DREAM CATCHER: JOHANNA WATERFALL
Artist Joanna Waterfall is motivated by helping people find inspiration in their daily lives. She founded Waterfall Creative design studio to help entrepreneurs to create visual branding for their dream businesses, and she developed the Yellow Conference to bring together women from around the world in a gathering to connect with world-changing creatives who are “kicking booty and spreading good.” Through the annual conference and smaller monthly “Bloom Gatherings”, Joanna aims to help women tune into what makes their hearts beat faster and find a way to use their unique gifts to spread goodness all over the world. Equal parts inspiration and practical advice, the roster of speakers for this year’s August conference will include branding and creative experts and a who’s who of leaders who are already out there making a difference in both the non-profit (charity:water) and for-profit (Sseko Designs) arenas. Joanna lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two crazy cats named Pickles and Mochi.
Did your former career prepare you for running your own business? Absolutely! I’m a designer and have worked on branding numerous businesses. The experience of watching other businesses grow and thrive (or not) through branding was a great education.
Did your original business plan change along the way or are you doing exactly what you set out to do? If it changed, how so? It is currently in the middle of a change. We are launching a new platform online and expanding from just a conference. It’s very exciting but also completely new territory that we are trying to navigate. We are learning as we go.
What makes you different from your competition? We take creative women and encourage them to step outside themselves and work for something greater. There are a lot of businesses talking to our demographic, but we have a deep heart and meaning behind what we do. It touches everything we touch, and makes us different.
What advice would you give to someone who feels overwhelmed by the competition? I used to get so bogged down looking at what other people within the design industry were doing. I worried a lot about not measuring up, I strived to be something I wasn’t, and I got depressed when I felt like I was failing when so many seemed to be doing so well. I think getting older and seeing how human everyone is has really helped me, and chasing after my own creative projects (like the Yellow Conference) has helped me realized how much we need to think for ourselves and allow others to bloom. To not see other people as a threat, but rather to root for them and cheer them on when they are doing well. I read this quote once from Zen Shin that really helped me have perspective: “A flower does not think about competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms.” I started to think about how when we are all blooming flowers we can create a beautiful field of blooms, instead of fighting to be the only one standing. When you start to compare yourself, remember we are all in this together. Life is about your journey – it’s not a competition.
What has been your biggest challenge to date? Taxes, accounting, and finances! I’m not a numbers person, and making sure all the right paperwork has been filed and kept organized is something I’m always struggling with.
How did you fund your dream? Our first conference funding all came from ticket sales. This year we are going after corporate sponsors and are headed to Kickstarter.
How long were you in business before you started to see real growth? What do you attribute that to? We are just now beginning to see growth. It’s still a process but we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
If you could have a one-on-one meeting with any woman, who would it be and why? What’s the first thing you would you ask her? I would love to sit down with Marie Forleo. She works in the internet space and has built an amazing business and brand for herself. I would love to know the ins and outs of how she markets herself and what kind of advice she would have for a person building a business in the internet age.
I wish someone would have told me… That no one really knows what they’re doing! We’re all faking it and putting our best foot forward.
The key to balancing it all is… Be present. When you’re with a person, be with them. Put down your phone and really tune in, listen to what they’re saying. It’s OK to work a lot and to stay committed to what you need to get done, just be sure that you respect people and the times you are with them. Don’t waste the precious moments you have with the people in your life.
My biggest challenge is… Being present.
If I had to do it all over I would… Start earlier with more confidence.
The most important thing I have learned so far is… To trust your gut and have the confidence to go with it.
What would your advice to your younger self be? Stop overthinking things, stop comparing yourself, and just calm down! You are perfect just the way you are and don’t need to stress the small stuff.
LET’S GET PERSONAL:
My favorite scent is… Pine at Christmas.
My favorite TV show… Parenthood.
My favorite food is… Pizookies!
On my playlist right now is… Cat Stevens.
My favorite author or non-business book is… Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist.
I rejuvenate by… Lounging with my husband.
What is one talent you wish you had? I wish I were better at sales.
Who is a teacher or boss who inspired you and why? My 6th grade teacher, Mr. Bamford. He allowed his students to learn the way we learned best. He thought outside the box and pushed educational boundaries. He allowed me to think creatively and told me that it was OK to be different.
A woman who inspires me is… Jenna Lyons.
One thing I hope to pass along to my children is… Bravery.