Julia Ritter, 39, founder of the successful lifestyle shop desiary.de based in Cologne, Germany, took the plunge into self-employment early on and fulfilled a dream with her own start-up. Today she sells handmade, excellent and sustainable decoration accessories as well as gift ideas online and offline and is in the process of internationalization. As for today, desiary.de has long since ceased to be a start-up company and is now a running business.
Meanwhile Julia has even designed and produced her own collection adorist.de – she likes to call it handmade wonders – with special design highlights that she herself missed on the interior market.
We find it an impressive success story indeed, which we interview her about in detail.
fine living accessoires
Where did you get the courage to start your own business at the age of 29?
I studied business administration and then worked for Daimler in Stuttgart for 1.5 years as a consultant. Here I learned a lot about project management and yet I missed the creativity. The work is very specialized in such a large corporation. That’s why something new had to be done and I started studying interior design in Stuttgart. During the semester break I also built small pieces of furniture and started to sell online on a small scale.
I found the feeling of success that more than 100 of my designed and self-built bedside cabinets delight people all over Germany quite wonderful.
The idea was born to search for products that I missed myself and to make them accessible to many people, so I founded desiary.de in 2009 as a concept store for home accessories and gift ideas.
What did you have to fight with?
My mother wasn’t exactly thrilled that I was taking so much risk and leaving the supposedly safe career, but I didn’t want to regret not having done it at some point.
In the beginning everyone struggles, but at some point you have to jump, I needed the detour to study business administration and that was a good thing. Before my studies, I wasn’t ready to rely on my creativity. Looking back, everything came together harmoniously. The business studies gave me the know-how for my business and the interior design expanded my creative streak.
Where do you get your daily motivation from?
I have always been a good organiser, have a strong will and a high level of motivation. My motivation comes from my will to be independent, to design things, to find solutions, to see desiary.de grow. To be successful with my idea and to make my customers happy is exactly what I want to do.
My most important experience every day is to see new problems in sporty ways. Where there is a will, there is a way and what you can’t do from the beginning, you can learn.
With desiary.de we want to offer our customers something special, a curated selection of favourite pieces and that is very fulfilling.
Instead of buying anything, focusing on quality and design. We don’t need fast fashion in the interior world. We only have one environment and here my goal is to combine style with sustainability, origin and identity.
I particularly enjoy statement pieces. Anything but boring. We find special pieces – these are home accessories by excellent designers and small manufactories and studios. The selection reflects my taste and I wouldn’t sell anything that couldn’t be at home with me or that I would give to my loved ones.
We select our products according to 4 criteria. They must be of high quality, i.e. durable and timeless in design and draft or at best awarded with international design prizes. Natural materials are extremely important to us, the products are mostly handmade. I personally find products without identity and origin that are thrown away monthly or seasonally terrible. It’s better to buy less and instead have favourites that accompany you for a long time.
These are, for example, handmade leather goods from Italy and Spain, handmade porcelain in matt pastel colours from Vienna, Happy Chic from New York and Scandinavian glass. You will also find many design classics in our assortment, such as the wooden monkey by Kay Bojesen, who has been delighting design lovers all over the world since the 1950s.
What are for you recommended tools for the fast growth of a start-up?
Network, exchange, try, measure, optimize, and trivially do more of what seem to work well and less of what doesn’t.
What makes us successful is the broad mix of marketing activities. If a channel just weakens, another channel catches it. That makes us independent and I can recommend that. Also, an experience, it usually takes more money than you think. You are on the safe side if you plan lower sales and higher costs.
Where do you see desiary.de in ten years?
We are currently experiencing strong growth and will therefore be changing a lot within the company in the near future. We have entered into new partnerships and are curious to see where it will take us. One of our major goals is in any case to make our own products and our own new brand adorist.de even bigger.
I also want to automate more in order to have more time for the essentials, both professionally and privately.
Do you have a tip for young female founders?
Get help with start-up associations, programs or workshops in the university. And exchange ideas with like-minded people, this is more fun, inspires and takes you even further, e.g. with startup teens or other start-up associations.
What advice would you give your young self?
You don’t have to be able to do everything yourself and you don’t have to know everything in advance, this is exhausting and not possible at all. Trust yourself on the way.
What does a good work-life balance look like for you?
My husband says my work-life balance is to work in the office and work at home. But I’m getting better right now, after spending too much time in the office over the past few years, this year for the first time I’m approaching normal vacation times. I also introduced a home office day.
Since my husband is a freelancer, we can work together very well. However, we are also stationed in Cologne, the opening hours bind me to the office, but I have a great team that does a great job and here is a good experience to transfer more responsibility. By the way, the team has long had part-time contracts for those who want it and it works excellently.
In your opinion, how important is a suitable business outfit?
Clothing as well as interior design have a lot in common here. Both express style awareness and can convey values – how do I see myself and how should others perceive me.
Is there a business outfit for you in which you always feel good?
In Contrary to my times in the company, today my private outfit does not differ much from my job outfit. However, I like dresses and skirts, you never meet me in trousers. Dresses have the big advantage that they are feminine. Hence you are always dressed quickly and easily without having to try out combinations endlessly.
What do you advise women who are still looking for their own style?
Build on good basics that can be combined again and again. Classics always go. A simple A-line skirt can be combined with tops, blouses, blazers and sweaters and almost always works. But even more important is that you feel comfortable in your outfit, I don’t want to have to think about my outfit. When I see a piece that I like very much, I like to buy it more often. That means I have, e.g. several times the same shoes and about four times my favourite sweater.
Which book is currently lying on your bedside table?
I’m reading the “4-hour week” by Timothy Ferriss for the second time and an alpine thriller by Jörg Maurer to switch off.