Julie Tilman with her BMobile ExecuBag
Julie Tilman was always destined for entrepreneurship. Throughout the course of her career she has always worked for herself, with the exception of a few short spells of employment here and there, and when the opportunity arose to take over Lali Silver Jewellery it was something of an inevitability.
From her early 20’s Julie has had a string of small businesses, manufacturing and selling clothing, furniture and a number of other products, but it was only in 1994 when she discovered her passion for making Jewellery. It began as a hobby and grew into a legacy.
Having trained at the London Guildhall University for 2 years, Julie moved back to South Africa and began teaching. Then in 2004 Lali Vossagatter decided to retire and sell her prestigious Silver Jewellery business, and, on the recommendation of mutual friends, Julie emerged as the clear candidate to take over. All it took was one meeting, and within the first 15 minutes both Lali and Julie knew it was meant to be. Although Julie admits it was a terrifying prospect, taking over from the owner of 34 years and leaving behind a work-from-home lifestyle for a 9-5, it was an opportunity that she just couldn’t pass up.
Luckily for Julie, she and Lali developed a strong friendship, and Lali acted as a mentor in guiding and advising her at every step of the journey, and she even continues to make custom pieces of Jewellery for the brand to this day.
Some of the gorgeous silver pieces Lali offers
Taking over a successful, well established brand wasn’t just a case of ‘more of the same’ for Julie. Soon after taking ownership she made a bold decision to move the business premises from Rosebank to the more vibey Parkview, and her decision paid off with an immediate increase in foot traffic and new clients. And, although Julie and her team love the challenge that a new client brings (even a bizarre request to restore a set of old silver teeth was met with aplomb!), she knew the importance of maintaining the brand’s loyal customers, even after the relocation, and they always go the extra mile to make sure their customers come first.
The Lali team is like a family
Julie’s personal approach to management has seen her cultivate a small, but highly skilled and experienced team of 3 full-time employees and a part-timer to pick up the slack. The Lali team does it all on site, from creating, restoring, repairing and modernising of Jewellery and numerous other silver items, no job is too big or small – they were even commissioned to create Winnie Mandela’s 70th birthday present!
The desire for rapid and constant growth is something that can distract many small businesses from what matters most – providing the highest standard of service for their clients, but Julie has never compromised on this. She often sets out on buying trips with her customers in mind, looking for pieces that she knows specific clients will love and buying them for just this reason.
Although the opportunity to open additional branches and franchise the business has been aconsideration in the past, ultimately Julie has chosen to stick with what she knows and commit to her hands-on approach to ownership, striving to provide that personal touch and a service that goes beyond a simple transaction, to a valuable and fulfilling relationship with her clients.
There is treasure to be found in every nook and cranny at the Lali premises
The future of a small business doesn’t always demand growth and expansion, and Julie and the Lali brand are quite happy to maintain the health of the business and reap the reward that comes from a true love for one’s work – a profound truth that more business owners should learn to value.