“My FES Profs were so inspiring. They taught me that there are so many ways you can be an activist.”
Sarah Devika Sumnauth graduated in 2011 but has kept her connection strong to FES in a variety of ways, from leading workshops at FES’ remarkable Change Your World conference for GTA high schools, to talking about her time in the faculty to future students at recruitment events, and to participating in bite-sized mentoring by taking current York students to lunch through the TASTE program. Sumnauth, founding CEO of the successful natural beauty start-up Urban Minerals, is a leading example how to leverage a BES degree into entrepreneurial success and how to remain connected to campus as a young alumna.
When complimented on how inspiring her journey is to the next generation of environmental leaders, her response was modest.
“I got so much out of FES, I want to keep giving back,” Sumnauth said. “I was struggling academically at the end of high school and took an extra year to get ready for university. At York I started in Sociology but took ENVS 1200 Taking Action: Engaging People & the Environment as an elective. It was exactly what I was looking for. I found it really energizing and felt like this was a community of people who get the big picture of what is going on in our world. Once I transferred I never looked back”
From courses on environmental education to social justice, Sumnauth felt connected to school for the first time in years. As she learned about the natural world she felt she was also lifting her own personal consciousness and felt more spiritually aware of the environment and the natural beauty surrounding around her.
“My FES Profs were so inspiring,” Sumnauth said. “They taught me that there are so many ways you can be an activist.”
That passion for making a difference and transforming the world is at the core of her company, Urban Minerals.
The inspiration for her start-up germinated with an appreciation for the self care component in makeup up. As a girl she always admired the way her mom took those few moments out of her day to apply moisturizer. But FES taught her how toxic many beauty products are. During school she was working part time at a store with a focus on sustainable products and it included a green beauty section. The products lines they carried had a lot of limitations.
“People frequently came in asking if we could match their foundation colour,” Sumnauth said. “Sometimes their skin tone was simply between shades but for many women of colour the foundations that were available didn’t even come close.”
It upset Sumnauth that she had to turn people away.
“It was like the manufacturers didn’t care about a huge market of people,” Sumnauth said. “But we all deserve to have accessibility to natural products that are made for us!”
It was actually on one of her commutes to York that she came up with the idea to start a business. She had just recently participated in a FES workshop around how to make your own job that she described as Entrepreneurship 101.
Over the next year she worked towards sourcing local, cruelty free, vegan and organic ingredients and made products for her friends and family first.
“I have 3 older sisters and none of us are the same shade,” she laughed.
Now her company sells 30 shades of loose mineral foundation and she has ambitions to simultaneously expand her product lines into liquid foundation and eye shadows and exponentially grow her retail base.
Setting stretch goals for herself has been a part of the secret to Sumnauth’s success.
“You gotta write it down, take action and keep going back to review it for a goal to be truly meaningful,” she said.
In terms of student success she encourages future students to follow their dream, pursue interdisciplinary study and don’t be afraid to have fun during their degree.
“FES grads can go anywhere, from government and the civil service to entrepreneurship,” Sumnauth said. “Trust in the process and you’ll find your path.”