Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)
As the founding producer of the CES FitnessTech Summit, Julie Sylvester has over the past six years become a torchbearer for the FitnessTech world. Establishing the summit as the industry was in its infancy, she has guided it as fitness technology has become pervasive in our everyday world. Along the way, Julie has become a spearhead and conduit not only for the FitnessTech world, but now the emerging Wearable Tech industry as well which took its foothold in fitness. Asked to share her experience and insight from Wall Street seminars to various events and conferences around the country, Julie is proud to have stayed at the forefront of both the Fitness and Wearable Tech industries as they continue to exponentially evolve.
Prior to her involvement in the world of technology, Julie’s universe was theatre. Many years an actress, then a theatre company manager, finally she and her husband formed their own New York production company, Julie & Friends/Akiz Productions which produced not only theatre but private and corporate events. It is with these skills that she has definitely made a smooth transition into the universe of tech. When she finds the time, Julie keeps her hand in theatre, as a former board member of the League of Professional Theatre Women she continues to work with them in their pursuit of parity.
What is the idea behind your project / product and how did you come up with it?
We produce the FashionWare show at CES in Las Vegas for Living in Digital Times, a CES partner. We are currently preparing for CES 2018. The idea behind the FashionWare show of wearable tech came about in 2011 when “wearables” like Fitbit and Body Media first came out.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
My husband Peter Sylvester is my co-producer and Robin Raskin and Linda Nessim are the founding partners of Living in Digital Times which is the company that produces the FashionWare show.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
I have a background in theatre. Peter and I produced shows in NYC during the 90’s. After we lost our space to the real estate gods, we decided to start an event company. In 2010 Robin approached me about starting a show at CES originally called Sports, Fitness Tech and the Outdoors Summit and Exhibit. At the time, no one really knew what it would mean or where it would go. Since we are all event producers the idea of the fashion show came out of wanting to support our sponsors and exhibitors at CES.
What was the biggest obstacle?
The Biggest obstacle have always been and continue to be — finding wearable tech that is as fashionable as it is functional. We have had some great outfits and we have had some really bizarre “conceptual” designs.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
We just came back from CES Asia. CES invited us to bring the FashionWare show to Shanghai and to do some programming on the show floor. The show was narrated in Mandarin and the crowds were amazing. We felt really proud that we were able to put on a great show with Asian Models, a Korean emcee and lovely wearable outfits from MakeFashion in Canada.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
I am not the founder of the company but I do have my own company and it did take me a while to find the niche that was right for us. In truth, the niche — found us. Living in Digital Times is very female forward. The founding partners are both females and the lead producers of the other shows we produce, Digital Health, Family Tech and Transforming EDU are all females. Our biggest challenges are not necessarily because we are females. Speaking for myself, my biggest challenge is balancing my daily life with work. Since we spend most of the year working towards the “big event” in January, I have a hard time knowing that it is okay to take a day off here and there.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
It is, of course the biggest challenge is the lines at the women’s bathrooms are getting longer at CES. Ha!
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
I don’t really have any advice - I don’t think I have figured it out for myself yet.
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech and fashion tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I have almost finally been convinced that wearable tech will become invisible. It will be so seamlessly integrated into our daily wear, we won’t even have to think about putting it on.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in wearable tech and fashion tech?
Maria Elena Hoover - MakeFashion
Amy Winters - Rainbow Winters
Sylvia Heisel - Heisel Design
LinkedIn: Julie Sylvester
Youtube: Living In Digital Times Videos
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, co-founder of Women of Wearables and Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.