My mind is always running so I’m constantly looking for new ways to nourish it while giving it an escape as well. Reading books has always been a helpful way for me to keep my mind healthy and relaxed. I always have a book on my night table, or in my purse when I’m on the go. Being out school for a number of years, I read a lot of non-fiction to keep learning, and I read mindfulness and spiritual/self-help books for more of an uplifting, inspiring escape. One of my favourites is “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I also love doing puzzles when my mind needs a break. It’s a really therapeutic and relaxing activity because it’s so immersive.
At times it feels like wellness or elevating one’s wellbeing, is diametrically opposed to high achievement and high performance in one’s career. The stress, mental energy, long hours, lack of restful sleep, preoccupation that result from a high-achievement life seem to directly inhibit wellness. And yet, in order to sustain the creativity, flexibility, mental acuity and resilience that are necessary for high performance, wellness and wellbeing of the mind, body and soul are also mandatory. So how do we achieve both? This is the question I’m hoping to answer through conversations with high-achieving women who have gleaned and are practicing their own philosophies on maintaining their wellbeing.
As a part of this series about what successful women leaders do to thrive, both personally and professionally, I had the pleasure of interviewing… Dana Ben David.
Dana Ben David is a co-founder & the creative director at Healthybud (www.healthybud.co) — a Canadian startup in the pet wellness space. She is also an independent singer, songwriter and producer whose lifestyle is rooted in balance. Balance is the running theme in her routine, as she pursues a lifestyle juggling passion and practicality, hard work and rest, workouts and yoga, social scenes and solitude. She received a Bachelors degree in Architecture from McGill and a Diploma in Audio Production from the Harris Institute of the Arts.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path and to where you are today?
Mycareer path in the pet space was unexpected but happened pretty organically! My partner Kyle and his friend Adrien had been brewing up the idea of creating a company that would turn the pet space on its head (it’s an industry ripe for disruption!) I’ve always been a self-starter with a passion for creative projects — I truly love the idea of creating something out of nothing (whether it’s building designs in Architecture school, writing music or… designing dog treat packaging!) Once the roots of healthybud started to form, Kyle and Adrien started asking me for brand and design-related help for all things creative in the company. We realized that given our unique but complimentary backgrounds and experiences, healthybud would thrive most with the three of us working together. (I also love dogs and am a dog mom myself, so there was lots of alignment there!)
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The moment at our local park when I realized we had healthybud fans that weren’t from our family or friend group! I was with my pup at the dog park and this friendly woman approached me saying how well our dogs get along. The conversation unraveled and it ended up leading to healthy pet food choices. Once I told her about healthybud and that our products were being sold at the store nearby, her face lit up as she realized that healthybud happened to be her new local favourite. She then proceeded to take out our treats from her bag, as she had just purchased them before arriving to the dog park! (She added that the only reason she left her house on that cold winter day was to restock our treats because her dog loves them so much). It was a crazy moment.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting?
The first big mistake we made (which was definitely not humorous at the time, but now gives us a little laugh) was with our first big order to the United States. A subscription box company out of Brooklyn NY ordered over 1000 treat bags for their subscribers. Getting our product to the U.S. was complicated at first. It involved many moving parts, from documentation and certifications to the actual transportation logistics as well. A couple of days before the expected delivery date, we tracked the package and realized that our product was still at the Canadian border! Supposedly, they didn’t pick up the certifications to allow our product to enter the USA. So, they held them there without notifying us of any issue. In actuality, they did have all the documents but they mistakingly thought they needed more. Unfortunately, the bags didn’t end up getting there in time. We of course took ownership of the mistake, but it was really important for us not to sever our relationship with this company. We ended up driving to Brooklyn that weekend with Montreal bagels and Canadian whisky in hand, to give our sincere apologies in person. Healthybud now has a warehouse in the U.S. and we still work with that company today. All’s well that ends well!
What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
First and foremost, we learned the proper protocol for getting our products into the Unites States (which is a big deal in the pet space as most business is done there). The biggest take-home was that it’s important to be very hands on, especially at the beginning stages of the company and during first time processes. We should have been following that package more closely to ensure that everything was running smoothly, instead of leaving it in the hands of multiple parties who apparently weren’t communicating with each other.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture and work life?
To have a fantastic work culture and work life, it’s so important to choose your teammates wisely and to make sure they share similar values. If the people building the vision together are aligned, have chemistry and respect for each other, then it’s a recipe for success and a great work culture will follow. Little things we do at healthybud to create a great, positive work life is to not take ourselves too seriously, to laugh a lot, give praise and hold each other accountable when needed. We try to change up the work environment every now and then and go on small trips together as well. The last bit of advice I would give is to take the time to pause and celebrate victories and milestones when they happen. That creates the opportunity for deeper bonding appreciation, which translate into the work dynamic and relationships.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule. Can you share with our readers two self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.
Going to the gym is so important to help my body (and mind) stay in shape, especially when my schedule gets really busy. It took a couple of weeks for me to get hooked to the gym. I started to realize that as I developed my physical strength, my mental strength improved as well. Now I crave that feeling! (Working out also clears my mind which is constantly on the go; the gym became my escape). To make working out as simple, affordable and effective as possible, I downloaded an app called “Seven” which has workouts tailored for specific goals with instructional videos. This allows me to workout without a trainer and in my building’s gym (which leaves me with no excuses not to go — not the weather or the price of a trainer or gym membership!)
I also take group classes with a teacher once a week. I discovered this amazing gym/co-working space called “Sweat and Tonic”. I love their Yin Yoga class as it helps reset my body and mind after a long day, as well as stretch and relax my muscles that are tense from working out. Rooted in Chinese medicine, the poses are intended to work with your energy centres and meridians to encourage the energy flow to different areas of the body. Certain poses also are designed to massage internal organs. It’s incredible how powerful that class is and how integral it has become to my routine as I try to stay on top of my physical health in busy times. It’s such an escape!
Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)
My mind is always running so I’m constantly looking for new ways to nourish it while giving it an escape as well. Reading books has always been a helpful way for me to keep my mind healthy and relaxed. I always have a book on my night table, or in my purse when I’m on the go. Being out school for a number of years, I read a lot of non-fiction to keep learning, and I read mindfulness and spiritual/self-help books for more of an uplifting, inspiring escape. One of my favourites is “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert.
I also love doing puzzles when my mind needs a break. It’s a really therapeutic and relaxing activity because it’s so immersive.
Finally, can you share with us two routines that you use to help your heart, your emotional or spiritual life to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)
Music is my outlet. Singing and songwriting fuels me, especially when I feel drained or overwhelmed. I mark the end of my “workday” in my home studio by sitting down with my keyboard and microphone, and let the emotions of the day run through me and into a tangible form.
Another element in my routine is incorporating meditation & yoga in the mornings or late at night. Focusing on coming back to my breath through stretches and poses helps create a “reset” for my mind, body and soul (which is usually much-needed after a long day of focus and staring at screens). After a good practice, I’ll usually feel rejuvenated with a fresh perspective.
When life is very busy, and you cannot stick with your ideal routine, are there any wellness practices, rituals, products or services for your mind, body, or soul that you absolutely cannot live without?
I know it sounds crazy, but essential oils! They’re my quick fixes when I need to come back to centre. When I’m stressed and can’t stick to my ideal routine, I take a couple of inhales of eucalyptus oil. I close my eyes and while inhaling, visualize myself leaving a spa after an extremely relaxing treatment. It works every time! Different essential oils have a different effect on me, but there’s something about eucalyptus oil that just does it for me! Another ritual I love is burning Palo santo. That’s my go to for getting rid of bad energy in the room.
All of us have great days and days that are not as great. On days when you feel like a rockstar what do you do? What does that day look like, and what did you do to get there?
My best days usually happen after I get a good night’s sleep and wake up extra early, before the rest of the city does! There’s something really peaceful and inspiring about that time of day. When I’m feeling great, I take advantage of the positive energy and get work done! That’s usually when my best (and most focused) work happens. On great productive days, I feel extra creative, resourceful and limitless so I’ll try to harness that energy into a new innovative idea for the company, or try to complete a project that I’ve been stuck on.
In contrast, on days when you feel down, what do you do?
I step away from work and focus on refuelling the area of my mind/body that feels depleted. I’ll head to a meditation class, listen to (or write) music, take my dog for a long walk, go to the gym or hop on a call with friends or family. Anything to step away and clear my mind.
Do you have a story about the weirdest, most bizarre or most humorous wellness experience, treatment, practice, or practitioner that you’ve ever partaken in? If you do, we’d love to hear it.
I used to love ear candling. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s this ancient technique where a wax conical (hollow) candle is inserted into your ear and the other end gets lit on fire. I know, it sounds (and looks) crazy. The flame at the top is supposed to create a chimney effect whereby wax and any debris are suctioned out of your ear (I used to have terrible ear pain flying so I tried this method for this first time in the Middle East to try and help alleviate the pressure and pain). I found it such a relaxing experience and there was something satisfying about seeing what this technique was able to remove. However, I’m totally aware that there’s some skepticism around the effectiveness of ear candling, and how many say that the wax found in the candle after the process is simply the wax that melted from the candle. At the end of the day, I felt great afterwards so … live and let live!
You’re a high achieving business leader, and you also have family and loved ones that may require a different side of you at home. How do you leave the executive at the door, and be the most loving caretaker at home?
That’s actually the most challenging part for me. One of my business partners is also my life partner (bringing its own set of challenges). We aren’t always able to physically separate the two because we both work from home, so we’ll take turns working out of the house to create that balance. The trick is to create boundaries so that both our business and relationship can thrive. One way we tackle that is through our 8PM rule: no work-talk after that hour! (Sometimes that’s easier said than done, especially when we’re working towards deadlines). Another way we tackle this is by setting physical boundaries at home (as in, which rooms we can work in and which become our sacred ‘work-free’ zones).
Is there a particular practitioner, expert, book, podcast or resource that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?
Donald Miller’s 5-minute ‘Business Made Simple” tips. We’ve been using and following Donald Miller’s StoryBrand Framework technique, especially when we first starting building the foundation of our company and brand. He gives such useful, clever tips and pointers about starting a successful business. There’s always a valuable takeaway from his clips and it’s a great way to start the work day!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
That’s a really great question, but also a tough one! There’s such a need today for bringing good to so many areas of the world. What has been really speaking to me recently is the homelessness crisis (it’s really bad in Toronto). It would be amazing to start a social movement/challenge online that would encourage people to go through their closest and choose 3 items to donate, and then nominate 3 of their friends to do the same.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My favourite life mantra is: “Everything happens for a reason”. I know it’s so simple, but I find it can be really profound when you take the time to dig into it. It’s the idea that there’s a much bigger picture (and plan) laid out for us, and every action and reaction are somehow interconnected. Hindsight has always been 20/20 for me, causing my belief in that mantra to inevitably form. I’ve been able to connect the dots (in retrospect) numerous times, helping me understand how each occurrence was instrumental (and necessary) to lead me to the next important step in my life. Bringing awareness to those moments and the truth that lies in that mantra helps me through challenging and confusing times; I carry it with me every step of my journey.
What are the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Readers can follow our company on Instagram at @healthybudco, or my personal account @thisisver.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!