How a Cold Email Launched a Young CEO’s Career
Taking the leap of faith from a steady 9-to-5 to launch your own business takes grit and confidence, but if the fear of staying is greater than the fear of leaving, you really have no choice but to try. Sure, you'll make some mistakes along the way, but that's okay because most of successful women do, and according to young entrepreneur Jaclyn Johnson, it's all "part of the process." The CEO of Create & Cultivate made the jump six years ago and never looked back. She founded Los Angeles–based marketing agency (NO SUBJECT) in 2010 servicing clients from Westfield to Microsoft. In 2012, she launched Create & Cultivate, the must-attend conference for entrepreneurial women, which has had successful sell-out shows in Portland, Montauk, Brooklyn, Palm Springs, and Los Angeles, with its next show set for Dallas later this month. We quizzed Johnson on what it takes to be a female business leader and how a cold email to Garance Doré helped to launch her conference. Scroll down to read more.
MYDOMAINE: How would you define the term "girl boss," and do you think it's still relevant?
JACLYN JOHNSON: Girl boss is and was a cultural moment. The term represents a very specific moment in time when we started recognizing the fact that young women are not just ambitious but capable of starting very innovative, lucrative, and successful companies. Sophia (Amoruso) definitely pioneered the beginning of the movement, and now I think we are seeing more and more “girl bosses” emerge and carry the torch.
MD: What are some of the earlier jobs that helped to shape your career?
JJ: I had a laundry list of internships in college that were all so crucial to forming my career. I worked in a PR firm, as an editorial assistant, you name it. I was the coffee run queen, but I also saw the value in the experience. Being able to even witness what happens at a PR firm, the way people pitch, interact, and network is all part of the learning experience and shaped who I am today.
MD: What was your big break?
JJ: I actually don’t think I ever got a big break. It was kind of a steady period of super-hard work and dedication until people just started to notice. I don’t think there was one defining moment but rather lots of little defining moments.
MD: Can you tell us how the Create & Cultivate concept come about?
JJ: So I also have another company called (No Subject), which is a creatively driven marketing, influencer, and events agency I started when I was 24. As a young female entrepreneur, I faced a ton of trial and tribulations, had many questions that went unanswered and felt kind of alone in the process of being an entrepreneur. I started Create & Cultivate as a little getaway for creative freelancers in the hope of creating a community around me. Cut to four years later, and we have conferences with over 500 women across the country. I realized I wasn’t alone; in fact, there were a ton of women out there going through the exact same thing.
MD: How did you turn this initial concept into a successful company?
JJ: Create & Cultivate truly had a natural trajectory; it grew from word of mouth, initially, and then from press. We were able to grow and scale the company using the foundation of my existing business; then I could spin it off once it became profitable enough. We are a self-funded company that now employs over eight people. I think connections play a huge role, but also just putting yourself out there is super important. For instance, I cold emailed Garance Doré to ask her to speak and she responded; you never know what you’re going to get if you don’t put it out in the universe.
MD: Did you have a business plan?
JJ: We do now. I think initially we were just riding the wave, enjoying the success, but now we want to grow and scale the company to be a massive resource for female entrepreneurs nationwide, so we need a very clear and directional vision for the business.
MD: What advice would you give to young women starting out?
JJ: Don’t be afraid to fail! I know incredibly talented women who have seen businesses fail and then gone on to do something amazing. I think we all attach so much emotion and identity to failure when it should just be part of the process.
MD: What qualities and attributes do you think it takes to be successful?
JJ: I think you have to be persistent, hard-working and believe your own hype. If you aren’t convinced that what you are doing is great, you won’t be convincing anyone else! Passion is contagious, and you have to be about your business!
MD: What is one of the biggest misconceptions about your job?
JJ: That it’s super glam! People think event production is just about throwing parties but it’s a lot of legwork, logistics, and lifting heavy boxes.
MD: How do you shake off the fear and doubt to do what you really love?
JJ: I always say, set out a three-month plan; if you jump blindly, you won’t get the results you want and will feel super overwhelmed. Wake up with a plan every day, and simply check things off the list to get things in motion.
MD: If you could go back and change anything about your career trajectory, what would it be, and why?
JJ: I am actually really happy right where I am; I don’t like regrets. I think everything happens for reason, and it’s fun to look forward and what’s next.
MD: What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
JJ: Oh man, that’s a tough one, but I think I wish I wasn’t so hard on myself about being perfect; perfect in career, life, and love. I was always killing myself in my 20s, and if I knew then what I knew know, I would have chilled out a bit.
MD: What are some of the best tips and tricks you've learned through the women at Create & Cultivate?
JJ: Ah, so many. I literally walk away from every conference with some newfound amazing knowledge. Katie Turino of 12ish Style has great tidbits on when to post on Instagram: “Post at noon EST since the east coast is eating lunch, west coast is waking up and Europeans are getting into bed.” Then of course, Garance had killer advice on staying authentic to your brand and growing a truly dedicated audience based on shared interested versus sheer numbers. The list goes on and on.
MD: What’s next for you in 2016?
JJ: We are announcing out next city on February 15, and, of course, I have Dallas coming up on January 30. I am so excited for the Dallas lineup and to see all the incredible speakers.
Have you gone out on a limb for your career? Do you think risk-taking is an essential part of success? Let us know below.