Name: Victoria Yampolsky
Title: Founder and President
Organisation: The Startup Station
Victoria Yampolsky is President and Founder of The Startup Station, a CFO advisory and finance education platform for startups and small businesses. She is a serial entrepreneur, mentor for early-stage startups, strategic CFO, and an expert in financial modeling and valuation. The Startup Station worked with more than 150 founders across 15+ industries and helped them raise $50M+ in venture capital. The Startup Station's know-how is in translating the leadership team's vision into an executable financial roadmap which clearly connects strategic decisions to financial outcomes. Such a financial roadmap can serve as both an effective communication tool with investors during fundraising and a critical and robust business intelligence tool as the company begins executing its strategy.
The Startup Station also has a strong education arm as we believe that all founders must possess minimal financial literacy to be effective stewards of their businesses. More than 1,000 founders have taken The Startup Station's courses to learn the basics of accounting, valuation, financial modeling, and startup financing. Victoria also teaches at the Bank of America Institute of Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell University.
Victoria is CEO and Co-Founder of PowerUp, a new non-profit groundbreaking global program for seed-level female-led ventures. This program aims to bridge the gender funding gap worldwide and produce the next generation of female entrepreneurs who feel limitless. The program uniquely combines (1) 2-year training in strategic and financial planning to help companies scale, (2) weekly executive group coaching sessions to expand their mindset, (3) a global network of PowerUp ambassadors, already representing 25 countries on 5 continents, to improve access to capital, and (4) rigorous monitoring of results to change the perception of risk.
Victoria also represents New York State as part of the Leadership Council of the National Small Business Association (NSBA). In this role, she advocates for fair access to capital for women in the United States.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Victoria's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
There are two areas that I found most challenging and now focus the most on in my leadership journey: 1) How to align various stakeholders with my vision and effectively resolve disagreements, and 2) How to stay motivated and focused myself despite any setbacks.
With the former, no one can execute a big vision alone. If my team is not behind me and everyone has their own agenda and pulling in different directions, nothing will be achieved. With the latter, if I, as a leader, show doubt and project fear, my team who relies on me for support and guidance, will feel the same. The result can destroy the company, increase turnover, among many other negative outcomes.
Both of these challenges have to do with the mindset. Specifically, having the right approach to communicating the vision, incorporating feedback, considering all points of view and achieving consensus, making all parties heard, and also having a safe space for me to process my emotions without affecting my team.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
All my life I looked for passion, for meaning, for my life to be full of creativity, excitement, and purpose.
But I looked for it in the wrong places. I looked for passion and purpose externally by trying various professions, instead of going inward and figuring out what it was that I stood for as a human being.
I pursued Computer Science, IT Consulting, studied Finance and worked on Wall Street. I founded a film company and then The Startup Station, the company I still run and where I provide expert CFO advice and teach finance to entrepreneurs.
While all of these experience taught me valuable skills, none of them truly fulfilled me. Only when I founded PowerUp, a non a new non-profit groundbreaking global program for seed-level female-led ventures, I felt that I found my calling because it connected to my inner driving force.
It was easy to become a leader then because I had a strong vision which came from my heart. I realized that I can inspire, motivate and bring people together behind a common cause that we all consider worthy. I built an incredible team and we are all on the mission to bridge the gender funding gap worldwide.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I start my day by working on my mindset. I write affirmations and do a 10-minute meditation to quiet my mind and to set the right intention for the day. My work day is structured like an algorithm. I do all the small tasks together, group all meetings together and then set aside time for longer tasks with breaks in between. I think through what I will do in advance, and sometimes make a list if there are a lot of tasks. This approach helps me not to get overwhelmed and also to focus on what to do at any point.
If I am tired I take a break. I make time for my family and to take walks. All of it is important to achieve clarity and not lose time on negative emotions when things don't go your way.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
I've learned that leading with respect and empathy instead of firmness and force can achieve much better results.
Any conflict is hard, but the one where the stakes are high and there seems to be no win-win solution is especially difficult.
I found that simply forcing your decision on other people is not always the best way, because it generates resentment and makes them feel less valued.
Instead, if I show empathy and respect for their point of view, firmly stand concerns with reasons behind them and be open to other solutions I have not previously considered, the result can be surprising. In this situation I can achieve all my objectives while strengthening instead of weakening the relationship with another party.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I am now reading the book called "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. It is about how to create positive habits and overcome negative habits. The books states that success is the result of the small wins over a long period of time. That the processes are more important than the goals. Reading it further reaffirmed my dedication to processes, consistency, transparency and strong values because all of them build a strong "business habits" foundation that will make my venture achieve all of its goals and more.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Focus on understanding you and learning about psychology. Become more aware of your triggers and thought patterns and learn to understand others. Create a routine for you to work on your mind as well as your body. Both are key.
Use this knowledge to create your company values, make sure they are aligned with who you are and what you want to build. This will help you attract the team who can help you do it, and resolve any challenges along the way.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
I became an accidental leader last year when the war between Russia and Ukraine broke out. Even though I spent most of my life in the United States, I was born in Russia and it was still a big part of my identity. I felt responsible for what was going on simply by being from that region. As an entrepreneur, I wanted to do something more than just giving money.
In March 2022, I decided to organize a virtual concert bringing musicians from around the world to support Ukraine and with this concert raise money for a non-profit doing work for the refugees affected by the conflict. In 4 months after building a team of 100 people in 11 countries and bringing together 22 artists from 9 countries including Pink Floyd, we aired our concert on the streaming platform Mandolin. It was a beautiful event that taught me what a team united by the strong vision and lead by a strong leader can achieve. Then I started PowerUp 2 months later.