Clever Girl of the Moment

jaclynjohnsonIt’s Saturday at the Standard in Downtown Los Angeles and a group of fifty bloggers, PR mavens, Google creatives, and tastemakers are gathered in the rooftop Biergarten, perched on yellow Tolix chairs and enjoying champagne.

But this is no average pool party — sunshine and winsome setting aside — made evident by the lack of fringe bikinis and, most notably, that no one is on their phones.

This group of creatives has gathered for an all day workshop, the fourth ever Create + Cultivate series hosted by (No Subject), a marketing and out-of-the-box branding firm led by CEO and Founder Jaclyn Johnson.

Everyone is busy conversing, exchanging ideas, and shaking new hands. In. Real. Time. It’s something you don’t see all that often: the sharing of narrative, taking the online, offline, creating and cultivating.

The workshop is the brain child of Jaclyn and (No Subject) and it feels like the natural extension of her first LA office: a warehouse space downtown shared by other freelancers that sparked a lot of conversation and creativity. It is the through-line of her work.

On this particular Saturday she’s rallied speakers and noted bloggers like Leaf TV, Mr. Kate, Jessica Comingore, The Denim Refinery and Bucket Feet.

The lady is unstoppable; just watching from the sidelines is exhausting. It’s a good thing her clients say her best attribute is her energy.

We caught up with Jaclyn to find out just how she makes it all work and how she fosters creativity in her own day to day life, because we think she’s the whole Clever package.

You wear many hats, how do you balance it all?

It’s definitely something I have to work at. Luckily, I love everything I do so that makes it easier, but there are months where I don’t get enough sleep, don’t work out as much as I would like to, don’t see friends enough and work way too much. Other months I can take some time to breathe and enjoy.  Most of my friends are hustling just as hard so it makes it a bit easier for everyone to get on the same page.

You got your start at Condé Nast, but you only stayed 5 months.  How did that job prepare you? For everyone currently working the assistant grind, what were you able to take away from it that allowed you to continue to climb?

I actually interned at Condé Nast for three years before working there for 5 months and yes it was a grind! I was a magazine major at NYU and really wanted to be a big time editor and was on the path to success when I realized that it wasn’t really for me, which is a hard fact to face. I found out that a lot of what drives magazine content is advertising (not just finding cool stuff sadly– thank goodness for blogs!), but I started to grow more and more interested in the campaigns behind the products and the web in general and my next job led me into social media marketing. The rest is history!  I think for those on the assistant grind it’s important to pay attention to what you actually enjoy about your job/internship etc. and focus in on it, ask a lot of questions, and don’t be afraid to change paths!

You started Some Notes on Napkins 7 years ago. What has been your experience with the blogger explosion?  Did you start it with the intention of success?

I definitely didn’t launch it with the intention of lots of people reading it (hence why some of the first posts are crazy embarrassing and totally hilarious now). The blog world has been a crazy ride, and when I first started it was the wild, wild west of the internet where everyone had their own unique, distinct view and no one was getting paid, so it was really a mecca of creativity.  For me, my blog has always been my passion project and I really like to keep it that way. I enjoy posting and only work with brands that I like (and think my readers would like) because the moment it becomes about the paycheck is the moment it will be work, and not simply the creative outlet I love so much.  I do think it’s great that bloggers have a large share of voice in the fashion world, I just worry everything is becoming a little cookie cutter and predictable. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

What made you take the leap to launch (No Subject)?

The universe kinda made it happen for me. I was laid off from a company, broken up with, and freelancing from home in a city I had just moved to. Needless to say there were many days in pajamas and I wasn’t the happiest camper. Shortly after, I ended up finding this great warehouse space downtown with other freelancers to work out of and the environment really sparked a lot of conversation, creativity, and most of all gave me a space to experiment in. We started by doing events in the space that were “outside of the box,” integrating digital and that had a very specific look/feel. We started getting a lot of attention. One thing led to another and I had my first client. More clients came and all the sudden it was a full fledged business. Sometimes the best plan is no plan at all.

Do you find the marketing space is more accepting of female CEO’s than say, tech?

I think every space has its challenges, but it really comes down to reputation. Be confident, ask for what you want and don’t settle for anything less that what you deserve and you will get the respect you are looking for. If you don’t move on.

Where do you look for inspiration?

All over! I can get lost in sites like fffffound, Lonny Magazine, Instagram and Pinterest, and definitely have spiraled down one too many font sites (I’m addicted).  Offline I love visiting new cities, going on long walks, and seeing what I run into.

How do you consistently churn out new marketing ideas for clients?

Often times we are the demographic our client is trying to reach, so it really comes down to what would resonate with us, what’s new and exciting? We always have our finger on the pulse and like to push our clients to be innovative and think big!  It’s a collaborative process and we definitely do our research to understand markets and what’s working and what’s not.

What would your clients say is your best attribute?

Ah! This is tough. My clients have told me that they love “my energy” which I think is a compliment and/or I’ve had too much caffeine that day.

What is your favorite part of your job? What does “getting your hands dirty” mean for marketing and branding?

My favorite part of the job has to be when we complete a project, whether it’s an event, a campaign, a blogger collaboration, etc. We put so much work, effort, and energy into our clients and when it all comes together it’s such a beautiful thing. I always try to remember to step back amidst the craziness and realize how lucky I am to be able to do what I do.

“Getting our hands dirty” means that we get stuff done. Our team is a bunch of do-ers. I find that at some agencies it’s a lot of beautiful presentations and long meetings, and then nothing gets done. We bring the big ideas, pretty decks, but once the meeting is done we get straight to work.

Where did the idea for Create + Cultivate come from?

We started realizing that a majority of the creative people we knew were stuck behind a computer 8 hours a day (guilty) and we wanted to get a little analog, disconnect from the digital. We didn’t want to create an average networking event. We wanted everyone to feel inspired, get their hands a little dirty and cultivate relationships with like-minded creatives. I wanted it to feel like summer camp with cocktails.

Any exciting projects/collabs for 2013 that you can talk about?

Yes! We are bringing Create + Cultivate to Portland on July 27th, which I am super excited about. Then onto Brooklyn and Palm Springs. We just launched our client, opened an office in Portland, and there are some conversations about a print magazine floating around, we will keep you posted!

On any given day we can find you…

Looking for an outlet to charge my phone.

Favorite piece of advice?

Make your own path. I think so many times we get bogged down in “normal.” I have to have this job for this long and move up; I need to meet someone and get married; I need to have lots of friends and an interesting Instagram and eat well and be skinny and funny, etc., etc. The reality is there is no normal, make your own path, take risks, be TERRIFIED and create your own sense of happiness.

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