Ido Leffler: A Modern Day Pioneer Doing Good for School Supplies

Levi Strauss & Co.
September 22, 2014

Q&A with Yoobi and Yes To Inc. Founder Ido Leffler

This is part of an ongoing series designed to feature people who are changing the world in their Levi’s®. Our Modern Day Pioneers are impacting everything from culture to social issues to the environment, and they’re challenging the status quo in a unique way. We hope these stories will inspire and empower you to live your life to its fullest in Levi’s. Have someone we should consider? Email us! Follow the Modern Day Pioneers series here.

It’s a simple reality in education today: Virtually all teachers — 99.5% of them according to a recent study by the Education Market Association — spend their own money on school supplies. In total, public school teachers in the U.S. spend an estimated $1.6 billion a year on supplies for their students and classrooms.

Ido Leffler, co-founder of natural beauty supply company Yes To, is on a mission to change this reality. Through his new company, Yoobi, he hopes to alleviate the pinch on teachers’ pocketbooks, while also injecting a healthy dose of fun and energy into the school supplies aisle.

Yoobi follows a one-for-one model, similar to Tom’s shoes. For every item purchased, Yoobi donates an item to a Yoobi Classroom Pack. After the packs are filled with goodies, they’re donated to classrooms that need them most, as determined by non-profit partner Kids in Need Foundation.

Yoobi Team Photo_FIrst Give_5.9.14_1

Last week, LS&Co. partnered with Yoobi on a back-to-school volunteer event to benefit three Bay Area schools. Unzipped also we had the opportunity to learn a little more from Ido about his journey as an entrepreneur and how he’s changing the world in his Levi’s. Here’s what he had to say:

How did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur from as far back as I can remember. My father was an engineer turned entrepreneur and I always admired the ability to be independent, to be one’s own boss and to be a game changer in an industry. Personally, I knew I wanted to do all three.

My first entrepreneurial venture was with my best friend when we were 18. We set up a company that delivered freshly baked goods — croissants, bagels, and breads — to people’s homes on Sunday mornings. We did everything; we distributed leaflets, took orders, packed up the bread at 4 am on Sunday mornings, and delivered everything ourselves. It taught us a lot about building a business.

What did the bread delivery business teach you?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to plan ahead. But also, to scrap plans if they’re not working and plan again. That cycle will repeat itself over and over. And definitely don’t start a business that requires you to wake up at 3 in the morning!

Your companies (Yes To and Yoobi) are both centered around adding creativity to a cause — why are those two things particularly important to you?

With Yes To and Yoobi, we combine three clear mantras: incredible people, kickass product, and awesome cause. If you’re going to start a company within an industry that already offers customers a lot of options, it has to be something that’s creative and different.

My goal is always to create products that stand out on the shelf and exceed the customer’s expectations. When you add an awesome cause to an already amazing product, it’s an all-around win. I firmly believe that there shouldn’t be a company in the world today that doesn’t incorporate cause into their business model. Working for a cause motivates our team to be more driven, collaborative, and creative. It also gives our customers something to get behind and allows them to be a part of the goals that we’re working towards.

What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?

The best advice I can give an aspiring entrepreneur is to take that first step. Decide what you want to do and surround yourself with mentors who can provide you with advice, guidance, and support along the way. And most importantly, listen to that advice.

My other piece of advice is, if possible, find a great partner. Lance Kalish, my business partner, is someone I can rely on, and it’s much more fun to do something as a team. As long as roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, it’s rewarding and motivating to have a partner along for the ride — whether it’s celebrating success or leaning on each other when times are tough.

What legacy do you hope to leave on the world?

More than anything, my legacy lies in my children. I do most of what I do today to show my children that whatever they want to achieve, whatever they dream, they can do it. The companies I’ve started are all things I’m personally passionate about, and as a result, they’re more of a hobby than a job. I love my day-to-day life; it is exhilarating, it’s fun, and I want my kids to experience these same feelings. I want them to grow up and pursue their passions too, and to do it even bigger and bolder than I ever did.

I also want to serve as an example that hard work pays off, and encourage other people to do the same. Lance and I definitely weren’t the smartest kids in class, nor the valedictorians of our schools, but we were determined, humble, and willing to work however many hours it took.

But, all of that aside, I’m only 37 so it’s a bit early to think about leaving a legacy!

What’s your Levi’s story?

My first memorable experience with Levi’s is a brilliant story. At my Bar Mitvah, I wore head to toe Levi’s — Levi’s jeans and a black Levi’s jacket. My uncle had taken me to the store to buy my outfit and told me I could pick out anything I wanted. I went straight to the jeans. Also, if I’m not mistaken, I wore Levi’s 501 jeans on my first ever date. I took her to see Dances with Wolves and, despite the movie lasting eight hours, it was a relatively successful date.

If you could go on any adventure (in your Levi’s, of course) where would you go and what would you do?

My life is a daily adventure! I’m constantly traveling, and every week I find myself at the airport saying, “Where to next?” Jeans are my uniform, and I wear them everywhere—to work, out at night, on a trek through Nepal. I live and breathe in my jeans. As a matter of fact, as I answer these questions, I’m wearing Levi’s and waiting for an Uber to pick me up and take me to the airport.