On Embracing Who We Are: Julie Cole, Co-Founder of Mabel's Labels, on How She is Celebrating her 50th Year

Julie sitting on a chair in Mayana Genevière's black lace bodysuit and black tulle skirt with throw pillows on the ground and white balloons behind her

Julie Cole is a recovered lawyer, mom of six and co-founder of Mabel’s Labels. She has helped her company bring their product to a worldwide market, gain media recognition and win countless awards.

A passionate entrepreneur, published author, and sought after speaker, Julie is no stranger to the media, having appeared on countless notable publications. 

When she’s not juggling her busy family and professional life, Julie is an engaged community member serving on boards and volunteering.

She is passionate about women’s issues, mentoring young entrepreneurs, and social justice.  

I had the privilege of getting to know Julie as my business mentor for a year where I learned an incredible amount on not only the importance of relationships in business, but also learning to not be so hard on myself as a mother. 

I personally still have no clue how Julie did it all but like you I am not only interested but curious to find out!  

With all of her fierce contributions, we’re excited to celebrate with her in her 50th year around the sun.  Join us as we explore the real deal to being fabulous at fifty and uncover the secret to doing one let alone all of Julie’s notable accomplishments!

 

Tell us a little about yourself that most people do not know about and a little background to who you are outside of what we see.

I come from a big family - my grandmother was one of 21 children born in Ireland to entrepreneurial parents. It makes sense that I went on to have a big family of my own.

I have enjoyed parenting my six unique children - it has always been a busy, loud and fun household. It is mostly a house full of teenagers now so everyone is growing up on me.

Three of my children are living away from home at University. Part of the joy of raising my children is the different challenges each brings. I have children who have learning differences, are queer, are athletic, talented, smart and cheeky! The conversations around the dinner table never get boring! 

Julie and her family pictured together in a black and white photo

 

People are genuinely interested in knowing how you have raised six children so beautifully while attending to their individuality and setting hard and fast ground rules but also a lax environment and maintaining your sanity & individuality.

There have been a couple of things that have kept me sane through raising a big family while also starting a business.

I think my secret sauce has been my attitude. I don’t put too much pressure on myself, I don’t beat myself up if the kids have hot dogs two nights in a row and I gave up “Mom Guilt” four kids ago! 

I’ve also worked to raise independent kids so that they can do things for themselves. This is helpful when mama has to be very productive professionally!

Parenting

How have you cared for yourself while raising six children? What are some ground rules you set for yourself and your family as it relates to family and mom alone time.

I’ve never had a big need for “me time”. I think if you do - that’s great and you should take it. However, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest having six kids and starting a business if “me time” is a priority.

I also don’t seem to need “me time” in traditional ways. I have no interest in pampering or getting a massage. For me doing an interview like this feels like “me time”.

Having said that, I try to get exercise, but it usually involves activities with kids. I always think that in a few years I’ll have more “me time” than I ever wanted so I’m enjoying what I have in the moment. 

What advice do you have for younger women who are starting with a family and struggling with their identity?

I think a lot of women struggle with balancing their identity with being a professional and also being a mom. I remind myself of the quote I heard once: “A mom who wants big things outside of her family is the same mom who wants big things for her family”.

What has been the most challenging experience as a parent and how did you cope through it? 

When my eldest child was three, he was diagnosed with autism. I coped with it by doing what most parents do - research, advocate and do everything possible to provide my son with all the resources he needed. It was his diagnosis behind Mabel’s Labels starting.

I knew that the traditional workforce would no longer suit me, so that’s when the pivot happened to entrepreneurship. I’m delighted to report that as the business grew and developed, so did my son.

He is now in third year University and an amazing son, brother and friend to many. I couldn’t be more proud. 

 

As a parent with a child who is recently diagnosed with autism you can feel overwhelmed with emotions. It is important to remember you aren’t alone in this journey.

According to a recent study, autism is more common than you would expect. It is now estimated that 1 in 59 children will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Womanhood

Why do you feel it’s important to give back to younger women?

I am passionate about mentoring young women - both with their families and their work. I recently turned 50 and in those years I have many lessons to share.

I feel it is our duty to support, elevate and promote other women, and it brings me immeasurable joy. 

What is something you wish you knew going through this journey of life that you felt was left out of the conversation as you transitioned through different stages.

I’m not sure if it was left out or just not emphasized enough. Households are still not run democratically. Working women still carry the emotional and physical load of parenthood.

We are still making the sacrifices professionally, and we know through the pandemic, women have been feeling the burden.

We feel we have come so far, but mark my words - we have so much work to do and if you think otherwise, you will get a rude awakening. 

A badge of honour isn’t always handed out to working moms. It is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to master that work-life balance as a working mom.

Here are some of Julie's go-to strategies to help blend together work and life environments: 

Make work work for your lifeTake breaks from work when the time is right. A quick walk outside or chat with a friend can turn your day around.
It may feel like a waste of time, but this mental health break can recharge you for another hour of productivity. 

Simplify your time to what matter most- Growing my business and raising a family is no walk in the park. It has been so important to me to begin to recognize the need to hand the reins off to someone else for a project even if it feels like handing over my baby to a stranger.

If I don’t do this I would miss out on monumental memories in my family’s life. 

Don’t seek out perfection- There aren't enough hours in the day to always get everything done. You’re doing the best you can and that is what’s important.

Recognize when it is time to end the work day, especially when working from home, and spend time with your family.

Career

What prompted you to leave corporate/ private practice and was that a difficult decision?

With my son’s autism diagnosis, I didn’t think practicing as a lawyer would suit my family’s needs. It didn’t feel like a hard decision. I know my kids are my best investment. I needed the flexibility that entrepreneurship provided. 

How was starting, running and selling a business while raising a family?

Never a dull moment! I think people often romanticize entrepreneurship, but in those early years you work long hours, exhausted and for no money.

There is nothing glamorous about it. But the joy of running a business and letting my children see their mother work passionately at something she created was magic!

There are now more than 360,000 women in Canada who are self-employed. This is over a 30% increase in women-owned business in the last 10 years. Women are a powerful workforce and bring to the table a perspective and consumer base that is often forgotten by male CEOs.

50’s introspection

How has 50 changed today compared to when your mother was 50, and how have you created a healthier narrative around that experience?

I think women at 50 now know that we are smart, beautiful, creative and still have so much left to give. We have been doing a lot of care-giving and now still care-giving aging parents, but we are often more independent financially and that is SO important because it allows us to make choices.

Financial independence is paramount for women, and more women of our generation are enjoying that. It horrifies me that women in history had to ask and pitch getting money from their husbands.

Their unpaid work was of no value. We know our value and make sure everyone else does too. 

Women are increasingly demonstrating that age has no bearing on the value of our being. How have you shown up for yourself in ways that may seem impossible for others?

I’m a believer in goal setting. When I was turning 50, I looked at the things I’ve been putting off and took myself to task. I’m now signed on with a Publisher for a book….something that has been on the “to-do” list for years. 

What’s something you would like yourself to know and what does the future hold for you?

I’m just putting one step in front of the other and enjoying my work, my family, my friends and all that life has to offer. I certainly expect my future to bring me some fun GRANDCHILDREN! I hear they are the reward for not killing your own kids. :) 

Ok Julie, Let’s get real how the hell did you do it all!

I say “NO” a lot, I ask for help, I don’t care if people think my house is a mess and I have fun. As I always say - when life gives you lemons, make a gin and tonic!

 

Where can everyone connect with you?

Find me at www.mabelslabels.com/juliecole

Insta: @cole.julie @mabelslabels

www.mabelslabels.com