Youngest ever female CEO of a public company? Motherhood? No problem, what’s next?
Julie Smolyansky became the youngest female CEO of a publicly held firm when she took the helm at Lifeway Foods, Inc. in 2002. Beyond the responsibilities of running a multi-million dollar business, Julie also sits on the board of directors for several humanitarian organizations, volunteers her time mentoring young entrepreneurs, raises two young daughters – oh, and in her spare time, she’s been known to run a marathon or two.
It’s hard enough to find time to take a shower or eat a proper meal with two small kids in the house – so how does she do it? We caught up with this busy mom while she was on her way to a speaking engagement to get some tips for balancing work, life, motherhood and everything in-between.
In the late 70’s my mother, Ludmila Smolyansky, opened the first Russian delicatessen in Chicago. She was new to the country and new to the language, but she did it all. She handled the finances and unloaded truckload containers by herself all while managing to be a terrific loving mom. Even after opening her fifth store, she still made time to take my brother and me to the park. I learned at a young age that I could have any life I wanted – a career I loved, a beautiful family – anything was possible.
With so many demands on your time, how do you manage to be everywhere you need to be?
Technology. I’m never far from my smart phone so I can answer e-mails, order groceries, Tweet my favorite kefir recipes, schedule meetings, organize fundraisers – there isn’t much I can’t do from my phone, all while playing at the park with my girls.
What steps do you take to stay healthy despite your strenuous schedule?
I don’t have time to get sick! I drink a ton of kefir, of course, as do my kids. BioKefir for me because I can grab it on the go, and ProBugs for the girls. The no-spill pouches won’t make a mess in the car, and it has plenty of calcium and protein so it’s a really healthy snack. We are a cupcake-loving household, but we save the sugary snacks for a “sometimes” treat and try to stick with whole grains and fresh produce. We always have a pint of frozen kefir in the freezer, too. I stay active– training for and running in marathons, riding my bike and chasing my daughters around the park.
How do get to everything? The coolest smart phones still can’t water your plants or make dinner.
At some point, you have to come to grips with the fact that you can’t do it all. When that happens you just have to make some choices about where your time is best spent. I love to spend time in my garden, for instance, but I’m just too busy this summer, so I hired someone to come and water the plants. You have to know when to ask for help. I also have an equal partner in my lifemate Jason Burdeen. He works from home, so he can take the lead on household things and wrangling the girls when I can’t be there.
Any final advice for busy moms?
Make time for yourself, you partner and your kids. If your only time alone is in the shower, savor those 10 minutes. Try to get a run or a bike ride or a yoga class in in-between running around. Block off an entire day just for family time – for us Saturday is date night and Sunday is family day. Get your kids in the kitchen and cook with them – that time is yours, so make it quality time.