CEOs Who Give Back: With Ido Leffler of Yoobi
By Yitzi Weiner and Casmin Wisner
“It’s about making a difference every single day! We’re about to announce that, through Yoobi, we have impacted three million kids. That incredible achievement drives me forward way more than any dollar amount could.”
In addition to Yoobi, Ido Leffler also co-founded Yes To, the second largest natural beauty brand in the U.S.; Cheeky, a lifestyle brand that has helped provide over 15 million meals to those in need; and Brandless, a fresh approach to consumer commerce with a community of people who believe that everyone can live better through the stuff we buy and how we buy it.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?
I’ve spent quite a bit of time visiting classrooms across the country, noticing that they either resembled a scene out of Alice in Wonderland or a drab DMV waiting room. It was easy to tell which classrooms had teachers spending their own money on top of what their budgets allowed. I soon discovered that teachers spend more than $500 out of their own pockets for school supplies each year.
I was compelled to do something, but I didn’t know exactly what that was until I went back-to-school shopping with my kids. They ran right by the school supply aisle as if it didn’t even exist. I couldn’t blame them. There was a clear lack of creativity in the marketplace. That’s when I realized I wanted to create a colorful, vibrant brand that not only sparked creativity but also helped solve a problem along the way. This led us to build Yoobi’s buy-one, give-one program — for every item we sell, we give back to a U.S. classroom in need.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The Yoobi family loves to play pranks on me. A few years ago, they decided to mess with me in the middle of a photoshoot for a major company we were partnering with. They had the wardrobe stylist convince me to wear a puffy jacket with high shoulders and frills, thinking that’s what our partners had requested. Being polite, I went along with their direction, and to this day my team will not let me forget that.
So what does your company do?
Yoobi creates fun, colorful stuff for school, home, and office that gives back. For every Yoobi item purchased, a Yoobi item is donated to a U.S. classroom in need. Yoobi’s non-profit partner, The Kids In Need Foundation, helps us distribute our supplies and identify elementary school classrooms in schools where 70 percent or more of its students qualify for free or reduced cost lunch through the National School Lunch Program.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Yoobi was founded with cause rooted into its DNA — to provide kids in-need with the tools needed to learn and be creative. When we launched the company, we thought we could impact a few thousand kids. To date we’ve impacted nearly three million kids, and we’re just getting started!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my startup,” and why?
- Embrace your uniqueness. I was always the odd kid with an Australian-Israeli hybrid accent, moving from country to country. It took me a while to cope with the anxiety of feeling “different,” but being the odd, out-of-place, new kid can be a huge source of confidence if you embrace it. I made sure that people knew my heritage and knew where I was from. That got me into the room and into discussions with people that may not have happened before.
- You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. I started in business right out of college. I wasn’t the smartest person in the room, but I knew that if I surrounded myself with smart people and got them engaged in a project I was passionate about, we’d create something amazing.
- Network every single day. Show up in person. Get on the plane, even if it takes you 24 hours to fly to the other side of the world for a 30-minute meeting. In person, breaking bread, is how you build a business. Leave the emails and phone calls for follow up.
- Make mistakes. When I started my first business, we nearly closed down three times in the first two years because of the mistakes I made. Don’t let that scare you. Own up to your mistakes and rally your team to get through them. Starting a business is a bit like gambling. You just have to be smart about how you place those bets.
- Do more good. Throughout my businesses, I’ve incorporated “good” into the model from the start, but you shouldn’t stop there. It’s about making a difference every single day! We’re about to announce that, through Yoobi, we have impacted three million kids. That incredible achievement drives me forward way more than any dollar amount could.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in business, VC funding, sports, and entertainment. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I’ve always admired Howard Schultz for encouraging business owners to take on a model that, in his words, “balances profit with social responsibility.” I read his book Pour Your Heart Into It when I first started my business, and used it as a guide on how to build a business in a sustainable and ethical way. Howard pitched Starbucks over a hundred times before any investor even thought about saying yes. That level of tenacity is amazing, and something every entrepreneur should look up to.
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If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.