Squish Stars: Juliana O'Brien

Juliana O'Brien smiling
The past number of months have been a whirlwind. Yet, there are some women entrepreneurs that are continuing to break the mold and shine like the stars they are! We're proud to introduce our Squish Stars campaign, highlighting incredible women entrepreneurs!

We were lucky to talk to Juliana O'BrienFounder of hula, and ask her some questions. 

Tell us about your business? How did you get started?
As more of my friends were getting married and inspiration for gifts that I hadn’t already gifted my family and loved ones was becoming harder to find, I found myself spending the majority of my weekends shopping throughout malls, small boutique stores and researching for gifts online. Although I still loved the experience of giving and the joy I experienced when they opened their gift I was frustrated with the time it was taking to find something that was original, beautiful, unique and something that they would not buy themselves.

Hula was born to make gift-giving a fun and personalized experience at the simple click of a button. I believe that gifts don’t have to be expensive to be beautiful and meaningful. The smallest gifts can have the most meaning.

As a passionate gift giver, shopaholic and notorious critical consumer I have done the work for you. Day in and out I absolutely love scouring the web for the perfect, unique, beautiful gifts that your family and loved ones will actually want to receive. I created hula's gift finder so that you can purchase gifts all from the comfort of your couch. Selecting who you are buying for, the occasion and how much you are looking to spend resulting in saving yourself the time and stress to find the perfect gift just in time for the holiday season.

What measures have you been forced to take since COVID started? What is the biggest pivot you had to make with your business? 
Juliana: During COVID I have been able to feature and connect with brands that are not just New York based which has been really great. In the early stages of the hula business my initial plans was that I wanted to feature gifts that were local (in New York) but COVID has forced me to look beyond to where founders and brands may have relocated along with where customers may have also moved to.

What have you learned from this experience thus far? Both on a professional and personal level. 
Juliana: That business particularly small businesses need to be adaptable no matter what is happening in the world in order to stay relevant and exceed. Pivot and reiterating the unique value proposition of your brand is crucial as customers needs and wants begin to change.

Have any businesses or individuals helped to inspire you through this time? What do you admire most about them? 
Juliana:  I'm incredible fortunate to be apart of the Dreamers and Doers community. The women and founders that I have met in this community have been so supportive as I've been building hula. I admire my accountability partner Tana Hoffman from @mountainist for her tenacity, grit and willingness to support other female founders no matter how busy she might be. I also admire Ronda Fraley from @thewinepartyco for her beautiful social media strategies and curation. She was so kind to take the time to walk me through some of the tried and tested social strategies before I started hula's social channels. I've looked up to these women a lot during my own journey building hula.

What are the biggest issues for running your company right now? What areas do you need help with? 
Juliana: Juggling my full time role in advertising while also building hula. I thought I was good at time management but realized that when you are starting a business that there are endless tasks to start and complete. I find it hard to switch off the creative side and go back to being in my client facing full time role. I've heard about the Pomodoro method and think that may help with time management.

What's been your biggest win since starting your company? 
Juliana:  There have been multiple mini wins since starting hula. Starting with partnering and featuring amazing brands such as Squish Marshmallows. There are so many brands I have loved for such a long time and I'm so happy that I can add them to hula for everyone else to discover and enjoy. Another important win for me is that I've finally been confident enough to tell family and friends about my business this year. This surprisingly was really hard for me to do.

Are there any special or new self-care practices that have helped you stay grounded? 
Juliana:  I love walking our dog with my husband in the mornings to Domino Park in Brooklyn. It's such a relaxing way to start the day that I missed out on when I was commuting to the office everyday.

Favorite show you've been watching/book you're reading/podcast you're listening to? 
Juliana I just started reading Jerry Seinfeld's new book 'Is This Anything'. It's a compilation of all the material he has had filed away from the 70, 80s, 90s and '10s to support his incredible career in comedy. I've always been a die hard Seinfeld fan so I've been in heaven reading this. Highly recommend as a gift for the Seinfeld fan in your life.

If you could be any of our marshmallow flavors, which one would you be? 
Juliana:  I would be Rocky Road. I have so many nostalgic memories of Rocky Road with my mum. I love that in each bite there's a flavor surprise that you may not have been expecting from your last bite.

To learn more about Juliana and her business:
Instagram: @sendhula