Women in Business: Julie Karlitz, Founder, strap-its

Women in Business: Julie Karlitz, Founder, strap-its
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Inspired by her daughters, strap-its is the brainchild of former event marketer, Julie Karlitz. Having previously worked at Burson-Marsteller, Julie honed her business development and creative skills while working with corporate clients including the New York Times and American Express. The idea for strap-its was originated when Julie spotted her teenage daughter going out in outfits that showed her bra straps. It was there that Julie decided to create a way to wear fashion with class. With an eye and secret passion for fashion, Julie started to create various strap designs that would cater to all style aesthetics. Julie has already created over 25 trendy designs and continues to create new edgy looks for every season.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My life experiences have completely shaped my leadership skills today. I came from a large family and was a child of divorce; my mother was the leader of our family and took care of everyone while simultaneously working. Inspired by my mother's strong work ethic, I started working while attending school to learn how to be more financially responsible. Apart from working hard, I believe you need to take chances in life and not be afraid to fail. Throughout my various careers I have definitely faced challenges, but it just propelled me to get back up and keep trying. My whole life I have had the "can-do" mentality instilled in me and I think you need to have that mindset in order to be a great leader.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as CEO & Designer of strap-its?
I started working at Burson-Marsteller right out of college and immediately got thrown into the deep end. In other words, it was sink or swim time. I would go from one project to another, one day it was working on a PSA for the US Army and the next it was creating customized back stage events during the Rat Pack tour with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin. I honed my creative skills, learned how to multi-task and understood that there was no job too small or too big.

After that I headed to a smaller entrepreneurial events agency where there was no hierarchy, so I was given a great deal of autonomy. This was how I learned to be completely independent and confident when presenting my ideas to high-end clients like American Express.

Tom Mosser, the former President of Burson-Marsteller is definitely one of the most influential employers I have come in contact with over the years. Tom taught me how to truly motivate and excite people. I learned that you needed to treat everyone with the same level of respect, from the people in the mailroom to Frank Sinatra. These work experiences helped me truly understand the importance of teamwork because after all, a good CEO is only as good as the people they employ.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your time as CEO & Designer of strap-its?
First and foremost there are the emotional challenges with the self-doubt and the uncertainty about the business. Then there are the physical challenges like having your vision come to life the precise way you envisioned it. Finally, there are the financial challenges and the question of will this become a profitable and viable product. The trick here is to not let the challenges overwhelm you!

One of the biggest highlights for me is having that sense of accomplishment when I see the end result of all those sleepless nights. When you see people embrace your product and wear it, there is no greater feeling.

Tell us about any new projects that you are working on.
We have just finished creating strapless tanks and bralettes to go with the strap-its line. We are also continuing to design different straps incorporating new patterns, colors and fabrics for the tanks and bralettes.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
Have thick skin! Never listen to naysayers and remember that perseverance is key. Just keep moving forward and understand that all the "T's" don't need to be crossed. When I started strap-its, I didn't have a marketing plan. We just went with an idea and it grew organically from there. Finally, don't rest on your laurels and continue to think of new ideas to push yourself forward.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Being a role model to my two daughters, Joelle and Jenna is very important and it really motivates me. I think that the biggest challenge is being 100 percent present, whether you are at work or at home with your kids. Luckily in my business I can really involve my daughters in the process, as they were the impetus for how our business started. They continue to show their support through social media outlets. However, keeping the balance also means knowing when to turn everything off and just relax.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think the biggest issue for women is being able to command a room and a company with aplomb and grace while getting your ideas and full vision across. It's important to remember that in life you catch more bees with honey.

Additionally, it's a big challenge to try to be everything to everyone. I think women still have the primary responsibility of being the caregivers in their families. When we started this company, we worked from home and it was hard to balance when to take off the CEO hat and put on the chauffer, cook and therapist hats.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
One of the female leaders I admire the most is Mindy Grossman from HSN. She is a forward thinking, smart, creative and inspiring woman. She actually helped us get our start when she saw strap-its and decided to put them on HSN!

What do you want to personally and professionally accomplish in the next year?
In the next year, I hope to continue to grow the strap-its brand with new and innovative ways for women to accessorize their wardrobes.

strap-its will be introducing tanks and bralettes in different colors and patterns, and we will continue to add new embellishments to our straps.

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