Julie Guilioni is a life-long South Pasadenan, having moved here when she was five years old because her parents wanted to make sure she and her siblings could go to the best schools available, which for them meant South Pasadena. As a child she attended Marengo, the Jr. High (middle school) and South Pasadena High School. “Like everyone who graduates high school” Guilioni remembers, “I couldn’t wait to go away and get out of that boring space.” She attended Claremont College, then lived in Venice, a time her parents “fondly” refer to as “the lost years”, and was living in Pasadena when her son was born. But when it came time for her son to start school, she knew in her heart, there was only one place she could imagine sending him; South Pas. “I needed to come home” says Guilioni, “I really value community and appreciate continuity and know that it truly does take a village to raise a child and I’ve loved having this village help me raise my kids.” Both her son and daughter went to the same schools she did.
Guilioni never stopped working and she respects and is grateful for all the choices women have now, but says that for her, she knows she was a better mom for having worked, saying “that’s something I know for sure.” She had been a high school teacher at one point, a college professor and college chair before heading into industry where she found her way to consulting. She helped companies develop and implement training programs.
In 2000 she decided it was time to strike out on her own and a friend told her at the time that she was giving up the illusion of security for the illusion of freedom. Guilioni says, “of course it was so true because I’m the hardest boss I’ve ever had!” She was exhilarated or terrified depending on the day. She acknowledges that she had the safety net of her husband’s job so she knew if she crashed and burned, her family wouldn’t starve, thankfully. But her ego? That’s another story. She says it was important for her to be effective and she was committed to making it work. “I knew how to do my work and had a good set of contacts, but I felt ill-prepared from a business management standpoint.”
So what is an entrepreneur to do when faced with the things about which one feels ill-prepared? In Guilioni’s case, she says she found people who knew how to do that stuff; mentors, partners, vendors and suppliers. “As I look back on the work that I’ve done and the success I’ve enjoyed in my own business” says Guilioni thoughtfully, “it’s been a result of being really clearly aware that I don’t know how to do all this stuff, but having the right network and the right collaborative relationships is what makes it work and makes it fun for me.” She says that another piece is curiosity and vulnerability; that in fact, vulnerability can indeed be one of your best strengths, going on to say “when you are willing to say ‘I don’t know, can you help me’ or ‘I really screwed this up’ it’s amazing to me how the world opens up and you discover the generosity of people.”
The conversation keeps coming back to this theme of collaboration and Guilioni expands that to say “that it comes from a belief in abundance; it’s so easy to see others as competitors and to think of things as a fixed pie. But when you start collaborating, the pie grows.”
If there is a message Guilioni would like to impart to business owners, men and women alike, it’s to not wait until you have all your ducks in a row. She says they rarely get there and even when they do, it’s fleeting, “It’s easy to become immobilized, waiting for certain conditions before moving forward. But what I’ve found is that taking action – even a very small step – creates some momentum, builds confidence, and aligns a few more of those ducks. Since it will probably never be the perfect time to do anything, there is power in just doing something and learning from it.”
Throughout her son and daughter’s school years, Guilioni was an active volunteer at the schools, with SPEF and the PTA and in 2014 she won a seat on the school board. When asked what drives her to do what she does and to be on the school board, Guilioni doesn’t hesitate, “if I had to identify one or two things in my life that have been most powerful in contributing to my success and my happiness today, at the top of my list is the education I got here. I don’t sit down and write anything without Mrs. Baird or Mrs. Ercek coming to my mind. Every day I use the lessons I learned which is why I wanted my kids to have the same experience and now it’s an opportunity for me to give back and to pay it forward so we can ensure that families for decades to come can continue to come here and experience a great education. And I’m inspired by the smart, committed, curious, kind and inclusive students we have.”
She is also inspired by the community itself exclaiming “I am continually blown away by the people in our community, the quality and generosity, the willingness to step up and help. And the talents. We have got such a smart, accomplished population here. I think there’s almost nothing that one might need that you couldn’t source right here in our community.
When asked how she juggled it all when her children were young Guilioni says, “first and foremost, I chose a terrific partner with whom to travel on this journey. My husband, Peter, is my greatest source of support and inspiration and he has helped to create an environment in which I could be involved in so many things that I love.” She explains “I’ve been really lucky to have always had a patchwork quilt of stuff that somehow works concurrently in terms of my work, my life, the community and it’s been an organic series of steps that naturally morphed one into the next. I wish I could say I was super strategic, but really I’ve just been responsive to the opportunities that presented themselves.”
Julie Winkle Guilioni and her partner, Karen Voloshin, are the co-founders and principals of DesignArounds, a bi-coastal consulting, training, and development firm that works with companies to maximize their organizational potential.
Julie is the author of Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want