Hi Julia! Please tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I’m Julia, originally from Germany and now live with my husband and our two young children in South East London.
After studying Clothing and Textile Technology in Germany I made the move to Auckland, New Zealand to live with the boy (now husband) I had met during my gap year in Sydney. After a five year stint on the other side of the world, we settled in London about ten years ago.
I wanted to be closer to my family and enjoy all of what Europe has to offer. This plan obviously didn’t account for Brexit or Covid and I very much hope that I can get off this island at least once this year.
I run JDW Marketing Consultancy that brings big-brand strategies to independent and creative businesses.
How did JDW come about and what are the benefits and challenges of being your own boss?
I founded JDW about a year after my second maternity leave. I loved working in the design industry, I had a great team at Tom Dixon, met a lot of interesting people along the way and got to travel. However, I wanted and needed more flexibility in my working week and felt it was the right time to finally have a go at setting up my own business.
One of the biggest benefits is that I can make my own rules and work in a way that allows me to be present for my kids. My Mum is a physiotherapist and her practice was part of our house. I grew up with her being around in the day and I always wanted the same for my own family. This is not to say that it doesn’t come with its own challenges. Due to the nature of my husband’s job, he can’t contribute to any of the childcare during the week so when something doesn’t go to plan, it’s on me.
Working for myself has made me more confident in my own abilities, skills and knowledge. It has taken me a while to work out exactly what my offering is and the way I want to work with people. Now that I do, so much of my work is creative, inspiring and fun.
Does ethics and / or sustainability come into play at all with what you do?
I believe in quality over quantity and making considered choices for myself and my family whenever I can. This is not always possible and I certainly don’t claim to be perfect!
I believe in quality as an investment. I am interested to understand how things are made and where they come from.
Both of those beliefs do translate into my work. There is no need to follow every single trend, try every single marketing tool available or constantly be switched on.
In my view, once you understand what you stand for, have tested what works and what doesn’t it is much more sustainable and effective to do one thing at the time and do one thing well.
Tell me about a particular highlight you’ve had with your work? What are you most proud of?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that there is one particular highlight. What I am most proud of is that I set up my own business and that people decide to come and work with me because of me.
No big brand name behind me, making the job easy for me. It’s down to me putting myself out there, continuously challenging myself, trusting my instincts and making the right decisions.
Has COVID-19 impacted on your business / your way of working at all?
Yes and no. I was working on a bigger project when the first lockdown happened in 2020 and due to the circumstances I ended up being involved longer than initially agreed. My husband was on furlough for about six months and took over the childcare. It made for a nice change.
I assumed the end of 2020 would be quiet but that’s when things picked up again for me. I could feel that the mood turned more hopeful, people likely assumed there was an end in sight and started to invest in their business again.
In terms of the way I work I’d say it feels more lonely at times with less real life client meetings, even more time spent at home than usual and no events to go. There is a lot less inspiration coming from the outside world which I struggle with at times.
What’s one piece of advice that you’d give for other women, or mothers, who are tempted to start their own business?
Ask for help. I notice how many women struggle with that. We are somehow conditioned to belief that we have failed unless we do it all on our own. It’s a dangerous concept.
When work doesn’t equate to money it is easy to feel guilty about paying for childcare. At the early beginnings of JDW I did fit some of my work around my then one year old son but I soon realised how important it was to have long stretches of uninterrupted time to just think. And that simply isn’t possible with children who need or want your attention.
I am going to squeeze a second piece of advice in - go out and meet people. Attend events, chat to people online or join an online community. Without the supportive, wonderful and creative people I have met along the way, my business would not be where it is today.
Finally, you've previously spent some time living in New Zealand, what's one thing you loved and one thing you found surprising about living here?
I loved how kind, friendly and open most New Zealanders are. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that my husband was saying ‘hi’ to strangers on the street. That just wouldn’t happen in Germany.
I made so many close friends who took me under their wing and introduced me to their friends. Maybe it’s due to its isolated location but there is a real sense of community and because of its size you constantly run into people you know. I loved that.
New Zealand isn’t necessarily associated with design so I was surprised at how many small creative businesses there are. Most Kiwis travel and live overseas for a few years. Often, when they come back, they start their own thing, taking what they’ve seen and experienced and turning it into a new innovative idea.
I can't recommend Julia more highly. Find out how she can help your small business with a Brainstorm Session by clicking the link below: