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CWIBAN News: Alumna Snapshots

Alumna Snapshot: Julie Liu, '04

Julie Liu, '04 balances two careers-one as a portfolio manager, and another as a jewelry designer and entrepreneur. Her designs have been featured in Style Chicago. Here, Julie shares her experiences developing her business and pursuing two business paths

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Q: What was your background before coming to Chicago Booth?
A: I was doing Mergers and Acquisitions Consulting at Andersen.

Q: Why did you select Booth? Where did you head after graduation?
A: I selected Booth for the Analytic Finance program and the quality of faculty. I started in a hedge fund after graduation at Newport Beach, CA. Since 2005, I am working for PNC's subsidiary Allegiant Asset Management, and I manage a 130/30 small cap portfolio focused on quantitative strategies.

Q: What drew you to the field of portfolio management?
A: I love portfolio management because it is always changing and never boring. It also utilizes all the concepts I learned in school. I manage a quantitative strategy so all the matlab work in school paid off!

Q: How did you start your own jewelry line? How did you select the name?
A: I started my jewelry line in 2008, because I was always an artistic person growing up and I love jewelry myself. My father was a captain back in the 1960s and collected many rare gemstones and jewels for my mother and my family always had a history of collecting interesting jewels. I wanted to incorporate my artistic side with the jewels that we have and make something magical.

Q: How did you select the name of the line?
A: Mia Pezzi came from two things. My jewelry is Italian influenced jewelry with an Asian twist. Pezzi means pieces in Italian. Mia is the artist name that I always wanted so Mia Pezzi means Mia's pieces. My second line of jewels which I launched earlier this year is the silver line called TZEN. TZEN is my middle name and in Chinese it stands for beautiful sunset. I want the silver line to be as colorful and as vibrant as the sunset. This should also represent every woman's inner beauty.

Q: What have been the greatest challenges of the jewelry business?
A: The greatest challenge is getting to the right target market and customers. I cater towards high end customers who want something unusual or different. My designs are very organic and bold unlike many jewelry pieces you see at the local stores. My pieces attract the fashion forward woman 30+ who have the income to buy themselves something they love and unique.

Q: How has the business been impacted by the economy?
A: The economy has created a small impact in my business at the moment since I cater to a small niche market whose demand is more inelastic towards jewelry. My silver is definitely doing very well since many women are finding it easier to buy silver than to splurge on gold.

Q: What is your favorite part of what you do?
A: The best part of what I do is designing the product and looking at it come to life on someone. Taryn Rose wore my piece and the smile on her face when she saw the ring was priceless.

Q: Tell us about the creative process. How do your designs come into being?
A: Most my designs are inspired from nature. I have flower rings, fish, leaves, and butterflies. I love nature and the vibrant colors and textures it brings. Plus, it's natural and beautiful. Other designs stem from the beauty of a particular stone that I have. My stones include huge sapphires that don't exist anymore in the world and that are truly an accomplishment in a collection. Sometimes the stones inspire me to design around them.

Q: How do you balance both aspects of your career? And work with your personal life?
A: I have the type of personality to keep busy so balancing is never an issue. I graduated high school a year early and college two years early for a reason. I never waste time! I think if there was downtime, I would go crazy! Now that I'm filling up my free time with jewelry design, I am as happy as ever. My husband is very supportive and is building this business with me. He also works at a hedge fund. We both feel that this jewelry business compliments my work and personal life very well.

Q: What role does networking play in your career?
A: Networking is huge in any career. The power of networking is not measurable but could be the most valuable to any business. Every success that I've had thus far has been as a result of networking. It's as simple as meeting people through dinner parties to simple walks in the park. You never know who you're going to meet and if you don't network, you'll never have "the right place at the right time."

Q: What advice do you have for others interested in launching a business? What advice do you have for new MBA graduates?

A: The most important criteria in launching a business is to have passion in your service or product. Don't go into a business just for the "money" because you'll end up killing yourself or switching careers in five years or having a mid life crisis for sure. I can guarantee you 100% that you'll have crisis actually only one year out of business school if you don't abide to passion. Nothing can be accomplished without passion. If you love clothes, I would ignore the competition and find a niche market you love and build and empire. There are no poor people, only lazy people, and with the Booth network, your business should be more easily launched than ever.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: I see myself doing jewelry full time with a brand that is well known for bold colors, unique designs, and limited collections with rare gemstones. Oh, I also see myself with at least one child by that time. They are very important to a well balanced life!

Contact Julie by email (Julie@miapezzi.com) or phone: 312-376-8046. View her designs online at www.MIAPEZZI.com and www.TZENBoutique.com.