Just like bees spend their lives working in community, spreading their purpose and making flowers grow, so does the collaborative and vibrant philosophy behind the Yellow Conference. Inspired by creativity, camaraderie and a can-do- good attitude, bringing likeminded together and encouraging them to pursue their full potential through collaboration simply seemed like the fitting thing to do for Joanna Waterfall.
Yet, the visionary creative – whose idea for the Yellow Conference bloomed in the shower just a little over three years ago – could not have predicted the brand’s feverish following and loyal support from entrepreneurial women across the country.
This year’s conference, which I had the opportunity to attend for the first time, gathered more than 500 ladies in L.A.’s Downtown Arts District for two days of sheer magic, connecting, learning, reflecting and inspiring, all with an unbelievable lineup of speakers that included Alexis Jones, Elle Luna, Jessica Ekstrom and Jedidiah Jenkins. As planning for next year’s conference begins, Joanna made time to chat with us about what makes her bloom.
Describe what you do and what sets your approach and your client work apart.
I’m the founder and overall visionary for Yellow Co. We equip and inspire creative, entrepreneurial women to become agents of good. I think what sets us apart is that we are community-based, trying our best to connect these like-minded women to each other, so that they can go out into the world and make a real difference. We believe that powerful things happen when women come together – that when we band, we can and will make this world a better place.
What inspires you?
It depends on the day. Sometimes I’m inspired by a song lyric, by a melody or by a work of art, but I think what ultimately inspires me the most is women who have fully stepped into what they were created to do and are running towards that with bravery. That’s inspiring to me.
Describe your creative process. How do you keep your thinking fresh and invigorating?
I think to create well, you need to create space, a void, a place that’s not focused on anything but being present. Those are the times when the best ideas come, so for me, it’s making sure I have the space in my life for those times. Getting out of my bubble, going to events, getting out in nature, meeting other people doing amazing things, those are all things that keep me thinking fresh.
How do you think the creative field has changed for women in the past five years?
The creative field has changed so much in the past five years. With the internet, there is room to create whatever you want. With Pinterest, you can be inspired by the best work from all over the world at the drop of a hat. This is a good thing and can be a not-so- good thing as well because we don’t have to think for ourselves. Now, with the world at our fingertips, the challenge is to continue to create original, creative work that’s not simply copying someone else’s.
What has been your proudest moment?
This is a tough question! I think when we are trying so hard to move and scale, it can be difficult to stop and celebrate our successes, to even take a second to feel proud. I think this year’s Yellow Conference was a very proud few days I had. The women who came were amazing. The speakers were unreal, and the feedback we got was great. I was really proud.
I believe the idea for The Yellow Conference came to you in the shower. How did you know this was one of those ideas you just had to pursue?
You’re right on that! I think it was something that would hurt me more if I didn’t pursue it than if I did. It was one of those things that I couldn’t not run after… it was like it was within me and had to get out, almost as if I didn’t have a choice in the matter. It’s difficult to explain, but something within me told me I had to do this.
When I was thinking about what I wanted this conference to be, I started thinking about how I wanted to encourage women to be like bees. Bees are hardworking; they live and work in community; they do nothing but what they were created to do. And in doing what they were created to do, they make flowers bloom, plants grow and give us fruit to eat. They don't even realize the impact they are having on the world, because they are just being themselves. This is what I wanted to encourage our attendees to do: be themselves, work hard and see the blooms spread. And, bees are yellow! Also, being a graphic designer, I loved the idea because I could see the entire brand in my head – everything yellow. I knew it would stand out; it’s happy, positive and bright. Everything fell together!
To what do you attribute Yellow’s success?
I think women ultimately want to work towards something greater than themselves. Not to get all into gender norms, but I have observed that women tend to be nurturing, empathetic and giving. I think this attributes to us wanting to have purpose within our work. The do-good aspect of Yellow makes us different, and I think it really helps us stand out.
How do you see the conference growing in the next five years? What’s your ultimate vision?
I see us [expanding] our chapter model and membership and then having the conference be the celebration piece of everything our members have accomplished within the year. While I don’t see Yellow growing too much in numbers (I like the smaller, intimate vibe), I do see it growing in depth. Society is often pitting women against each other.
How do you keep yourself competitive within the industry without directly competing with fellow female creatives?
I think continually leaning into what makes us different and what our strengths are is key. You’re not going to get anywhere by continuing to look at what others are doing and copying them. I try to stay as up-to- date as I can on industry trends, tech and business, but when it comes to what we’re doing, I try to keep my blinders on… knowing that leaning more into what we’re good at will keep us competitive and unique in the industry.
What would you say to women who are hesitating with taking a big risk?
I’d say time and time again: know why you’re going into this risk. Taking risks isn’t easy. There are really rough days and times you’ll want to quit, but if you have a strong sense of why, if you’re doing it for the right reasons, it will make it all worth it.
Yellow Conference 2017 will take place next August in Los Angeles. Learn more at yellowconference.com.