Spotlight On The Woman Behind The Business: Julie Neff
A note from Lori:
Many people don't realize that becoming a successful entrepreneur means you have to be willing to take some risks. You also have to have the ability to make decisions and live with those decisions. And, the ability to react quickly to any given situation is a must. I'm always striving to make my business better, so I often try new ways of doing things, new lines, etc. If it doesn't work out, I'm very quick to change it, fix it or move on to something better. I try very hard not to repeat the same mistakes. Being an entrepreneur is very different than going to work for someone else. I recently sat down with one of my entrepreneurial customers, Julie Neff, who shared her story of taking a risk to become a successful woman in business. – Lori Andre
Spotlight on the Woman Behind the Business: Julie Neff
Q: What is the name of your business and how did you come up with it?
A: J. Markell. Everything that I do in my business, I try to tie in something meaningful about my mother who passed away 17 years ago. J is for Julie (me), Mark is my dad and Ellen is my mom.
Q: And what is it?
A: Exotic skin handbags and accessories. What attracted me to start making handbags in the first place was that there’s no size, I love that I can sell something to everyone. Accessories also really make you feel complete. A handbag, in my opinion, is one of the only pieces that you can wear every single day and get away with it. Every woman should invest in a really great handbag.
Q: What is it about exotic skins that women love so much?
A: The texture and three-dimensional feel of exotic skins is really special but it can be very expensive. I took advantage of the loophole in the market place for quality skins at an accessible price point, hence: J. Markell.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
A: Most of my inspiration comes from what I feel is missing in my personal handbag collection. I do try to follow trends somewhat, however, I like function. My Ella Bag is so functional and I love that it’s light, and you can have only the things you need and be hands free while looking fashionable. I also snap pictures everywhere I go. If I like something, I take little pieces and incorporate it into my own designs.
Q: What do you most admire about yourself?
A: In three words: compassionate, caring, optimistic. I am truly happy for other people’s accomplishments and success, I love watching people succeed and seeing their dreams come true.
Q: What does a perfect day look like to you?
A: If the sun is shining when I wake up then I already know a great day is ahead. Add coffee, exercise, (and of course a trip to Lori’s Shoes), ending with a family dinner – those things are the cherry on top for a perfect day!
Q: How do you describe your style?
A: Casually sophisticated with an edgy flair.
Q: When you were just a kid did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: When I was in high school I worked most days after school at a clothing store. That’s when I knew for sure I would do something related to fashion, just didn’t know what.
Q: What was your first job?
A: My very first job out of college was working in a clothing showroom at the apparel center.
Q: How did you come up with your idea for your business?
A: While being a stay at home mom and raising my 3 kids I always craved something more, but I didn’t want a 9-5 job, I wanted to work for myself. I have always dreamt of doing something with fine leather and exotic skins because I have always been attracted to them. I hired a local artisan to make a few things for me which spiraled into a business. Three years later, I am in 48 stores across the country and producing handbags in three different factories – one being right here in the U.S. which I’m very proud of! I love supporting made in America.While being a stay at home mom and raising my 3 kids I always craved something more, but I didn’t want a 9-5 job, I wanted to work for myself. I have always dreamt of doing something with fine leather and exotic skins because I have always been attracted to them. I hired a local artisan to make a few things for me which spiraled into a business. Three years later, I am in 48 stores across the country and producing handbags in three different factories – one being right here in the U.S. which I’m very proud of! I love supporting made in America.
Q: When you first were thinking about starting your own business was there someone you turned to for advice?
A: Yes, my husband. He was very supportive and helped tremendously, he still does! Couldn’t do it without him.
Q: If you could start all over what lessons have you learned? And, what would you do differently?
A: I have learned that organization and goals are the keys to success and that it’s so important to write everything down, less room for error. I use Siri all of the time, “Hey Siri, remind me tomorrow at 9am to call this person” and I also have a legal pad on my nightstand so when I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, I can write it down and go back to sleep. If I don’t write it down, I’ll keep myself up trying to not forget.
Q: Best career advice?
A: Never say you can’t, never give up! As long as you have passion it will pay off.
Q: Best life advice?
A: Don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow, live for today – enjoy the now.
Q: Who is your role model and why?
A: My father, everything I learned about business is from him. My father was in the drugstore business and when I was little every Sunday he would take me with him to the store. I loved watching all the interaction in the pharmacy, I even helped out.
Q: How do you find balance between work and home?
A: It’s hard, I could have never done it when my kids were younger. I feel so lucky that I was able to be a stay at home mom while they were little. Two are in college now so it’s much easier to focus on work.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who wants to succeed in business?
A: Stay focused, be organized, make sure you love what you do and follow your dream!
Q: If you were going on a weekend trip where would you go and what’s the one thing you always take with you?
A: Miraval Resort & Spa. I never go out of town without my grey Oats cashmere wrap, it’s a travel must.
Q: What are you most thankful for?
A: My family and friends and of course my health because without that you have nothing!
Q: What nourishes your soul?
A: Laughing, good food, traveling and enjoying time with my family.
Q: If you could sit down with anybody for dinner, past or present, who would that be?
A: My mom! I miss her so much!
Q: What movie, no matter how many times you’ve seen it, would you still watch again?
A: Pretty Woman
Q: What is your definition of being an entrepreneur?
A: Being really passionate about what you are doing and really wanting it wholeheartedly – living and breathing it. I don’t think something can succeed unless you live and breathe it and of course, you have to be willing to take a risk.