Now here's a lady who means business!
Julie and her partner Christina set up Shawleez after a chance meeting in Dubai and moved quickly to get things up and running. Their business is focused on a stylish, practical and cunningly clever accessory, the shawleez.
What makes a Shawleez so special? This versatile little shawl-style accessory is designed and made in the UAE for living in the UAE. It's remarkably simple and as so often is the case, the beauty is in the detail - clean design, gorgeous fabrics in a great selection of colours, patterns and textures, quality workmanship topped off with some winning customer service.
Meet Julie and discover how a fateful cup of coffee set her small business into motion...
What sort of products do you market?
I sell a fashion accessory that can be worn in more than 13 different ways. For everyday wear to evening elegance, there is one for every occasion. The newest addition to the Shawleez collection is the Cashmere, silk and wool blended poncho’s imported from Italy. They too, can be worn in 11 different ways to add effortless chic to any outfit.
In the collection we also have country flags for lady rugby supporters. With the World Cup currently underway it’s the perfect accessory to show your patriotism! Go Springboks!
When and why did you decide to start your own business?
After 2 years of living in Dubai I started getting bored of being an executive nanny to my 5 year old and thought of going back to work half day, to be available for the kids after school. One afternoon while walking our dog I chatted to my husband and suggested starting a business from home.
I was in Costas having coffee when a stranger walked up to me and asked where I got my Shawleez from and whether I would consider going into business with her. Well that was it! Mind made up and ready to get the wheels turning. 2 weeks later Christina and I had our first samples, Facebook set up, logo designed and booked our first market event. It was so successful and we just loved meeting new people and showing this new idea.
1-5. Shawleez has a large selection to choose from, whether you're after a classic Shawleez or a bit of cashmere luxury, there's something for all tastes and just about every occasion
What's the best thing about setting up your own brand?
I spent 12 years working for multinationals in the petro chemical industry where I was known as ‘logo cop’. Strict guidelines and red tape everywhere. It has given me a strong foundation on which I can now build. My brand represents The Luxury of Simplicity and Versatility.
What are some of the challenges you've faced?
Work-life balance and the nerves the night before an event. You never know if you’re going to sell well or not and then weighing that up against time away from your kids and husband, never easy…
Where do you source your materials?
The Cashmere poncho’s are imported from Italy. The fabrics for the other Shawleez’s are sourced locally with some are also being imported from the UK.
1-4. With such a varied range of fabrics on offer, there's a Shawleez for everyone, from bright solids and casual daytime jersey basics to textured evening options
What do you love about selling online?
It opens new avenues for sales and forces you to get creative with photography and sales tactics.
What top tips can you share with other saffronsouk.com shopkeepers?
1. Never underestimate the importance of a photo. Spend time and money on getting good quality pics that bring out the best in your products. I recently used Ann L Photography and could not believe what a difference the photo’s made. She styled the Cashmere poncho’s with something I never would, and made magic with them. They’ll be on Instagram soon!
2. Talk to people at markets. There are always people who know people, who know people to help you get something at a fraction of the price and a fraction of the time. That’s how I got hold of Ann for the photos.
3. With regards to social media, pick the channels that work for you and be consistent on them. Don’t try do everything all the time. Rather be good at one or two , you don’t need to be everywhere.
4. You are only human, not superwoman.
5. We suspect Julie is a bit of a superwoman! She is fabulous at promoting her brand and you can often track her down at the weekend markets. Believe us, she is always great for a cackle and her positive, can do attitude is inspiring!
What sets your products apart?
It's designed in the UAE for the UAE. Living in the UAE requires us to dress appropriately in order not to offend anyone and the Shawleez was designed for this very reason. It is effortlessly thrown over any outfit to cover strappy or low cut tops or simply to add a level of warmth against the cold AC’s in malls, schools hospitals etc.
It is the perfect cover that folds small into your handbag. You can pull it out at a moments notice if you need to pop into the supermarket for some last minute goodies or whether you need extra warmth for the movies.
Tell us 5 words to describe yourself.
Energetic, passionate, happy, grateful and sunshine yellow.
Do you have a motto?
Stay humble, work hard, be grateful.
When did you last laugh?
I have the most incredible group of gym buddies who always ensure a good “cackle and catch up” before a hard workout! Our motto…..turn and burn baby!
1. Here's Julie looking effortlessly chic, complete with Shawleez!
Do you believe in luck?
Luck is predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances (LM: Julie, we couldn't agree more!).
Any exciting news to share?
A new collection of Cashmere Poncho’s are in the air and heading to the shores of Dubai!
1. Shawleez's current range of cashmere ponchos features a delicious line up of colors, including bright red, pink and baby blue along side these more neutral tones. We're looking forward to seeing what the new season collection includes...
Did you ever run away from home as a child?
Yes, I was 5 years old, packed my dollies, my dolly pram and a peanut butter sandwich and took our Labrador Coco for protection. Needless to say it only lasted all of 10 minutes till the food ran out.
What is your golden rule?
Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.
What are your favourite finds from the Saffron Souk market?
I love the ‘under AED 50' section. There are great gifts for friends just to say thanks for dinner, fetching your kids or spoiling you for your birthday. The personalized gifts section is also great, especially for big occasions like 40th birthdays. Everyone likes to see their own names on gifts. I’m blown away by the level of creativity that some people have. Every time I go online, there are new ideas and creations. It’s just incredible to see!
Why do you find the saffronsouk.com website appealing to shop at?
It’s easy to navigate, photo’s are very clear and I’m supporting mompreneurs like myself! In support of breast cancer awarenessmonth, Shawleez is giving away a metal pink ribbon pin to all customers who make a purchase at shawleez.saffronsouk.com this October. Note: Promotion is now over.