Create & Cultivate Founder Built a Business on the Belief That Female Entrepreneurs Deserve the Influencer Treatment

The company was born out of desire to put on fun—not stodgy—events for women

Create & Cultivate founder Jaclyn Johnson at the company's SXSW pop-up this past March. Smith House Photo
Headshot of Kristina Monllos

Create & Cultivate, the online community and conference company aimed at young women, has drawn major brand partners in recent years, including LinkedIn, Mastercard, Microsoft and WeWork. The company has seemingly exploded on the scene, garnering not only the attention of big brands vying for the attention of their loyal community but celebrities like Mandy Moore, Issa Rae and Rosie Huntington-Whitely.

To hear Create & Cultivate founder Jaclyn Johnson tell it, the company hasn’t so much exploded as it has gained momentum after years of hard work.

Founded in 2011, Create & Cultivate began much like the projects of the women who are part of the community: It was a side project Johnson ran simultaneously with her previous business, the marketing and events agency No Subject. As Johnson was putting together glossy events for various clients, all of whom wanted influencer attendance, Johnson realized that the events for female entrepreneurs weren’t getting the same kind of treatment.  That’s something she wanted to change with Create & Cultivate.

“Women deserve that,” Johnson explained backstage after interviewing Natasha Lyonne at Create & Cultivate’s SXSW event this past March. “They’re looking at those events on Instagram, they’re liking those posts. Why can’t they have that experience?”

Johnson continued: “I don’t think business and life are so divided where it has to be in a stodgy conference hotel room with bad food. It can be fun and vibrant. The reality is women do their taxes and their nails—those things don’t have to be segregated. They can be interwoven. Women are multifaceted. Why isn’t this event multifaceted? So I was like taking my marketing PR influencer cap and saying, ‘I’m going to host an event for consumers, because no one’s really paying attention to them right now. Everyone is obsessed with influencers.'”

"The reality is women do their taxes and their nails—those things don't have to be segregated. They can be interwoven. Women are multifaceted."
-Jaclyn Johnson, founder, Create & Cultivate

In creating something for consumers, Johnson said it was a gamble to see if people would show up. They did, and the brands followed. The company has grown from hosting 50-person events to hosting massive conferences. On May 4th, Create & Cultivate will host its New York conference. Johnson expects 2,000 attendees and over 75 brands to be part of the event.

Johnson treated Create & Cultivate as if it was a client rather than her side project, thinking about what she would suggest, where she would suggest spending money and how she would advise the company on growing a community.

“The good news about it was it was a community for female entrepreneurs,” said Johnson. “And I was an up-and-coming female entrepreneur. So it was authentic to my life story. It was authentic to my professional journey and I was running the ship. The ideas I’d had that I thought would be cool that kept getting shot down by agencies or bigger companies. I was like, I’m just gonna try it and see if it works.”

Part of the success, per Johnson, has been in growing Create & Cultivate as an experiential business and growing from there. Recently the company began offering premium digital content (each event is recorded and videos of speakers can be accessed for a $15 a month membership) and it has the ambition to introduce products as well as get into the entertainment business.

“We’re going to be a multifaceted media company, presumably soon, where we have tons of product lines, tons of things happening,” said Johnson. “And that’s really my vision. But we built the community first. You know, we didn’t launch an online website, get 100 million views and then say, ‘Oh, we’re doing an event.’ We launched an event.”

@KristinaMonllos Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.