WIA Profile: Julie Stewart
Each month, industry news media organization XBIZ spotlights the career accomplishments and outstanding contributions of Women in Adult. WIA profiles offer an intimate look at the professional lives of the industry's most influential female executives.
As the sister to Sportsheets CEO Tom Stewart, Julie Stewart came on board 16 years ago with no business training or industry knowledge, but had the female sensibilities to relate to the female demand for adult products, which was burgeoning at that time. Today, Sportsheets Vice President Julie Stewart plays a vital role within the company on a day-to-day basis as a hands-on executive that places value on communication and taking the ideas of others into account in order to maintain the Sportsheets brand’s integrity.
What is your role and responsibility as vice president of Sportsheets?
My role as an owner and vice president includes overseeing strategic development, sales and marketing, finance, and working with product development. We have such an amazing staff here and I really love interacting with all of the people in the different departments. We still have a family feel at Sportsheets. I also enjoy working with our customers when I get the chance and our strategic partners as well. Tom, Ed and I work very closely on issues of direction and ensuring that we stay true to our core values of quality, innovation, and customer service in our work.
What is a typical work day like for you?
Our work days are always busy. Our challenge is trying to prioritize all of the projects and tasks we want to do plus all of the great opportunities that our customers present. The week includes working with the various teams here, working with customers and outside vendors, planning the marketing and sales campaigns and upcoming product releases. We are notorious for our meetings at Sportsheets. We like meetings. We have a very collaborative decision-making process here.
How did you get into the business and how has your previous experience prepared you for your current position?
I have been with Tom since I was born since he’s my brother. We’ve been working together for 16 years. I joined Sportsheets when I was 24 after graduating college and some time exploring the world. Tom had just started the company and invited me to come and escape Alaska, where I was living, and warm up in Southern California. We were basically a startup then. I had no business training at all. I took an accounting class at a community college, which was a huge help and really made me love accounting.
In 1999, I received my Master’s degree from Pepperdine University and that was a great experience in learning management, marketing and strategy. The industry was just starting to go through the evolution to address the woman consumer when I came into it, so it was a very interesting time. I think it helped us as a company to have a female perspective in the leadership of the company. Tom has always had a great respect in designing our product so they appeal to women and he has always respected my opinion and input.
What challenges have you confronted in your career in the adult novelty industry and how have you overcome them?
Challenges always come from within and without. Dealing with the perceptions of non-industry business professionals has been interesting. For the most part, people have been great. Over the years, I have experienced some people being very uncomfortable or expressing very inaccurate perceptions of our industry, especially in banking, at Pepperdine, and sometimes in hiring employees. I belong to a professional group of women business owners and they all think it’s great!
Some challenges are fun, like trying to staying current with technology by using QR codes (as we did with Sex & Mischief), or trying to figure out how to “talk” to the customer by being one of the first manufacturers to provide stores with digital video frames and product education via video. Growth is an everconstant challenge, and always a welcome problem. Whether it’s outgrowing space, developing the next product or marketing concept, or restructuring the organization, we grow and improve as leaders as we build up the business. I like using outside support, both in consultants and professional organizations, for ideas, support and encouragement.
What is your personal motto or mantra that you live by?
Glass is half full. I try to always stay grateful for the business, my family and the opportunities I’ve had in this unique and terrific industry. I always like to look ahead in business and not dwell on the past. I think staying positive is also very important. Women, especially because of all of the roles we take on (working, in the family, and as caretaker) have to be careful to learn how to balance it all. Before I had my daughter work really ruled my life. She has taught me (which I am sure was needed) to balance out my life more.
What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
Being able to grow the business, maintain a profit, and provide a workplace where people can work together to achieve those goals for over 16 consecutive years always makes me proud and grateful. We’ve had so many people help us grow Sportsheets over the last two decades from customers, to staff, to consultants and vendors, it’s really great to be part of the process and help navigate the business. It’s really wonderful to hear the end users of our products express their happiness with our products and knowing that we help make people’s sex lives and relationships better is very cool. Most recently, I feel so excited about our latest release of Sex & Mischief. I never get tired of looking at the brand imagery and I am excited that we are introducing a new customer to Sportsheets with this brand.
What are your goals for Sportsheets in 2012?
Keep growing and keep improving. We’re working on expanding Sex & Mischief brand, developing marketing and sales promotions to better educate the consumer and help the retailer, and really planning ahead. We have some great new team members in finance, purchasing, marketing and sales and our focus is on being proactive and really creating some exciting campaigns and products. I know we’re going to have our best year yet.