This week we caught up with Julie Brown, the creative mind and Atlanta-based entrepreneur behind stylish, eco-friendly shoe line Julie Bee's. Read on to learn about Julie's story, and how to follow in her savvy footsteps. Q: Did you ever know that you would be working for yourself? When was the moment you realized that you wanted to launch Julie Bee's?
A: Not at all! And there wasn't an exact moment, either. I had been working in D.C. at the Department of Homeland Security, and then I went into consulting. While in consulting I quickly realized that D.C. was competitive, and one Master's degree wasn't enough – I knew I needed at least one to be competitive. So I decided to go back to school to get my MBA, during which I spent time in Boston and Shanghai. From there, I moved to Atlanta and knew that I wanted to do something in sustainability, but wasn't sure what. I started looking for some shoes, and I realized that it's easy to find great looking shoes and bags these days that are somewhat eco-friendly, but it's difficult to find shoes to wear to work or out with friends. I started doing research, and all of a sudden I became an entrepreneur with Julie Bee's, and that a little over two years ago. Looking back on it, I wouldn't have it any other way, and I will probably forever be an entrepreneur.
Q: What is your day to day like, and what are the things that remain consistent?
A: Email! Always email; talking on the phone quite a bit as well. Trying to be more time-conscious is also a goal, by trying to get more done in less time. Being active on social media and being in contact with my team is also important. I have an intern on my team who helps with my social media plan, and with her being on we've definitely been growing our presence.
Q: How did you get through the beginning stages of entrepreneurship and the feelings of isolation that often come along with going it on your own?
A: In the beginning it was very isolating – I was by myself a lot, all day everyday, working from home. I could go to coffee shops to work around people, and once I had my designer by my side, things got a lot less isolating. At that time I was meeting with a lot of different people, and I learned something from every meeting. Now, I try to keep most of my meetings very focused, and I'm more mindful of my time and others' time. But looking back, I'm a huge fan of Bravo, so I like to say the "Real Housewives" were my close friends at that time (laughs). Now my life is full of people all the time, so I try to look for time for myself, and if I don't I know I will get burnt out. I'm trying to teach myself to unplug – more so for personal sanity and sleep!
Q: When did you realize that you needed interns?
A: From day one. I don't have a problem delegating, so I knew that in order for me to thrive and get things done, I would need to bring interns on. I've been very fortunate with great, hardworking interns. Without them I wouldn't be as far as I am, and it's so fun watching them land jobs and do great things, as well as grow relationships with them. With Julie Bee's internships you're not making coffee or making copies; I always tell people when they begin their internships that they shouldn't view themselves as interns, and they're getting real-world experiences.
Q: Think fast! How would you pitch Julie Bee's if you were a contestant on Shark Tank?
A: A lot of my friends have actually asked me when I'm going on Shark Tank! I know that I would pitch the sustainability angle of Julie Bee's, and also the fact that it's made in the USA. I'd also bring a pair of shoes for Barbara to try on, so she could feel how comfortable they are.