My Working Day – Julia Streuli – Co-founder of FUL

As the leader of a company, you are there to set an example, to lead and inspire a team of individuals to achieve a series of business goals. But how do these business leaders go about their daily routine? Business Leader spoke to Julia Streuli – Co-founder of FUL, about her working day.

What time do you wake up?

Between 6-7am. I do my best thinking and writing before our daily team meeting at 9am.

What do you have for breakfast?

I’ve never been one of those people who can skip breakfast – I try to make it hearty so I can power through the day. I’m currently on an oatmeal bowl kick (with a big scoop of nut butter, a pile of fresh fruit, splash of oat milk and chia seeds). If we have FUL Spirulina (yes, the ingredient we make that goes into the drink) available, I’ll add in a few tablespoons for a blue-green micronutrient and protein boost.

What is your mantra for your working day?

“Get it done and enjoy the ride”

  • “Get it done” – Most days are all about execution, execution, execution. As founders (especially at our early-stage) we are doing everything from pitching investors to building partnerships with suppliers and distributors to taking out the trash. No shortage of tasks (however big or small) and the more efficiently they are completed, the better.
  • “Enjoy the ride” – When you are building a company, it is all too easy to focus on the immediate stress and challenge… and assume the real happiness will come with “achieving success” and “making it”. My cofounders and I, all committed to each other when we started that the true reward was in the journey – embracing the ups and the downs and finding joy in the daily process, working not just with each other, but with an incredibly brilliant team and towards a mission that inspires us.

As a business leader, is it hard to separate your business and personal life?

Very. I’m currently living above our office.

What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?

There’s this idea that the great entrepreneurs embody traditionally masculine characteristics – (over)confidence, dominance, independence.

But there are many ways to be an effective leader beyond those traditional behavioral expectations. From my personal experience:

  • You don’t have to be the loudest voice in the room to gain the most respect.
  • Humility is as critical as confidence.
  • Listening is just as key as speaking persuasively.
  • Admitting when you are wrong is as important as digging in your heels when you think you are right.
  • Empathy and compassion are as powerful as audacity and boldness.
  • Strong team performance is more important than any individual achievement.

Who is your business idol?

The late Leila Janah.

Leila’s work fundamentally shaped the way I think about business – as a force for good. Her social entrepreneurship work with Samasource and LXMI (as detailed in her book “Give Work: Reversing Poverty One Job at Time”) powerfully demonstrated that solutions to big problems can be embedded in the very core of a business model. Every part of your value chain can be transformed into an opportunity for environmental and social impact. “Doing good” can benefit your bottom line and vice versa.

I also really admired Leila as a leader for sharing some of her personal struggles with her community –  from exploring egg freezing to battling cancer. For me, this kind of vulnerability and realness was way more relatable and inspiring (as a young female entrepreneur) than any discussions of “how to have it all” as a woman in business.

What motivates you?

I’m motivated by our mission to reduce the climate and health impact of our current food system by scaling future proof sources of nutrition. I never thought I’d end up in business. Ever. But I’m one of these people who becomes obsessed with a topic I believe in and set on bringing an idea to life that I feel ought to exist in the world.

How do you persevere through challenging times?

In business, the unconditional support and trust from my cofounders has been the single most important factor in our success to-date. We have each other’s backs 100% and this has been game-changing when we need to pull together through key challenges. After one of those days when NOTHING seems to go right, I know Sara and Cristina will be there to commiserate, offer advice, and even help find the humor in some situations.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a female entrepreneur?

Let’s be honest: most people still don’t think of a (young) woman when they think “entrepreneur”.

This bias (conscious or not) has played out in subtle and not so subtle ways in our journey – and certainly presented additional challenges for our team.

Especially when we were first starting out and weren’t able to show traction through data and objective results, we relied on that extra leap of faith and trust in our ability to deliver as entrepreneurs from key stakeholders.

If I had a nickel for every time someone said incredulously “You are doing such cool work BUT you are young women”. BUT!? As if doing interesting work is somehow achieved in spite of our age and gender not because of or independent from it.

Whether we like to admit it or not, people are more likely to put that extra leap of faith in people that remind them (both in terms of physical appearance and mannerisms) of themselves and “successful entrepreneurs”. In an ideal world, everyone would try to become aware of and overcome this bias, but in reality I think we also need to change people’s associations with what a “successful entrepreneur” looks like.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

Take risks and don’t be afraid to fail.

Are you hopeful about the future of female entrepreneurship in the UK? Why?

I’m “stubbornly optimistic” (to use a term coined by a climate leader I greatly admire, Christiana Figueres).

There is still considerable work that must be done for the potential of female entrepreneurship (more generally) to be fully realized. In 2021, 86% of all VC funding still went to only men – and only around 2% to all female-founded teams (the share of which was lower in 2021 than at any point in the past five years).

At the same time, I have immense confidence in the ingenuity, determination, and brilliance of all the entrepreneurs, investors, and critical advocates across the business ecosystem working to change this reality.