Juli Wiseman & Ad Shop, etc.
FINALIST: Challenges...What Challenges?


Juli has many roles. She is a daughter, sister, friend, wife and step-mom. And now she could add mom to this list. When she was pregnant, people would ask if she knew what the sex of the baby was. Not wanting to find out until the baby was born, her reply was "No, I don't care what the sex of the baby is. As long as the baby is born healthy and has 10 fingers and 10 toes."

Famous last words. While she didn't want to find out the sex, she secretly did want a girl. And while her baby girl was born healthy at first (with 10 fingers and 10 toes), she got sick 23 hours after she was born and had to be admitted into the neo-natal unit. And that is where Juli's life as she knew it and had planned for -- changed.

A little history on Juli. She was born into a family of all girls. She is the 4th out of 5 girls. She was a person that looked very confident from the outside, but on the inside she was constantly judging herself. Why couldn't she be like this friend who was doing so well in the corporate world? Why couldn't she be pretty and thin like this sister? Why couldn't she find a career that seemed to resonate with her? Why couldn't she get a job that she loved and would allow her to travel to exotic places? She never made much money in her career and knew she had potential, but didn't know how to get there.

Her degree from college was broadcasting. Because she was not so sure of herself and the direction to start, she worked "behind the scenes" in marketing and advertising – an area she found her passion in. While she was pregnant and right after her daughter was born, she worked in television advertising sales. She thought her career would continue in this manner after her child was born. Not only did she like to work, her income was needed to support their family. But what Juli didn't take into consideration was how much her life would change after having her daughter.

Her child, Kendall, was born with some challenges -- premature, low birth weight, hearing loss and other challenges that were diagnosed as Kendall got older -- gross motor delay, hypotonia (low muscle tone), her hearing loss was given a more definitive diagnosis of profoundly deaf and then there were cochlear implant malfunctions. Right then and there the life that Juli had planned took a turn -- a turn that she could have never prepared for. How could she work effectively when her daughter would need a lot of help in the beginning? Even more than a normal-developing baby might need.

Background – "Aha Moment"

The solution came from a friend who suggested they go into business together. A business where they could use their advertising expertise and create a niche in the marketplace for their services. Where they could focus on their family as well as their business and not miss out on the important milestones of their children.

At first, Juli felt like she couldn't take on any more. Being a first-time mom was hard enough. Being a first-time mom of a child with developmental problems was even more challenging. Taking a "leap of faith" was not in Juli's repertoire. She needed to know that everything would work out. Ahhh, if we all had that crystal ball that could read into our future and tell us that we were on the right path and making the correct choices. But as Juli discovered, sometimes it's O.K. to jump off the cliff without a parachute and know that the waves crashing on the rocks down below will take you to a place that you never dreamed of.

This was six years ago. The business has never been in the "overabundance" mode, but it has been in the "thrive, survive and steady" mode, which sometimes has been all that we can ask for given the state of Michigan's and the national economy. It has allowed Juli to prioritize in a way that she could not foresee doing in corporate America.

Juli is able to be there for her daughter at school, take her to appointments and schedule work appointments around her families' life. And while she didn't always see the positive side of her situation, she always knew that she had a story to tell. Something to help someone along the way. And because her daughter was deaf, she has been exposed to a whole new world of people and professionals.

She never wanted to live in her hometown. She felt it was too stifling. Too conservative and narrow-minded for her tastes. She couldn't wait to get out and go some place more exciting, like California. And while she did do that, Juli eventually moved back to her hometown. It wasn't until her daughter was born that she realized why she needed to be back. That was an "Aha Moment." There are wonderful hospitals, doctors, medical and educational professionals, services, programs and schools that are located in her hometown that she feels so blessed to have access to. The school her daughter attends is known throughout the country and emulated by many.

"The saying "It Takes a Village" to raise a child never meant more to me until my daughter was born. I realized not only all the "players" involved in raising her but myself with my businesses. I am in the perfect community for that."

Professional Challenge

Juli and her business partner, Heidi opened their business in September 2002, a year after 9/11 – when it wasn't exactly a great time to start a small business. There were many challenges for them in the beginning.

How would they support themselves and their families while trying to get their business off the ground? Where would the new clients come from and how long would it take before the company could survive on their client base and not utilize loans? Did West Michigan need another advertising agency and what made them different?

"I love working with Heidi. We really balance each other. I am the practical one who doesn't take risks easily. Heidi has had years of sales experience. I think she weathers through the good and bad times much better than I do. I have more of a logical thinking mind, I can handle the business aspects more clearly. Our Yin/Yang approach has been a tremendous boon for us in our business."

After owning their business for six years, they still struggle with keeping their business in thrive mode.

"It seems like we are constantly treading water and not ever reaching land. While our business has been steady, we have never nabbed that huge client or project that would provide us with a cushier nest egg for our company or bonuses for us throughout the year. Or make us feel more secure when an account does go south. "

With only two people on their payroll, they wear many hats. Sometimes it doesn't allow them to be as creative as they would like or as proficient with prospecting and getting new clients. So while they found themselves to be award-winning, creative agency owners, they also realized they wanted to continue working in an industry they enjoyed. Juli found that there were several basic questions that she needed answers to:

New Business: How could they go about getting new business and finding out which businesses are thriving in today's economy that would benefit from their advertising services?

Networking: What is the most efficient way to network? Most organizations that have networking functions they have had access to have the same industries represented which usually do not have advertising budgets.

Goals: What is the most effective way to set annual, 5-year and 10-year goals for the business and how do you measure the results?

Personal Challenge

Juli's personal challenge is balancing between work and home. Knowing how to keep things separate from each other and having some "me" time. She feels that she never gets to turn off.

"When I work, I am working hard, and when I am at home, I am in home mode – taking care of my daughter, researching things on-line for her educationally or for her cochlear implant, cooking, cleaning, organizing…you get the drift! But I never seem to get "caught up" in either aspect of my life. And I think the one that gets impacted by this is my husband and me. We don't have a lot of "alone time" with each other. And when we do, we are too exhausted!"

And that is the way it goes…the circus act of spinning plates and being in control at the same time. Is that possible?