Remember why you started: It’s easy to get lost in the little details of day to day operations (including struggles), but don’t lose sight of the big picture, and why you started in the first place.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Berg. Julie is the founder and CEO of Dressed to Deliver, an online boutique of designer maternity, and labor and delivery gowns. As the visionary behind one of the first accessible and adaptable pregnancy-embracing and labor-positive delivery gowns, Julie has spearheaded her way into the pregnancy, labor and delivery market as a product innovator and industry trailblazer. A fertility warrior and mother to three beautiful babies, Julie has fiercely advocated for all mothers to have a comfortable pregnancy journey as well as pre- and post-labor experiences. Julie’s entrepreneurial success was anything but ‘planned’. Yearning for a bit of modesty during her many invasive fertility appointments, she custom designed a 3-in-1 dress, which inadvertently caught the attention of doctors and friends who loved the versatile, accessible yet concealing design. She was soon inundated with orders. With demand growing, she left her pharmaceutical career to start Dressed To Deliver, winning awards, accolades, offers from two of the CBC Dragons! Her 3-in-1 birthing gowns and delivery robes are becoming a staple in birthing suites across the US and Canada, and have been featured in media across North America. Outside of the office you can find Julie cheering on her older kids at hockey and gymnastics, and making sure to reserve time in her work day for board games and cuddles. Julie knows that prioritizing downtime is as important as strategy meetings and when she can, she schedules family camping vacations at national parks throughout Canada and the U.S. She loves the heat
but has an aversion to all hot beverages, fueling her daily caffeine fix with chocolate almonds or a mars bar.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
My childhood was as quintessential as they come; small town girl with big-city dreams. My parents were incredibly hardworking and taught me that my success would be determined by my own perseverance. Their unwavering support and guidance gave me the courage to pursue my dreams.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
I spent years struggling to conceive due to having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a condition I’ve been dealing with since I was 15 years old, and anyone who is or has been struggling with infertility knows how invasive and indiscreet fertility treatments are. Being tested, poked and probed on a daily basis not only leaves you physically, mentally and emotionally drained, but also vulnerable. As if struggling to conceive wasn’t hard enough, there I was, trying to readjust my ill-fitting hospital gown to hang on to any last bit of modesty I had. I had to figure out a solution. Knowing what access points were necessary for my treatments, I designed a custom-made 3-in-1 dress that would carry me through treatments, pregnancy, labor and beyond. Because let’s face it, if my personal space was lost during my fertility treatments, I certainly wasn’t going to find it during my labor. After too many failed attempts, I managed to finally create a dress I was comfortable in and that I was allowed to wear during my appointments. The dress caught the attention of my doctors and fellow ‘fertility warrior mamas’ who commented on the versatile, accessible yet concealing design. Before I knew it, I was inundated with orders.
There is no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
Since I didn’t have a business or marketing background, I had to start from scratch. I had an idea, but lacked the knowledge of where to take it, especially if I wanted to turn it into a real business. The first thing I did was to consult with my Doctors and nurses to see if this design was viable, after that, I reached out to others who had successful product-based businesses; I asked a lot of questions, and sought out those who could assist me in moving my idea forward. I learned how to create a detailed business plan, and felt prepared when I was ready to sell my products. One of the best pieces of advice I was given (and something I value most to this day) is to consistently ask for and listen to customer feedback — this is how my products evolve successfully.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
The biggest thing to remember is that it is not all sunshine and rainbows. You will get stuck along the way and you will make mistakes, but the most important thing is that you have to believe in yourself, stay calm and carry on!
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
I think that as long as you see every day as a blank page, and that you are ready to accept the challenges and continue to grow, it will keep things fresh. The great thing about owning your own business is that you get to determine which direction it goes.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
When I left my 9 to 5 job, I thought I would have more free time on my hands. That was very naïve of me to think. I actually work far more than I did when I was working for someone else, but the difference is, I am doing something that I love to do plus there’s no better feeling than being your own boss!
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
The biggest difference between what I thought my business would be versus the reality now is how long it has taken me to get to where I am. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that’s certainly true for business. At the beginning, I would have guessed I would have a larger team by this point, but until recently I had no choice but to oversee all of the duties. This has proven to be a blessing in disguise, because now that I am able to hire people, I’m aware of what needs to be done, and what that’s worth to the business.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore; I’m going to get a “real” job? If so, how did you overcome it?
I think as an entrepreneur that thought crosses your mind quite often, especially at the start of it all when you’re struggling to get going. You tend to doubt your choice of branching out as an entrepreneur, worry about any financial repercussions and you certainly feel burnt out from working overtime and dealing with problems. However, it takes time to create great things, and I’m grateful to have had (and continue to have) an amazing support system of family, friends and mentors that are always there to offer a helping hand; and I LOVE what I do!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I remember going to my first trade show. It was a last-minute decision, but I really wanted to do it because I was excited to break into the market. I printed banners and marketing material with key messaging that I thought people would understand. Unfortunately, it didn’t resonate with the people at the trade show. Looking back, I should have taken the time to test the messaging on my target audience to see if it made sense to them. Lesson learned.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
I really look up to Joanna Griffiths, the founder and CEO of Knixwear. She built a brand based on products that offer a solution to bladder leakage and unpredictable periods, and somehow made them sexy — regardless of a woman’s shape or circumstances. I strive to make a similar impact with my brand, helping women to feel good in some of the most uncomfortable circumstances.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
For every Dressed to Deliver apparel purchase, a Safe Birth Kit is donated to an expectant mother in a developing country, through our Safe Beginnings Project. The kits contain the essentials needed to prepare for a safe birth environment, and help to prevent the spread of infection during births.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- You will make MANY mistakes, don’t beat yourself up for it, learn from it: When I first started my business, I assumed my most cost-efficient and productive option for manufacturing was through China. The manufacturer I chose ended up delaying my launch and made me suffer significant revenue loss due to quality issues. It was a tough loss, but it taught me to explore my options more carefully
- Set achievable goals: Try to identify what makes sense for your business from the beginning — you want to be able to hit the goals you set, not feel defeated before you’re even off the ground.
- Figure out your strengths and hire for your weaknesses: The best thing you can do for your business is knowing what type of person you are. Know what your strengths are and build your business around it; hire people that compliment you and can bridge the gap between your strengths and weaknesses.
- Track your Metrics: you need to have a visual of what is and what isn’t working for you as well as how far you’ve come in your journey. Not necessarily day to day, but tracking metrics over a year can really show the success of your hard work.
- Remember why you started: It’s easy to get lost in the little details of day to day operations (including struggles), but don’t lose sight of the big picture, and why you started in the first place.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I am an advocate for maternal mental health and wellness, and believe it’s important for women to share their stories of infertility, pregnancy and postpartum struggles — stigma free! Too many suffer in silence, thinking that they have no one to talk to or that no one can relate to what they’re going through; if only they knew that wasn’t the case.
Can you please give us your favorite” Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” ―Mary Tyler Moore
I’ve made many mistakes and there have been times where I’ve wanted to quit, but this quote really resonates with me. I’ve grown, I’ve learned something I didn’t know and it has made me a stronger entrepreneur. We all have good and bad days and we have to push through it. I believe in myself and my hard work.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Sarah Blakely from Spanx. Not only do I resonate with her because she also created something that she needed for herself, but I love her story and drive to do good in this world. I admire her resiliency; the odds were stacked against her, but she rose to the top. Whenever I am feeling discouraged in my business, I think of her!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.