How One CEO Is Helping Women Break Through The Barriers Of The Business World

Jaclyn Johnson founded her first business — a "creatively driven" marketing agency — when she was only 24. Six years later, the entrepreneurial powerhouse is also the boss of a second venture: Create & Cultivate, a conference series and online platform for women entrepreneurs. Jaclyn Johnson, named one of Forbes' 30 Under 30 in the marketing and advertising fields in 2015, found success early in her life, and now she's devoted to helping other businesswomen achieve their own goals.

Johnson's personal experiences as an entrepreneur inspired her to found Create & Cultivate  and these include failures along with the successes. Johnson started a marketing agency called (No Subject), which specializes in fashion, lifestyle, and entrepreneurial marketing, after she was laid off from a job she'd moved from New York to Los Angeles to pursue. She was 24, with only a few years of work experience behind her, but Johnson says that losing her job motivated her to found her own company. 

However, striking out on her own was not easy. Johnson says, "When I first started [(No Subject)], there were a lot of issues with ageism and sexism, and people trying to lower the worth of my services. And there were many times when I bought into it. I was like, 'Yeah, you’re right, I shouldn’t be charging that much.' It happens all the time." It was this difficulty that later moved Johnson to found Create & Cultivate, which strives to unite women entrepreneurs so that they can support one another.  

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Essentially, Johnson wants to create a network that wasn't in place when she first started out. When she founded her agency, she says,"There was a lot of trial and tribulation, a lot of errors made, lessons learned." She adds that sometimes, when things went wrong — clients failing to pay, etc. — she thought that she "was the only person this was happening to." Johnson adds that young entrepreneurs like herself simply were not "getting the information that they needed, or the support that they needed, from their own colleagues."

It sparks a lot of ideas and collaborations. Things arise when people have [Create & Cultivate] as the common denominator, whether in their conversation or in their friendship.

Johnson is all about learning from her colleagues. In fact, she tells Bustle that "What I’ve really found is, my peers are my mentors. That’s the new mentorship, I think — it’s more colleague-driven and age agnostic." It should come as little surprise that Johnson and her all-women staff (she says this was not intentional, but rather that no men applied for positions at her company) make time to convene for weekly lunches on the rooftop of the company building, as well as attend Soul Cycle classes and take morning hikes together. 

Not all women work in environments as collaborative and supportive as the one Johnson has created, which is one reason she founded Create & Cultivate: to create a supportive network of women entrepreneurs. She says, "One of the things I’ve always prided myself on is [that] so many amazing collaborations have come to light, so many friendships out of Create & Cultivate." Johnson adds that at Create & Cultivate conferences, she sees a "community of female entrepreneurs banding together and supporting each other."

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Johnson and her team organize three such conferences each year, where women entrepreneurs attend panels on subjects which range from digital marketing to raising money. The May 2016 conference in LA will feature keynote speakers such as Chelsea Handler, Jessica Alba, and Rachel Zoe. Clearly, this is not your typical dreary hotel conference experience. Johnson explains: "I wanted to kill the stereotype of conferences and really bring to the table a full-blown experience, but then not drop the ball after it was done, so it could continue the conversation about female entrepreneurship."

Johnson wants female entrepreneurship to be a conversation every day, which is why Create & Cultivate does not end with each conference, but continues through the company's online platforms. Johnson says, "We should be consistently spotlighting, having conversations, and highlighting issues people are facing. Taxes! It was Tax Day yesterday, we did a whole bit on 10 things you didn’t know you could write off. Our goal is to be as useful as possible. And it really stems from questions we’re asking ourselves, questions that we’re going through." 

Johnson hears about Create & Cultivate's success constantly: "I probably get five to seven emails a week from people who are like, 'This is a gamechanger for my life, for my business.'" She laughs and says, "One of my friends got engaged at Create & Cultivate in Montauk. We always joke that there are going to be Create & Cultivate babies, Create & Cultivate weddings. It sparks a lot of ideas and collaborations. Things arise when people have [the conference] as the common denominator, whether in their conversation or in their friendship." 

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However, it must be noted that Create & Cultivate's success in creating relationships between women entrepreneurs is a testament to Johnson's expertise as an entrepreneur herself. "It’s so personal to me. If someone came to the conference and didn’t get a gift bag or didn’t get a gift bag with XYZ item in it, I will buy that item and ship it." No wonder Johnson says it's all work, all the time right now. "A lot people ask me about work/life balance. The reality of the situation is that I don’t really have it right now. But I’m OK with that," she says. "I’m cool with being at work all the time, because I’m enjoying it."

Johnson has created a positive work life, and is helping other women to carve similarly successful — and enjoyable — career paths for themselves. And she's always willing to offer advice along the way: "Don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. We’re all in this together. Everyone’s learning, even myself."

Images: Jaclyn Johnson (1)

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