How Unique Markets Founder Sonja Rasula Fits in Spinning, Kombucha and, Most Important, Naps

by Kim Conte
Sep 28, 2018

At first glance, Sonja Rasula — the founder of Unique Markets and the 18,000 square-foot communal workspace The Unique Space — might seem like a study in contradictions.

As a successful entrepreneur and motivational speaker, she's bursting with energy and passion (just check out her spirited Instagram feed). Yet, she's also a strong proponent of the four-day work week (aka "flexible Fridays") and is something of an expert when it comes to napping, which she does regularly (more on that later).

But these apparent contradictions are actually part of what has made Rasula so successful. The 41-year-old Los Angeles native understands that you have to "dedicate time" to the things that are important — and that includes taking care of your health, both mental and physical. She stresses that for her, wellness isn't just a buzzword. "It's not something you do once a week or once a month," she says. "It's actually incorporated into the way I built my life. I've structured my company around it."

Work Hard, Relax Hard

Hence the flexible Friday policy that Rasula has implemented at her own company. Instead of going into the office on Fridays, Rasula and her staff work remotely — and take it easy. "I've worked from the beach on my phone," she says. "I pretty regularly go to a day spa and will soak, get a massage, work on my laptop for a couple of hours, and then soak some more."

She continues, "I think it's crazy that everyone who works in a creative field doesn't have flex days. There is no way for people to remain inspired, innovative, creative and curious sitting at a desk five days a week!"

Rasula, a veteran of the tech world, also swears by afternoon naps. She points out that studies have shown a short nap in the afternoon can "raise levels of productivity and reduce the number of mistakes workers make."

While Rasula thinks everyone could benefit from a mid-day siesta, naps are particularly important to her. At 25, she was diagnosed with narcolepsy. "It's not that I feel constantly tired," she explains of having the condition. "It's that at times, there's this sudden onset of an intense feeling — like I've been awake for three days."

To help manage her narcolepsy, she allows herself a nap when she needs it. Sometimes that may mean a quick 2-minute snooze, but in the afternoon, she often dozes for about 15 minutes. (Sleep experts say a 20-minute power nap is ideal for most people.) Once Rasula wakes up, she feels "recharged" and "might look at things differently."

Exercise Your Right to Exercise

When talking about wellness, Rasula also believes fitness is a crucial part of the conversation. Ultimately, she says, hitting the gym or going for a run is about stepping away — from your phone, your kids, the 24-hour news cycle. When you "consciously" carve out time in your day to work out, "you're making the decision to give back to yourself," she adds.

For Rasula, that means starting most of her days with a spin class, which she describes as "45 minutes of hard cardio and continuous sweating." Why spinning over other workouts? "It's such an efficient use of time, on top of being fun," she says. Plus, she adds that the music and momentum make it "easy to clear your head and just ride."

A Communal Effort

As much as Rasula values time away from the office, she's also created a work environment that she calls her "modern vision of what an office should be." At The Unique Space, which she opened in 2014, there's kombucha on tap, bikes for employees and guests to borrow, and a rooftop terrace. "It's very communal and filled with creative and like-minded people," she says of the space.

Of course, it's also dog friendly, which means Rasula's pooch Allister is a regular at the office. "He'll wander to my different employees and jump in their lap and cuddle," she says. "It's like we have a little mascot."

Another way Rasula has made work more fun and feel-good? "My employees and I created a lunch club of sorts," says Rasula. While the original goal of the lunch club was to help everyone eat healthier and save money, an unexpected benefit has emerged: "It's a bonding exercise," Rasula tells us. "We learn things about co-workers through the meals they prepare."

We have only one last question: Are they hiring? (Kidding, not kidding.)

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