Posted by United Goods on February 23, 2018
Following is the full interview we did with Julia Miller of julia elise. Part of it ran in our monthly email, United Update, which is sent to subscribers around the 26th of each month. To join the mailing list, enter your email address in the field near the bottom of each page of our website.
We met Julia Miller, founder and owner of julia elise, when she was part of The Island of Misfit Makers event last December. We want more people to know about her body care products and the passion that goes into making them.
Hey, Julia! Tell us about you.
I grew up in New York City but have lived in Minneapolis for 11 years. I went to college in rural Vermont, and studied Cultural Anthropology and Environmental Studies. After that, I lived in the Bay Area for a few years, and began a career working in fundraising for various nonprofit organizations, including an international human rights organization, a women's health clinic, and an acupuncture school. When I moved to Minneapolis, I continued this work, and was Development Director for a small social service agency in South Minneapolis for nine years.
I'm 35 years old and live in South Minneapolis with my husband and two children, ages 4 and 2.
When did you start julia elise, and how did it start?
I’ve been making and selling various products for much of my life, as a hobby. In 2006 I started an Etsy shop selling handmade notecards and sewn accessories like small bags, pouches, and scarves. In 2010, I took a workshop at the Wedge Community Co-op and learned how to make some basic body care products. It was so fun and interesting. I've always been a person who felt I could make most anything I wanted or needed, and this was a new area I hadn't yet explored. I began making lip balms for gifts, and slowly added them to my Etsy shop. In 2012, I renamed my shop julia elise and relaunched it focusing solely on body care products, and a small selection of sewn goods made from fabric I dyed with plants. After the birth of my second child in late 2015, I decided to leave my full-time job to stay home with my kids and focus on making julia elise more of a real business than just a hobby. I rebranded, created a more focused line of products, and launched in September 2016.
From where did the name come?
julia elise is my first and middle name. I'm terrible at coming up with clever names, and I wanted my business name to be personal and simple.
What do you offer?
My current line of products includes body, face, and hair oils; salves; sugar scrubs; lip balm; deodorant cream; and a face and body tea.
What makes julia elise different?
julia elise provides high-quality natural and herbal body care products that make people feel beautiful, healthy, and strong by drawing on the healing and supportive properties of plants. All of my products are handmade by me in small batches. I use high-quality ingredients, including organic oils and butters, dried herbs, local beeswax, and essential oils. Most of my products use herbal-infused oils, which are made by a process in which various herbs are soaked in oils and then strained out, leaving the healing properties of the herbs in the oil.
Have you always had an interest in body care products?
My interest in making these products began after the class I took at The Wedge, and now I’m excited to be studying herbalism and learning more about how different plants can support our physical and emotional health.
What's the best part about what you do?
I love getting to learn about and play with different ingredients when working on new products. I feel so lucky to spend time getting to know the different herbs I use in my products. And I absolutely love sharing my products with customers and hearing about how they helped people with their dry skin, or improved their day.
What's the most challenging?
The biggest challenge is having enough time to work on all of my ideas since I also spend half of my time taking care of my two kids. Another challenge is getting my name out there so people know about my products and can try them.
How can United nation help you with that challenge?
Tell your friends about julia elise, or give one of my products as a gift to someone who you think would really love it.
Whose hands would you love to get your products into?
Just more customers and retail store owners who would love them.
What’s one misconception about skincare you wish you could help change?
I think some people have become skeptical of "natural skincare" products since many large companies market their products as "natural,” but they still have a ton of synthetic or unnecessary ingredients in them. My products contain very few ingredients and I want people to know that quality products don't have to have an ingredient list that's a mile long and be full of stuff you can't pronounce or know where it comes from.
What are your plans for the near future?
I'd love to have my products in more retail locations around the United States. Also, I’m working on releasing a small line of baby and kid products later this year. If your readers have any ideas for specific products you'd like to see, I'm all ears! I’m also spending some time thinking about how julia elise can be a more socially conscious business—whether that involves a give-back program or making a greater impact based on where I source my ingredients or other materials.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
For a long time, I knew I wanted to work in nonprofits and serve people in greater need than myself. This is still an important part of my life, just not professionally at the moment. I also think I always knew I'd be an entrepreneur. I had a pretend restaurant in my bedroom when I was a kid, and I used to sell handmade jewelry at concerts in high school.
What might we be surprised to learn about you?
1. In my spare time (what little I have), I love to sew. In 2017, I did a #100daysproject of 100 days of sewing. I finished a quilt and made lots of clothing for myself and my kids.
2. I used to work in a bakery, and I love baking. I kind of miss getting to spend all that time in the bakery, but I don't miss having to be at work at 4:45 a.m.
3. I grew up in Manhattan. Living in Minnesota, people always find this surprising and confusing. I didn't realize until I left New York what a unique childhood I had, doing things like riding the subway as a kid and taking school field trips to world-famous museums. It was just normal to me.
4. I gave birth to both of my children in a non-hospital birth center with no drugs, and my daughter was born in the water. I truly respect all kinds of births, but having two unmedicated births is one of the most powerful things I've ever done.
5. As part of a high school internship, I got kicked out of a Niketown store for protesting Nike's use of sweatshops, and refusing to disclose the location of their factories.
I’m a shoe-a-holic. What is a favorite pair you’ve owned?
I wish I was more of a shoe person! One of my favorites is a pair of Swedish Hasbeens sandal clogs that I bought in Stockholm on my honeymoon.