Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur’s “20 Questions” series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.
Daniella Yakobvsky, co-founder of BaubleBar, a jewelry company that lets you experiment with style, always looks for inspiration. She seeks it out on Pinterest and Twitter and while window shopping, and finds it in sports and cars. Yakobvsky finds inspiration pretty much everywhere.
“It’s important to keep your eyes peeled,” Yakobvsky says. “Nowadays, there are so many different opportunities to browse the internet for inspiration.
That constant drive to seek out inspiration has turned a company of eight employees into a corporation that has 1 million monthly visits to its website and is releasing 50 to 70 pieces of jewelry to its online catalogue every week in less than five years.
“So many things inspire me,” she says. “I am the type of person who is constantly looking at as much as I can.”
We caught up with Yakobvsky to figure out what her every day looks like and what makes her tick:
1. How do you start your day?
I read my emails in bed; it helps me ease into the day. I can’t just shoot out of bed, I need a way to ease into it. Usually by 7:00 am the marketing emails have started to hit. I like to browse through those, see what other people are talking about and then I start to get up and move around.
2. How do you usually end your day?
I usually end my day on the couch with my boyfriend. Whether it’s a television show or a movie, we snack and watch. I think it’s important to find those moments where you’re not just thinking about work all the time. We don’t have our phones with us, and I try to not actively check on work or anything that’s going on. We need to have those moments where you clear your head.
3. What is a book that has changed your mind about work?
I’m not sure there is a book that has changed how I work necessarily, to be honest. I don’t know that there’s one that really resonates. There have been ones that I have enjoyed reading but not one that fundamentally changed my approach.
4. What’s a book that you would recommend to someone?
I would recommend The China Study, a really exceptional study on the impacts of nutrition on our outlook on life and how we approach basically everything. That has changed my approach to nutrition and my expectations that the things you eat do have a huge impact on everything, from your energy levels to your outlook.
5. What is a strategy you use to keep focused?
I am pretty OCD about creating to-do lists, and I am constantly prioritizing what I put at the top of the list. I also think it’s important to break your workload down into digestible nuggets. I break things down into things that feel doable within a span of one to two hours. That helps me methodically sort through everything that’s on my plate.
6. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a singer for a very long time. I used to beg my father to take me on Star Search. Ultimately, I did not go to Star Search, but I did do a lot of singing classes and art classes. I always loved tapping into my creative side, even though ultimately in school I ended up pursuing math and finance and that ended up being my initial post-college path.
7. What have you learned from the worst boss you ever had?
One of the things I have learned is to communicate really openly and honestly with the folks you work with. Try to understand where their requests and feedback are coming from and be open to feedback. When you’re first starting and you’re a small company, you’re eight people, it’s definitely easier to do. As you grow and have so many more people, that is a harder thing to scale but that doesn’t take away it’s importance.
8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach work?
My mom. She has a tremendous amount of passions for every single thing she’s doing. She is an elementary school principal and before that a speech pathologist. I remember her being passionate about the educational system and the school system, and she cared about giving her students the best education possible. That passion, energy and joy is something that has really stuck with me and has impacted the things that I want to do. When you have something that you’re passionate and excited about, all of those things don’t matter as much. Really what matters is being able to do something that keeps you excited to come to work every day and keeps you motivated to trek on.
9. What is a trip that has changed your mind and why?
The first vacation I took with my boyfriend we went to South America. It was good for our relationship, it was our first long trip together and our first opportunity to spend time with one another out of New York and that was a really special experience.
10. What inspires you?
So many things inspire me. I am the type of person who is constantly looking at as much as I can. I love window shopping, scrolling through Pinterest, Twitter, digital blogs, physical magazines. I think it’s about consuming as much content as possible. We are always finding things that resonate with us as consumers that aren’t necessarily in the fashion space. I see visuals in food, home decor, sports, cars and I think “Oh my god I love that, how do we apply that to fashion?” It’s important to keep your eyes peeled.
11. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
I don’t know if this qualifies as a business itself, but one of the jobs I had when I was a senior in college was at restaurant on campus called Pod. I noticed that whenever we had events that came up every year the reservations were a mess and eventually would degrade into mass chaos. So, I had an idea for events planning and reservations. Before graduation I was able to roll out a system that we kept the restaurant on. It was the first year that everything was on schedule and everyone across the restaurant knew what was happening. It was a really fun moment for me. It was the idea of rethinking process and operations around something that historically needed to be addressed and totally flipped on its head. I was given the autonomy to be able to do that. It gave me a taste and flavor for recognizing a problem and having an idea for being able to solve it, being able to grab the bull by the horns and start to roll out an idea.
12. What is an early job that taught you something important or useful?
One of the first jobs I had was working at Gap. I was a salesperson on the floor. One of the key things I learned was how important teamwork is and how magical a workplace can be when a team is working closely together, getting along well and working in a collaborative and non-siloed way.
13. What is the best advice you have ever taken?
Do a better job taking care of myself. When you are starting a company and you are so eager to make everything perfect, you forget to take care of yourself, and you can burn out a little bit. It can be hard to put yourself first. That’s something that you have to figure out how to do for yourself.
14. What is the worst advice you ever received?
That's tough because I always find advice to be helpful in some sort of context. It's more about taking that advice and being smart in how you apply it to your own business. One example is when Amy and I first decided to leave our jobs in finance and venture into the startup world. We had a lot of people warn us that it was a risky move and while they were definitely correct, we still remained focused, made thoughtful decisions and went for it.
15. What is a productivity tip you swear by?
Turn off your phone. That’s really important. I historically have been somebody who fell victim to always having my phone with me, always checking it, and often times it’s easy to do that to your own detriment. Folks know that after a certain hour I’m not going to respond to emails. It’s important that we are efficient earlier in the day, so we can all allow ourselves those moments to check out.
16. Do you use an app or any productivity tools to get work done?
In terms of getting work done, one app that we have started using across the organization is iCloud for photos. We are constantly sending different imagery back and forth and different things that inspire us.
17. What does work-life balance mean to you?
It comes down to is having an understanding of what it is you need to accomplish, having a timeline and having the flexibility to set your path. Work-life balance for us means that if I have an important dinner I want to go to with friends and that means I am leaving a little bit earlier than I normally would, I have the flexibility to do that. I know what needs to get done, I know that I am going to do it, and I can set that pace and tone. I think there is a nice element to that flexibility with startups. I also think it’s about figuring out what’s important to you and how do you create space in your life.
18. How do you prevent burnout?
It’s about encouraging people to make sure they take a break. One of the benefits of working at a company like ours is that people feel so passionate about what we are doing, because they have so much influence and ownership. The danger there is that people are so passionate they can get a little burnt out.
We cook a lot at home, and I like that. It’s a good opportunity to check out. I am quite bad at it, so I have to focus completely on it. Finding some of those things that require 100 percent of your focus are the best ways to check out.
I also love spinning classes and yoga classes as an opportunity to get into a separate headspace, clear my mind and think about nothing other than that immediate task at hand. The final thing I love to do is sensory deprivation, so it’s this thing called floating. You get into a small closed pool of water that has high salt content so you float and there is no light and no sound. It really clears your head. It is this wonderful and peaceful moment.
19. When you are faced with a creativity block, how do you overcome it?
I think the key is giving yourself space to think. We get stuck when we are sitting and focusing on the problem. We get tunnel vision, and it can be hard to think big picture. Clear your head.
20. What are you learning now?
One of the big things that we are learning right now is about continuing to scale up. How do you scale up as a business and do that in a collaborative and cross-functional way? We have grown tremendously in the past few years and one of the big lessons we have learned as a company is how to scale up and put processes in places that allow the company to continue to run smoothly but without tampering the creative spirit.
This article was edited for brevity and clarity.