Sandra Thelusmond

Photo: Yudika Claude

Photo: Yudika Claude

Age || 29

Company Name || Vibrate Higher & Vibrate Higher Foundation

Job Title || Founder & CEO Vibrate Higher, Executive Director Vibrate Higher Foundation

Company Start Date || 2016

Years Living In New York || whole life

Social Handles || @vibratehigherofficial, @vibratehigherfoundation, @vibratehigherco, @sandrathelusmond

Company Website || Vibrate Higher & Vibrate Higher Foundation

What did you want to be while growing up?

Growing up, I wanted to be an international relations lawyer and work for the UN. After my first political science class in college I switched my major to public relations and worked in PR and digital marketing for 6 years before starting Vibrate Higher. Things came full circle when I created Vibrate Higher because I needed to fulfill the part of me that wants to help others and give back. Vibrate Higher combines my passion for fashion, wellness, community and philanthropy.  

What’s the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting Vibrate Higher?

Don’t quit. This advice was given to me by my parents who have been my biggest supporters. As an entrepreneur, there are times you ask yourself why you got on this crazy ride, but in the end it’ll all be worth it!

How do you define success?

We are a mission driven brand so I measure success by the impact I’m able to make in my community here in NY and in the lives of the disenfranchised in Haiti. To date, we’ve impacted 1,700+ lives through our solar powered light donations. We’ve also sponsored tuition for 15 school children for the 2018-2019 year. This removes a huge burden from the parents who have to choose between spending about 90% of a salary on tuition or not sending their kids to school since Haiti only has 5 public schools in the whole country.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned since starting out?

I’ve learned to follow my gut instinct and to trust myself. This is true when picking out fabrics, coming up with mantras, hiring staff or working with any new business partners.

What is your go-to motivational quote?

“My heart is at ease knowing that what is meant for me will never miss me, and that which misses me was never meant for me.” This quote reminds me to never dwell on the past or what can be perceived as a missed opportunity.

Courtesy of Vibrate Higher

Courtesy of Vibrate Higher

What made you interested in starting this brand?

I started VH because I wanted a sustainable way to fund the causes I believe in. Also, as a yogi for over 12 years I found such a disconnect between the corporate and profit driven yoga apparel companies and the true meaning of yoga: seva, or service to others and giving back. So many companies claim to have a give back program which in the end amounts to 25c or $1. We care about making an actual impact in the lives of others and put that above everything else.

Do you have a personal motto?

Be a Reckless Optimist, always.

Which women inspire you?

The women in my family are some of the strongest women I know — my grandmother, mother, aunts, and cousins. I’m a first generation Haitian-American and my parents generation made a lot of sacrifices to come to America to rebuild their lives from scratch. This included redoing their medical residency to be certified in the US. They left behind the comfort of their families, friends, their social network and their social standing to come to a foreign place and start from the bottom. They did it so that me, my cousins, and the next generation could have a better life and I’m forever grateful for that.  

How do you overcome moments of self-doubt?

As a young entrepreneur, moments of self-doubt often creep up and, when they do, I try to reframe the situation into a positive and focus on what I can do in that moment.

What is the hardest part about being your own boss?

The hardest part is letting go and not working all the time. It’s very easy to work 80+ hour weeks, which is glorified in our society, but it's unhealthy. I’m learning to create healthy boundaries between work and my personal time.

How do you handle situations where you feel overwhelmed?

Whenever I feel overwhelmed I take a step back, take a few deep breaths and do something else to take my mind off it. I usually end up going to a yoga class. Before going back to the situation or task, I ask myself what I want my end goal to be and try to think of that as I work through the problem.

What has been the most rewarding thing since starting Vibrate Higher?

The most rewarding thing has been being able to have a creative outlet and knowing that my company makes an impact in people’s lives.

How can the solar lamp donations help the people of Haiti?

Sixty-three percent of the families in Haiti live without any electricity infrastructure. The number is much higher considering those who do live in larger cities, and have the infrastructure, are subject to frequent blackout periods. Many families rely solely on kerosene for their lamps which is dangerous and expensive. Kerosene smoke kills nearly 2 million people every year and is responsible for millions of third degree burn accidents. Solar lamps allow families to have a method of light that is safe and reusable, allowing increased studying time for school children, a beacon of safety in a night of darkness when walking home, illuminated dinnertime conversations, and so much more.

Photo: Mozart Photography

Photo: Mozart Photography

What do you do during mission trips to Haiti?

Each mission trip is different. We go once a year to 5 different cities to donate the solar powered lamps; focusing on single family women’s households, women’s shelters, orphanages, and schools. We recently went in December to build a tech lab at Institut du Sacer Coeur du Cap Haitien. We donated electronics that will serve a school of 1300 high school students! The mission trips are also a great time for us to meet with our local partners and listen to what their needs are. I spoke with a women’s group last May who expressed the need for health care. This conversation birthed our Women’s Health Day series to provide free gynecological access to women and educational seminars to educate women about their cycle, their flow, and contraception options as well as donating feminine care products to the community.

How have you worked to keep female empowerment at the core of your brand?

I am a female owned and operated company and surround myself with badass women employees who share my vision and passion for the brand.  

What advice would you give to other women trying to enter your field?

Define your vision and stay true to it.

What is your creative process like?

I’m inspired by so many things. I’m inspired by nature, travel, art, architecture, and people. I can see a building and it can inspire me to design a font a certain way for a new mantra.

What are some of your goals moving forward for your brand?

My goals for the Vibrate Higher brand and foundation is to continue to grow and expand our product offering and experiences. Also, to continue to be a catalyst for change and positively impact the lives of others.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Sarah Fielding