Love What You Do or Do What You Love
The Nopo Ambassador Jaclyn Johnson opens up about the creativity and self-love behind her self-funded multi-million dollar companies
When you get transferred from New York to Los Angeles by your company, only to be laid off shortly after and be left stranded in a new city with no connections and no work, you would be excused for running back home or slumping in a state of perpetual sorriness for yourself. Entrepreneur extraordinaire Jaclyn Johnson, however, had different plans for herself.
An interior design enthusiast, Jaclyn jumped on board The Nopo Ambassadors’ train early on. “The space I inhabit is very important to me, and I love to fill my house with rare finds and bespoke items. What struck me about The Nopo was their holistic approach to the marketplace, their willingness to put the artisans front and center of their storytelling, and the sheer diversity and beauty of the collection. No one else is doing this at the moment and the fact that it was set up by female entrepreneurs was especially attractive to me.”
Listen to Jaclyn interview The Nopo co-founder Kelly Breakstone Roth on her podcast Work Party.
Born and bred in Florida, Jaclyn went to college at NYU refining her skills at internships in travel and fashion magazines, until a job in the nascent field of social media marketing allowed her to establish herself as one of the early experts in this new and exciting industry.
Eight years and a move to LA later, Jaclyn had to face the scary prospect of being laid off from a job she had placed all her hopes in. After a period she dubbed “Pizza-Cry Fest 2009,” her entrepreneurial spirit came knocking, and at age 23 Jaclyn started her first social media and events company, No Subject.
“It definitely was a masterclass in what to do and, even more so what not to do, when starting a small business,” Jaclyn remembers with a smile. “I made a ton of mistakes but those were the things that most allowed me to grow and develop, and when I began to work on my second business Create & Cultivate, I was essentially a different person.”
The daughter of a loving couple and successful business partners, Jaclyn grew up surrounded by business and entrepreneurship, joking that as a child she would be stuffing envelopes in her mom’s office instead of watching TV. In the beginning, though, mistakes were her bread and butter. A creative marketer at heart, at the start of her career Jaclyn wanted nothing to do with financials, but her mother was the one who helped her fall in love with numbers and learn more about all the aspects of running a business. “Even if you won’t end up doing most of these things in the long run,” Jaclyn cautions, “as an entrepreneur you should have a grasp of the nitty-gritty details.”
Focused, driven, and passionate, Jaclyn is known for diving head down into her work, and she credits this spark of energy and the willingness to continue when the going gets tough to the sense of self-worth she derives from her work. “Anything I have ever done in business and in life generally has been spurred by the immense amount of personal value I get from doing it. I love to create things, I love to build teams and forge relationships with people, I even like to see things fail and understand why.”
In that sense, and as any driven entrepreneur will tell you, work becomes almost a form of self-love, something we do to add value to our lives, create meaningful change and build a better life and world for ourselves and those we love. However, when you live and breathe your work, burnout can be just around the corner, and avoiding it isn’t always easy.
“When I started No Subject one of my mistakes was trying to do everything on my own, and when I started panicking that the work was too much and I wouldn’t be able to deliver, I impulse-hired out of necessity rather than out of skills, often resulting in a waste of time and resources which generated more work later down the line.”
According to Jaclyn, going into business with a partner is a smart move, provided there are clear boundaries and expectations of roles are set early on and continuously monitored. Working as a team helps people build on each other’s resilience and create a healthy ecosystem for the business to develop in.
And that goes for personal relationships too. “You need to surround yourself with people who will support you throughout the process, be that mentors, family, friends, or romantic relationships… I must say ever since we got married, my husband has definitely done most of the cooking while I was concentrating on something work-related no doubt!”
Staying sane when bootstrapping your first business or when facing the challenges related to a pandemic is also no small feat, and Jaclyn actually credits the global slow-down of 2020 for a definite improvement of her work-life balance. Overnight, Jaclyn’s routine of traveling across the States every other week and moving between conferences, planes, hotels, became one of being stuck at home working out how to keep Create & Cultivate, an offline conference business, afloat in an online world.
“I loved my lifestyle before the pandemic, but it was really very tiring. Over the last couple of years, I’ve had the chance to rediscover all the small things not related to work that make me happy, like exercising, eating healthy, cooking. Whatever it is, anything as simple as chopping vegetables can be a wholesome break from constantly thinking about work and ways of making money.”
Love what you do or do what you love, Jaclyn seems to have cracked the perfect combination to a successful and meaningful professional trajectory. “As women, and despite the obvious challenges related to the pandemic, today we have amazing opportunities to develop businesses that we are passionate about, but we need to be resilient and confident enough to do all the things men have been doing for decades. Ask for help, money, support, information, connections. Whatever it is, we can all chip in and support female-led businesses, from liking to following, subscribing, investing, donating, downloading. These are all things that help grow the ecosystem.”
As big supporters of female-owned businesses ourselves, we are grateful and excited to call Jaclyn an Ambassador and a friend and are proud to present her Curated Collection available on the site from today. Head over to shop Jaclyn’s favorites and continue supporting small businesses worldwide.