As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Nataliya Nova.
After dedicating ten years to the media business for Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar in Ukraine, Nataliya moved to New York City where she transformed her career to fashion design. Growing up in Ukraine, Nataliya was immersed in a culture of handcrafted knitwear. The art of knitting has been passed down from generation to generation. Nataliya Nova delivers impeccable accessories for every occasion while paying homage to Ukraine through her luxury accessory line.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
You know there were a few times when I almost gave up and every time I said, “That’s all, I’m done.” I was getting an order from a client with a message that said it was the best hat or scarf they ever had.” It was like the universe was sending me a message for me to keep going. My clients and people who appreciate my creativity saved me. Thank you!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
A mistake can be profitable! One time our graphic designer sent a factory design file for a silk scarf with the wrong settings. We ended up with very different colors. And you know what, it became one of the most popular scarves!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I don’t necessarily believe in mentoring, I prefer to call people advisors. I believe in learning particular skills and exploring other peoples’ experiences. No one on this planet knows you better than you. You should have integrity: mindset, feelings, followed by actions. A mentor can not do all of that. That is your job.
We all are unique in our own way, you can’t repeat other people’s paths. I learned to take responsibility for my life and decisions without expecting other people to save me from myself. In Ukraine, we have a saying “don’t look for your answers on other people’s plates”. Only you know what works for you the best. There are very few times where you might consider other people’s advice. Whatever you hear or see needs to go through your own filter based on your personality.
When I was studying at FIT, I went through different internships. While working during NYC Fashion Week, I saw how brands manage their runway shows and presentation. Also, by having an internship, I worked closely with the owner and went through all stages of working with trade shows and wholesale models. When you learn from someone, always ask, “what to do?” and “what not to do?”
You also need to learn how to say NO if you see that the opportunity doesn’t give you that much without any apology. Remember, you need to make your own decisions.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality, and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
If we are talking about gender, we need to remember that men’s and women’s brains function differently. We have complementary skills. I like to work with both men and women in my team. According to researchers, men’s brains are more structured and women have much higher EQ, communication skills, ability to be the glue in a team, flexibility, attention to detail. I can continue. We need both genders to create a powerful team. We need to respect and appreciate what nature gave to us and see the best in each other.
You can’t hire people only based on their ethnicity and you can’t isolate and devalue them based on that as well. The choice of the executive team should be driven by the skills and experiences people bring to a company. It needs to be a balance of diversity and skills. Having diversity in the executive team sets a tone for the whole company and the market in general.
I’m originally from Ukraine, and we historically didn’t have issues with race, equality, etc. I saw it in the US when I moved here. It’s sad and I’m glad it’s changing.
I spent my childhood between communism and perestroika (post-communism) periods where everyone had very similar opportunities, access to free education, and medicine. A lot of men died during the 2nd world war, and women need to take leading roles in Eastern Europe to recover the economy of their countries.
In addition to my fashion line, I consult as well. My business partner is originally from India, and one of my best friends is from Haiti, you can’t imagine how many times I heard from them “Nataliya, if you weren’t here, we wouldn’t be invited or come in”. It’s hard for me to imagine how it is to live a life with these feelings.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
I see the big issue in the education system in the US. When you look statistically, families with low income have more kids and less access to good education and good jobs in the future. It creates a circle we need to break. In Europe, education is free in most countries. So everyone has a chance.
I’m also observing that there are a lot of hard-working women who want to realize their potential, but it’s hard for them to afford childcare. They need to choose a career or maternity, and it’s painful. Women should be able to have both.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
You lead on a big scale. You need to be able to have a short and long-term vision and put all of the puzzle pieces together. You set the direction for the whole team. There is much more complexity, you are not limited by functioning only in one department.
What are the myths that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
One of my favorites is that CEOs have a glamorous life. They have a busy life with a lot of work and responsibilities. The other one is that CEOs are not approachable. They are! You need to understand that the subject you are trying to approach is CEO’s level or not.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
When you start your company, you will be involved in many details, stages, building the structure from scratch. There is such a big difference between being CEO of a corporation and your own business.
Presumably, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive, and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
You should be realistic about your personality type. People who like to focus on the details and operational stuff may miss the big picture. Also, people who like micromanagement will face a lot of challenges of being CEO. I would say it’s not even that they are not cut out to be an executive, they wouldn’t appreciate this position and it may cause more struggles vs. enjoying it.
To be a successful executive, you should have a vision for the opportunities. Some people just like to be managed and execute the plan created by someone. As CEO you will be working with a lot of different types of people inside and outside of your company. You need to have a flexible mindset and see the value in a person or a deal despite the fact you might strongly disagree.
It needs to be a match of personality type, skills, and position in the company.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I always stand for diversity, aspects of sustainability, and supporting other people. We have all these elements in the Nataliya Nova Luxury Accessories brand. Men and women can create a fantastic team, your skills and intelligence should speak for you, not your race. I believe in conscious consumption and buying high-quality items that can work for you for years.
Our cashmere and summer hats are hand-made by local artisans. These products have a different spirit. Fast fashion can be harmful, and you can’t give it much quality. To create something beautiful takes time and a lot of effort. Some of our clients wore the same hat by Nataliya Nova for years, it became their favorite one! And if they lose it, we get a message from them to get the same one. I’m glad that my cultural heritage allows me to share these values in the US. I hope my example will be inspiring for other entrepreneurs.
Fantastic. Here is the primary question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Don’t overestimate how many hours per day you can work and be productive and try not to fool yourself that you can learn something new easily. You will go through a path when you need to overcome obstacles 24/7, don’t make it even more complicated. Find people who can work part-time or companies you can delegate to as much as possible.
- Whatever you plan for your business will always take more time, more money, and more effort. Be ready for that.
- Human factor. This aspect is huge! You rely on people, and they don’t necessarily deliver on their promise. Even if they say, “yes, we have/yes, we can” it won’t necessarily be true. Go into details, ask when, how they will execute, check their midterm results. You should always be ready to replace something or someone in a very short period of time. If the job was completed well the first time, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the second time will be the same. Success in the past doesn’t guarantee success in the future with the same person or company.
- Everyone will try to give you advice. At the early stage, you are very vulnerable. Make sure you ask opinions from people who know your business or potential customers. All these pieces of advice can take you out of your direction, and you need to learn how to filter what is a valuable recommendation and what is just noise! Stay solid!
- You should always have an additional stream of income. When you are starting your own business, make sure your life will not be sinking. It will take some time before the company will generate an income. It will give you peace of mind to focus on your new business.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Will be a movement “Share your knowledge”.
Let’s learn from each other. Regardless of age or where you’re from, God gave to all of us our talents. You never know who will influence you and your business the most.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have 2. “Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the face”, “What is the difference between a medicine and poison? Dose!”
Whatever you plan, you can’t predict life, and you need to be ready to adjust the course of action at any time. Also, it’s hard to predict your own reactions to certain events. You will be dealing with a lot of unknown things.
You need to know the borderline when something good can become destructive. Caring for someone can be easily transformed into an issue with control. Overdose attachment is called addiction. Being easygoing in a big dose can be careless.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Oprah Winfrey.True empathy comes after people go through a certain life experience. For me, it’s one of the most supportive and empathic women on the planet. I definitely would like to discuss with her how we can make this world better. It would be nice to come up with some educational project for the kids, I know she is so passionate about it.
Bill Gates. His mindset and intellectual capacity are amazing! I love a lot of the innovations and how he comes up with new products/ideas. Wherever we see people created is a result of internal processes. His vision, determination, and commitments are very powerful. I would like to learn something from him.