Next in our spotlight series is the one and only Saskia! Read on to find out more about the queen of guinea pigs…
For women’s day, we wanted to reach out and spotlight amazing women who are leading the way in the guinea pig industry.
We couldn't spotlight amazing women without including the one and only Saskia. Saskia, aka the queen of guinea pigs, is renowned for her incredible work at her Los Angeles Rescue. Previously a former model, Saskia discovered that there was no rescue for guinea pigs in her current home, LA. Wanting to start small, Saskia ended up being overrun with neglected piggies and decided to dedicate the rest of her life to pigs! Twenty years later, Saskia and her team continue to tirelessly raise awareness and save her beloved spirit animal.
We caught up with Saskia to find out how her journey began over twenty years ago and the challenges she has overcome.
When did you first fall in love with Guinea Pigs and Why?
I didn't really meet my first guinea pig until I was 18. Can you believe it?! They always had bunnies in my neighbourhood, so one day I walked into a pet store and I held a guinea pig. I thought, oh my gosh, I had no idea that they were so cool and had all these amazing personalities. So of course that guinea pig came home with me that night!
Soon more of her kind followed and that was it. From that moment on I had guinea pigs everywhere. I lived in London for five years and I even had guinea pigs there! The minute I arrived in the US I immediately started this rescue. There weren't any big rescues at all at that time for the whole of Los Angeles, even in the whole of California. Fenella from Wee companions who is a very good friend of mine started at the same time. So it was me and her and we bonded over them. She's one of my best friends!
What do you think the future of the Guinea Pig space looks like and the role of women within it?
I think that by nature, women are nurturers and times are changing. We are all becoming more aware that guinea pigs need more space and have different needs than we used to think 10-20 years ago. I know there are a lot of guys out there who love guinea pigs. I love you all, but the facts just show that there are more women who are into guinea pigs. I think that that is really a good thing for guinea pigs because we are by nature nurturers. As women, we will be spreading the word about how to properly care for them and advocating for their needs.
I think that by nature, women are nurturers and times are changing
What are your future plans and goals regarding your career?
The biggest project I am working on at the moment is extensive medical research with our veterinarian because there was really not much research done on guinea pigs at all. Guinea pigs are seen as a throwaway pet or as the research guinea pig they are using in labs. Nobody really cares much and nobody is shining the light. That is why I'm planning to do not just local work, but national work on how to treat and take care of guinea pigs and spreading awareness. Watch this space because it's gonna be pretty big and I feel so strongly about this!
What advice would you give to other women wanting to follow in your footsteps?
In business, I'm always saying don't think of yourself as a woman! You are a person, you're not a woman, So you've got to think of yourself as a person in business. I've always felt very strongly about that. I don't want to differentiate myself like Oh, I'm a woman in business. It's almost like I'm saying, Oh, I'm less than you already because I'm a woman in business. So I always, always, always tell women in business. Don't think of yourself as a woman. You are a business person. Don't separate yourself.
With the Guinea Pig space being so niche, what challenges have you faced and overcome in your career?
That's a tough one because I can't really name one that I faced! With the guinea pig space being so niche, I found that this made it easier for me to enter business-wise, as I was already so involved. Maybe if you were entering the guinea pig space for the first time you may find it harder.
Don't think of yourself as a woman. You are a business person. Don't separate yourself.
What barriers do you feel are still left to overcome personally as a woman in business and in the Guinea Pig space?
If there's a barrier, it's going to come and I'm going to overcome it. I never really think about barriers that need to be overcome as I believe you can actually materialise these things. The same way I materialise some of my goals. If you think about it, it already exists. So I try not to let anything negative materialise.
What misconceptions and stigmas were you faced with? One as a woman and two in the guinea pig space?
When I started my company the logistics world was dominated by men. I knew I had to attend these meetings with these guys so I made sure I altered my image. I dressed down, I played down my attractiveness, I even dyed my hair brown and wore glasses to appear smart and to be taken seriously. The misconceptions are very much alive. Now I don't feel the need to do that anymore and I dress and present myself however I feel.
The biggest stigma I find is that guinea pigs are not taken seriously in the pet world. When I say I have a rescue for guinea pigs, people think I am crazy. Yet if I said a horse rescue that would be cool!
To be honest, I don't think I would have done anything differently. I have done what I have always done; bulldozed through every obstacle and proved that I can achieve what I set my mind to. Would I do anything differently? No. If I did anything differently then I wouldn't be where I am now. If I changed anything then the outcome would change. I have no regrets and I probably would do it all the same again. The only thing I would suggest is as an entrepreneur, you tend to get very focused and single-minded to the detriment of everything else in your environment. So one thing that I do regret is that at times: I did not make enough time for my family. The most important thing is your family.
When I say I have a rescue for guinea pigs, people think I am crazy.
Name one woman who inspires you and why?
Jane Goodall. I just adore the woman. She was so instrumental in bringing knowledge about the chimps. We didn't really know much about them at that point. Her research and her strength, her courage, how humble she is, and how at her age she's still so elegant, eloquent, and so sharp. You know how she is still just amazing. I just love her.
I did not make enough time for my family. The most important thing is your family.
Quote or statement you live by? What is the most important piece of advice you have been given?
The more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of humankind..." - Ghandi
That is so important to me and when I read it I cry because we are so far away from that. It demonstrates to me kindness and compassion and that every being should have life without suffering.
We absolutely loved interviewing Saskia and we wanted to say a huge thank you for taking part and for all their hard work and effort over the last few years. To support Saskia visit her website Saskia from LA Guinea Pig Rescue.