I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but allow me to let you all in on a disturbing yet axiomatic truth: we are currently in the throes of an all-consuming technological revolution, and there’s no end in sight. Facebook, email, laptops, Twitter, texting, the shameless hoarding of apps—if you’re not “plugged in,” society will surely kick you out (at least figuratively). I’m a mere twenty-three years old, and I already find myself wishing for those oh-so-elusive “simpler times” full of handwritten notes and genuine communiques. Thankfully, it seems as though I’m not the only one.
Julee Ireland, founder and creator of Simplicité Greetings, is bringing simple back and making it more appealing than ever. Ireland’s products, which include stationary, greeting cards, bath and body products, organic soy candles, and her trademark greeting card soaps, stand out as a tangible representation of amity in a world drowning in detachment. Her designs are whimsical and elegant, effortless and charming; it’s no wonder her creations are winning over both customers and distributors alike.
Though it seems she’s a born entrepreneur, Ireland has not always been living out her dream of owning her own brand. With a background in fashion design, retail sales & management, marketing, and packaging design, the single mother pursued a career in interior design before losing her job in October of 2008. “I knew the industry wasn’t going to change any time soon,” she says. “My daughter was in the fourth grade, and I felt like the one thing I could count on was myself, so I cashed out my 401K and launched my dream company, Simplicité!”
Ireland had always held a love for creating art with words, so she started there. “I began developing a greeting card line a few years earlier, which all started around a friend’s coffee table,” she says. “With a pen, ink, and napkin in hand combined with chit-chat, laughter, and my friend saying, ‘hey, you should make greeting cards,’ the seed was planted. Within a few weeks, I had a few hundred designs on paper! I had this beautiful portfolio and all it needed was the right time to be transformed into a reality.” As it turned out, being laid off was the extra push Ireland needed to turn her passion into a career, and things moved quickly once she decided to start her own company. “I reserved a booth at the LA Mart Home and Gift Show this past January and put together a full line of products within sixty days. Funny thing, I had never attended a show, so I had to rely on my background and instincts to do all the work.”
Those instincts are what helped her think up her signature greeting card soaps when the time came for creating a unique, eye-catching product. “During one brainstorming session, I got up to wash my hands at my kitchen sink,” she says. “I was looking at my bottle of soap and thought to myself, wouldn’t that be great if my soap was greeting me right now with a positive message? I met with the owner [of a soap laboratory] who sent me home with a block of soap to begin testing different options. I tested many different papers and melted soap in my microwave until I found the right combination to keep the card intact.”
Today, the soaps have become the heart of Ireland’s line and are certainly a best seller. “I just recently made custom designed soaps for the Ritz Carlton in Los Angeles and I have contracted with Eco-Everywhere by Geiger to make soaps for them using their licensed images,” she says. “I also have distribution for the US and Canada through a company called Reaction Retail. We will be launching Julee Ireland in Canada at the Toronto Gift Show in August, the Cosmoprof show in Las Vegas, and the New York International Gift Fair, also in August.”
Showcasing her products at various stationary events and press conferences across the country has certainly helped Ireland get her business off the ground. She competed at the National Stationary Show earlier this summer where she had five products up for the show’s Best New Product Award and was hailed as one of the up and coming designers of tomorrow. In addition, she was invited to a press event held by Consumer Product Events, where founder Alyson Dutch featured Ireland’s wedding-themed products and helped her to make several priceless contacts. Her line will also be featured at two upcoming shows: the LA Mart Gift Show (showroom 504, July 19th -25th), and the Atlanta AmericasMart Gift and Home Furnishings Show.
Even with the stress of running her own company, Ireland still makes time for her twelve-year-old daughter, Sophee. “My daughter has been right by my side this whole time,” she says. “When I sit down to draw, she will often ask for a pen and paper to design her own cards. When it comes time for birthday gifts, she always makes her own card. I really believe the hand written note and card have become a dying art in this fast paced, technological world. As a mother, it is such a blessing to know that I have instilled in my daughter the importance of putting your thoughts down on paper and sharing it with those you love.”
If raising a child and running a company weren’t enough, Ireland often lends a hand to various causes and charities such as the Pacific Festival Ballet and Relay for Life. She and her daughter were also recently inducted into the National Charity League, which is the oldest mother-daughter charity organization in the country. “For the next seven years, Sophee and I will work together through charitable work to support the fifteen different philanthropies our chapter serves in our community,” she says. “This is also the charity I have selected to donated a percentage of proceeds from Simplicité to go to. It seemed natural because I am now actively involved in the organization with my daughter and it supports causes that are near and dear to both our hearts such as Life Animal Rescue, Casa Pacifica, Manna, Therapeutic Recreation and so much more.”
For Ireland, Simplicité meant a new life, a new career, and a new purpose for bringing people together. “It’s exciting to think that something as simple as washing my hands from being laid off has changed my life in a way I never could have imagined,” she says. “I am doing what I love most, which is creating and inspiring others everyday. There’s no greater joy than knowing one of my greeting cards or products has connected with someone else somewhere on this planet in a positive way; it’s like I just held your hand or your heart for a moment even though we haven’t met.”
If you love what you see, make sure you visit Simplicité’s website!
With the promo code MISSA25, Miss A readers get 25% off all of Julee’s fabulous products!