Name: Julia Beardwood
Current City: Brooklyn, NY
Hometown: Bishop's Stortford, UK
Occupation: Branding Guru
Branding guru, Julia Beardwood grew up in a small town with parents from humble beginnings – which she believes is important because a lot of people feel intimidated by success and feel it’s not open to them.
“My grandfather was a miner and had to leave school to go work in the mines to provide for his siblings. After he graduated, he shifted careers to be a police officer,” starts Beardwood. “My other grandfather was a minister. Interested that those two words look so similar – miner and minister.”
Beardwood began in corporate America following university where she worked at P&G, D’Arcy and Landor Associates before leaving at the age of 40 to start her own business Beardwood&Co.. The decision was rooted in the fact that she wanted to take a step back and enjoy time with her children before they leave for college.
Over the last 14 years, Beardwood has grown her company into an empire with 20 employees who work on a wide array of categories, from brand packaging to financial services. She is also a Ernst & Young’s Winning Women award winner and empowers women across all platforms in her day to day life.
Read on to discover more of Beardwood’s journey.
What originally attracted you to the world of design?
Design is art. I loved the idea that we can change the world through art.
After working in Corporate America for some time, you left to pursue a different path and founded Beardwood & Co. along the way. Walk us through your journey as well as the thought process involved?
Corporate America gave me terrific training and a wide network of friends and business contacts, but it is draining to work in an organization where the primary goal is the pursuit of profit.
In 2004, I stepped off the treadmill and onto my own path. I wanted to spend more time with my sons who were 10 and 14, but I quickly discovered that 10 and 14 year-olds don't want to spend a lot more time with their mother!
So, I started doing freelance brand strategy work.
Iman was one of my first clients, as she had just licensed her cosmetic brand to P&G and they wanted a definition of her brand.
At the other extreme was positioning a new infant vaccine for GSK and I've always loved working across a wide spectrum of brands.
A designer friend asked me to help him get more work, so we took the Creative Director at Bath & Body Works out to lunch at Balthazar, and two bottles of wine later, he gave us our first design project. It was to create a personal care line for The Savannah Bee Company, a line of gourmet honey from Georgia. It was a dream project that led to over 100 packaging projects with Bath & Body Works over the next eight years and our expansion into a full strategic and creative agency.
I hired my first full-time employee in 2006, which was a big leap because you responsible for someone else's well-being. It was the best hire I ever made! Sarah Williams started as a Senior Designer and is my partner and Creative Director.
Our other partner, Ryan Lynch, came to us in 2009 and specializes in strategy and innovation.
Together, we have a three-way work marriage that is about as perfect as a three-way relationship can be.
What are your goals for Beardwood&Co. moving forward?
In a rollercoaster project-based world, we need a broad client base to be able to keep growing.
That's been our focus for the past couple of years, and we've seen our efforts paying off with some great companies to grow with.
I want Beardwood&Co. to be recognized for the success stories – creating for brands who win the Nielsen Design Impact Award two years running is great for our reputation. I'm hoping to make it a hat trick with the Sabra redesign in 2018!
I believe we can double in size and still maintain our culture and rep for being an awesome place to work.
You've worked with a handful of phenomenal brands, do you have a dream collaboration?
We've just started working with an amazing store called Posman Books that brings joy to its customers by curating everything you want and nothing you need.
Their mission is to be the opposite of the internet. It makes me happy every time I walk in their door. I am delighted to be able to help their small brand grow and spread happiness far and wide.
Do you have any other projects on the books you'd like the readers to know about?
We're strengthening our work in digital and ecommerce, and thinking about when and where to open a second office. Possibly out West, either CA or CO. Boulder is an extraordinary hub of entrepreneurship in the world of naturals.
We'd like to be part of that scene.
Outside of design, where do your passions lie?
I love connecting with nature in active ways: hiking, gardening, skiing, horse-riding, sailing.
I love to try out new recipes and share new tastes with the people I love.
Travel gives me energy and my worldview.
Just got back from an amazing trip to Ireland and realized that British schools don't teach Irish history. Shocking!
Egypt is next on my list.
What has been the pit and peak of your week? (pit being a low moment, and peak, a high)
The pit is finding out we haven't won a project we've got excited about.
You have to get fully invested in the brand opportunity to make a powerful pitch and you have to act like you've got the business even if you haven't. So when you don't win, it definitely feels like the pits.
The peak is when we hear from a client that something fantastic has happened as a result of our work. They got national distribution at Whole Foods or WalMart, or their business started to grow again after a downturn.
Ultimately, we're about creating success stories, so that's always gonna be the peak of the week.
Walk us through how you balance your personal and professional life.
Hmm...not sure how balanced my life is. I derive a ton of satisfaction from my work and it's way too easy to do too much of it.
Because I love to travel, I take 6+ weeks vacation each year, but I'm checking email when I'm away.
One of my friends asked recently if I'd retired, just because it seems to them like I'm constantly going places.
When I had children at home, I was obliged to get home before bedtime, but now that they're adults, it's more about making sure I take care of my health, especially going to the gym as often as possible, and making time for friends.
Discuss the importance of paying it forward.
When you walk through the door of success, you are obligated to hold the door open for others to walk through.
If you ask me for support, I will support you. But I don't want to limit my influence to people who ask for help.
That's why I serve on the board and give money to CAMBA, a social services agency in Brooklyn that helps low-income people in NYC improve their lives by preventing homelessness, building affordable housing, providing after-school activities and workforce development.
What does empowerment mean to you?
Having the opportunities and the confidence to try things.
You won't necessarily succeed the first time, but so long as you learn from your failures, they're nothing to be afraid of.
If you could give one piece of advice to young individuals around the globe, what would it be and why?
Happiness doesn't come from doing easy things.
You have to do hard things to feel truly accomplished and satisfied with life.
What is the hard thing you're going to do this year?
Who are some of your greatest influences, and why?
My grandmother, Marguerite Waddington, who taught me about being fun and helpful to others.
My mum, Mary Beardwood, who taught me how to care for people and make time for your own passions.
My dad, Mike Beardwood, who taught me irreverence and adventure.
What/who are you grateful for?
OMG, I could write pages on this topic. I'll start with family - my parents who showed me how to be adventurous, my hubby who always takes great care of me, my sons who make me laugh, and the whole extended group of crazy aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews.
I cherish old friends and love to go on hiking trips together so we can catch up and talk about the world.
My work family is pretty phenomenal; they inspire me on a daily basis.
Oh, and I'm endlessly grateful for EY's Entrepreneurial Winning Women program. I was a winner in 2013 and through this program have met some of the bad-ass female business owners; they are my tribe. I went through a health crisis a few years ago, and feel grateful for every day that I'm free to live without health concerns.
What is a quote or personal mantra you choose to live by?
1. Find an opportunity or make one
2. Do the right thing; you know what it is.