How Being a Little Selfish Makes Katerina Schneider a Better CEO

11 min read
Meet Ritual's founder and get a closer look inside her journey to building a company, and how she learned to be a better businesswoman by putting herself first.
Meet Ritual's founder and get a closer look inside her journey to building a company, and how she learned to be a better businesswoman by putting herself first.

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The greatest tool in a woman’s toolbox isn’t a cosmetic or a brush. It’s self-determination—the daily commitment you make to yourself and your future, and the hard work and rituals that create the foundation for that journey. Make Your Self is a series that spotlights the stories of women who fiercely embody this relentless pursuit.

While Katerina Schneider's vision for Ritual has always been to build a foundation of health for all generations of women, the company actually began with a moment of self-indulgence: When she was pregnant for the first time and unable to find a clean, science-backed, vegan-certified prenatal vitamin she could actually get behind, she decided she'd be better off just creating her own.

"In a way, I selfishly invested in myself," she says. "I invested in something that I knew would bring me a lot of joy, which was combining kind of the science and creative sides of my past and my life—and relentlessly pursuing the product of my dreams."

It paid off. With the coming launch of Essential for Women 50+, her dream of completing a life cycle of multivitamins for women is starting to come to fruition—even if for Kat and Ritual, it's really just the beginning. "It's really empowering to have created a company that has you covered throughout different life stages," she says. "Creating something that supports us for life is a really powerful thought."

And in a way, this milestone has also coincided with a full-circle personal moment for Kat. After pouring herself into all the demands of running a young business and mothering two young children at the same time, she learned that the key to daily success was remembering, again, to be a little selfish—the notion of putting her own oxygen mask first so that she can better help everyone else.

That means taking the time for fun workouts every morning—or making small, proactive decisions that support her wellbeing, like taking walking meetings or drinking extra water during a particularly stressful day. (One pro tip: She likes to pick workouts that push her out of her comfort zone and inspire her to flex different parts of her brain, like dance or boxing.) It's not always a linear journey, but then again, neither is making yourself: It's channeling that self-determination with all the ups and downs and adapting to the unknown.

Below, Kat shares more about embracing this spirit of self-service for the greater good—and the little rituals that get her there.

Kat Tali 238

On learning how to make herself from the very beginning…

"I came to the US when I was four years old. My family and I were refugees from the Soviet Union and we lived in a welfare hotel in complete poverty—we came here with $50 and a suitcase.

"My mom was told by our family to go be a manicurist to bring in money. She said no, and went to business school barely speaking English and ended up working on Wall Street. My dad started his own company. So I've had really good examples of self-determination in my life."

On unlocking her most creative idea yet…

"I kind of pursued a more comfortable, traditional path, going into banking and finance. I felt like I was doing the right thing, but it wasn't always bringing me joy or happiness.

"I've always been super creative, and when I got pregnant…it was kind of an interesting period because being pregnant makes you more creative in a lot of ways. I'm incredibly analytical, so I kind of shut off that part of my brain a little bit. So when I was faced with not being able to find a prenatal vitamin that I needed—one that was really science-backed—I had let go of that fear and that analytical part of my brain that told me, 'Hey, you shouldn’t do this.' And I just took that leap. I decided to develop something for all future generations of women."

"In a way, I selfishly invested in myself."

On the obsessive pursuit that followed…

"I wanted to create a vitamin that I knew would work—not just for me, but for everyone. It needed to use only the cleanest, most essential ingredients in their easily absorbable forms with a fully transparent supply chain. People keep telling me to launch a lot of products, and not obsess over a few, but we don’t want to put a lot of mediocre products with good branding out there. I wanted to focus on one at a time and make it the best it could possibly be, and then continuously work to keep it the best it can be.

"What started as an objective for a clean, science-backed, fully traceable vitamin that works has transformed into a mission to empower women to support their health throughout every life stage."

On learning to put herself first for the benefit of all…

"I wasn't making myself a priority in the beginning and there was a point where I was going through the motions: taking care of my kids, taking care of the company, taking care of my husband. But I wasn't taking care of myself. And I became a little resentful and deeply unhappy, and I started to see that in all aspects of my life.

"Then I was like, you know what, I'm running a health company. I should be really healthy too. One of the most basic things that I've done for myself is make the time to work out in the mornings before I go to work. And that is really hard because that means I could get to see my kids less, or I come into work a little bit later, but it keeps me mentally sane."

On the power of "Pick Three"…

"I think it's really hard to put your oxygen mask first, especially when you have really little kids. For instance, last night I was up till 11:30 with a child that was crying and was teething—there are nights when you don't sleep. But I always kind of bounce back from those things by making sure that I overcorrect the next day. If I was up all night working, then the next day I'll spend my first five minutes at work making a green smoothie rich in protein and healthy fats. Or I'll make sure that I go to pilates in the morning, I'll take all my meetings walking, and I'm drinking a lot of water.

"Not feeling guilty has been the hardest thing. A lot of women ask me. 'How do you have a company and have a family? It's not possible.' It is possible. The hardest thing is just how hard you are on yourself.

"Randi Zuckerberg had an article about this saying to pick three things during a given week: yourself, your career, your kids, or your relationship. If you’re trying to focus on all four you’re going to feel like a failure. Pick three to succeed and feel mentally balanced."

On why moms make the best business owners…

"Being a mom is kind of practice for being an entrepreneur. Moms just have the ability to multitask more than anyone. You're literally doing like a million things at once: simultaneously breastfeeding a child and going to the bathroom, brushing your other kid’s hair while you’re on the phone closing a deal.

"It allows me to think about formulation and our omega-3 supplier as well as the creative for an upcoming campaign, while also keeping our financial plans in mind. That’s why I think I would bet on any mompreneur."

On her vision of bringing different generations of women together…

"It's really empowering to have created a company that has you covered throughout different life stages, so that you can go on to do what you really want to do and know that someone’s taking care of you through these different phases. It's so amazing that we're all going through a lot of these different things together. And if we’ve created the single best multivitamin in the world, shouldn’t that be available to my mom or grandma?

"We all deserve better health, so we shouldn't just be focused on millennials—and anyway, we’re all aging. So creating something that is with us for life is a really powerful thought."

1) Hayasaki, E. How Motherhood Affects Creativity. (2017). Retrieved from The Atlantic.
2) Friedman, S. D. Why It's Not Selfish To Take Care of Yourself. (2014). Retrieved from Harvard Business Review.


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