Meet Julia Gash: From A Little Studio To Blue-Chip Retailers

Julia Gash is the founder and company director of Julia Gash Enterprises ltd: a British eco-lifestyle brand. Julia collaborates with licensees worldwide to create customisable and sustainable, stylish souvenirs and gifts. Julia’s map-like illustrations capture the character and culture of a town, celebrate a city and enable people to love up their local.  Julia’s illustrated product ranges are stocked by blue-chip retailers worldwide including Selfridges, John Lewis and Macy's, iconic institutions including National Gallery of Art (UK & USA), Arc De Triomphe and key hotels, resorts and tourist attractions such as Malmaison and London eye.

Last month Julia headed up to Manchester where she was a keynote speaker at the Regional Final of the FL National Awards & Summit.  As an alumni of Forward Ladies, she has been to many such events over the years, having won several awards and made friends with fellow, female entrepreneurs.

How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today?

One creative business has evolved into another throughout my career as an entrepreneur.  I decided to do what gave me most joy and therefore sold my manufacturing company in Sheffield to focus on building my own brand of sustainable and stylish souvenirs, printed with my artwork.  I was too busy managing a growing business whilst creating artwork and one of my suppliers offered to handle the manufacture and sale of the products, in doing turned from a supplier to a licensee. I now license my artwork to a curated portfolio of licensees around the world who turn my artwork into a beautiful product.

What are the best and worst parts of your job?

The best part of my job is seeing artwork that I create be turned into a beautiful product and sold in prestigious shops around the world. Getting to travel to meet my licensees and customers is also a pleasure.  The worst part is the loneliness.  I work from home in my dedicated design studio, with two cats to chatter to and as most of my customers are international, I don’t get to talk to them on a daily basis.

Who is a person that you considered as a role model early in your life? How and why does this person impact your life? 

My dad.  He ran his own print business and as his daughter, I was expected to help out. My Saturday job was cleaning the factory and I hated it. By the time I was eighteen I had done virtually every job in the business and it was a good grounding for my own business.  His hard work and resilience, overcoming many difficult challenges in the forty years he ran his business, has also been a big influence and is partly what has made me a strong business leader.

What are the most important traits of successful leaders today?

Self-belief whilst having the ability to listen and learn from others, including your employees. Resilience is key … each knock is a lesson and an opportunity to learn and do something differently in the future.

What are you most proud of?

When I ran my manufacturing company, BIDBI, I hired young, long-term, unemployed men and trained them up to become Master Printers. It wasn’t easy as they hadn’t experienced anyone investing in them but they paid me back with their loyalty.  Today, ten years later, they still work at the factory, printing for the best of British brands, upholding creative, manufacturing skills and have secure employment.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

When I started my manufacturing business, I couldn’t raise finance … it was 2008 and the bank’s doors were closed for lending.  I eventually managed to find someone to lend me the money I needed to pay for a big order to be made and in doing so, they put a charge over my house.  I could have risked losing my home but I had self-belief. The order ran smoothly and made a substantial profit, funding my business for another year.

What do you think is the number one issue facing women in the workplace right now?

A triple whammy of inadequate public policy that supports workers who are the prime caregiver (mainly women) i.e. flexible, affordable and quality childcare. A business culture that is at odds with employees being prime caregivers; a lack of support in personal relationships with a result that for people who have children and both work, women also do double the housework and triple the childcare. It’s hard to push your career or business when you’re pushing the pram and the hoover.

Do you think it is more important to be liked or to be respected? 

Respected of course.  It’s easy to make yourself popular by appealing to people’s preferences or demands. Challenging preconceived ideas, encouraging people to grow out of their comfort zone, maybe uncomfortable and could mean that you are not liked, but ultimately you will be respected.

What is your “superpower”?

I have an antenna for the next big thing. I am incredibly perceptive and can sense opportunities before they make themselves visible.  I believe that there is a massive business opportunity in providing creative and commercial solutions to the issues that are holding women back in business and is something I am currently exploring.

This is a very exciting time of the year here at FL as we celebrate the UK's most phenomenal female leaders and male agents of change! Find out who made the FL National Awards & Summit shortlist this year and join us for the biggest, brightest and most diverse celebration your region has ever seen. BOOK YOUR TICKETS HERE 

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