How Create & Cultivate’s Founder Made a Career Out of Helping Women Land Their Dream Job
If Create & Cultivate hasn’t made a stop in your town, you best believe they’ll be making their way your way very soon. It seems as if founder Jaclyn Johnson is in every city in the country every other week, preaching her message of self-made girl power, and she’s just getting started.
Johnson fell into the entrepreneur life when she saw a huge gap for women seeking career advice, mentorship, and opportunities to network, so she created a conference and brand that centers around creating (!) and cultivating (!) your dream job. And now, with the recent publication of WorkParty, Johnson can officially add author to her founder/CEO/feminist/cheerleader job description.
Anjelika Temple here, Founding Partner and Chief Creative Officer at Brit + Co. I met Johnson at Create & Cultivate’s pop-up at SXSW and had the privilege of speaking on a C&C panel here in SF. Johnson’s one of those women that has a seemingly endless girl gang surrounding her, in a way that manages to be inclusive and intimate at the same time.
And since we here at Brit + Co are all about lifting each other up, I thought I’d offer all y’all a peek into Johnson’s story — how she got started, what keeps her motivated, and what’s coming up next for WorkParty and Create & Cultivate. Warning: High likelihood of starting a side hustle or landing your dream job are possible side effects of reading this profile ;)
Brit + Co: First off, tell us a little more about your background.
Jaclyn Johnson: I grew up in Florida, and eventually relocated to New York once I enrolled in college. I went to NYU and studied magazine journalism. My plan was to become an editor, but life works in mysterious ways and mine took a completely different turn — so now we’re here!
B+C: Before you founded Create & Cultivate, what did your career path look like?
JJ: I planned on becoming an editorial assistant right out of college, but with the way rent in New York works, it just wasn’t in the cards. Instead, I took up a job as an account executive that I found on Craigslist, and after that, my next gig is what relocated me to Los Angeles. After being laid off, I got back on my feet (with a few tears and panic in between) and explored entrepreneurship. That led to launch my first company, (No Subject), a marketing and events agency. I started Create & Cultivate as a side project while working my day job, and originally had no idea that it could be a business of its own.
B+C: Tell us about the turning point when you knew you just *had* to take the plunge and start your own biz.
JJ: Well since I had gotten laid off, I took a month off after suffering that blow. I was applying for jobs and it just wasn’t working out, so I began freelancing and building a roster of marketing clients. That led me to the launch of (No Subject) and we became the go-to marketing and events agency for a lot of what was going on in LA. As for Create & Cultivate, it was a fun side project and a way for me to meet other entrepreneurial and creative women, since I didn’t have that resource before. It ended up growing organically, getting bigger and bigger, and taking up a lot more of my time. So I invested my own money into the company, hired a team, and finally just went for it!
B+C: What inspired you to start C&C? Tell us about your company’s driving force.
JJ: Before Create & Cultivate, there wasn’t anything out there for women like it. I strongly believed in getting women together to discuss our passions and careers and learn more about how we can work together, find mentors, find a business partner, etc. There really wasn’t anywhere for us to do that before, and I wanted to create this beautiful environment to make and build connections ,. The driving force behind the company is that my team is just as passionate about our mission, and the response we receive from our conference attendees only makes all of us want to keep going.
B+C: Did you always know you wanted to work for yourself?
JJ: No! I fell into entrepreneurship, it was never really part of my plan. I was always the girl “killing it” in my career and had a director role at a very young age, but I wasn’t thinking of venturing out of my own right off the bat. I knew that I was good at getting clients and making money, and when I got laid off I used that to my advantage and it led to something bigger.
B+C: What’s been the biggest challenge? And how did you overcome it?
JJ: Being the boss can be very tough. In the beginning, I took a lot of things personally and also struggled to properly manage myself. But you do get better over time, with the more managerial experience that you get. Mistakes are inevitable, but they’re a big part of playing the game.
B+C: What advice do you have for entrepreneurial women just starting out? What do you wish someone told you when you started out on your own?
JJ: Network, network, network. I wish someone had explained the importance of networking to me when I was still in college. A lot of us have the misconception that having a great GPA and work experience is all need to succeed, but it’s really all in the connections you make. Take it upon yourself to go out and meet people, reach out to anyone who inspires you, and do whatever you have to do to build those long-standing connections.
B+C: Now, about your recently published book WorkParty! Tell us what inspired you to put pen to paper and write this modern day career guide.
JJ: I can’t believe WorkParty has already been out for over a month, it’s so exciting! But what inspired the book was all of the questions that I get from our followers and attendees. Sure, there are a ton of career books out there, but none of them really spoke to women the way we do and I was able to share my story in a tongue-in-cheek tone and give women the real-talk advice they’ve wanted or needed to hear to get up and go after their dreams.
B+C: What was the toughest part about writing a book?
JJ: I think that re-visiting some of the harder times I went through in order to fully detail my journey is always tough. But it eventually becomes a bit therapeutic to get it out there, knowing that it could really help someone else who could be in the same boat.
B+C: With many like-minded women and companies focused not only on gender parity across all industries but also on female entrepreneurship in general, how do you see the landscape of leadership changing in the coming years?
JJ: The time for women is now. I definitely see there being more female leadership across the board, whether it’s at big corporations or startup companies. Even for the women out there who don’t want to necessarily be CEO, but still want more out of their jobs, they’re going to speak up more and they will be heard. There’s still obviously a long way to go, but we’re a force to be reckoned with, and we’re coming.
B+C: Being a founder and chief inspirer can definitely mean that a LOT of people lean on you for support. What does *your* support system look like?
JJ: The Create & Cultivate team is tiny but mighty, and we wouldn’t have grown the way we have if it wasn’t for them. I also have a very supportive husband and family who help keep me going no matter busy I get. And then, of course, there are the women who have helped me along the way, whether it be mentors, former colleagues, and the super supportive Create & Cultivate fanbase that has gotten us to where we are today!
Favorite Quote: Collaboration Over Competition
Favorite Recent Purchase: A cute pair of polka dot pants from Zara
Late Night Snack: Pretzels!
Currently Reading: You’re Not Lost by my very good friend Maxie McCoy (editor's note: You can read our profile on Maxie right here!)
B+C: Who is on your top list of dream women to interview? What are some questions you would ask them?
JJ: Oprah! I’d love to learn more about her life prior to her success. I’d also ask her how can I have her speak at Create & Cultivate… kidding… not really.
B+C: On the note of badass babes, who are some up-and-coming women we should know about / follow?
B+C: Given that creativity is so important to you, what are some of your favorite creative activities to do outside of work?
JJ: Well, I love to write. I don’t get to write as much as I’m juggling everything else as a CEO. Getting the chance to write the book was great since I hadn’t done it in a very long time.
B+C: When you’re feeling burnt out or overextended, how do you reset and recharge?
JJ: I think we all struggle with finding that work-life balance. But it’s so important to carve out time for yourself and close your laptop if you have to. I need eight hours of sleep every night, period. If I need something a little extra, then I meditate, go on a hike to clear my head, or disconnect for a few hours entirely. Something as small as putting down your phone for the rest of the day can make such a huge difference.
B+C: Back to the biz, what do you hope attendees get out of each Create & Cultivate experience?
JJ: I hope that they leave feeling inspired enough to get out and do what they were always meant to do! Whether it’s asking for a raise, launching a company, or finding the ideal business partner, all of those things are touched on and made possible at C&C. And of course, I hope they all build and grow their network.
B+C: What do you hope readers get out of WorkParty?
JJ: I hope that they get the career advice that they’ve always needed to hear. I know how hard it can be to not have those resources, and I really hope my story and my experiences can help someone else get to where they want to be.
B+C: What other conferences, workshops, and books do you recommend for self-starting dreamers?
JJ: There are so many free online courses that everyone can benefit from! Whether it’s design courses, writing workshops, or marketing 101, it’s all out there. If you’re not ready to start pitching a big idea just yet, then I think that’s a great way to start.
B+C: What’s up next for Create & Cultivate + WorkParty that we should be on the lookout for?
JJ: Well the WorkParty podcast has officially launched, and C&C will be heading down to Miami in December for our first ever Vision Summit! There’s a lot more in the pipeline, but you’ll have to wait and see…
You can follow all things Johnson on the 'gram at:
@WorkParty: Word hard and party on? Yes, please.
@CreateCultivate: To stay up to date on all upcoming C&C events, career postings, and more.
@JaclynRJohnson: Lots of inspiration + lots of travel!
Author: Anjelika Temple (Design: Sarah Tate; Photography: Courtesy of Jaclyn Johnson by Jessica Bordner, Becki Smith, and M Lindsay )
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