It’s a Man’s world — I grew up in a family where men and women, girls and boys’ opinions were valued equally. It came as a rude shock that the corporate world did not operate on that premise.
We are all trying to climb that ladder. I have seen that some women feel that there are limited seats at the table for women so they choose to compete with other women for that seat, using whatever means it takes.
Laughter is imperative — it is proven to reduce stress. I inject humor whenever and wherever possible. Even if it’s cheesy, I usually get a laugh….
Trust your intuition — listen to your heart and trust your gut. We just know when we meet a certain artisan supplier, they will rock our world.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jules Vertrees, Co-Founder and President of Verve Culture Inc.
Jules has been working in the gift industry for 25 years and has finally figured out a product category that she is passionate about, loves to sell and really believes in. Jules is an expert in every aspect of wholesale business from product development, manufacturing, sales and marketing of cosmetics, fashion accessories, stationery items and general gift items and has developed strong relationships with key retailers such as Sephora, Urban Outfitters and other specialty gift and department stores. Verve Culture has consulted for many international businesses with a desire to enter the USA retail market and has grown various brands to revenues $15m+. Verve Culture has been working on a new launch — kitchen and cooking accessories. Jules loves to travel and loves to cook so she and her co-founder decided to mix these passions into a new venture that celebrates cooking culture from different countries.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was born into it. From as early as I can remember, in my household, an order of $100K or more meant a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne. In my early twenties, I traveled the world and spent a couple of years working in the music and advertising industry in London. This was a steady gig until I got kicked out because my UK visa expired. After being booted from the UK, I needed some TLC so I moved to Colorado. My mother and co-founder, Jacquie Lewis, had recently moved there from our home in Australia, and had started a new venture importing and distributing Australian designer brands. I needed a job and that was the beginning of a 26-year collaboration. Not only are we mother and daughter but we are business partners and best friends. We started this new business because we wanted more than just a job — we wanted to be proud of what we were doing.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
When doing a High-Performance Leadership Program (HPLP) at Daniels College of Business, Denver University, I was captivated with the concept that trust in your team and trust in yourself was instrumental in achieving successful leadership. One of the team-building exercises we did was climbing up a 50’ pole and jumping off. The only way to survive was by trusting your team to lower you down to safety. As a control freak, this was a hard but essential lesson to learn.
Every leader has a ladder that they want to climb. The big question was which wall or direction to lean my ladder up against. What was it that I truly wanted to achieve? What direction did I truly want to go? I realized that “My” ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. Recognizing and owning this was paramount in achieving personal satisfaction and fulfillment; something I believe ultimately leads to commercial success.
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?
The serious implication of pressing ‘reply all’ to an email when you meant to press ‘forward’! You only make this mistake once — hopefully. The lesson learned is to never put something in an email that you do not want to share with the world.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Coming from a world of mass production and bland sameness, I believe that Verve Culture stands out because we are a marketplace for artisan-made items that have authenticity, heart and soul. We are the antithesis of FMCG. Our artisan suppliers from around the world have iconic, traditional products that they want to share with the world and we are here to honor the traditions and tell their story. One of our wonderful partners in Mexico is Juan Alonso who crafts our wooden Molinillo, a traditional Mexican hot chocolate whisk. When we placed our first order for 1000 pieces and explained that we wanted to bring them to the US market, he was overwhelmed with pride that we would want to share this cultural and iconic tool that is used daily in a Mexican home. This just feels good.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are excited to launch our next “Culture”, Morocco. We have curated an incredible collection of items from Morocco that tell the story of their culture and the intricacies of their ethnic diversities. Berber, Arab, African and European influences are all celebrated in our collection. Many of the artisans and workshops we collaborate with would not otherwise have the connections, ability and know-how to bring their beautiful goods to the USA market. By facilitating the logistics of global distribution, we are able to help them increase production and earning potential.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Be aware. Listen and really hear. be honest with yourself. Be kind.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
In order for a large team to work smoothly, all departments need to be in alignment. I believe that it is essential for all departments and stakeholders to have clear and honest communication with a holistic view of the common goal. The environment to achieve this needs to be created; we hold a WIP meeting (Work in progress) on a weekly basis. This meeting involves sales, marketing, logistics, operations, purchasing, finance, compliance and design. There is a strict and consistent agenda with touchpoints for each department. This meeting is fast and concise, everyone is included so that silos have a bridge.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. 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?
When we launched Verve Culture, it was a true passion project. The very first sales call was with a buyer from a large department store (ok, I know you want to know…. NORDSTROM!). When presenting our concept around culture, not product category — she immediately “Got it” and placed an order on the spot. Having this validation and support gave us the courage to take our business to the next level.
Over the past 26 years, there has been an amazing network of industry professionals that have given us support through thick and thin. They are still right there with us cheerleading, as they recognize that Verve Culture’s ladder is leaning against the right wall.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We believe that exposing our customers to beautiful, authentic and traditional items from all corners of the globe, generates an appreciation of other cultures and in turn, promotes tolerance and makes our world smaller and more accessible.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It’s a Man’s world — I grew up in a family where men and women, girls and boys’ opinions were valued equally. It came as a rude shock that the corporate world did not operate on that premise.
- Women can be bitches — We are all trying to climb that ladder. I have seen that some women feel that there are limited seats at the table for women so they choose to compete with other women for that seat, using whatever means it takes.
- Get rid of a bad egg immediately — Hire slowly and fire quickly. Don’t let cancer fester. I have tried and tried to turn a bad situation around when I knew there was no hope.
- Laughter is imperative — it is proven to reduce stress. I inject humor whenever and wherever possible. Even if it’s cheesy, I usually get a laugh….
- Trust your intuition — listen to your heart and trust your gut. We just know when we meet a certain artisan supplier, they will rock our world.
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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Breaking down barriers, both global and political, would bring enormous benefits to the world. After all, everything is interrelated.
We have all seen that Covid-19 does not discriminate between borders, income or creed. Today, the best brains in the world are coming together around science to find a solution to this virus.
What if we could use global crowdsourcing to find solutions that affect us all?
- Childhood poverty
- Plastic in the ocean
- Human and Sex Trafficking
Good ideas are only good ideas until there is buy-in and followers. Thank you, Greta Thunberg and Bill Gates.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Live fully and richly EVERY DAY.
Everyone has things to deal with, be it tragedy, health or financial issues. We never know what is around the corner — so live today. Choose. Don’t live in the past or for tomorrow. Be present. Recognize what you do have and share.
We are 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 🙂
Oprah Winfrey — she is an inspirational, strong woman. She is resilient, smart and philanthropic.