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This female founder used her failures to build a successful empire

Natalie Mayrath
Producer/Reporter

What Women Want Now is a program by Yahoo Finance and its sister sites dedicated to creating content about the issues and stories that matter most to women. Read more at WhatWomenWantNow.tumblr.com. Join the conversation with #WhatWomenWantNow.

Failures, small or enormous, can knock the wind out of us. But the lessons that come out of them can put us on a path that also includes peak moments of success. Jaclyn Johnson, author of “WorkParty” and founder of Create + Cultivate women’s conference, gave Yahoo Finance a few tips on how to make failure your fuel for success — and why it’s OK to cry in the bathroom along the way.

Raise your hand

Johnson believes women have to speak up at work. In her second job out of college, Johnson raised her hand and asked questions, but says she was then told to “be sweeter” and eventually fired. “Frankly, I was good at my job, and that scared people,” she says. She adds that the traits that got her fired are what make her a great businesswoman and exceptional entrepreneur now. “If you're finding yourself constantly being a threat at the company because you're … asking the right questions, and you feel like people are trying to hold you down, there's a good chance that that energy and those skills can be applied to being your own boss,” she says.

Business partner best friends

After being fired, Johnson started a fledgling event planning and social media marketing business with a friend she met at the gym. The partnership didn’t end well, and Johnson felt a burn that took years to get over. She learned that her particular mix of business and friendship lacked the key ingredients for success. “It can absolutely be done successfully, with lots of talks about money and finance and business, and those conversations need to happen weekly, if not daily,” she says. “And that's something that we didn't do. We had very different roles in the company that weren't clearly defined, which can lead to issues,” she said. Although it was difficult to move on after the disintegration of her business partnership, Johnson calls the experience “her business school” and says the lessons that came out of it are priceless.

Find something others aren’t doing

Johnson’s second entrepreneurial venture really revealed itself when she went searching online for resources and came up short. “Create + Cultivate is a newer company, really built out of that experience that I had where I thought, okay, I've gone through this terrible business partner breakup. I need resources. I'm a first-time business owner. And I basically went online and was searching for stuff and couldn't find it, so I decided to build it,” she said.

Johnson says she saw a “white space” she could fill. “There was a huge opportunity in the women's conference space, and online space, where I didn't find content and experiences geared toward the new, millennial working woman,” she says. She sensed that women are multifaceted humans who can tap their strengths and bolster their weaknesses through collaboration. She thought, “Why not have a multi-faceted event that looks cool, is fun, and talks about raising millions of dollars and how to build your business? It’s what women generally want.” Since bringing its first group of women together in 2012, Create + Cultivate has grown into a multimillion-dollar business, with a platform audience of over 1 million millennial women, hosting three large female entrepreneurial conferences and multiple events nationwide each year.

Take a moment

Even as she’s growing the second notch on her entrepreneurial belt, Johnson remembers to embrace the low points. “There are ups and downs and it happens all the time. It could happen within the same hour… the same day. And then you go to the bathroom and you sob uncontrollably and like, maybe call your mom. And I think the reality is, is you can be emotional about business. Business is absolutely personal at the end of the day,” she says.

Ask for more

Change will happen in a woman’s career, Johnson says, by having a voice. “You have to be vocal. Don't go in and ask for a raise just to ask for a raise. Go in with stats, statistics showing what you've done, what you've negotiated, how you've increased the P&L, how you increased the audience.” Johnson says that you are your own best advocate for your career. She tells her friends not to hold back. “If you want to be part of that conversation, you’ve just got to get yourself out there.”

Follow Natalie Mayrath on Twitter.

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