Picture this: you’re standing in the office supplies aisle. When you look up, you probably see a wall of black and gray. All function and no color. Maybe that’s what you’re looking for. But for Julia Xu, it inspired her to start her own company. After leaving a corporate career working for Fortune 500 companies, she launched Multitasky during the pandemic. The brand sells office supplies and home decor. Every product is sleek, modern and relentlessly stylish.
“When I was setting up my own home office, it was difficult to find products that were stylish and functional. I wanted to create this ‘one-stop-shop’ where people could come and find all the products they would want for a work desk,” said Xu. “I imagined the customer behind it. They’re female go-getters who may have to wear many different hats in life. Maybe they’re moms. Maybe they have their own business or side hustle while working full-time. They’re trying to do a lot of different things – constantly multitasking. I wanted to give them supportive tools.”
From Disney+ to owning her business, Multitasky
During college, Xu had a small brush with entrepreneurship. She started a nonprofit to sell knitted products and gave the proceeds to single moms. When she saw her friends preparing to enter the traditional corporate world, she decided to do the same. She worked for companies like McKinsey & Co., Disney+ and Alibaba. This gave her experience building financial models.
Just before COVID, she left Alibaba for consulting. She worked on roughly a hundred models over the course of the year. The majority of these were for e-commerce brands led by female founders. That sparked her interest in creating her own storefront. As she struggled to build a fashionable home office, Multitasky was born.
Browsing Multitasky’s offerings
The products are built for a modern workplace. Not just the colors – though there is plenty of pink, mint and rose gold. Nowadays, business owners need to have tech on hand. Even a traditional brick-and-mortar store needs social media for advertising and customer outreach.
According to Xu, some of the most popular Multitasky products are a multi-angle extendable phone stand and ring light kits. The style factor is never lost. Some of their power banks are shaped like tiny suitcases or macarons (and they’re so cute)!
Other products include humidifiers, stationery and vegan leather bags. Xu adds three to five new products per month based on what she wishes she had available, like comfortable slippers. At the moment, she’s most excited to expand their customized product line in the future.
Multitasky helps you stand out in a male-dominated industry
Let’s face it: a home office can look boring. You can add knick-knacks, but that clutters up the space. If you want something pretty and functional, you’ll need to search hard for it. Xu wants to change the supply space.
“A lot of office supplies are designed for a male-dominated office, all gray and black. Now that’s starting to change,” Xu said. “We add products intentionally and think about what people actually need on their desk. More than just an expensive pen. I know that I used to go into stores saying, ‘I need a phone holder, a laptop bag, a USB port, a power bank’… what I’m actually going to be using day-to-day. We’re really thinking about function.”
Take the plunge – carefully
What if you’re a corporate woman dreaming of quitting your job to start your own business? Xu gave the same advice she tells her friends who ask the same question.
“Don’t do it unless you’re incredibly sure,” she said. “I quit, and it was hard. It’s not something to recommend to everybody.”
How do you evaluate how certain you are? Ask yourself the same questions Xu asked herself when she thought about leaving her job:
- Do I find my work fulfilling?
- Can I support myself financially?
- Do I have enough freedom and control?
- Am I constantly learning?
- Am I working with people I want to be with?
- How much am I getting from this role?
“That was how I scored it. When I was at my corporate job, I didn’t care about anything. I had a great title, a well-paid job and this glamorous career. But if I’m not enjoying the work I’m doing, then I had no choice. I had to quit or compromise. It just wasn’t worth it. If I didn’t try it, I would regret it.”
Xu also recommends having a backup plan. Prepare for the worst. It’ll take hard work – Xu is up until early morning and doesn’t take weekends off.
But for Xu, the chase is more than worth it.
“We always think that there’s the next big thing. I had a dream job. I got it. And then I did that three times. I thought that quitting my job was going to be the next big thing. Starting consulting. Every time I reach my goal, I climb a mountain and see that there’s more. I can keep going. Who knows where I’ll be a year from now?”