Monday, January 29, 2007

The smart mommy network

When I first started down the start-up path, I had no idea that Julep would be such a huge beneficiary of “the smart mommy network.”

Take for example, Jeanne Riley, my friend who used to work at Accenture and Safeco, who left her full-time job when she had her second son. Instead of working complex technology strategies that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, she now advises on complex small business / retail software that costs much, much less. We often crouch over our laptops, sitting on my basement floor as we evaluate online scheduling and POS systems. She’s technology smart, but also a great person with whom to bounce around ideas.

Shari Heege used to work with me on the Starbucks Liqueurs team (Delicious! If you’re over 21, check it out at She’s my graphic designer (along with my brilliant logo designer friend Ron Nix, who is not a mom, but very smart nonetheless). We tend to meet at her house when her beautiful toddler is napping. In addition to graphic design, she provides HR support, emotional support and sanity with an edgy twist.

Then I have an anonymous friend who is a real estate lawyer, mom of a toddler, who’s helping me get through the lease process.

And Jeanne’s friend Deborah Yand has been tirelessly calling local schools to ask for auction procurement forms when she’s not tirelessly working on the Coe school auction.

Working with these amazing women is such a pleasure, and a secret (okay, maybe not so secret anymore) competitive advantage. If I get a call at 10pm on a Saturday night, I know it’s Shari, working on the menu layout (um, sorry Ben!). I often meet with Jeanne at our neighborhood Starbucks at 9pm, after we’ve both put our children to bed (um, sorry Rich!). We can also share the cute things our children have done this week and the joys and frustrations of our ever evolving roles.

It’s exciting to be around such talented, passionate women who care so much about doing things right.

I’d encourage any new entrepreneur, or established business owner, for that matter, to look around and search out the underutilized smart mommy who’s likely to be an absolute treasure waiting to be discovered.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Beauty as a profession

I've never worked with an architect before starting Julep, but now that I have, I can see why some people are in a perpetual state of remodeling / rebuilding.

I love working with my architect. I love being able to talk about beauty seriously and make decisions that can bring something uniquely beautiful into the world.

I knew that Tom (Maul) and his partner Rob (Hutchison) were truly disciples of beauty when I heard that they spent hours drilling what looks like thousands of holes into Rob's old garage to pay tribute to the building's life before they tore it down. ( to see their work). The Seattle Times called it, "Shafts of light searing the darkness, a Swiss cheese of a cottage. A Darth Vader highway of light sabers" (they had plugged the holes with acrylic pipes). Tom and Rob called it "Hole House 2".

Tom can make fire come out of stone (and fit it into Julep's back wall). He can make mint leaves grow on domes of light. He will even find a way to make my paraffin dip warmer an object d'art (okay, maybe the last one is a stretch).
Better yet, we're seriously under budget so far because of his early and clear communication of his perceptive ideas, and the lessons I learned about making and sticking to decisiosn from my addiction to the H&G channel show, Opening Soon by Design (a reality show about opening new retail stores! Go figure! My life must be glamorous if there's a TV show about it!,2498,FINE_23516,00.html).
The very best thing about my entrepreneurial experience so far is how much fun it is to work with amazing, fun, smart, and dedicated people who share a genuine enthusiasm for this new venture. Hopefully, by writing it here I'll remember to carry this wonder and gratitude around with me during the gloomier moments.

Monday, January 22, 2007

"Spa voices"

I’m really excited about Julep providing a place in the world for women to get together and hang out with their friends to celebrate each other.

Men have all the places in the world to hang out together – baseball games, football games, basketball games, bars, golf, etc. etc. The beauty parlor used to be a social gathering place for women (remember Steel Magnolias?), but it really isn’t for most of us anymore. When’s the last time your girlfriend said, “Come and get your hair done with me?” Hair is much more about the relationship with an individual stylist than a group gathering.

The times I’ve participated in business or bridal get togethers at spas have been a disaster. After you check in, you don’t really get to hang out with the people you came in with, since you’re all whisked away to your separate treatment rooms. You can try to catch up between treatments in the waiting area, but it’s tricky.

First of all, if I’m trying to take a work colleague out for a special bonding event, being in a robe is a little TOO bonding for me.

Even if you’re with good friends, the zen-like spa is just not the place to celebrate a birthday or upcoming wedding. I was at a bridal shower with six girlfriends at a spa in Chicago a couple of months ago, and no fewer than 3 times did the spa manager come over to shush us and ask us to use our “spa voices.” I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a “spa voice.” I thought we were using our “indoor voices” but apparently that wasn’t enough. But get six women together to celebrate the wedding of the coolest, kindest, most awesome friend you’ve got, and it’s unlikely that “spa voices” are going to happen.

I want Julep to be a place that I’m excited to share with my mom, my sisters, my best friends, and my work colleagues. A place where we can gab, gossip, celebrate, commiserate, and update each other without fear of being shushed. Won’t that be beautiful?

Thursday, January 18, 2007


So I’m back from my presentation to a local Seattle angel group – and I am happy to find that I’ve accidentally left my space heater on in my basement so my coffee from this morning is not quite frozen all the way through.

The presentation was both more fun and exhausting than I'd anticipated. I was especially surprised by how great it was to meet the other presenters, who were so open and friendly and had all been around this block several times. The empathy we were feeling for each other far outweighed any competitive spirit that might have been spurred by the limited table space at the back of the room for our materials.
This was my first Julep presentation to a group. I was a little nervous at first, which is unusual for me because I love talking to an audience, where I don’t have to worry about niceties like letting anyone else get a word in edgewise.

But the five minutes before it was my turn, I found myself repeating, “It’s just a raccoon, it’s just a raccoon.”

This is what my two-year old daughter says to calm down my five-year old son during particularly nail-biting parts of thrillers like Sesame Street and Happy Feet. “It’s just a raccoon,” loosely means “it’s just a cartoon,” and/or “it’s just a costume.” In otherwords, don't sweat it.

Thinking of my daughter reminded me that I got up at 5:00 am this morning because my she came into our room needing to snuggle – which made me feel so confusingly simultaneously irritated and lucky that I lost all track of being nervous about my presentation.

I love talking about Julep, so that part was easy. People seemed to stay awake enough to laugh at the right spots and ask great questions. And it was terrific to have Karri, my Director of Education there. In some ways, it felt like the two of us sneaking in to see what this world was all about. She’s so smart and passionate. This was the first time I was seeing her in action talking to others, spreading the word.

But I’m learning that angel investing is not very transactional. Shockingly (perhaps only to me), not a single checkbook was whipped out. Eight people came over to take copies of our business plan, though, and now I guess I sit and wait, trying not to think about whether they will call. I’ve been told that about one in every four to five companies who present ultimately end up with investments from these presentations. (“They love me, they love me not, they love me not, they love me not, they love me not”).

So I’m back at my card table, typing up these thoughts, checking in with Paul and Mike, my amazing furniture designers and calling signage companies to get bids. Oh, the glamour of it all.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Golden Globes

I don’t know why I love the Golden Globes so much.

It doesn’t seem to matter that it’s really just a bad work party on TV. Maybe BECAUSE it’s a really just a bad work party on TV. Where some celebrities might drink just a little too much (Ryan Phillippe, 2006), and others might be caught looking a little bored (Angelina Jolie, 2007).

Celebrities, they’re just like us! They struggle to make small talk with their work friends and nemeses. They sit politely through a mass-produced, rubbery chicken dinners. They walk the fine line between drinking enough to make the evening tolerable, but not too much so that you end up doing something embarrassing in front of everyone you work with. And the rest of America.

But mostly the whole thing is just so pretty. Since Tom and Katie can’t get married every year, it’s nice to have another venue for seeing a cross-section (TV, movies, music) of celebrities in their finery.

So I noticed a lot of sophisticated nude polish on celebrity hands this year. Sheryl Crow, Felicity Huffman, The Three Jennifers (Garner, Lopez, Love Hewitt), Helen Mirin, Toni Collette, Eva Longoria, America Ferrera, almost every leading lady was beautiful in buff – on their hands and(for the most part) on lips too.

Kate Winslet and Jennifer Hudson were the notable exceptions – with the short, dark dark nails that I’m still clinging to. Not bad to be in company like that . . . If I was the last woman standing with Nicolette Sheridan and Britney Spears I’d be more worried.

But it looks like 2007 will be more sheer and nude on the hands. Which is great news for busy women who are washing dishes or wacking on keyboards, since nudes hide chipping and look neat for much longer than darker polishes.

By the way, how fabulous is Meryl Streep. So smart, genuinely gracious, funny, self-aware and supportive of other women. And I love America Ferrera. Also extraordinarily articulate, thoughtful, and sweet. I would drive across country with either of them.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Toxins in Nail Polish

I’ve been learning a lot about toxins in nail polish because I’m looking hard to find a healthy alternative for Julep guests. Most leading nail polishes contain three known toxins: tolulene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate.

Toluene is harmful to human reproduction and developmental. It may affect the nervous system with symptoms like tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, and memory loss. It is thought to cause liver damage and skin irritation. In high levels it may affect the kidneys. Toluene has been linked to birth defects in laboratory animals.

Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and a common indoor air pollutant because its resins are used in many construction materials. Formaldehyde has caused cancer in the nose and throats of lab animals. Inhaling the fumes can result in watery eyes, headache, burning in the throat, and labored breathing.

Phthalates are used to soften plastic (unfortunately often in plastics in products like teething rings!), and are known to affect hormone function. Studies have linked phthalates to early puberty in girls and low sperm counts in men. Environmental groups claim phthalate exposure may contribute to the rising number of uterine problems in women and testicular cancer in men. It could also be one of the contributing factors to a rise in infertility in both sexes. Repeated and heavy exposure to dibutyl phthalate may cause nausea and/or vomiting, tearing of the eyes, dizziness, and headache. Long-term exposures may cause damage to kidneys and the liver. Pregnant women must consider that dibutyl phthalate may harm the developing fetus and the male testes.


You may have heard that OPI has agreed to remove phthalates from their nail polishes going forward, but will continue to use tolulene and formaldehyde. Learn more at:

If you’re interested in learning more about what might be in your cosmetics bag, you can go to:

While I wonder about the impact of occasional exposure, I worry about the people (mostly women) working in this industry who have high exposure to these toxins for long periods each working day. Like second hand smoke - walking by someone who's smoking may be unpleasant and cause you to sneeze and your eyes to water, but breathing for hours on end day in and day out poses a different level of risk.


It’s been a while since I’ve been on the dating scene, or looked for a new job, so it’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with rejection.

But starting a new business is bringing that all back. In spades. On any given day, my Julep glass looks either 1 acceptance full or 99 rejections empty (dependant on my outlook, which is sometimes dependent on my wine consumption).

For example, over the past four months, I’ve been on in-person “first dates” with 38 potential investors. Here’s the want ad I should run:

“Exciting SRS (Single Retail Start-up), seeking multiple intelligent, forward-looking, and patient Accredited Investors to engage in highly rewarding long-term relationship.”

Beyond the standard “people are investing in the individual(s), not the idea,” here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

1) Start-up investments come from disposable cash. This is a pretty simple principle, but I’ve never been part of this world before, so I had no idea. It turns out that even very wealthy people will not up and sell their investments in another asset to invest in your start-up, despite the obvious brilliance of your business plan (hypothetically speaking). If a prospective investor is remodeling a house, has just lost a job, or is embroiled in a messy divorce, start looking elsewhere.

2) I think all of my investors are “J”s in the Myers-Briggs world (“Judging” versus “Perceiving” – more orderly and decisive versus amorphous and open-ended). And most of them are “E”s (“Extraverts,” versus “Introverts”). I don’t think I have a single “P” investor, except for my husband (who arguably did not have full freedom of choice in his investment).

3) I think men and women “close the deal” differently. This was the hardest part for me, so I tended to avoid it. Looking back at my conversations, most of my investors had to take the lead and ask me, “So are you looking for investors?” (I think one investor actually said, “So what’s going on here, Jane? Are you really hitting me up for money?”). I was happy to just talk and talk and talk about my ideas for Julep. But, for the most part, my NPR strategy of “the sooner you pay, the sooner we’ll shut up and let you get back to regular programming” has served me well enough. . . (Oprah moment warning) I think the most important thing is to know who you are, especially when in uncomfortable situations.

4) Most people are busy – both interested and uninterested people alike. So it’s hard to distinguish between an interested busy person’s “call me later” – meaning “I’ve got Donald Trump on the other line and I’m selling him land,” and an uninterested busy person’s “call me later” – meaning “I don’t have enough time to think about this enough to get to my ‘no’”. My M.O. is to veer dramatically back and forth between manically calling every two minutes to intense self-flaggelation for over-bugging my friends.

Next week I’m presenting my business plan to a group of Seattle angel investors. I had a preparation call today that was really helpful. I went through my whole presentation, and the good news is that I got through all my material in just under 25 minutes. The bad news is that I’ve only got 10 minutes to present when I go in front of the broader group next Thursday. When was on the receiving side of new business “pitches,” I always thought that 10 minutes was more than adequate to figure out whether a further investment of my time was worth the while. But now that I’m the one “pitching,” the more than roomy 10 minutes seems to have shrunk into size 0 proportions.

So my business plan has some liquid only, crash dieting to do by then.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sunday, January 7, 2007


My mother called me today because she is worried that I am dying. Having observed me throughout the holiday season, when I was entertaining eleven people in my relatively modest house for a full week, all in the midst of launching a new business, she noticed that I seemed a little tense.

“Jane, you busy? Something I want ask to you. Something you not telling me?” She wanted to know. “You tell me anything. Your Daddy and I talk about it, we think something unusual.”

My mother is obsessed with death because one of her best friends had a son who was an investment banker and died at the age of 33 from a heart attack because he “work too hard, have big, big stress.” I think I was promised to him at some late evening “gae” night (the unofficial Korean small business loan program), when his father approached my father after several bottles of Johnny Walker and observed that despite my dark-ish skin, I appeared to be an acceptable and dutiful daughter worthy of his son.

“I’m not going to have a heart attack, Mom,” I tried to reassure her while feeding copies of my investor agreement into my copier. “I’m, uh, shit! The paper’s jammed again! Anyway, I’m fine.”

“You very lucky, Jane,” my mom said quietly, in a way that made me stop messing with the copier to sit and listen. “Button (what my mom calls my husband), I never see such a good father like him. When I see your family, you are so happy.”

“I’ve just got a lot on my mind, Mom. I’m sorry if I was impatient when you were here,” I admitted sheepishly.

“You just tell me if anything is wrong. Anything.”

“I don’t have cancer mom! My heart is fine! I promise I will tell you if I have a serious illness.”

“Okay Jane. You just telling me. Having a fun! Bye!”

I guess I have been out of sorts lately. I have been more irritable than usual at home lately, and my neck has started cracking loudly whenever I look anywhere other than dead straight ahead. So last week I started exercising to help channel out some of my anxiety.

It turns out that the treadmill is a pretty dangerous piece of equipment. Who knew. I was getting into a groove, running to George Michael’s “Faith,” when I suddenly remembered something so disasterously stupid I had said to a prospective investor. It made me want to disappear into a hole, which made me squeeze my eyes shut (first step to disappearing, as every toddler knows), which made me step off the rubber part of the treadmill, which made me hop ridiculously through the air and skid off the treadmill.

I stuck my landing, though.

My friend Kelly is always reminding me to celebrate the small victories along the way.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Bad foot massage is like bad sex

I had the worst pedicure experience of my life today. The way my pedicurist rapid-fire poked poked poked at my bottom of my feet just gave me the willies.

To me, a bad foot massage is like bad sex in that it’s WAY worse than no foot massage / sex at all. It’s just so horrible that you need it to stop. As immediately as politely feasible.

Like anything in life, a sure and confident grip is half the battle. An empathetic soul is the other. And it helps to have nice hands. So I was frustrated to pay good money for an hour long grope by a limp fish who viewed me as a pile of dough.

A great massage is such an important part of the experience, don’t you think?

Perhaps I’m a little on edge now because I’m anxiously waiting for my real estate broker, Jill, to call me with good news on my first Julep location. Ideally, I would have liked to have had a signed lease in my hand before I started working with an architect, but I couldn’t work that sequentially AND be open by summer 2007.

The developer and his broker were going to meet yesterday to review my Letter of Intent (LOI). I think we’ve worked through all the major issues, and he seemed like a straight-shooter who got what Julep is all about, so I have my fingers crossed.

I tend to trust in people more than I do in written contracts. The latter is “necessary, but not sufficient,” as they say in law school (but I think that was said about people, actually).


PS Jill just called – I have a signed Letter of Intent! Hooray. NOW I’ve got to get working on the lease. . .

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Why am I doing this?

So here’s why I’m embarking on this journey, summed up in a letter to prospective investors that I wrote to introduce my business plan:

Dear Prospective Investor,

First, I want to thank you for picking up this business plan and being interested in learning more about Julep.

The idea for Julep really came together after an inspiring "girls weekend" with my two dearest friends from graduate school. Throughout that weekend (during which we watched both the BBC and the Keira Knightly versions of "Pride and Prejudice"), I felt like I had the space to be a "me" that I don't have much time to be when I am at home, busy being a mother, wife, and business leader. I was energized by how all three of us, now in our mid-thirties, had finally become so much more comfortable in our own skins. I felt like I was connecting all sorts of dots that I couldn't even see without them. If you're a woman (or a highly empathetic man), you know how it is with amazing girlfriends. In short, I felt engaged, and I loved it.

Karma, and our love of sandals, led us to a day spa for pedis that weekend. Unfortunately, none of the nine spas we called had seating where we could all be together, so we had to settle for split appointments. Someday, I'd like to look back on this moment and say, "the rest was history."

In the following pages, you'll read about how Julep will transform commoditized, functional nail services into an engaging social ritual that will give women the space to reconnect with their friends and themselves. But I want you to know that, at its core, Julep is about nurturing and sharing the spirit of engagement that I rediscovered that weekend.

Julep will succeed only if we build the kind of company that demands honesty, rigor, and dedication to personal and professional growth from each and every employee. By building this demanding and rewarding working community, I believe that we will provide a level of service that is yet to be experienced. I will use all of my experience as a leader at Starbucks, a strategist at The Boston Consulting Group, a rigorous thinker at the Yale Law School, and a daughter of immigrant small business owners to make Julep all that it should be.

Julep will achieve strong financial results. But even more importantly, Julep will become an enduring company that you will be proud to be part of.

So thank you, thank you, Ali and Renata (my dear friends from the Pride and Prejudice weekend). Thank you Carrie, Christine, Sandy, Liz, and all the members of my fabulous bookgroup, especially Julie, Michelle, and Rachael. I hope this endeavor will help carry forward and share more broadly all the strength, wisdom, generosity and humor each of you brings to the world.

And, again, thank you dear prospective investor. I hope you will enjoy imagining and creating this world with me. Here's to friends and community.


Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Step 1: Telling my husband

When I first told my husband that I wanted to quit my relatively stable, executive job at "a Seattle-based global coffee chain" to start up a nail parlor, he was, somewhat understandably, a little less than enthusiastic.

“This is NOT what second generation immigrants like you are supposed to do,” he argued. “It’s the FIRST generation that works hard in nail salons, so that the second generation doesn’t have to! You’re second generation. You’re supposed to stay in your nice, secure white collar job and build up your 401k.”

I was born in Korea and immigrated to Canada with my parents when I was four. My parents worked in factories, cleaning jobs, then bought a convenience store franchise before building up a three-store frame-shop empire.

My husband, the self-proclaimed expert in the sociology of immigration, was born in North Carolina and immigrated to Connecticut when he was twenty-two.

My interest in starting a new business and quitting my job (or quitting my job and starting a new business, as B saw it), surfaced several issues in our marriage that neither of us had recognized up to this point, including:

1) B’s interest in owning a vacation house, and my lack of interest in same.
2) B’s interest in leaving open the option of taking a position abroad, and my lack of interest in same.
3) B’s interest in a sound savings strategy that would enable us to retire early, and my inability to focus on same.

I never knew that he wanted a water front vacation house. I never knew that he might want to move to Paris with his job. I never knew that his company even had an office in Paris.

“We don’t speak French,” I sulked. “And who wants to go back to the same stinking place for vacation year after year anyway.”

“And I really, really want to do this,” I cajoled. “I know this will work.”

At one point, "Howard Schultz owns a basketball team, you know" (that was before he sold it).

Then, “Do you think it might be sexist of you not to support me?”

To the credit of our ten year marriage, this was the first thing that I really cared about that B wasn’t immediately and fully supportive of. Which is what made it so hard.

Not knowing where else to turn, I suggested marital counseling.

Nothing motivated him more to reach deep down into his being to find a way to feign indifference. Which has, over time, mellowed into mild tolerance.

So I’m off to the races.