How A Little Heart and Some Social Media Can Change Lives and Your Brand: With Ksenia Avdulova

By Yitzi Weiner and Casmin Wisner

“That’s when I started an Instagram account that was all about practicing self-love and mindfulness through superfood breakfasts…collaborations with Lululemon and Free People followed.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ksenia Avdulova, social media coach for mission-driven companies and founder of Breakfast Criminals. Starting an Instagram account dedicated to mindful (and delicious) mornings, Ksenia became a social media star with a Kashi cereal box cover and collaborations with global brands like Vitamix and Google in her portfolio. But spreading the idea of starting every day with self-love and being named “The fashion world’s most in-demand chef,” wasn’t enough for Ksenia, and she’s now known for leading workshops and teaching a Skillshare class that empowers mission-driven entrepreneurs to share their message and create real impact through authentic social media storytelling.

Thank you for doing this with us. What is your backstory?

I’ve been speaking the language of social media since I was a teenager. I started my first blog when I was 15. I found my first serious boyfriend on Craigslist (before it was creepy, I swear) when I was 19. I made my first $1,000 on social media by shipping designer shoes from the US to my friends in Russia. In grad school, I took a blogging class and realized that I can use my natural ability to tell visual stories for a living.

My dream job followed, thanks to LinkedIn. I got a fancy gig managing social media for one of the fastest growing fashion startup at the time, Gilt Groupe. Then my American dream crashed and burned as my visa application (I’m an immigrant from Russia) fell through. With that, my newly rented dream apartment had to be let go, I had to leave my job, and my relationship of three years ended. I was told that I had three months to pack and leave the country.

That’s when I started an Instagram account that was all about practicing self-love and mindfulness through superfood breakfasts. It was my playground for finding my voice and my limitless potential as a digital entrepreneur.

Collaborations with Lululemon and Free People followed, along with leading retreats around the world and launching a digital (recipe ebook) and a brick-and-mortar product. The latter, a ceramic heart-shaped bowl, ended up going viral after Victoria’s Secret Angel Romee Strijd posted about it on her Instagram.

Today, I’ve continued to build Breakfast Criminals from a one-woman-show into a go-to global platform about starting your day right, collaborating with like-minded high consciousness entrepreneurs to merge wellness and giving back, make YouTube videos, and share my mindful approach to social media marketing within the conversation about bringing humanity into technology.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

One of my favorite stories has to do with how someone from the Lululemon HQ in Canada found my work and reached out inviting me to be a contributor to their blog. They saw my breakfast bowl pin on Pinterest! It was such a confirmation that my work is seen, and that no effort of putting my message out into the world goes to waste.

Are you working on any meaningful non profit projects? How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Since the beginning, I’ve used the global reach and high engagement of the Breakfast Criminals community to share projects that matter. The first big one was coming up with the idea of creating a day that celebrates conscious and fair trade shopping and buying holiday gifts that give back. I ended up partnering up with Global Goods Partners, an incredible organization was volunteering for, to create #FairTuesday, a movement that involved over 135 organizations and was active for 3 years.

Most recently I’ve partnered with Conscious Lifestyle Expert and Shaman Alyson Charles and ceramic artist Lisa Harper Kennedy to release an energetically activated limited edition heart bowl, with 100% of all profit going to Bumi Sehat Foundation, dedicated to mindful, holistic and loving childbirth as a means to building peace. Well+Good crowned it “The world’s most intentional breakfast bowl”. It was Inspired by my visit to Bumi Sehat clinic in Bali while on a trip with another great non-profit, Lead with Love (for anyone interested in conscious leadership, I highly recommend going to their event in Aspen in October).

Wow! Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

Not a day goes by when I don’t get a message from the Breakfast Criminals community saying that my content and events inspired them to lead a healthier lifestyle. I also LOVE getting photos of people all over the world eating from the heart bowl, sharing that it brought an element of ritual and self-love into their day. It’s such a small but incredibly important thing, to allow our bodies to be nourished not just physically, but also energetically.

Just in the US, every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder (Eating Disorders Coalition. (2016). I created the heart bowl with an intention to end that, and have donated heart bowls to various organizations like the National Institute of Health.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started,” and why?

  1. No one will tell you you’re a leader. You have to create yourself as one. For the longest time, I told myself I don’t know how to be a leader until I devour every book leadership, and get a blessing from someone I look up to. Through the techniques I learned at personal development program The Landmark Forum, I realized that being a leader will not come from the outside, and the longer I wait, the less I bring into the world. I created my own definition of a great leader, and have been actively committed to it ever since, hiring my first employee and outsourcing more projects as my business grows.
  2. Erase the word “busy” from your vocabulary. It only creates unnecessary stress. Before I did that, I’d always feel anxiety arise in my chest every time someone would ask me how I’m doing. All the upcoming deadlines and unread emails would suddenly take over my being. Your word creates your world, and by erasing the word “busy” from your vocabulary, you have the power to erase it from your human experience.
  3. Get support. Hire a business coach, join an entrepreneur group, create a mastermind. Whatever it takes for you to not be stuck in your brain 24/7. I recently joined a solopreneur group OwnersUp, and the coaching and accountability I get in it has not only transformed my business, but also gave me confidence as an entrepreneur.
  4. Build your reputation from day one and be kind. You never know where people you’re working with today are going to end up. I unconsciously built some of my most important business relationships in the first months of starting my business. Back then, we were all amateurs in the Wild, Wild West world of digital entrepreneurship within the wellness space. Today, we’re each other’s biggest supporters. This works in all directions: reach out and help people who are your peers, a few steps ahead of you, and a few steps behind you in the game.
  5. Diversify your income. Whether you’re an influencer and Instagram is your bread and butter, or your career is completely different, it’s extremely important to set up varied ways of making money. Especially in the influencer world where the only content that ultimately belongs to you is the one published on your own website (and not social platforms like Instagram and Facebook). If Instagram disappears tomorrow, what are you going to do? Grow your newsletter, lead offline workshops, collaborate with brands to create products — do whatever it takes to not have all eggs in one basket.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Richard Branson! His playful approach to business and life inspired me to quit my full-time job in fashion and pursue Breakfast Criminals full-time. I’m also in awe of his philanthropic efforts. Functional coffee and superfood breakfast are on me, Richard.

Thank you for doing this with us. It was very inspiring.

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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.