Today we’d like to introduce you to Steve Juliff.
Hi Steve, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today.
I was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and found interest in creating videos with my friends and cousins when I was 10. This later inspired my decision to attend film school at the University of New Orleans (UNO) in 2013. I worked several different jobs on campus at UNO as an Orientation Leader, Residence Hall Front Desk staff, and later a Resident Assistant to make my degree more affordable.
During my last year at UNO, I decided to study abroad in Prague, Czech Republic and I discovered my passion for travel and photography. I purchased my first digital camera with some additional scholarship money and headed out, excited for the adventure. My grandfather is 100 percent Czech so I had an additional incentive to study in the Czech Republic.
I showed up a few days early to explore the city before my program started. I was amazed by the public transit system, historic buildings, and affordability. and of course, the food. When I showed up for my classes, I was tasked with creating a themed photography project for the semester, and I had been noticing some interesting football (soccer) stadiums on my daily tram ride.
I decided to do my entire project surrounding football in the Czech Republic at several different levels of competition. I learned a lot about photography mainly just by playing around with the camera and using my knowledge of film to supplement my understanding.
Ever since this first trip abroad, my wife and I have made it a point to travel every chance we get. I travel almost everywhere on foot or on transit as I like to learn how regular people exist in each city or town that I visit. I find it is also a great way to find lesser-known spots and take more unique pictures. I have since visited Denmark, France, Honduras, Norway, and Sweden as well as many U.S. states and National Parks.
In 2016, I graduated from the University of New Orleans with a bachelor’s degree in Film, enjoyed my bachelor’s party, got married, and moved to Oxford, Mississippi in the same week. My wife was attending the University of Mississippi for a Master’s Degree in Higher Education, and finding limited work opportunities in my field, I decided to pursue the same degree program.
The school has an excellent Graduate Assistantship program as they pay for full tuition and provide an additional stipend each semester in return for working at the university. We graduated from Ole Miss in 2019 and quickly moved to Denver, Colorado in search of the outdoors and more opportunities in the city.
Still struggling to find work doing film or photography, I took a job at the Metropolitan State University of Denver as an Admissions Counselor after nearly 9 months of searching for any salaried job. Last year, I transferred to a different department at the university and began working as the Communications Specialist for the School of Hospitality at MSU Denver.
While working at the university, I had also been paying attention to TikTok blowing up in early 2020 and had been managing several social media accounts for different organizations, for at least 3 years. The transition into my new role was easy as I had already managed social media accounts and was able to use my talents for photography and videography in marketing for classes and the department.
In 2021, my wife and I founded JuJu Tees LLC., which is an art apparel and print company that we co-own. We had decided to open the business as a way for up-and-coming artists to gain exposure while making money from the sales of their designs. I had recognized first-hand how difficult it is to get your artwork and talent out into the world, so this was also a creative outlet for me.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Growing up as a millennial in the 90s, in school we were told that if we graduated high school and completed a college degree, we would be successful. In high school, we were advised that if we completed a college degree, we would get a good job. After graduating from the University of New Orleans and not finding any work in my field, I decided to complete a Master’s degree to set myself apart from other job applicants.
My wife received a few jobs offers upon completing her Master’s degree and so we moved to Denver convinced that it would be easier to find work in a bigger city. I ended up applying for jobs for 9 months before finally landing an Admissions Counselor role at MSU Denver. It was still not in my field of study, but it was a decent job. It wasn’t until just last year that I have been able to utilize my creative talents at work in my primary role. It was really a solid 6-year grind and living in Denver without a job was one of the toughest times in my life.
One of the reasons that I started my business was so that I could have a creative outlet. I was excited about creating content as I could use my knowledge of film and photography to showcase our products and brand. It was also a way to get my artwork out to people and create a larger social media management portfolio.
Starting our business there were many unforeseen headaches, even as people with Master’s degrees and English as our primary language. We struggled with understanding various laws and tax regulations. We were able to pivot with every challenge that we faced, but we couldn’t have known what to prepare for without having access to someone who has started a similar business.
There are so many intricacies such as deciding which printing technology will work best for our designs, what will be the most sustainable way to produce our products, and how sales tax works for an online business, to pick just a few.
Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about JuJu Tees LLC?
We are quality apparel and art print brand with the mission of giving artists a platform to showcase their work. 20% of all profits are donated to nonprofit organizations with the artist choosing where 10% is donated and JuJu Tees deciding where 10% is donated. Each item purchased directly impacts the artist and gives back to our communities. Additionally, all of our products are sustainably packaged with eco-friendly shipping supplies from a local Colorado company, EcoEnclose.
Another big reason for starting our company was to give back to communities in need. I was born with a Cleft Lip and Palate and was supported by my family and a team of doctors to get me through numerous surgeries during my life. I think I feel compelled to give back to the Cleft community as I know many others don’t have support or even access to medical care. Several of my designs donate at least 10% to the Smile Train organization.
In addition, there are numerous other communities that we feel need our support. We’re also able to prioritize funding for specific situations. For example, when we launched our company last year, Hurricane Ida hit New Orleans and left a large community of people in need of immediate assistance. Several of our artists are from New Orleans as well, so it impacted their friends and family directly.
For the month of September, 20% of all our sales went directly to Hurricane Ida relief efforts. My role in the JuJu Tees brand is twofold: I co-own the business with my wife and I do product photography and videography, social media, accounting, etc., and I am also one of the artists with apparel designs and prints.
What sets our brand apart from others is the intentionality surrounding our communities in need, as well as how we showcase sick designs from up-and-coming artists.
- Art Prints start at $12.50
- T-Shirts: $32
- Crewnecks and Hoodies: $50
- Website: https://www.jujutees.store
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jujutees
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFTIuEWJsqc0f9Pm9Y3q0JA
- TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@jujutees