December / Julianna
Updated: May 5
Name: Julianna Tilson
Lives in: Lexington, KY
Drinks her coffee: Americano with almond milk
Last book read: How to Not Give a F*** by Harrison Wolf
Works at: E. Leigh’s Contemporary Boutique as Store Manager
Responsible for: Handling shipments, working the sales floor, creating sales reports, inspiring employees + building relationships with customers
SIB: How do you push your employees to excel at their work without being overbearing?
JT: That's actually one of the hardest things for me, because this is my first time being a store manager. I'm understanding how difficult it is to be uplifting and inspiring rather than bossy. Some of these girls, it's their first time working retail. I've learned to work on being understanding and patient.
SIB: Obviously, it's Christmastime [aka the craziest shopping season]! What does the average person not understand about the retail life?
JT: With working at a boutique, each location may get different items. So if we post something on the store's Instagram, and a customer's coming in like, “I want this,” it's like, “Well, we don't have it in store - but we can order it for you!” There's no way to really make customers understand that it's a part of retail.
SIB: Lots of professions have repeat customers. How do you build relationships and nurture customer loyalty in your particular job?
JT: Because we're a smaller store, we have the luxury of [giving] people more one on one help. I have a bunch of girls that come in all the time, and it's so funny because they were freshmen at [University of Kentucky] this past semester. I remember them coming in for recruitment outfits, and then they came in for formals, and now they're going to start coming in for spring recruitment. It was really fun to see what sorority they got in and to watch them grow. I think customers really appreciate it when you remember them, and we make a point of that. We want them to shop. But we also want to be a part of one sliver of their life.
SIB: All your employees are at least slightly younger than you. How do you balance being their manager with being their friend?
JT: If you're bossing them around all the time, it doesn't make them want to work for you or be in the store. You have to be respectful. If you show them respect, they will show it to you as well. And [with time], you'll build that relationship. Right now I have a pretty awesome team. Everyone that works here is amazing. I come in everyday and I'm excited to be at work.
SIB: If you’re having a tough day at work, how do you deal with it?
JT: I am not the most patient person. I am fully aware of that. So whenever I catch myself being a little overbearing, I will take a two minute walk around the block and then come back. Just clear my mind, realize that I need to calm down.
SIB: You just began practicing yoga as well. What impact has that made on you?
JT: I literally just started. We run a conference call with Erin [E. Leigh’s CEO] every other week, and she was like, “Guys, I recommend getting up an hour before your day starts, and just really take that time to clear your mind. Read a book, lay in bed, hang out with your dogs, but take that hour and mentally prepare yourself for the day.” The day after that, that I was like, “I'm going to do this.” So I started getting up an hour earlier, and I was like, “I'm going to do yoga.” It makes me a more positive person.
SIB: What are other healthy ways you prepare yourself for the day?
JT: I'll read a book. I write. It's funny, there's a lot I didn't do before I started this job. Right now, [E. Leigh’s managers are] reading Dare To Lead [by Brené Brown]. I never in a million years thought I would ever read a nonfiction book. I think this is the third book that I've been a part of. It's just crazy; the advice that's in those books helps you so much. I think that I've grown so much just by reading one chapter a week and talking about it over our calls.
SIB: What have you learned about leading, both from reading Dare To Lead and through your work with E. Leigh's?
JT: It's interesting because all the other managers are older than I am and they have more experience than I have. We just read a chapter about shame and one of the managers was like, “You have to realize that the way you talk to your team can make them feel shame. And if they're feeling shame, then they don't want to be there and it doesn't help them grow.”
SIB: Do you feel any additional pressure as the youngest E. Leigh’s manager?
JT: As soon as I started this job I felt pressure. Not a bad pressure, a pressure to live up to others' expectations. It's so cool to see how the others lead and what's working for them. I really don't think age has anything to do with [leading well], I think it's more so experience, and they have more experience. So of course I'm going to listen to them. Of course I'm going to take into consideration what they're doing, because they've done this a lot longer than I have and they're successful in it.
SIB: You’ve mentioned that you’ve struggled with depression at times. How did you notice it?
JT: I didn't even recognize it at first. I started to notice it towards the end of eighth grade and then it really hit me my freshman year [of high school]. What's crazy is there are so many people that talk about having depression, but people with depression don't talk about it and they don't want to accept it and they don't really want anyone to know about it. I didn't even know what it was. It's just this feeling that you don't belong, this feeling of shame, this feeling of pain and numbness. It's insane. You feel a disconnect with the world. You have these bad days that you wake up and you don't want to move and you don't want to do anything. You just want to cry all day long and you have no idea why.
My junior year of high school, I finally went to the doctor and started talking about it, and it's helped me so much. It's just something I'm open with now. I'm open with my family about it. If I'm having a bad day, I always talk to them. That's the main thing, don't suffer through it alone. You can't do it on your own.
SIB: What are things you enjoy doing to wind down at the end of the day?
JT: Netflix Christmas movies are the best thing. They're happy and you need that at the end of the day.
SIB: With divorced parents, how do you approach celebrating two Christmases?
JT: It's weird because my parents didn't divorce when I was a kid, they divorced when I was nineteen. I'm still learning how to handle it. It's still kind of heartbreaking. But I love them and they try so hard to make it enjoyable and happy. So every year we'll celebrate with [an alternate] family member. This year, we had Thanksgiving in the early afternoon with my dad and the late afternoon with my mom. And then this year for Christmas I'll be with my dad; we're going to North Carolina [since] we have family there.
I'm still learning how divorce works. I kind of had to be the adult in the divorce. At nineteen you're considered an adult, but you're still a kid. I had to grow up really fast in that first year. Some divorces can get messy and you end up having to be the one that's like, “Listen, you guys have to work this out.” And it's hard being a grownup to your parents.
SIB: Do you have any advice for people whose parents have recently divorced?
JT: Just be there for your parents. And it's okay to talk about it with them. Yes, your parents are going through a really painful time. But if you hold in your hurt, your pain, it doesn't help. Talk to them about how you're feeling. They're going to put aside everything to make sure you're okay.
SIB: What's your favorite Christmas tradition?
JT: My family is originally from Hungary and pierogi is a huge, huge thing [there]. I remember my mom making pierogi in the kitchen and she was like, “Your great-grandmother taught me how to do this, and she taught me how to do it right.” And it's the most delicious thing. It's painstakingly long to make. I mean hours. Like, probably a day in the kitchen. I remember my mom being like, “I'm not making this ever again.” And the next Christmas would roll around.
SIB: What's a good gift for a person who has everything?
JT: *laughs* I'm still working on that right now! I'm probably the worst gift giver. I really admire the people that can come up with unique, clever gifts. I probably would pick out some great cologne for a guy, or like if it's a girl, makeup. Scarves, a basic necessity. It just depends on the person. One of the girls that works at the store, her mom makes the best salsa, and I was like, I want this for Christmas.
SIB: Besides scarves, what other winter fashion trends do you like?
JT: I'm so into hats right now. It's a shock I didn't wear one today. Layering is my thing. I really like it when people get creative with scarves and tie them around their belt loops or on bags or in their hair. It's definitely in right now.
SIB: What’s your secret to finding quality hair extensions? (Julianna rocks them constantly!!)
JT: I use Bellami extensions. I've used them now for four years and I absolutely love them. I was not blessed with the best hair and so it's just something that makes me feel a little bit better. I definitely recommend going the real hair route if you're going to get extensions. One time I bought a pair of synthetic extensions from Sally's. I had sewn the clips on myself and I remember one day, I felt like half of my hair [sliding] behind me; it was off center. So do extensions at your risk. *laughs*
SIB: Some people view the fashion industry as vain. What do you think are its positives?
JT: Self expression is the biggest thing. I remember being in school and if you didn't have a North Face jacket, you weren't cool. I've learned as I've gotten older, that it doesn't matter where [your clothes] come from; it doesn't matter how expensive [they are]. I could go to the thrift store and get the coolest jacket ever. It's really about how you wear it and how you want to present yourself. There's so many people that want to be designers and have a voice that they want to be heard through clothing. I think it's so exciting.
SIB: What are some things that you do to pamper yourself?
JT: Shop. I am probably the most impulsive buyer. I should probably go to Shoppers [Anonymous]. *laughs* The other night I was on my couch just online shopping, and my roommate comes out and she's like, “Are you shopping again?” I was like, “It's therapeutic, okay?”
SIB: What do you think are your strengths?
JT: I think I'm very understanding. It's always been easy for me to deal with other people's emotions. Something I'm working on is to let go a little bit. I started reading this book called How to Not Give a F*** [by Harrison Wolf]. It's not like, “You shouldn't care what anyone thinks about you,” it's more about how you should be confident and not have to think about what other people think all the time.
I used to be really critical on myself. I didn't finish my college degree and that took me a while to accept, just because it's so universally accepted that you go to college. I didn't finish because I had no idea what I wanted to do. I still have no idea what I want to do with my life. Nowadays, not [everyone goes] to college, but you almost think less of yourself [if you don’t]. You're like, "I'm not good enough." It's hard to tell yourself that you are, and [that it isn’t that] you couldn't do it, it's that maybe that's not what you were meant to do.
SIB: Do you feel comfortable where you are now?
JT: Yeah! Just recently I've been more accepting of myself and it's been easier to talk about and move on.
SIB: What does balance mean to you?
JT: It's hard. Especially working retail. I find myself staying late at work, or I'm at home working on social media posts for the next day, and it's so hard to tell yourself to stop. Remember your friends and ask how they're doing. That's going to be one of my New Year's resolutions, [to be] a better friend, a better daughter, a better sister. Trying to keep in mind that other people have lives and you should definitely ask how they're doing. Because as you get older, you stop asking for help. I think it's super important to make sure that the ones you love are cared for and are doing okay.