Juli is the co-owner of Mjölk a lifestyle shop and gallery located in the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto.
What is your morning routine?
Weekdays I wake at 6:30—or earlier, as our son tends to wake at 6am—and I get our five year old up; we have breakfast and get my daughter on the school bus. She has taken it upon herself to do all this all by herself, so yay for me! If it’s one of my three workdays, then my husband and I trade off on showering and watching our son until the nanny arrives, then downstairs to work. If it’s a non-work day, then I usually go out in the neighbourhood with our son who is almost three. Also coffee, of course. We are fortunate that our mornings are fairly relaxed.
Tell us about your career path
I am co-owner of Mjölk, a lifestyle shop and gallery located in the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto. When I first attended university, graphic design as a program of study didn’t exist. I had an emerging interest, but didn’t fancy myself art school material. So I completed a BA in Humanities and then my career path was pretty standard; a lot of entry level jobs that never progress, a lot of pencil-pushing, and ultimately, boredom.
I dabbled in graphic design, children’s publishing, interiors and product photography. Before I met my partner, I left my job to travel solo in Scandinavia and Europe for three months. When I returned I went to an art school to build a portfolio, then attended OCAD for art curation and photography. During my second year, I was becoming restless. The program wasn’t what I hoped for—I’m more hands on–and I was burnt out from having to redo so many classes in first year. I met my partner, and we started a lifestyle blog, kitka.ca at the start of 2009. I then left school and we started working on a plan to open a shop. We travelled that summer to Scandinavia and upon our return looked for a building. From that point things moved very quickly, and we opened mid-December 2009.
What challenges do you or women face in your industry?
As a specialty retailer, it’s an important part of our job to bridge the gap between customer and designer, for customers to understand what they are investing in. I am not sure about others, but for myself, my challenge is connecting with designers and artisans on that fundamental level. My husband has such a natural interest and therefore has a well of inspiration to contribute to a dialog. If given an opportunity to shine, I am capable of rising to the occasion, but I find I defer a lot to my partner. He tries to push me further, but since becoming a mother, I am finding that I am having to relearn who I am. My focus has been on my young children these last five years, but I am coming out of the fog and am becoming more engaged with my business every day.
What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?
All opportunities lead you on a path. They may seem unrelated but I find all of my experiences have helped me to be where I am now. I worked in publishing, explored art curation, was a photography assistant, worked in random retail shops. I do all of these things now, in one job!
How do you separate work life from your personal life?
This is a tricky one for sure. I have been joking lately that we don’t have a work life balance, but it’s not that we work too much, it’s that we life too much! Our small children have really commanded a lot of our attention, and although it’s been very challenging, I am thankful for all the time we’ve had during their early years. Soon enough, our youngest will be in school, and then we will be able to have full work days, which will be great professionally.
We are fortunate to have inherited a summer cottage, which we escape to for as much of the summer as we can. Living and working in the same building is mostly fantastic, but sometimes we just need to leave it all behind and separate from the worries and random daily trials. Thankfully we have great staff that help facilitate this escape.
What inspires you?
Honestly, my current inspiration is derived from my role as a parent. I’ve had to learn a new way of being, which has probably been the biggest challenge of my life. Just recently, I am starting to see the results of the work I have put in during the last five months of active engagement, and it’s remarkable. There’s this idea that one has a baby and is automatically a parent, but I think that parenthood requires the pushing of your own boundaries, of the seeking of new possibilities. Most people get stuck in what they know, but it’s up to us to break free of that and continue to grow and develop, alongside our children.
I am hoping creative inspiration will follow these efforts.
When you’re off the clock, what are your indulgences?
I have no idea what being off the clock means. I mean, I am easily off the clock with regards to my business, but my kids prevent me from any sort of indulgences…after they go to bed I am lucky to make it through a TV show. I guess reading is an indulgence and I get annoyed if I am too tired. Peace and quiet, alone time. Now THAT’s an indulgence.