Commentary: My journey from anthropology to entrepreneurship

Vannia Flores Forsyth is a Peruvian-born and raised entrepreneur and 2022 UBC anthropology alumnus.

Reflecting on my time at UBC, it's clear that my anthropology degree did more than fill my head with facts — it shaped my perception of how I view the world. Grappling with complex issues without straightforward answers prepared me well for what lay beyond campus life. 

It wasn't just about cultural studies; it was about learning to navigate the gray areas of life.

Right after I had decided to major in anthropology, for the sake of credits and camaraderie, I enrolled in a GEOG 120 class alongside my best friend, Grace. Initially, this geography class seemed a mere divergence from my anthropology major, with its mandated memorization of cloud types — cirrus, stratus, cumulus — appearing tangential at best. 

Throughout the course, however, not only did I learn several important lessons about the principles of climate, hydrology, geomorphology, biogeography and human-induced changes, but also developed a comprehensive understanding of the ways in which the quarterly shopping spree at the mall, which I had grown up so used to, had a detrimental effect on our planet. 

This significant turning point came while diving into a research project on the pressing issue of fast fashion. It struck a chord with me: the fashion industry's relentless drive for profit at the expense of both people and the planet was something I couldn't just study and forget.

The hard truths from scientific studies shocked me. Sitting cross-legged in my $25 sneakers and the cheap sweaters from Costco, I was struck by the carelessness with which the fashion industry contributes to climate change, water pollution, marine pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. 

How did I become so oblivious? I came to question my complacency in this cycle of destruction. I was appalled by the unsustainable and unethical exploitative labour practices and models of overconsumption and waste propelled by a trends-driven pop-culture industry resulting in millions of tons of textile waste every year. 

Among the noise at 3 a.m. in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, I had a moment of clarity. In some way, I was able to connect the dots into an embodied understanding, which along with a genuine concern for our collective environmental footprint sparked the idea for how I might bring my anthropological background into my business ventures. 

Amidst the depths of job searching and the desire to make something meaningful with my skills and life, Sacred Warmth was born in September 2023. 

My background in anthropology, not business, not only meant having a wide array of skills and an ever-so-daunting lack of a “specialty” for a corporate role, but also stepping into unchartered territory. Nonetheless, armed with confidence about my skills and lessons from UBC — critical thinking, cultural sensitivity and an appreciation for ethical business practices — the mantra "everything is figureoutable" became my North Star.

If I were still in school, I would be soaking up every lesson, every critique and every insight. The skills you're honing aren't just for passing exams; you’re developing an understanding of transforming intellectual prose into praxis. UBC didn’t just give me a pretty diploma — it steered me through the challenges of starting a business with a mission to tackle the very issues I once wrote essays about.

By intertwining my business model with support for charitable causes, I not only challenge the prevailing norms of the fashion industry but also champion a model where fashion serves as a force for good. As a researcher turned entrepreneur, I have harnessed my understanding of fast fashion's environmental and social impacts.

Looking back, I've realized that this path I’ve been navigating is less a departure from my academic roots and more a continuation of my commitment to understanding and improving human interactions with the environment. The challenges of sustainable business practices are as complex as any cultural system studied in anthropology, demanding the application of theoretical knowledge in practical and impactful ways.

My studies in history and culture during my degree complicated my understanding of capitalism and its shortcomings, and at first, dampened my initial desire to start a business. Eventually, though, these feelings cultivated the curiosity and courage to speak up and innovate creative ways to disrupt the status quo. As the saying goes, you must understand the rules before you can break them. 

For me, it took a lot of courage, and I mean, lots of it. It took over 150 essays to embrace my ideas, my opinions and my voice to share the vision of what I stood for. 

I feared failure, but I feared more not trying. My anthropology degree did way more than fill my head with facts. It showed me who I really was beyond all labels and identities. It empowered my voice to be heard, for my ideas to be nurtured and my witty self to dare make a difference.

Your voice, experiences and ideas hold power. Staying small and illusions of greatness serve no one. 

Whoever you are, wherever you are, I know you are brimming with groundbreaking ideas. My journey has taught me that you shouldn’t wait for the perfect moment to pursue them. 

Make your dreams a reality by sharing them, seeking help along the way and actually following through with the support that shows up to your assistance. After all, when the student is ready, the master appears.

This is an opinion article. It reflects only the author's views and does not reflect the views of The Ubyssey as a whole. Have something to say about what you just read? Contribute to the conversation and send a letter to the editor in response or your own submission at