Women Runtrepreneurs: Julia Webb of Elite OnSite

This isn’t the first time we’ve talked with Julia Webb. You may remember reading about her here when she was chasing and breaking world records for stroller runs. Since then, she had another child and is now mom to daughters Joanie (4) and Paula (1), added the half marathon to her list of stroller world records (1:22:57), and is now the CEO of Elite OnSite Fleet Services. Despite a name that might suggest the business is running related, it’s not — it’s a truck repair business!

However, just because van and truck repair aren’t runnery, doesn’t mean Elite OnSite isn’t flavored with the favorite pastime of both Julia and her American Record Holder husband, Alan Webb. In fact, you might catch Alan signing posters to give out to customers on Julia’s Instagram stories.

Julia started the small business together with Alan and they’re both excited to see it succeed. We decided to check in with Julia, not only to see how she’s doing since we last spoke, but also to get a peek into the life of a very different kind of runtrepreneur than the ones we’ve featured so far. 

Ginger (SR): How did Elite Onsite come about?

Julia: Long story! Alan retired from professional athletics in 2015 and then continued on to finish his degree (graduating with a degree in Econ and Business at Portland State summer 2016). From there, he searched many places for his next step.

We discussed collegiate cross country and track coaching, but one thing we didn’t want to do was move. He looked into careers at Nike, but with the hiring freeze he didn’t get much hope in landing anything in the near future.

So, we started to look into franchise opportunities since he had saved up from his running career. There were many different ideas, but we wanted to stay away from a restaurant. I wanted a coffee shop but Portland is loaded with them- but we could always add coffee to our current shop in future – so that idea isn’t totally out! Somehow we landed on this truck repair business, it’s part of Fleet Services International, after we spoke a lot with other owners.

In the fall we made the next step to check it out and by December were fully committed. I am still involved with coaching at Nike (via Sport Center since 2014 doing one to two sessions a week), but the NRC Coaching role (there since 2015) had started to shift by the end of 2016 to less live sessions. I saw I had more time open up to dedicate to Elite OnSite.

Our focus is to help businesses with small fleets (company vans/trucks with a size of about 2-30); we do on-site oil changes, DOT inspections, road side assistance and have a shop to do larger repairs. We hired our first mechanic JR in March and are just about to bring on our second Michael.

SR: What have been some of the biggest challenges faced so far?

Julia: The challenges are honestly too great to share all, so here are a few that stand out.

1. Balancing business with a young family with our own families so far away. Our nearest relative is 1500 miles away; our parents 2000 miles (Wisconsin) and 2700 miles (Virginia) away. We have been blessed with meeting amazing supportive people here in Portland, but kids are never free to just drop off anywhere.

2. The long commute. Portland has the worst traffic, so we have to carefully avoid rush hour.

3. Finding a location that would allow this type of business. We originally wanted to open near our house but we had trouble finding a garage that allowed oil – so simple but not a SINGLE place allowed it in our area during our four month search! We are in Beaverton and the business is on Hayden Island in Portland, 20.5 miles away via car or 18.5 miles if I were to run, a route I’d like to someday take on just to say I did it!

SR: How does running your own business affect your running? How do you balance the demands of entrepreneurship with running and the rest of life?

Julia: It has a huge effect. Mostly there are so many more responsibilities, so I am forcing myself to limit my time spent running in order to have more productivity with the job. It is a catch-22 because if I don’t make time for running, I can’t function as the best version of me. But when I do run, I have to budget this added time and then my work suffers.

I pushed the limits early (we opened in March), and I was honestly fighting one sickness and then the next for about two full months. That was enough to say, “ok you crossed the line, time to take a break regardless of the plans you had in mind.” So now I’m coming off of a 10 day zero-run break and trying to keep the balance.

Thankfully, every ounce of responsibility doesn’t fall on my shoulders. My husband Alan and I are a team (he is President, I am CEO), and we both take on responsibilities. He is actually more heavily involved with the labor involved with Elite OnSite, and I am taking on more of the kids. As CEO I am the one to make the final calls regarding business matters.

SR: What are your running goals? Are you training for anything now? 

Julia: I had hopes to get back on the track this spring and do the steeplechase. I ran an early one with little preparation (2K in the cold rain in 6:48), but then I got sick. Since returning to the run, I feel it is best if I stick with less high pressured race situations and ones which take a little less time. Track prep for me is serious business with at least two long workouts each week plus lifts that would take up to about eight hours. My current training needs to be 45 to 90 minutes per day; if I want to add a longer day it must pass the approval of my husband.

I also want to involve the kids since my work hours don’t include them, so I’ve ramped up my stroller miles despite the fact they are both obviously getting bigger — Paula is 28 pounds and Joanie is 36. The gym is another option that provides a two hour childcare window. Treadmill on nice days doesn’t bother me, knowing my resources and opportunities are much more limited than my past kid-free life!

I just did a fun trail half marathon yesterday more as a long run though since I didn’t even warm up and promised myself I would NOT go to that effort races ask. I ran the Trail Factor Half in Forest Park here and won by three minutes in 1:36:11. Next weekend I’m getting away from it all and heading to New Hampshire kid free, although there will be lots of work to do on plane.

I’m racing the U.S. Mountain Running Championships (a 10K running up and down a ski mountain). My fitness is not at my highest personal level, but I still feel I have a good shot to compete in the top three. Past that we’ll see what local races entice me. I’ll likely do the Bowerman 5K, maybe another Spartan race: some low key but fun stuff that doesn’t require me to travel!

SR: Are you still training with the stroller?

Julia: Yes! No races planned until I find a lighter baby though! 

Julia’s husband Alan on the job.

SR: What advice do you have for other aspiring runtrepreneurs?

Julia: Make running a priority! It is very easy to think you need to put it on the backburner because the other responsibilities and to-do list items are endless, but if you don’t take some me-time outside the work place, you will go insane. At least that’s how I feel! Each time I run, it is a time to create new ideas; maybe not think at all.

Either way, it gives me something to look forward to each day and a way to break up the work day tasks. The endorphin rush running provides is the fuel to keep me positive in any new, intimidating, or scary scenario, which get thrown at you all the time when you’re new in an industry!

SR: Lastly, is Alan making a comeback? Some of your Instagram stories make us wonder.

Julia: He is hit-or-miss with training mostly due to a long standing injury. His heel has been messed up since December of 2015, so he would absolutely love to make running part of his daily routine, but with the injury he is currently limited to only using the True Form Running treadmill, which we are about to transport to our office so he has NO excuse.

As a long time athlete, he operates much better with regular exercise! He’s learning about balance and how to find time with work, kids, and more work to do.

***

Thanks, Julia! We wish you the best of luck in both your running and business ventures!

Are you a fan of the Webbs? How do you make your work + life + run balance work? 

I write about mindfulness, mental health, and the professional sport of running with the occasional poking fun at the sport. When I am not running, I'm either helping people as a counselor or trying to make them laugh as an amateur open mic comedian.

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