Sajani Amarasiri is the Founder and CEO of Kola Goodies, a line of Sri Lankan inspired healthy herbal and spice beverage blends. She launched her company shortly before the pandemic in 2020 and it has since received the attention of Forbes, Epicurious, Pop Sugar and many others.
Sajani was born in Sri Lanka, in the country’s capital city of Colombo. She left in 2009 when she was eighteen to attend college in Pittsburgh, USA. As a foreign student in a new country, she told me adapting to American life came with its challenges, but ultimately inspired her vision for her company. What’s more, her dual American culture and South Asian roots strengthened her ability connect, communicate and engage with people. And she will tell you that persistence and self-confidence is enough to succeed and rise up.
“…As immigrants we have this unique ability after we adapt and go through that immigrant journey to see things that connect cultures, particularly when we see gaps—[like when I saw that] people want things that we have grown up our whole lives with [in Sri Lanka], how do we bring it here, while still sourcing it responsibly?”
She told me both of her parents had humble upbringings in Sri Lanka, and later both became entrepreneurs and business owners with international experiences. In the 70’s, her father was granted a scholarship to go to Japan to learn glass technology. He was so positively impacted by his experience that he encouraged Sajani and her siblings to seek greater world exposure. Sajani’s mother received a scholarship to go to Germany in the area of gemology.
“It was my dad that encouraged my mother to go to Germany, even though he had my brother and sister to take care of.” Sajani was not yet born when her mother went abroad. “There were no international phone calls and there was no such thing as Skype for them to keep in touch. They simply wrote love letters back and forth.”
The sacrifice was worth it because when Sajani’s mother returned to Sri Lanka, she become the island’s first gemologist to open a lab. And with the busy schedules, ambition and hard work, Sajani tells me her mother still ensured the children’s health was a priority.
“My mother would wake up at 5:00 o’clock in the morning and get fully dressed in her sari, yet still make time to prepare kola kandtha (a savoury Sri Lankan breakfast drink made from gotukola, ginger, coconut milk and other ingredients) for me to drink everyday before she went to work.”
It was only later, when Sajani moved away from home for college, that she appreciated this, along with the many other daily health rituals her mother offered, like rubbing hot coconut oil into Sajani’s hair.
“I used to run away when my mother would try to put coconut oil in my hair!” While living in America she found turmeric lattes, herbal teas, and coconut oils to be popular trends in the American wellness industry. “These were just things we grew up with, that I took for granted.”
Not having daily kola kandtha was just one of the many things she missed most in her new home away from home, so she found a way to blend her bi-cultural life experiences. Kola Goodies represents her Sri Lankan values, her family’s passed-down knowledge, and ethically serves the people at the source of production in Sri Lanka. Following her mother’s footsteps, she will tell you that she has both paved her own way and come full circle. ~
Learn more about Kola Goodies like the Super Green Latte, Turmeric Latte, Go-Tu Power Move, and Mo-Moringa, here: www.kolagoodies.com
Photo credit: Kola Goodies