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Q&A with Julie White - Yachtswoman & Owner of D-Drill

Posted: by Jo Wednesday, 22 August 2018 @ 09:44

Julie White

Buy Julie's Mantra - 'Create your World' here.

This year, in our quest to step up and be our best selves, we wanted to learn from truly remarkable women, to ask whether they have a mantra they live their life by; and to understand what inspires them.

This month, we talked to round-the-world racing yachtswoman and owner of major UK construction company, D-Drill - Julie White.

When I first met Julie, I was blown away by her energy and enthusiasm for life. As owner and Managing Director of D-Drill, a diamond drilling business, she is one of very few high-powered women in the construction industry - and not at all afraid to stand out. Glamorous, outspoken, and highly successful, buying her father out of the family business in 2008, and running it successfully through years of credit crunch and recession - she would be impressive enough if that were all she had achieved.

But at the tender age of 19, with no previous experience on the open water, she talked her way into a role on a racing yacht in California; learning from the best; and spent the next 11 years sailing in races around the world. She taught herself how to strip down a generator, and then specialised in electrics and yacht maintenance to make sure she always had a place in a team; and went on to put together some crack female teams, raised and was part of many sponsorship deals, with the largest being a £25 million deal; and competed at the highest level for years.

All this before she came home and set up her own specialist construction company, before buying out her father. Now a regular on BBC Question Time and national news programmes, Julie was chosen as the ‘Vitalise Businesswoman of the Year’, and sits on the board of many industry bodies within construction.

Let’s hear from Julie about a mantra she lives her life by, and what inspires her:

Do you have a favourite mantra, or inspiring quotation, that focuses you from day to day?

Back in my sailing days, a phrase I used to love was ‘If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space’, which makes me chuckle now.    But in everyday life now, the two mantras I use a lot are: 

"Stop doubting yourself, work hard, and make it happen’’


"The best way to predict the future is to create it’’

What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed?

For me, the drive was always there, even as a kid growing up, as I had parents who were running a niche and a totally brand new technique of concrete-cutting for the civil and construction industry. I was involved a lot as an only child, as the whole house (at first, it was run from our home) seemed to vibrate from the hard work and determination that they both had.

My mother was a very strong woman: the diamond tools that were used to cut the concrete were hard to find in the UK and Europe, so she started to make them herself from scratch, which was a hard and dirty operation. She ended up running an engineering company in Coventry, where she managed an all-male workforce – so I really had a double whammy when it came to determination!

I also have a terrible habit. If someone says ‘you can’t do that’, I like to prove them wrong! I push the limits, and I also thrive from being in unknown situations - which again came from my parents.

When you were young, do you remember having role models who inspired you, or people you truly admired?

I came from a family that were ALL from Coventry, and land-locked in every direction - but I was fascinated by the water.

Even though both my parents didn’t swim – I taught myself (long story!), and ended up competing for the GB youth team until I was 16. My mother always says she is sure she picked up the wrong baby when she left the hospital!

I was fascinated by water and the sea, and read a lot of books about true pioneers, like Captain Cook. My favourite was Jacques Cousteau, and I became fascinated by scuba diving. I learnt it at 15 years old (again another long story!), and got my instructor’s ticket by the time I was 18.

These were the type of people I loved - they were true conquerors who changed the world. I loved that they never gave up, even though it might mean losing their lives; and the unknown never stopped them.

And as your career progressed and you got into sailing - who inspired you then?

When I was growing up, there was a little-known sailor called Naomi James (who later became a dame), who was the first woman to sail solo around the world, via Cape Horn, in 1978 – I remember seeing her on ‘This is Your Life’, and thinking WOW!!!

At the time, these adventures were being carried out because ‘they could’. They were true explorers and adventurers, and were doing it to see what they could achieve; to be the first; and because of their sheer drive - not for sponsorship, fame and money, as these days. These were the people that inspired me in my sailing career.

But I must admit that I did literally blag my way onto my first sailing position, as a cook - I couldn’t cook, and I could burn water in those days! I would always take advantage of an opportunity and a situation, and then find out through doing it that I was good enough, and that I totally enjoyed it. Another thing I have always done in my life is to have fun!!

And in your business life – who inspires you?

Again, my first company, doing specialist floor preparation for the construction industry, was just an opportunity I fell into. I could see a gap in the market and just went for it. I feel like I blagged my way through most of the start-up days of the company - until I was genuinely good at what I was doing, and grew an amazing company.

I had strong women all around me in my younger days. Not only my mother, but our first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. For good or bad in her political views, she wasn’t called the ‘Iron lady’ for nothing! And the other person that inspired me was Betty Boothroyd, the first, and to-date, only, female Speaker in the House of Commons.

These were the type of people who never took ‘No’ for an answer and just went for it. I also know that I am my own biggest enemy, as I always set myself big challenges, and then beat myself up until I achieve them.

And who, now, would you say is an inspiring figure on the world stage?

I am inspired by people that never give up and never take ‘No’ for an answer, even if they have a disability – like Erik Weihenmayer, who is a blind adventurer. He is a mountaineer, skydiver, ice climber, distance biker, and skier - despite the fact that he lost his eyesight at the age of 13. He has climbed many mountains, including being the first blind person to climb Mount Everest.

We all have bad days at work and in our private lives, but these types of people inspire me as nothing will hold them back, and to them, everything is possible.15% off Moon and Star Necklace

Julie’s Mantra

We have chosen the ‘Create your World’ Moon and Star Mantra necklace to be our ‘Mantra of the Month’, as we felt it sums up Julie in so many ways.

Hailing from a landlocked county, to going on to become a world class sailor; from ‘falling into’ the construction industry, to running a world class business – Julie epitomises the spirit of empowerment and self-determination that enabled her to create her very own world.

This month, buy the Moon and Star necklace with 15%off.


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