Through Her Yoga, Julie Built a Mega Fashion Empire

Published November 15th, 2018 - 12:44 GMT
(Julie Stevanja/ Instagram)
(Julie Stevanja/ Instagram)

While most people practice yoga to calm the mind and switch off after a long day at work, Julie Stevanja used it to focus and refine her entrepreneurial creativity.

The Sydney-born founder of online fitness store, Stylerunner, came up with the idea for her multi-million dollar athleisure empire while on the mat at a Bikram class in London.

Six years later, Stylerunner is a household name in the world of fitness fashion and the woman behind the business is at the helm of a company worth a reported AUD $50 million.

Ms Stevanja, 37, spoke to Body and Soul about how she grew Stylerunner into what it is today and why she still doesn't feel 'worthy' of all the accolades that are heaped on her.

For Ms Stevanja, the idea came about while she was living and working in London, 'hooked' on Bikram yoga.

'I was working at a [tech] start-up at the time and going to yoga a lot, but I was always struggling to find clothes I wanted to wear,' she previously told Daily Mail Australia.

'The athleisure market hadn't really taken off yet, and everything I saw by traditional sports brands failed to inspire me.

'I figured if I was having this problem, others probably were too.'

Setting out the objectives to launch a 'Net-a-Porter for activewear', she invested her life savings in the idea and started work with her sister over the summer of 2012 with the intention of launching a one-stop shop for fitness clothes by the end of the year.

In the early days, Ms Stevanja recalled operating out of a tiny rented studio and 'working from 6am until midnight'.

'It was exhausting - we were running off adrenaline, I'm not sure I could do it now. There were also only three of us on board - myself, my sister and one employee, who joined later on.

'We did it all - the marketing, the pitching, the meetings... It was busy.'

Since then, Stylerunner has expanded to stock a range of 70 curated brands including industry leaders Nike, Adidas and Beyoncé's Ivy Park.

The three-woman team has steadily grown to 30 staff and the site now ships to 100 countries worldwide.

In August 2017, Ms Stevanja made her first foray into the design market in the form of her own line of chic athleisure wear, New Guard, which has been hailed as 'streetwear inspired by global attitude'.

As to the advice she wishes she could give her younger self, she said: 'If you want to be effective, always focus on the important things, not the urgent things.'

Asked about the most common mistake made by aspiring start-ups, Ms Stevanja said the easiest way to lose control of your business is to become overwhelmed by time.

'There never seems to be enough hours in the day and you could get stuck updating your 'to-do' list – it can feel like it never seems to end,' she said.

She equally stressed the importance of shrewd financial management and getting expert accounting advice.

She also urged women to be sharp and self-assured, saying: 'You need to be scrappy in business, as well as professional.

'You need to learn to pivot and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. Yes, this is stressful running things this way, but it's also how you become successful.

'You need to be open to opportunities, find and nurture a talented team - and think about the customer first - that is the absolute key.'

On a personal level, Ms Stevanja said she can't start the day right without a solid night's sleep of between seven and eight hours, which allows her to function at her best.

Exercise is still a fundamental part of the busy businesswoman's daily routine – after her ritual morning espresso, she fits in a spin class which she said 'energies and focuses' her mind.

Yet in spite of her huge objective success, Ms Stevanja said she still doesn't feel as though she's made it.

'I don't feel successful yet. Maybe in five years I'll feel successful, but there's still so much I want to do.

'It's very flattering that people continue to shower praise on me and Stylerunner, but there's always more going on on the inside than the outside. Maybe in three to five years I'll feel worthy of it.'

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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