The Create & Cultivate founder on building a successful brand, her advice for millennials in the workplace and her favorite spots in Austin.
By Courtney Runn, Photo by Beck Smith of Smith House Photo
Yesterday, Create & Cultivate came to Austin for its third South By Southwest pop-up conference. The daylong event included a variety of panels about marketing, branding and blogging, and included conversations with Queer Eye’s Tan France and Russian Doll’s Natasha Lyonne.
Launched in 2012 as a resource for millennial female entrepreneurs, Create & Cultivate quickly resonated with its audience and is known for its nationwide conferences, glitzy lineup of speakers—Kim Kardashian, Chrissy Teigen, Meghan Markle among others—its millennial-pink marketing and, of course, its founder, Jaclyn Johnson.
No stranger to the entrepreneurial world, Johnson had already created and sold a successful business before Create & Cultivate and wanted to find a solution to bridge the “gap in conversations, resources, events and community for female millennial entrepreneurs.” Her solution landed her on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and has led to a book about her work philosophy and a top-ranked podcast.
Austin Woman sat down with Johnson at her SXSW event to chat about building a successful brand, her advice for millennials in the workplace and her favorite spots in Austin.
Austin Woman: What does a day in your life look like?
Jaclyn Johnson: Typically, I get up pretty early. I’m definitely a morning person. I like to be in the office ahead of everyone else just so I can get a few hours to myself. Every day is a little different in the events world because we’re traveling, we’re flying, we’re going to different places. Day to day, though, I’m doing the 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. grind and like working all the time. Obviously, I hang out with my husband and friends when I can, but, I mean, the thing about entrepreneurship is it’s not just 9 to 5; it’s the 5 to 9. You work all the time, but I love it, so it’s been really, really fun.
AW: You travel constantly for work. Do you have any tips for surviving a busy travel season?
JJ: I don’t have any tips; I would love to know. But I would say I’ve gotten really good at it. … I used to be, “Let’s get in and out! Let’s get in and out!” Those are so hard on you, like those six-hour flights. You’re there for 24 hours and fly back for six hours. So, now I kind of, like, spread things out. If I know I’m going to be on the East Coast, I try to do as many trips as I can on that side of the country. … But you really do need to hydrate and take care of yourself. My book tour was, like, brutal. It was 40 days on the road, so it was wild.
AW: Who has been your favorite interview to date?
JJ: I just interviewed Tan France. … What a legend. I was like, “Cool. We can never interview anyone ever again.” Tan’s amazing. Gina Rodriguez was incredible, Issa Rae, just to name a few that were some of my faves. Meghan Markle was great.
AW:Why do you think it’s important to keep bringing Create & Cultivate back to Austin?
JJ: Austin is the best. I’m obsessed. Every time I come here, I’m like, “Should I live here?”… I think Austin is such an epicenter for tech and innovation, and so many people are bringing companies out here or moving their companies out here, and also, there are all these cool woman-owned businesses out here. I was with Tyler Haney with Outdoor Voices the other night and I’m like, “This is a really incredible environment, not only for businesses, but women-owned businesses.” So, every year when it comes to South By, we want to be involved in that conversation. We want to bring the female-centered programming. We have such an incredible Texas database. After New York and Los Angeles, Texas is our third-largest market, so, for us, it’s always important to show up here.
AW: What are your favorite spots in Austin?
JJ: Launderette. Oh my god! Hank’s. It’s beautiful. … Those two are definitely my go-tos. I mean, I could eat at Launderette every single day.
AW: In one of the SXSW panels, you mentioned the importance of work relationships and the concept of “teamship.” How do you practice that?
JJ: The whole idea behind teamship is that you have a relationship with your team. Teams are very different from any other relationship in your life, whether it’s boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, whatever. Team dynamics are very real and you have to nurture and evolve your team just like you do any other relationship. And so, for us, we are obviously a small team, so we have to constantly be thinking of one another. What’s our next move? How can we jump in? How can we really help? How can we be a part of this in a bigger way? For us, our teamship is the most valuable thing because if one thing goes wrong in the team, it could mess up your entire business.
AW: How do you retain your values and brand as you scale?
JJ: It’s a challenge; it’s absolutely a challenge. I mean, I think the good news is that I’m a pyscho and I’m involved in every single little detail and I care so much about every little thing, so I think, for me, being that hyperinvolved from the get-go makes everyone else who works under me hyperinvolved and detail oriented and caring about all the little things, so it really can roll over.
AW: There’s a rising group of millennial CEOs and founders like Tyler Haney, Emily Weiss and yourself who not only created successful brands, but became recognized public figures in the process. What do you think of this new community of quasi-celebrity female CEOs?
JJ: I think it’s great. I think at the end of the day, when women and specifically girls see themselves represented in positions of power as CEO, as a director, as executive producer, as whatever it might be, the more they say, “I want to be like her,” or, “I want to be like that when I grow up.” I think, previously, when I was growing up, I didn’t really know that many women in positions of power. … My mom owned her own company with my dad, so, in my mind…I was like, “My mom and dad are the same. They own their company together.” So, that’s how I was raised. So, if people see me online and they’re saying, “Oh, she did it. She did it on her own. She built this thing. Then I can do it too,” then that’s success. That’s important.
AW: Do you have any advice for millennials having a hard time taking that first step in changing industries or going after a job?
JJ: Start by starting. You have to get out there and just be ready to fail, be ready to pick yourself up and do it again.
AW: What’s next for you?
JJ: Sleep. So excited. Can’t wait to go to bed. No, I think next for us is Coachella. We have our big, big event there. We have a conference in New York. But we just launched this membership program that we’re really excited about. It officially launches on April 2. This was really built because, you know, there may be 1,000 people here coming through today, and we reach over a million women monthly, and while we’re able to hit at least 1,000 women in different cities, we aren’t talking to everyone we want to talk to. How are we showing up for them? So, we launched this membership program where we will be videoing every single panel that we have and then they’ll be able to watch it with their girl gang at home, in Kentucky, or wherever they might live, and be able to get access to that content and even more exclusive content, digital mentorship, all sorts of things. So, we’re really excited about that program.
AW: What’s inspiring you right now?
JJ: I think Austin. All of these women here, it’s incredible. It’s SXSW. … They’re so many amazing speakers here. I always love coming back here.