How Being Productive Helped Toni Ko Overcome Depression


Money is valuable, but money is not the key to happiness. May is Mental Health Month, and there’s no better time to remind ourselves that there’s more to life than what’s in our bank accounts. During an interview with IVY at Ivy Ideas Night at Cross Campus Downtown LA, serial entrepreneur Toni Ko taught us a valuable lesson about mental health, money, and productivity.

At 25, Ko stopped working for her family business and acquired the seed money to start an enterprise of her own: NYX Cosmetics. Within the first year of the company’s launch, the company brought in $2 million. Even during the Great Recession in 2008, the business thrived; consumers who typically purchased high-end products switched to NYX products, which were inexpensive and of similar quality.

All eyes in the beauty industry were on NYX, including L’Oréal’s. In 2014, Ko sold her company to L’Oréal for five hundred million dollars and retired. However, expectations of endless beach days and margaritas turned to endless downtime and loneliness. As Ko told Cosmopolitan in 2015, “Walking away with a big check was one of my goals, but when it did happen, I felt like a ball that just got popped. The next day I woke up and I was like, ‘Why am I waking up? I don’t have a place to go to.’ I was so sad and depressed because I lost my self-identity. NYX Cosmetics was my everything. I felt like I didn’t know who I was anymore.”

Ko elaborated on her downward spiral when she came to Cross Campus for IVY Ideas Night, and why she thought it was important to speak about it: “I think a lot of entrepreneurs who sell a business go through this process, and no one really talks about it. It’s something that needs to be talked about. It’s not all glorious, as it seems.”

As the old adage says, the only one who can help you is yourself. Realizing that she needed to do something to cure her depression, Ko ended her temporary retirement by founding PERVERSE Sunglasses in 2015. PERVERSE is now one of the leading retailers of chic, affordable sunglasses and is worn by celebrities including Beyoncé, Kylie Jenner, Khloe Kardashian, Katie Holmes, Vanessa Hudgens, and Lady Gaga.

“I started company #2 to be happy, and I’m happiest when I’m being creative,” said Ko in an interview with ENTITY Magazine.

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