Julie Peterson believes in helping women put their best face forward in the world, and her passion is driven by bold colors.
A native of Scotland, Peterson came to the United States in May 2007 after spending seven years in London while her then-husband was studying. Her first child, Evan, was born there. When the family relocated to Pittsburgh, Peterson was fresh off the very generous maternity leave granted to new mothers in England, so she decided to work from home for a travel agency in the UK that previously employed her.
That meant her days began by 5 a.m. to coordinate with the time zone difference.
“I’m not really a morning person,” Peterson, 42, said. From there, she moved on to work in an administrative position.
“I hated that,” she said.
In 2012, she decided to make a bold move.
Peterson had recently downsized from her 3,500 square-foot Mexican War Streets home to one more manageable located on the same block. The move gave her some breathing room with her finances, and a friend had told Peterson that a UK-based company called House of Colour was looking for consultants to open franchises in the United States.
House of Colour is an international personal style and consulting firm that focuses on evaluating the color and clothing choices that best flatter a person. It’s much in demand these days, as Julie soon discovered.
She headed to London in August 2012 for two weeks of intensive training on the background of color analysis and the history of House of Colour. That was followed up with eight days of learning the ins and outs of color analysis and putting those skills to the test on models.
She returned to the Mexican War Streets, energized and determined to make her franchise a success. Starting out in a small studio space inside her home, Peterson used her tight-knit neighborhood to start spreading the word.
“I love the feel of the neighborhood, and when I moved here I knew very little about it, but I loved the idea of walking Downtown and having (West Park) at the end of the street and being able to walk to the (Monterey Pub),” Peterson said.
She launched House of Colour Pittsburgh in a front room of her home with “amazing light.”
“It felt perfect,” Peterson said.
Within the year, Peterson’s client base was numbering in the hundreds and she began giving classes at corporations for team building exercises through local networking events aimed at women entrepreneurs. That’s when she decided to grow her business further and underwent training for Personal Style consults.
“Those classes involve more of a multi-person involvement to make it really work and I knew I just didn’t have the room to host three, four or five people in this small space,” she said.
Her pilates instructor, Lynsey Arch said she was in the same predicament, with her classes growing each week. Both female entrepreneurs needed more space.
They found a 2,000-square-foot building on Western Avenue in the North Side which they now share. In the three months since they moved in, Peterson said her business has doubled.
“It is so much more professional to have a retail studio and the main room has a ton of space for clients to relax and enjoy the experience,” she said. Peterson also has a separate make-up room for clients to sample products and a space in the back where she plans to showcase art work and jewelry from other female business owners.
She’s already eyeing her next expansion.
“I may get set up for my J. Hilburn Business which is a custom and personalized men’s clothing service,” Peterson said. “It’s something new and exciting that I would be happy to offer my gent clients.”
Despite the risk involved in launching her own business with two small kids at home — Evan is 7 and Charly is 4 — Peterson said she’s never considered looking back.
“In the last two years I have never woken up and said, ‘Ugh, I do not want to go to work today,’ ” Peterson said. “I cannot tell you how excited I am to meet the next new client, or help existing clients on their journey. I get to talk at corporate events and host workshops for health and wellness classes within organizations.