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Why Julia Santucci Works for Change Voluntarily

Why Julia Santucci Works for Change Voluntarily

portrait of Tricia Ismail
Tricia Ismail
Senior Editor

Julia Santucci’s professional path has taken her everywhere, from her start in the fast-paced New York fashion industry to now working as the Head of Operations for The Clean Mission, a volunteer-run city cleanup organization in San Francisco. While her career path hasn’t been linear in a traditional sense, for Julia, each professional shift has been part of her ongoing journey.

Julia Santucci, Head of Operations for The Clean Mission, picking up garbage around the neighborhood.

Today, Julia combines her love of urban history, animals, and the outdoors to encourage San Francisco residents to create cleaner, healthier communities. Though operating a volunteer-run organization isn’t always easy, Julia thrives on seeing positive change result from her resourcefulness and hard work. 

When did you start your company/work?

2018.

Why did you start this work?

I joined as Head of Operations to help make a greater impact with the amount of trash we collect from the streets! 

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in beautiful New Jersey and have been lucky to live in South Carolina, NYC, Paris, and now San Francisco. I am fascinated with hidden urban history, I’m very active outdoors, and have always cherished animals which is in huge part why I am working hard to figure out the most impactful way to educate and encourage our communities to go green(er).

What was one challenge you overcame during the early days of your company/work?

Finding like minded people who showed up.

Was there anyone who helped pave the way for your business or career?

Definitely. Mr. Jeff Winkle who is the creator of The Clean Mission and constantly shows up.

What are some of the ways women today can help raise and inspire the next generation of ambitious females?

By sharing their stories. I believe Meghan Markle said it best: “Women don’t need to find a voice, they have a voice, and they need to feel empowered to use it, and people need to be encouraged to listen.” Having strong women in our lives, for example my mother, aunts, and girlfriends – some who are also now mothers – to help push and support you is the ultimate key.

Why is it important for established women to put time into helping the next generation of women who are looking to shake up industries and even start their own companies?

To again share their stories, to give hope, inspiration, motivation and to relate in a personal way to show that no matter how successful a woman might be, it is possible to remain humble, grounded, and level-headed.

“Anything can be done.”

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Passionate, driven, and loyal.

What’s something most people might not assume about you at first glance?

As one of my friends said, I am tough as nails! Not afraid to roll up my sleeves and get dirty. Which I think is accurate haha.

What quality do you love most about yourself?

That I am resourceful. Give me a goal, I believe we can always find a way. Ironically, I owe that to my days in fashion, especially when I worked for Alice + Olivia.

When do you feel most beautiful and/or confident?

When I am believing in myself or get to see the positive results of something I put into motion.

When and where are you happiest?

When I stop the doubts and fears and realize I can be powerful, strong, and grateful. And after I have a meaningful, inspirational connection and conversation with someone.

If you could give your younger self advice, what would you tell her?

Do what you love, and believe in and trust yourself. You will always land on your feet and only you can get the life you want.

What is your motto?

Anything can be done.

Head of Operations for The Clean Mission, Julia Santucci, cleaning up a San Francisco neighborhood.

Why is it important to understand both the challenges and benefits of being outside the traditional workplace environment?

To know exactly what you are getting into. You have to hustle much more, and daily. However, it is very rewarding when ideas come to life and you were partially behind making it happen.

Do you think founders/disruptors/creators should take time to reflect on the pros, even if they’re constantly putting out fires?

Of course! To provide inspiration and prove there are pros.

What did success mean to you when you first started your work? How has your definition of success changed since then?

Obtaining your goals. But my ultimate goal? I have no idea! I think our definition of success and our goals will always be evolving as we keep going.

Can you share what happened when you finally felt like you were on the other side of the struggle?

Of course. I was working hard, but wasn’t seeing a future in the fashion industry. I had very little money and my job was taking a toll with no end game. While I knew I had to leave the NY fashion industry, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted a new experience, so I took a leap of faith, did a lot of networking (and under the table photography work for cash!), and moved to Paris for 3 months. 

It was a “life sabbatical” of sorts. This might seem like it doesn’t tie in, however it does. This was part of the journey, part of the story. Stories are so important and by making this experience possible, it was another strong example in my eyes of how effective networking can be. I still use the power of networking, everyday.

Looking back, what would you have done differently?

I always wish I took my education more seriously.

What does your morning routine look like?

Exercise or reading.

What motivates you to keep going in the toughest of times?

Remembering that Ernest Hemingway was rejected many times before being published.

What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?

Time alone. Running, yoga, reading, treating myself to something I love.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Go and try it, whatever it may be. Worst case, you can always come back and start again.

What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?

Creating new relationships and partnerships.

To learn how you can get involved, visit The Clean Mission. You can also follow them on Instagram.

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