As she remembers it, Heymama co-founder Katya Libin always had that entrepreneurial itch. “My mom always told me that I had this unequivocal confidence that I would start [my own business,” she says.
But it took a string of odd jobs—in a law office, a dentist’s office, a flower shop, even a BMW parts center, to name a few—before Libin would begin a business of her own. “I loved to try different things out and just see what was interesting for me,” she explains.
Those early jobs instilled in her a love of connecting with people, so founding a content and community platform with her best friend Amri Kibbler was almost predetermined. Heymama brings working moms together to network, share stories, and support each other. With a major presence in five cities (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Denver) and more to come in 2018, Heymama hopes to grow into a bonafide #bossbabe *movement*.
Here, Libin shares how she balances being a single mom and entrepreneur. And it all starts with a morning ritual that you’ll want to adopt stat.
Keep reading for Libin’s career starts and stumbles, and tips for handling rejection and much more.
What was your first dream job?
I told people that I wanted to be an entertainment lawyer. I also had a big entrepreneurial bug, so I knew I’d potentially have my own business.
And what was your first actual job?
I pulled out the Yellow Pages and looked up law firms in the city. I went alphabetically and I picked up the phone and called Aaron Ambalu and just said, ‘Hey, I’d like to work for your firm. This is what I can do for you.’ He really liked me over the phone, so he asked me to come in for an interview. I was 15 and interviewed in front of all of the partners and then they hired me. I came in from Queens every day, and it was a serious, paid job.
How did you find the confidence to start your own business?
After college, I started working at a tech company, and got into sales. I didn’t have any confidence issues—from a young age, my mom told me that I had “elephant-sized balls.” I’d walk into a room with lots of men that were more senior than me. I was the only girl on my sales team of eight and I ended up bringing in half the company’s revenue for five years. I definitely wasn’t shy. I finally realized that all of this passion that I was putting into these other companies—I could have put into my own business.
How do you handle rejection?
Everything you do in business is a value exchange of ideas, insights, and eventually, when you’re working with brands, money. And if people don’t see the value, then they’re not understanding it, you’re not presenting it correctly, or it’s just not the right fit. It’s best not to force some of those things and instead move on to other people that really do care what you have to say and are excited to work with you.
If people don’t see the value, then they’re not understanding it, you’re not presenting it correctly, or it’s just not the right fit.
Did you have a mentor growing up?
I didn’t, but I looked up to my sister in my 20s. She started a company called Kettlebell Kickboxing, and has written books, created so many different DVDs, and changed women’s lives. I’d look at the impact she was making and how passionate she was about it, and I knew I wanted to have something like that. I think having another entrepreneur in my family that I could come to—who understood the hustle and the grind of how hard it was—was incredible. And today, I’m grateful to women in our Heymama community. We have the amazing Rebecca Minkoff as a member, and women like Katia Beauchamp who started Birchbox on our board to guide us along the way.
What’s your best tip for tackling email?
I star everything that I need to come back to. I respond to any email that takes less than two minutes to respond to [immediately]. I try to lean into the tougher, bigger ones that I know I’m delaying and start them as drafts so at least they’re ready.
What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
My rule is I don’t turn on my phone for the first hour of the day. It’s sacred quiet time with my six-year-old daughter. We’ll snuggle, and then I’ll make her breakfast, and then I’ll try to get her dressed, which usually takes a long time. I like the morning to be a really peaceful thing. When my daughter’s not with me, I try to meditate. I love to look at the sunrise and take it in and thank the universe for the day.
What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed at night?
I play the ukulele. I love to end my night with music. I strum a few chords and I’ll practice for about 10 minutes. I have this journal that’s a five-year diary that asks you a different question every day and tracks what you think for five years. I fill that out every night, too. And then I thank the universe for the day.
What are the organizational tools you swear by?
I actually love my Erin Condren planner. She makes amazing planners and I live by them. And then to counter the old school planner, I have an Apple Watch and it’s a game changer. I highly suggest it for busy women that just need efficiencies wherever you can. It’s really helped me feel like I’m in touch and know what’s going on without having my phone out all the time.
Describe a moment you felt like quitting—and how did you power through?
I’ve never felt like quitting but there have been moments that I’ve broken down in tears and felt overwhelmed. I think occasionally, that’s okay. If it gets to you, let it get to you. And then move on and say, ‘You know what? I had a good cry, had a little chocolate and wine, and now I’m ready to get back to this.’
People often ask, “How do you do it all?” But really! How do you make time for business, exercise, self-care?
I try to look at time as anergy and a choice I make as opposed to something that happens to me. So, for example, people say, “I don’t have time to work out.” I make the choice to spend my energy working out four days a week instead of going on email, for example, because I know that if I’m strong physically, I’ll have balance and be more successful in other areas of my life.
What makes a good leader?
Remembering that if someone’s not successful, it could be because you didn’t give them the tools or resources or support they needed. I think being a good leader also means showing up and bringing the energy and positivity to the table that you want others to mirror. It’s catching yourself when things seem stressful—not that you can’t show that stress, but realizing that that stress is contagious. Admitting failure is key, too.
I would tell my 20-year-old self to be a bit more forgiving. I think we’re really hard on ourselves.
Do you have any tips on how to network without it feeling fake?
I have this saying: If you want to be interesting, be interested. Ask questions. The moment you open up and really ask people what they’re up to and what they’re doing and you take a genuine interest in them, people light up. Make it less about you.
What’s one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you were 20?
That happiness is where you are. You have to enjoy what you’re going through instead of looking so far ahead and just thinking about those check marks. I would also tell my 20-year-old self to be a bit more forgiving. I think we’re really hard on ourselves, but your twenties are for messing up and learning from it.
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