Literal Shyft was honored to sit down with Joanna Waterfall, Founder and Creative Visionary behind Yellow Co. Yellow Company is a Los Angeles based company built around supporting conscious, female entrepreneurs. In this interview, Joanna shares with us how and why she started Yellow Co., and what we can expect as Yellow Co. continues to grow and expand into the world of entrepreneurship.
LS: Joanna, Thank you so very much for taking the time to sit down with us today! Can you share with us a little bit your personal and professional background, and how you started Yellow Co?
Joanna: Of course! I graduated from California Baptist University where I studied graphic design and digital media. After I graduated, I worked for a small branding agency in Newport Beach, where we worked for small businesses, designing logos, doing their branding, and so forth. Eventually I got married, moved to Los Angeles, and started working for a small studio in Echo Park, also doing graphic design for creative businesses, which I loved.
Ultimately, I started working on my own, and developed a full time freelance career as a graphic designer, which I thought was the ultimate vision that I had for myself career wise. I realized though, that I had somehow surrounded myself with people who seemed to be thinking about themselves all the time, and I too felt like I was thinking about myself, all the time. It put me into a bad place emotionally, because I felt like I had lost my sense of direction and purpose.
And then, one day, I was participating in a photoshop workshop, and I happened to be in a room with a group of women, all of whom were female, social entrepreneurs. They were all trying to solve important problems with their businesses, and leave a genuine impact on the world. I felt amazed and inspired by them, and coincidentally started meeting more and more women like them—women who were using their businesses, passions, and skills to change the world.
All of a sudden, in the shower, I realized that I wanted to start a conference that supported these women who were making a difference. A conference where I would actually want to sit in the audience, to hear these stories and journeys of how these women were using their brands and businesses And so I started Yellow Co.
LS: Wow! What an amazing story of how Yellow Co came to be! How did the company evolve from that initial vision you had in the shower?
Joanna: Yellow Co started mainly as a conference for conscious female entrepreneurs, and we are now in our third year of running the conference. We have attendees from all over the country, and now even from international locations, which is amazing. Our first year we had 150 attendees, then 300 in the second year, and this year we are anticipating 500! At this year's conference in August, we will be launching our membership platform, which will allow our members to connect and support and learn from one another. We are also creating digital content that will be useful for our members.
Although our growth has been wonderful, it has also been a challenge. When the conference was smaller, I was able to pretty much do everything that was needed for the conference. I realized in the second year, that was no longer possible. I am best in the realm of creativity and envisioning possibilities; organization is not my strong suit, and doesn't come logically to me. This year, I realized I had to bring on board an event management company to help me with the things that are not my strengths.
I think the other challenger I face is learning how to communicate the vision that I feel in my heart. I think it is important to be able to articulate clearly what you are feeling in terms of vision and mission, so that other people can understand and become a part of your dream. That has been a learning process for me, and one that I imagine other entrepreneurs also struggle with.
LS: How did you come up with the name, "Yellow Co?" What is the significance of the name to you?
Joanna: When I first thought of the idea for Yellow Co, the image that first came to my mind, being a visual, creative type, was that of a bee. Bees work in community, together, simply doing what they are created to do. Just by being themselves, bees make flowers bloom, they make the world nourished, and beautiful. This is what I wanted to encourage amongst this particular group of women--by being who you are uniquely meant to be, you will make an impact.
LS: I know that your conference is intended for women, but you also attract a number of male speakers. Can you share with me how you decided to bring in male speakers for a women's conference?
Joanna: Of course, that is a great question, and one I have thought about quite a lot. First of all, we are a conference geared towards female entrepreneurs. However, if a male really wanted to attend, we honestly wouldn't turn him away. I also should add that we define "entrepreneur" quite broadly. You don't necessarily have to be starting or running your own business. You can be a part of someone else's vision, but one that you feel very passionate about. You can be an entrepreneur of your own life, simply by creating and designing what you want for yourself. I think of entrepreneurs as those who are wanting more than the status quo.
In terms of having male speakers, I believe that both males and females bring different voices to the conference. I didn't want to create an echo chamber. I thought the attendees could benefit from the unique perspective that the male speakers brought, by their different ways of thinking, even speaking. Just like how, if there were an all male conference, they would benefit by having female speakers. We all see things differently.
LS: Thank you for sharing that, and yes, it is so important that we all have the opportunity to learn and grow from one another's experiences. Joanna, do you have any personal mindfulness practices that are an important part of your daily routine?
Joanna: I think it is very important to be intention and disciplined. First of all, I value getting outside, into nature, for a hike every day. I like to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city, where I can think and breathe. I leave my phone and devices at home so that I can hear my thoughts. My faith and prayer are a big part of my reflective practices as well. And journaling. Journaling helps me to know where I am at, what I feel and think about things, where I am in terms of my body and spirit.
I also have a group of eight women that I meet with, every Wednesday morning. We simply get together and talk about our lives, what's been going on, what we struggle with. We listen and give feedback. They help me to connect the dots. It is a powerful experience to be a part of such a group, and to have that type of support and guidance.
LS: One final question for you Joanna. What inspires you?
Joanna: Hmmm. What inspires me? So many different things. I am inspired by my surroundings. I love working in downtown LA. It is gritty, full of mystery, which I love. The arts district has this unpolished realness, and a creative vibe which I really connect with. And I am inspired by the women that I am surrounded by. My friends, the speakers at the conference, who are genuinely changing the world with their unique gifts. Almost like knowing the shape of their puzzle piece, and how they are meant to fit in. That is inspiring.
To learn more about Yellow Co and their upcoming 2016 conference in August, please visit www.yellowconference.com.
Photos by Caca Santoro; you can find her at http://cacasantoro.com