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From Hooters to Hot Rawks: the rise of an unlikely entrepreneur

by Ian McDowell

Photos by Devender Sellars & Doug Klesch

Friends tell Julie Wilson she resembles Sandra Bullock, but I don’t see it. Ms. Bullock may be Miss Congeniality, but can you imagine her emerging from the sea in a glistening white bikini, a knife strapped to one tanned and silken thigh? The two possess similar bone structure, but only one has the va-vavoom of a ‘60s film goddess, like some stupefying combination of Raquel Welch and Claudia Cardinale. That’s Julie, a good (and sometimes deliciously bad) Southern gal.

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We’re having a drink at New York Pizza on a wintry grey weekday afternoon, but her company makes it feel like a summer Saturday. Julie may be Greensboro’s best-looking entrepreneur, but she also one of the hardest working and she wants to talk about what she’s been working on. Which is fine with me. Appropriately enough, considering the product she’s hawking, the woman is a natural stimulant.

You may not have heard of Hot Rawks, the all-natural and allegedly libido-boosting herbal energy supplement that she invented with her partner Joe Odell, but you will. It’s breaking big, with celebrity customers that range from porn star Dale DaBone (“Batman” and “Elvis” in the recent bestselling adults-only parodies) to members of NFL teams like the Arizona Cardinals. And it’s drawn enough mainstream interest that it will soon be found on the shelves of such retailers as Complete Nutrition, Walgreen’s and Whole Foods.

Julie is telling me not to worry, that she believes in her product and promises never to shill it in creepy late-night commercials offering to “make a man larger.” Besides lining up major distributors and being careful not to make outlandish claims, she’s marketing it to women as well as men; she calls it “adaptogenic,” saying that its natural herbs have different effects on men and on women, but in both cases assist with stamina and desire without harsh side effects. “It’s like a vitamin for your libido”.

Whatever its efficacy, she’s created a new niche. And she’s come a long way from her days at Hooters.

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Born in Fairmont, WV in 1977, with a vein of Cherokee in her bloodline, Julie came to Greensboro in 1995 with the intention of living with her cousins Angela and Shanel, (both of whom still reside here, albeit not together, and who are also absolutely stunning — there’s some damn good genes swimming in the family pool) for a few months before moving on to New York City. Instead, she worked for Hooters, got married and took a position as sales manager for the Rhinoceros Times (a columnist there still calls her “Greensboro’s most perfect woman,” suggesting that, barstool hyperbole aside, even the Rhino is capable of at least one well-considered opinion).

She moved on to Harley Davidson of Greensboro, where she was marketing director, and then Signature Property Group. With two marriages behind her, she shares custody of her feisty son Cameron, who is entering his ‘tweens and willing to punch other kids who say lewd things about his hot, single mom, a subject that makes Julie growl and steer the conversation to something else.

Like Hot Rawks, about which she can talk for hours. And you won’t mind, because she’s Julie.

“I’d been feeling the call for a long time:

A little voice inside my head kept telling it was time that I worked for myself, that I made and sold something good, something uniquely mine. Working for Harley taught me that sex sells, that you can create a whole lifestyle aura around a brand. I wanted to do that, but I also wanted the brand to matter. So I decided to combine that approach with my obsession with health.”

Julie certainly looks healthy, brimming with the youthful energy of a woman in her early twenties. But she says this wasn’t always true.

“Hon, it’s sweet to be told I look almost a decade younger than I am, but I’m not sure I believe you, Mister Silver-Tongued Writer Guy. What I do know is that I didn’t look this good back then, and more importantly, I didn’t feel this good. I had a series of health problems and I looked a mess, all sick and riddled with toxins. Doctors wanted to cut me open, put me on all kinds of drugs, told me that my condition was irreversible. And then I found out about raw foods.”

She attributes this revelation to bestselling author and celebrity consultant David Wolfe. “He recently said good things about Hot Rawks and that’s damn gratifying, but back then he was just a name on a book cover, and that book changed my life. His The Sun Food Diet Success System is what saved me. I implemented organic, raw foods and took on a vegetarian diet, cut out all processed stuff, ate fruits and vegetables, the whole shebang. I really do feel it reversed my ageing.”

And that passion for raw foods and natural ingredients later led her to invent Hot Rawks, which she touts as a sexual stimulant.

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“I said that sex sells, but it’s more than that. There’s this alarming number of men and women who have issues with their sex drive. We all have that in common — poor, old, rich, young, we all have sex. But our unhealthy and stressful modern society makes it hard — or, in the case of men, sometimes makes things less hard.” She laughs a delightfully grown woman’s laugh, not a girly giggle. “Whatever your gender, whoever you are, it’s getting harder to have that sex we all crave, and less pleasant when we do.

“I discovered that this was the one industry where there was not one single organic herbal alternative on the market. And the more I studied about pesticides, the more I discovered that they attack the reproductive system. Why in the world would you create a product to help the sex drive when it contains pesticides? I wanted to create a quality product to fill the niche for a pesticide-free alternative.”

To do this, Julie joined forces with Joe Odell, whom she’d met in 2007. “We pretty much created it together. Joe did a lot of research; he’s really excellent with due diligence, something that I’m too impatient to be that good at,” she says.

“I’d already met Joe, we’d been discussing mutual interests in health and in going into business for ourselves, and then one day while driving down Market Street to Signature Property , it hit me like a ton of frickin’ bricks: I wanted to do an herbal aphrodisiac! I immediately called Joe and said, ‘This is it.’ If he’d actually been present, I might have literally shook him by the lapels, that’s how excited I was.”

Not that it was easy. “Oh God, no! It took two years, and countless meetings with chemists, doctors and lawyers. One of the hardest parts was finding an FDAapproved facility that had the organic certifications and could get the herbs we needed. We wanted them raw, meaning that they’re not heated to these extreme temperatures, because that damages them. We finally found a lab that could extract them and drum-dry them at low temperatures, which retains the potency. It took a while but it was worth it, because that’s the heart of our product, its soul and raison d’’tre, to make something that was pure. But then we had to find farmers who could supply us with the product, and that was another monkey wrench in the gears. Because the herbs, specifically the ginseng and the epimedium [labeled as ‘horny goat weed’] take at least 90 days to cultivate when done organically. That sent us chasing all over for suppliers.”

“When we did find farmers who could supply us for our first batch, we sold out our inventory because we’d just gotten international exposure on Playboy Radio, and the demand outstripped supply. So we had to find another lab and chase down some more farmers. That was a growing pain, but now everything is fine.”

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Not bad for a girl who originally considered Greensboro just a stepping-stone to the Big Time, and who only settled here because she’d gotten married. Which is something she doesn’t plan to do again.

“Oh, hell no! I don’t mean to bust anybody’s Valentine bubble, but while I believe in working hard at work and working hard at pleasure, I’ve become an utter cynic when it comes to romantic love, and I’m certainly not planning on settling down. I’ve got my career and I’ve got a wonderful man in my life in my son Cameron. No future husbands need apply.”

Sure, Jules, that’s really going to stop them from trying, I think as I look at her. But I don’t say it. Singularly happy and happily single, Julie Wilson looks back at me with those remarkable eyes. She sips her beer, I sip my whiskey, and the afternoon drifts by outside the misty window. Why can’t more assignments be like this?

To learn more about Julie’s company Raw-Nation and its premier product Hot Rawks, check out her website at www.raw-nation.com.

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about the photoshoot

Julie Wilson´s wardrobe provided by The Destination!, hair by Amber Curry and makeup by Sherry Stevenson. The photo shoot took place at 341-A S. Elm St., Greensboro. This loft apartment is available for rent. Email anne@redcanary.com for more information

Doug Klesch is a Triad-based photographer, shooting fashion and beauty portraits, rock & roll shows and a variety of public and private events. You can see more of Doug´s work at www. dougklesch.com or his documentary project 99 Americans at www.youtube.com/user/dklesch1.

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