To Ido Leffler, sustainability is more than just a buzz-word or a marketing gimmick, it's what he's built his company, Yes To Inc., on. He founded the natural beauty products company with Lance Kalish in 2006. Their products which range from baby shampoo to anti- wrinkle cream are distributed in over 26,000 stores including major retailers like Target, Wal-Mart, and Whole Foods.
Yes To has pledged to give one percent of company profits to plant gardens around the world in order to teach kids about nutrition and healthy living. Leffler also serves on the United Nations Foundation Global Entrepreneur Council, and his book Get Big Fast & Do More Good (New Harvest, 2013) comes out this month.
We talked to Leffler about what he wished he knew when he was starting up, as well as some "mistakes" he's glad he made.
Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when you were first starting up?
A: I think that as young entrepreneurs we were very naïve to think that everything we touched would turn to gold, and that things would happen fast. If I showed you the forecasts from our first few months in our former business, you would assume that by now that I would be on a unicorn propelled spaceship.
What we have learned over the years that building a business requires nurturing and a little bit of patience. It is important to recognize when you should go full throttle and when to let things play out.
Q: What do you think would have happened if you would have known to not rush things?
A: I think we would be right where we are now, only with a little bit more hair.
Q: So how did you figure out that not all that glitters is gold?
A: In the early years we would get very excited about impending deals only to realize that these deals were either not going to happen or that they would take significantly longer to come to fruition, as a result we were always disappointed when deals did not happen as we had planned.
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Q: Besides inventing a time machine, how might you have realized this sooner?
A: I would always recommend finding a trusted advisor, someone who has made most of the mistakes and who has achieved great success. The next step is listening to their wisdom and taking action on it. When we first started we asked questions everybody of anyone who would give us the time, that helped a lot.
Q: What are you glad you didn't know then that you know now?
A: Being impatient and being stubborn allows you to make decisions that you otherwise wouldn't make, and some can pay off big time! You have to move fast and be confident of what your idea is to stay ahead of the crowd.
If ever there is a time to be impatient and stubborn as an entrepreneur, it's in the beginning -- as long as you don't stay that way. You should mature as your business matures. Being impatient and stubborn doesn't mean being rude, always treat everyone you encounter as you are starting up with respect (even if you think "what do they know?"). You never know when you might need someone's help or advice in the future.
Q: What advice would you give young entrepreneurs?
A: My business partner, Lance Kalish, has a "Rule of 3": It will take three times and long and cost three times as much as you think it will.
My best advice would be, try to limit your exposure to negative people that want to hold you down. Surround yourself with positive people who can support you when things get tough and who can help you achieve your goals.
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-This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.