We’ve teamed up with bloom to bring you Moonshots: 10 women shooting for the moon, 10 questions on how they’re doing it. Next, Jaclyn Johnson, founder & CEO of Create Cultivate. Check out Moonshot #1 and #2, and come back next week for Moonshot #4.
How did you know this was the right path for you?
I don’t think anyone knows what the ‘right’ path is. You know what you’re good at. You know where you excel. And you do your best to get to where you need to go and then the universe provides. I had so many career moments that I thought ‘well this is it.’ From breaking up with a business partner to getting laid off—the unglamorous things that people often leave out of their career narratives have all happened to me. Yet somehow I ended up exactly where I needed to be. I try to tell people not to get discouraged by failure or roadblocks, and that it’s all a part of the story.
Do you believe we’re ever really ‘ready’ to do something? How do we start when we’re stuck?
No. There is no lightbulb that goes off or door that opens for you, you literally have to build the door. Taking the leap is easy. The hardest part is keeping up the momentum, to keep going and work harder than you’ve ever worked before. It’s not easy or fun most of the time, but it does pay off. There is no amount of college or getting your MBA that can teach you survival, or teach you how to believe in something you are working towards. It has to come from within.
Doing courageous things requires losing our excuses. What excuses did you have to get rid of to get to where you are now?
I didn’t really have any excuses, I was in pure go-mode. I needed to make this company work. Any excuse I had went out the door, because it just had to to be that way. I didn’t see any other option. There is always an excuse to put something off, to not finish that one thing, to fear losing x,y,z—but you won’t ever know until you try. As an entrepreneur, you have to manifest that mentality 24/7.
What have been your biggest challenges so far, and how have you overcome them
There have been a million. When I was 23, I moved to LA from NYC where I was killing it at my career making serious moves. I got to LA and 3 months later BAM, I was laid off. I was devastated—my whole identity was shaped by the fact that I was ‘good at my job’ and a real ‘career gal!’. I couldn’t get out of my bed (or sweatpants). I cried for weeks, so confused as to how this could happen. I started freelancing, eventually building up my client list enough to move into an office space and hire employees, and eventually took on a business partner. Cut to the business partner break-up two years later—which was stressful and very hard on the business, but I trudged along and kept going. It was a harsh lesson both personally and professionally, but it made me a much better business woman in the end. And now, five years later that company was acquired by Small Girls PR out of Brooklyn NY. Again, everything happens for a reason. Your path is your path.
From the outside it looks like you’ve made it—but what are some of the things that you still feel insecure about? That you haven’t quite nailed yet?
At least once a week between firing off emails, running to meetings, creating proposals and meeting with my team, I have a moment of, ‘what the hell am I doing?’ We all have that moment. You have to trust your gut, believe in your work and as soon as the first person says, ‘sign me up!’ you are golden. Build from there, keep moving and changing and iterating. You can never stay in the same place—once you think you’ve made it you’re done.
What are the things you’re super proud of?
That I am 100% self-made. That this business was built from the ground-up. That brands I adore trust me with their events and ideas. That women I admire (even idolize) speak at my conferences no matter how busy their schedules. That I bought a home with my money. That I’m marrying the man of my dreams despite the fact that many people told me I could only have one or the other. That I am still vulnerable and emotional when I could have been hardened a long time ago.
How do you motivate yourself on the tough days? What keeps you moving forward?
Number one, the fact that we’ve built something way larger than me. The community of women who read our content, come to our conferences, who make decisions based—in some part—on the advice we give, pushes me to make everything better for them. I get cards in the mail thanking me for putting on the conference. CARD. IN. THE. MAIL. Who gets thank you notes for doing their job? It’s an honor and a privilege to give people career advice, which can change the entire trajectory of their future. We don’t take that lightly.
Regardless of how busy you get, what are your non-negotiables?
I am really terrible at work / life balance, but once thing I am pretty adamant about is my sleep. If I don’t get at least six hours I am useless.
What advice would you have given yourself at the beginning of your journey?
The best part of the beginning of a journey is that you don’t know what you’re getting into. I created the conference because I needed information and wanted a community of women to support and uplift each other.
What advice do you have for other women who are shooting for the moon?
I’m going to quote our editorial director here. She once wrote, ‘we shoot for the moon every day, but no one said landing on the moon is easy.’ Aiming high is important. If you chug along with the status quo you’ll never get air. But you need to find your squad. Your A-team. The people who will forgive you when you flake because you’re working late, the people who will push you forward no matter what, and the employees that will support you fully and believe in what you are doing.
Founder & CEO, Create Cultivate