I never stop dreaming, thinking, planning… and most importantly executing. There is never a day I am not moving our mission forward.
Donna Yost, the author of “Pumptitude: My Journey From CEO Wife to CEO Life – And How To Survive,” is the CEO of The Life Chest. After a successful career in dental sales and creating her own line of children’s toys, Donna found herself in a new role when her husband’s position as CEO of Art Van Furniture took them from Canada to the United States. Through a series of synchronistic events that drew on a lifetime of persistent personal growth and improvement, Donna found herself at the helm of her husband’s passion project, The Life Chest.
Where did the idea for The Life Chest come from?
The concept for The Life Chest was originally developed in 1968 when my husband, Kim Yost, was a furniture buyer at a Canadian store called Woodwards. Kim was a guest at the home of a factory owner, where Mr. C.C., shared several boxes of memorabilia and trinkets from over five generations of family.
Every time a special item was taken out of the box it became a memory – a beautiful story from the past. It was at that moment Kim vowed to develop beautifully designed chests that could hold the past, present and future dreams of its owner for generations to enjoy.
Fast forward to today, The Life Chest is changing lives by becoming a cherished place to share one’s life memories with all who open its lid.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Every day at The Life Chest is filled with excitement. From skydiving with the best paratroopers in the world to giving former President Bush Senior his very own special edition Freedom Life Chest, our team is constantly on the move.
We are present in every moment of life, from our Babies First Life Chest, graduations and weddings, military, and retirement. The Life Chest celebrates someone’s life story to embracing the legacy of loved ones lost. The Life Chest can be not only a source of healing but a wonderful gathering place to share the stories of family members at any special occasion.
We have received calls from around the world from people who would love to have a Life Chest in their lives. There are so many wonderful people interested in The Life Chest mission, we strive to fulfill as many of those requests as possible!
How do you bring ideas to life?
Our team is our core. We have a very small team, and we do a lot – everyone around us is conspiring to help us be successful. When you have an idea that is heartwarming and helpful to others, everyone pitches in to help. We feel very fortunate to be where we are today, and we have so many people to thank who are helping us along the way.
We also have a rule at The Life Chest: when our team decides to take on a great idea, we meet together first to divide activities between each team member so everyone is participating and tasked in roles based on what they do best. We call it, “GSD” – Getting Stuff Done.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
There is currently a trend where people are wanting to leave a legacy, not only digitally but also tangibly. Even more so, children are eager to learn the stories of their families, of their past, so they can pass it on to the future. There is a resurgence of interest in companies like ancestry.com, and like products, where millions of people are searching for their ancestors. The Life Chest provides a unique direct link between one’s family history. Where else can you gather your own history, and share stories of old, present, and potential future?
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I never stop dreaming, thinking, planning… and most importantly executing. There is never a day I am not moving our mission forward. Seven days a week my mind is racing, thinking of how we can tell our story…where the next sale could be and how we are going to make every minute count when executing. Our team is very small so we need to be thoughtful and organized.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I have been really fortunate as every job I have had as an adult I loved. I guess the worst job was when I had to ride my bike about 10 miles to a tree farm and pull weeds for 8 hours a day in the hot sun or pounding rain. Worms, toads, and slugs were everywhere and I guess this is where I decided I would much rather be an entrepreneur!
Control your fate.
It can be very rewarding to achieve what you set your mind out to do, but the best is when you have a team of people who believe in a common goal, and everyone gets to share in the hard work, the setbacks, the work that overcomes the setbacks and then… SUCCESS.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I think the most important thing I do that has helped put our idea on the forefront is seeking out great partners. People with like-minded work ethic, have a strong value system and people who are willing to put themselves out there for the greater good of humankind. That way, there is a genuine interest in the well-being of The Life Chest and everyone involved. That makes for a great environment and productive team.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
As mentioned above, partnering with people who have tremendous experience, a willingness to share those experiences and mentor my team and will work bearing in mind the fruit will be yet to come. This enables you to minimize your payroll costs upfront so you can build. When your success comes, you must then share the wealth with those who helped get you there.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I think sometimes I give too much time to an idea that is not producing the results we need at the time. This is a very difficult thing to measure. Sometimes you have to say no to a really good idea at a certain moment, and for the health of the company force yourself to move on if you are not getting results.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think it would be wonderful if there could be a company that would put retired photographers and videographers together to help young companies produce quality video and photo files for use in social media and website design. The cost of producing these necessary digital resources is staggering. There could be a union of internships from colleges and very experienced retirees sharing their skill set providing these necessary essentials for new business owners at a reasonable cost.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I spent recently was on a celebratory lunch with my team. We had accomplished some great things and it was the first time we were all together in the same place. We have satellite members so it was also the first time physically meeting each other and it was so much fun!
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
You are going to love this answer… I have to check with my team as they are the experts! I have no idea! I’m out in the real- world, and my three team members are in the digital world. However, I do know that Adobe Creative Cloud allows us to edit photos, develop collateral and edit videos under one platform. That’s advantageous. WordPress is what we use for our blog, and we are still dabbling in it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
PUMPTITUDE My Journey from CEO Wife to CEO Life and How to Survive. I wrote it! And it tells the story of what we are doing from before the launch to now! There may be some very interesting things to learn as I had so many great people contribute!
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I think the most influential people in my life regarding entrepreneurship would be Kim Yost, my husband. He is a very successful CEO, and I watch and learn from him every day. The movie about Steve Jobs motivates me to never give up, and continuously reading a lot keeps me from being stale. Following influential motivational speakers is great, and following other successful entrepreneurs is enlightening. But most of all, loving what you do and sharing that passion is what I think is the most powerful.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.