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Entrepreneurs / 20 Questions

Model and Entrepreneur Karlie Kloss Shares the Importance of Always Learning

Kloss is a force in the worlds of fashion and technology.
Model and Entrepreneur Karlie Kloss Shares the Importance of Always Learning
Image credit: Courtesy of Karlie Kloss
- Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.
10 min read

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.

While you might recognize model Karlie Kloss from the pages of Vogue and runways all over the world -- or from her popular YouTube channel -- you might not know that Kloss’s other love is computers and coding.

In 2015, Kloss founded nonprofit Kode With Klossy to encourage young women to get engaged and get the tools they need to feel comfortable and confident in the world of tech. Every year, she holds a two-week-long summer camp for girls ages 13 to 18 to learn all about software engineering.

In previous years, the campers have built their own websites and apps to solve problems like treating ADHD, helping volunteers finding projects that fit their skill sets and connecting students with mentors.

In 2017, there were 15 camps in 12 cities, and this year, in partnership with Teach for America, Flatiron School, Turing School of Software & Design and WeWork -- and supported by Adidas -- there will be 50 camps in 25 cities across the country. Kloss and her team are also going to be providing 1,000 scholarships.

We caught up with Kloss to ask her 20 Questions and find out what makes her tick.

1. How do you start your day?
I like to start my day with a workout and a healthy breakfast. I usually work out with my trainer, Kirk Meyers, or go for a long run outside and follow that with an egg-white omelette or smoothie. I always feel energized afterwards, which is great for productivity and preparing myself for the day ahead.

2. How do you end your day?
I like to unwind by FaceTiming my family, catching up on a book or listening to a podcast as I get ready for bed. I try to stay off social media as well, so I can unplug and really invest in this me-time.  

3. What’s a book that changed your mind and why?
A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, by Brian Grazer. This book showed me that curiosity is not only a mindset, but it’s universal. As a curious person myself, I loved reading Brian’s stories with such fascinating creators -- including directors, actors, professors and others -- and felt like a fly on the wall observing all of these amazing conversations. Reading this book encouraged me to follow my own curiosities, which led me to take my first coding class and eventually to launch Kode With Klossy.

4. What’s a book you always recommend and why?
My Life on the Road, by Gloria Steinem. Her story is so moving. Not only does this book depict Gloria’s commitment to feminism and fighting for women’s rights, but it also shows us the value of listening to and learning from others. Gloria’s personal stories about her travels and the people she’s met throughout her career are a good reminder that by keeping an open mind and heart, we learn more about ourselves.

Related: Health and Beauty Mogul Bobbi Brown Shares The Biggest Time Sucker -- and What You Can Do About It

5. What’s a strategy you use to stay focused? Why?
Whenever I feel like I’m getting distracted, I like to take a break for a few minutes to slow down and collect my thoughts. Depending on how much time I have, I’ll walk around the office, grab a coffee or even meditate for a few minutes. It’s normal for my schedule to be full speed ahead, but I’ve found it’s really critical to take these moments for myself, for both my productivity and my sanity.

6. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
Growing up I thought I would be a doctor or a teacher. I was always interested in my math and science classes, and assumed I would do something related to those fields. While my career took a different path, in a way I’ve returned to my roots by taking coding classes and building Kode With Klossy, which provides computer science education opportunities to young women. It all feels very full circle.

7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
One of my first jobs was bussing tables at a local restaurant in the Lake of the Ozarks. If you are from the Midwest, you can probably picture this scene perfectly. I had some pretty difficult customers and bosses at this restaurant, and the experience taught me to thank every person on the waitstaff, be friendly and always leave a nice tip! I try to keep these lessons in mind each time I’m dining out.

8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
My parents instilled in my sisters and me the value of hard work and kindness, which goes such a long way in business. No matter what I’m working on, I always set out to do my best and be kind to those around me.

9. What’s a trip that changed you, and why?
My trip to Haiti with Christy Turlington and her organization, Every Mother Counts, was a truly life-changing experience. We drove all across the Haitian countryside visiting hospitals and meeting doctors, patients and children. It was incredibly inspiring and an honor to witness the work Christy and her colleagues were doing to help so many people and improve their lives and safety. The trip encouraged me to find ways work on my passion projects, like Kode With Klossy, where I could help make a difference in the lives of others.

Related: Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran Explains Why You Must Make Time in Your Schedule For Fun

10. What inspires you, and why?
In my career, I’ve always pursued projects that combine my interests with giving back. I love to bake, so I created a healthy-cookie line that provides meals to those in need. I fell in love with my coding classes, so I started Kode With Klossy to share that learning experience with others. Having that philanthropic element always motivates me to work harder, because it’s so much bigger than my team and myself. With Kode With Klossy in particular, the community of young, brilliant women that’s emerged is the reason we continue to grow and scale the program. This summer, we’re launching 50 coding camps in 25 cities and helping 1,000 girls learn to code, which is so exciting and surreal.

11. What was your first business idea, and what did you do with it?
Growing up, one of the first business ideas I had was to create a vending machine fully stocked with food for my family and friends. I filled it with candy and snacks, and charged a small price for each person who wanted to grab something.

12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful?
In St. Louis, I shot at our local Macy's, where they produced newspaper ads at their in-house studio. No matter how big or small the job, I learned to always be on time, humble and grateful for each opportunity that you get.

13. What’s the best advice you ever took? Why was it the best?
Don’t let perfect get in the way of better. It’s easy to want something to be perfect, but most of the time that’s not going to happen, no matter how hard or how long you work at something. It’s important to maintain perspective on what you’re working on and always focus on the best way to reach your goal.

14. What's the worst piece of advice you ever got? Why was it the worst?
I haven't been given a lot of bad advice, but models are often told to blend in. I think you should always try to stand out, no matter what. Staying true to who you are and standing up for what you believe in is always very important.

Related: She Was Told 'No' 100 Times. Now This 30-Year-Old Female Founder Runs a $1 Billion Business.

15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by, and why?
It’s really simple, but writing things down is a great way to keep track of your work and what needs to be done. It’s also effective for promoting creativity. Whenever I think of something outside-the-box, I’ll write it down so I can revisit it later and, if it’s worthwhile, hopefully bring it to life. Otherwise, those ideas can be fleeting, and you could miss an opportunity.

16. Is there an app or tool you use in a surprising way to get things done or stay on track?
I’m a big note-taker, so I love the Evernote x Moleskin notebook. It’s really compact, which is great for travel and reviewing things on the go.

17. What does work-life balance mean to you?
Work-life balance is about being your best in all aspects of life. For me, that’s being the best businesswoman, model and student, as well as the best friend, sister and daughter I can be. If work is getting in the way of your personal life and relationships, or vice versa, that’s when you know you’re off-balance.

18. How do you prevent burnout?
Between travel and the various projects I’m juggling, my schedule can be extremely hectic. I always try to unplug on the weekends, because it’s so important to take at least a full day to recharge. I try to go home to St. Louis whenever I can to relax with my family, or I’ll take a short trip somewhere surrounded by nature, so I can really unplug.

19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy to get innovating?
I get moving. Exercise is a great way to de-stress and think more clearly. Some of my most creative ideas have come from long runs or bike rides.

20. What are you learning now? Why is that important?
I’m still honing my coding skills and am really excited to continue to work on different languages like Javascript and Swift (Apple’s programming language for iOS). Code requires so much creativity and problem-solving, which is useful for any project. It’s also really empowering, especially when you build something that didn’t exist before.

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