cradle-to-cradle concept. We are proud that our orders help promote self-reliance and self-employment in rural manufacturing communities. The factories employ men and women alike. In fact, the women working there proudly contribute to the family income and use their time more productively while their children are away at school. We are a socially responsible company. Part of our revenue goes toward the improvement of quality of life for women in the village of Sakuri. We also make local donations, some examples being St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation and the David Suzuki Foundation. By partnering with Saakori, you not only help the environment, you also support a social cause. We, and our customers, make a difference while experiencing the beauty of simplicity.

How do you find balance between your business and home life?
Work/life balance is hard to achieve in the initial set-up stages for any entrepreneur. Proper time and resource management skills are imperative in order to make the most of your limited time. You have to be clear with your focus and priorities and be ready to ask for help, as needed. Things eventually fall into place over time, as you find your own comfortable pace and rhythm in doing things more efficiently.

What’s the best part of running your own business? What’s the most challenging?
Decision-making independence and work-hour flexibility is a huge blessing when you run your own business. At the same time, it is very challenging to learn all the aspects of and manage the different roles required. As an entrepreneur, you must juggle many different hats, and you have to learn to expand your comfort zone and build your confidence in those areas that you aren’t particularly good at. For me, accounting and sales calls were two of those areas. But I’ve learned to thrive, not just survive!

Do you have a favorite business tool or resource?
I learned a lot by networking and meeting people at different events. Small Business BC is a great resource. So was the self-employment program that I took at Douglas College, the New Westminster campus.

What is the key to your success?
Lots of hard work, perseverance and determination, matched by the unconditional love of my family and support from community members and our business partners.

What is the one piece of advice you would like to give to others thinking about starting a business?
Pursue your dream. Give it chance, as who knows what the future holds for you. I love the quote: “It will cost you nothing to dream, but everything not to.”

Tanuja Dabir is a supply chain professional with extensive experience in global sourcing, procurement, project and inventory management. In 2009, she founded Saakori Lifestyle Inc. to pursue her passion of providing sustainable alternatives to everyday products. Please visit for more information or contact Tanuja via email: [email protected]

By Adam

September 02, 2011