Trust your team to work for you and build the organization from ground-up. Hire people you trust and allow them to work for you instead of you trying to do everything yourself.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Xu.
Julia Xu is the Founder & CEO of multitasky, a lifestyle marketplace for fun & multi-functional products that empower female go-getters. An ultimate hustler with a multi-hyphenate career, Julia has built business strategies and financial models for Fortune 500 companies including Alibaba, Disney+, McKinsey & Co., and many more. Based in New York, Julia is also a startup advisor passionate about helping startups with tools and resources to attain financial confidence and achieve strategic growth.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in the U.S. and raised in China. Due to the cultural differences, I experienced being an outcast early on. Even as a young child, I had boundless energy and unlimited excitement to try new things and give a voice to those who wanted to push against the norm and create a new world. I founded the Organization of Public Speaking in Beijing High Schools, which is still vibrantly alive even until this date. In college, I founded Tink Knit, providing support to single moms and families. Now, I am focused on building multitasky, a female collective aimed to provide home and office goods to enhance well-being and promote work-life-integration.I was never the typical girl that follows traditional social norms — it must not be too surprising for my parents to see me becoming an entrepreneur!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One quote that really resonates with me is, “Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live,” by Anne Sweeney.
After college, I chose to go into the corporate world working for McKinsey, a global management consulting firm. Shortly after, I built the financial model for Disney+ and eventually became the Chief of Staff at Alibaba North America at age 24. Even though I was deemed ‘successful’ in social standards, I never felt satisfied or fulfilled with what I was doing or the impact I was having. I realized I was choosing to live a life to satisfy societal pressures like making money and seeming to be prestigious over my life and was not building a life I’m proud to live. Similar to Anne Sweeney’s quote, I decided to take a leap of faith in January 2020 and build my start-up consultancy firm. Then, in August 2020, I decided to build a business that would empower female entrepreneurs like myself by providing them with products that would enhance their well-being, promote work-life-integration to empower them to achieve anything they set their mind to. multitasky is just that — achieving success by setting your own rules and living a life you’re proud to do that. And we do that by helping make your space look just that more beautiful.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Given that multitasky is just a few months old, I’m still very much in the hustle mode. Reading ‘The Four-Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferriss has enlightened me to set up my business in a way that enables me to remove myself from the day-to-day operations. Even at multitasky’s infancy stage, I carved out specific functional roles and invested in hiring a team of incredible female hustlers who I trusted to help me build the business from the ground-up. This continues to allow me to focus on the bigger things and outsource as much as I can, enabling me to move 10x faster with a more focused mind.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I was Chief of Staff at Alibaba North America, living in New York and traveling back and forth from China every month. Crazy times! Right before the pandemic, I had a revelation moment and decided to quit my job without a plan and trusting myself to figure it out if I could just give myself the chance. I guess that was lucky because I shifted my day-to-day without the pandemic forcing it on me. I had 100+ networking coffees in 20 days and decided to start building my personal brand and doing independent start-up business consulting until I found the “next big thing.” The next big thing turned out to be my very own eCommerce business.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
For me, the pandemic was a perfect excuse to keep me head down and lay down the groundwork of starting my entrepreneurship journey. I used the first month of quarantine to build my personal brand, and then I started getting clients from my earlier round of intense networking. I must have completed over 100 projects in eight months and was working so much that I barely had to leave my house anyway. The main pivot for me was moving all meetings virtually which allowed for increased efficiency.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
Eight months into doing independent consulting, I started to feel this irresistible itch of building my own thing — being a consultant just couldn’t satisfy me anymore. I knew it’s time for me to start something new — something that I could completely own and operate. As a consultant, I was mainly helping DTC eCommerce brands with financial models, which gave me a pretty good grasp of the entire space and workflow (or least I thought I did at the time). So I thought, why don’t I start an eCommerce brand myself? I was always passionate about collecting cute and functional lifestyle products, but found that there is a huge gap in the existing market. After pulling some strings at Alibaba, I got connected to a bunch of manufacturers and fulfillment centers, and thus Multitasky was born — a lifestyle marketplace for fun & multi-functional home/office products that empower female go-getters.
How are things going with this new initiative?
We soft-launched in December 2020 and things have been nothing short of crazy! With the holidays, we received an influx of sales which led us to find out that our fulfillment set-up was not as steady as we’d hoped, in conjunction with national shipping delays. We increased our team to over ten awesome female hustlers and we are working hard everyday on streamlining our entire operations structure, launching new and better products, and creating a strong brand presence. We just got our first warehouse in California and are planning for dozens of new product launches this year in 2021! We also just launched a 2021 Manifestation Kit in partnership with Society Gal, the largest female creative freelancer community. More new initiatives coming soon, including our custom vegan leather office collection and many more!
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am beyond grateful for my partner, who has supported me throughout this entire journey and stuck with me 24/7 during quarantine. I changed 2 jobs and started 2 new businesses in 2 years, and he was always there supporting me and encouraging me to do what I needed to do no matter how hard things were at the time. I could not be where I am today without him. Back in my corporate days, he was the one who showed me that happiness isn’t defined by external labels, and believed that I could achieve even greater things without what society assigned to me. He gave me the courage to go and try new things and be myself.
If I could give advice to someone who is hoping to become an entrepreneur or scale their business, I would encourage them to be very intentional about the partner and friendships they bring into their life. Your partner makes a huge difference in your success and your happiness.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I started to hate holidays! Haha! I was joking with my friends that the best way of ruining holidays is to start an eCommerce business… And it’s true! We were planning to launch multitasky on Black Friday, so I remember pulling an all-nighter after a cozy family gathering to get our website and ads all set up. Then it was Christmas. At that time we didn’t have our warehouse setup yet, so I was literally drowning in products and packages the entire Christmas week trying to get them all shipped out. Of course, you all probably heard about the shipping drama this holiday season, which was made even worse with customer service being offline during holidays and weekends. I used to love the holidays, but now I just think that it’s the most stressful time of the year.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You just have to start and learn as you go. No amount of shadowing, education, and training can actually teach you how to start a company.
- You have to work the 100-hour work week before you reach the 4-hour workweek. You have to try doing everything yourself first before you outsource, especially to do it effectively.
- Always expect expenses to be 3x more than you initially thought they would be, especially for marketing and user acquisition.
- Be 1000% sure that your fulfillment operations system can handle the amount of sales you are getting, otherwise, it can quickly turn into a disaster. Don’t try to fly before you learn how to crawl.
- Trust your team to work for you and build the organization from the ground-up. Hire people you trust and allow them to work for you instead of you trying to do everything yourself.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I learned to be intentional with my time. Part of this strategy is to not read the news, mainly because I’ll hear the important notes from my mom. I am conscious about spending my time being more focused, minimizing distractions and minimizing opportunities for negative energy to come into my space. Aside from that, I’ve also leaned into yoga and meditation and spending more quality time (even if it’s just on the phone) with my friends and family. Most importantly, I rented out my New York apartment and have just been cabin-hopping for the past 6 months! Having more space and closer to nature definitely helped a lot with maintaining my mental wellness.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
One thing that’s incredibly important to me is for female entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams and accomplish anything they set their mind to. With that, my goal is to influence the movement and change the narrative around multitasking. I wholeheartedly believe that while hard work is important, so is work-life integration and building balance and harmony in your life. You can begin integrating positive things in your life by upgrading your work and home space with multitasky products or by connecting with other female entrepreneurs in your space.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I would love to have lunch with Sophia Amoruso — she’s a true Girl Boss!
How can our readers follow you online?
Instagram: @julialxu / @multitasky
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!