CEO to CEO: BTS with Sarah Dubbeldam and Jaclyn Johnson

Interview with Sarah Dubbeldam and Jaclyn Johnson | DARLING

There are so many brands and companies out there that we love at Darling, but not all of them have we had the joy and privilege of watching from Day One. However, Create&Cultivate has been a fun one to see from it’s earliest onset and not everyone knows that CEOs Sarah Dubbeldam of Darling and Jaclyn Johnson of C&C have been friends for over five years.

We thought it would be fun for the three of us to get together, to sit among these two friends and (if I might add) “ladies who are KILLING it,” and have a quick catch-up.

Create & Cultivate — a company enabling and empowering female entrepreneurs and businesswomen — has been having an awesome year. They launched a pop up at SXSW, threw a conference earlier this year in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago and have a conference in New York and a pop-up in Maui coming this May, with more to come throughout summer and fall.

Sarah and I stopped by their rather pristine and beautiful offices located at the Pacific Design Centre in West Hollywood to meet up with Jaclyn and talk a little about why we love women, companies and the memories from the early days.

sarah and jaclyn bw

Teresa Archer: At the beginning of where you started, did you envision where you were going?

Jaclyn Johnson: It’s so funny because I always think the best businesses have no business plan. For me, when I started it was purely happy accident. I got laid off of my job before I started No Subject and the only way to go is up from rock bottom.

I always tell people, for me, it wasn’t like “I have a business plan, I have all this outreach.” It completely happened naturally and the way it was supposed to. Similarly, with C&C I was really young. I was 23, I didn’t know a lot about starting a business. I was the creative, I had all these ideas but I didn’t know about taxes and cash flow — all those things as a business owner you need to know about. So I hit a lot of trials and tribulations early on and really C&C manifested from that. I really wanted to start a community where freelancers could get together and ask, “What are you doing?” and “What’s working for you?”

So it really started out more DIY and retreats, but morphed based on my personal experiences and also the ones I heard from the other women. I saw women really need this advice, they really need a community where it’s giving you hard-hitting facts but also looks like something you want to be a part of; not a gross conference room or a legal zoom.

There’s this drawing of “the path to success” and it shows everybody thinks it’s A to B, but in actuality it’s all winding and crazy and it’s true! I mean we [Sarah and I] have known each other forever and I feel like it’s so funny to see your friends skyrocket like this. Six years ago we were like, “We have ideas!” Now, we have companies!

… the only way to go is up from rock bottom.

Sarah Dubbeldam: Yeah, we started with our mission statement which was just this concept of somehow the world being better. Originally I wanted to write a book, but we thought people have already written books about this kind of thing, so what’s a continual conversation? And we landed on a magazine.

From the beginning I wanted it to be a blog and a magazine. There wasn’t social media then, that came later. We always knew we wanted to do retreats and events and video was kind of a small inkling in my mind and I didn’t know how to do it. I was kind of the opposite [to Jaclyn] I was like, “I need a business plan!” I was an art major and I”m a creative, visionary person and I didn’t know how to do that so I partnered up early on with some people who were business majors at my college.

It was always so complicated and terrible. I had 95 versions of the plan on my computer and I was Googling “business plans” and I’d download these PDFs. Super extensive and some even said, “You just need a 1-sheet and charisma…”

JJ: [laughing] A 1-sheet and charisma! Amazing!

SD: Yeah, I was really confused about how to actually start. Same thing as you, though, we just started online content, which led to the print. It was about taking advantage of opportunity. You have to focus and figure out the shortest path to helping the business grow. That’s the hardest thing: not getting sideswiped by ideas that aren’t what you should be focusing on. Now we’re going into video because its just the most natural next step from the magazine. Darling has become a media company so that we can reach out past print and keep the dialogue we’ve started going in a really active way.

You have to focus and figure out the shortest path to helping the business grow.

TA: Awesome. What’s each of your most precious memories of the early days?

JJ: It’s funny; things sometimes happen at such warp speed that we’ll joke and talk about, “Remember that office we had that was so teeny and weird slash under construction the whole year we were there?” There are so many moments where you never think in a million years you’ll end up where you’ll end up.

I remember getting so excited about signing deals that were $2,000 and I was like, “We’re rich!” I always tell people when you’re first getting started to enjoy the beginning because once you are in it, you are IN it and you can’t even get your head up for five seconds to say, “We’re doing a great job, congrats!”

It’s always so funny to look back on, like original logo ideas. It’s horrifying! But it’s kind of the best, because you think “I can’t believe this is what I did.” All the archives show how far you’ve come.

SD: I think that my best memory of those days is shipping magazines out of my living room…

JJ: Oh, amazing!

SD: Yeah. We had like a million padded mailers in our living room, all the way to the ceiling, tables set up and our interns coming to ship them from our home. Our landlord even came and said, “You’re running a business out of your house, I’m gonna kick you out!”

The second memory is when Anthropologie emailed us to buy magazines and we didn’t know what to do. They ordered a magazine and one day we put a shipping label on that said, “Anthropologie Headquarters.” We realised that they had emailed us and were trying to buy magazines on our site but we had no wholesale set up. They were our first big retailer.

All the archives show how far you’ve come.

TA: Ok, last question. What do you each love about the other person’s brand and company?

JJ: Oooh I love this question! I am obsessed with Darling’s aesthetic, I feel like it’s very on point. I feel like there are very few brands you can look at and say, “That’s so Darling.” You’ve done such an amazing job, from the magazines to the dinners to the photo shoots to the website. You’ve built a brand that has such a feeling, an emotion and cinematic quality to it. I feel like that’s very hard to do, it’s so crowded in the market, it’s hard to differentiate yourself, but that’s what you guys have done.

SD: Thank you! Likewise, because I’m such a visual person I remember first going to your website and remember the colors, the bold font. It’s so clear what you do as a vision. From the beginning it was such a clear mission.

And your events are just gorgeous! I mean, even looking at your Instagram you get such a feeling of, “I wish I was there!” Your attention to detail is just perfect, from invites to the promoters you choose, you’ve made C&C be the coolest “next big thing.” It seems the coolest thing to be at for women in business and influence. You’ve really branded yourself as “We’re the best at this.”

So there you have it. We really, really like them and they like us. Stay in contact with Create&Cultivate and check them out at www.createcultivate.com and on Instagram at @createcultivate.

Teresa works as Darling's Managing Editor for print and has her BA with honors in English Literature and Art History from Vassar College (NY). Born in London, England, she is currently settled in Los Angeles after living in Tauranga, New Zealand. She loves to travel, write, sport her grandmother's couture from the 1940s.

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