Where are you originally from?
The beginning of my story is a far cry from my current one. I was born into a Jewish family in the Soviet Union. This was during the height of the Cold War — a time when Jewish families had limited means. My family lived in a small bungalow in an area of Moldova. Following the passage of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment in 1974 that linked U.S.-Soviet trade with Soviet Jewish immigration, a new wave of emigration began. We finally got the opportunity to immigrate to the U.S in 1979. When we arrived to the U.S., we received assistance from the United Jewish Appeal and moved to New Jersey. My parents struggled for many years, working many hours. We finally settled in Cedar Grove, New Jersey where my brother and I attended school and lived out our childhood.
What is your career background?
At 14, I started working in a jewelry booth at a local flea market. I loved working with customers, talking to vendors, and designing and stylizing the jewelry. At that point, I knew I had a passion for jewelry and wanted to build a career pursuing it. Once I graduated from high school and noticed a new Jewelry Exchange being built, I knew I had to jump at the chance to open a booth. My father came with me to negotiate the lease on one of the largest booths in the exchange. At the time the owner thought I was a joke and I’m sure he thought it wouldn’t last. By the holiday season, my business was booming and a few years later I left the exchange and opened my retail store in Cedar Grove.
Coming from humble beginnings and starting your business at the age of 19, what were some of the challenges you had to overcome?
The jewelry industry is mostly male dominated so it was already difficult being a woman but then being only 19 added to the challenge. I had to work hard and be very strong willed for people to take me seriously. Starting my business at such a young age also forced me to grow up quickly. While most of my friends were out partying like the average 20 something, I was concentrating on growing my business. My parents made a lot of sacrifices to help me get started so I knew I had to make the business succeed no matter what.
What is an average day in the shoes of Yanina?
My average day is busy to say the least. I wake up and work out. Exercise clears my head for the day and gives me the energy I need. I head to the Cedar Grove store and supervise the design team, jewelers, and work with my clients. I try to take time each day to work on jewelry designs for the upcoming seasons. Although my days are packed and filled with responsibilities and challenges, I still manage to laugh and enjoy myself while always wearing a fabulous pair of shoes!
We always like to end with this question, what in life brings you joy?
My children bring me the greatest joy, they are my world. My son just graduated from college and my daughter will be starting her second year in the Fall. Watching them transform into adults and chase their own dreams brings me endless amounts of joy. I am very proud of them, they are my greatest achievement by far.
Photos courtesy of: www.yanina-co.com