Meet Joanna Waterfall, Founder Of The Yellow Co.

Joanna Waterfall founded The Yellow Co. in 2014 as a space for women like herself who wanted to use their various skills for the greater good. Last year was my first attending Yellow’s annual conference and it was an honor to gather with like minded women and who are pursuing careers of purpose and passion. Joanna’s vision for Yellow has expanded from an annual to conference to a quarterly membership collective and her plans for Yellow continue to grow. I had a chance to ask Joanna about the challenges we women often face in our creative endeavors and how she overcomes resistance to her own creative work.

The Yellow Conference has become a leading community and gathering place for female entrepreneurs and creatives to inspire and encourage one another. What was your original vision when launching Yellow?

I was very selfish when first starting Yellow… I wanted to create a space that I myself would feel welcome and excited about. A place where purposeful, creative entrepreneurs could hear from women who were a few steps ahead of them, already making waves of good in the world. My background is in graphic design and digital media. I ran my own graphic design company for years. I was always looking for ways to bring more purpose into my work, but was never sure how to make that happen. I figured surrounding myself with women who wanted the same thing would be a good step for me. It was totally selfish!

I wanted to create a space…where purposeful, creative entrepreneurs could hear from women who were a few steps ahead of them, already making waves of good in the world.

What do you believe are the greatest challenges facing women in their entrepreneurial and creative endeavors? How do you see women overcoming these challenges?

Women have come so far. To think that less than 100 years ago we didn’t even have the right to vote, and now we’re running for president and running companies and building empires. It’s inspiring to think about. Women have come a long way, but we still have a lot to overcome. Women are running towards business at an unstoppable rate. In fact, African American women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs, increasing by 300-something percent within the past 10 years. 36% of privately owned businesses are women owned, but out of that 36%, only 10% of them have employees. That means 90% of women business owners are soloprenuers or use independent contractors instead of full time employees. Which means that women are starting businesses but not scaling them. 

There are so many factors contributing to this statistic. I could go on and on about my thoughts on this, but pairing this data with my experiences and from what I’ve observed is that we have a lot holding us back. Fear is a HUGE one. Women are not raised to be risk takers. It’s not what we are born with, it’s what we’re taught from a young age. Business is all about risk taking, so we have a daily battle to fight against how our brain has been wired. We also have to ask ourselves questions that men don’t have to ask. Do we want to become a mother or are we already one? What would that mean for my children? What would that mean for my business? Would I be able to do either one well? These 2 things and many others are constant challenges women have to think about and overcome in order to become entrepreneurs.

The thing I love about women is our problem solving ability, resilience and strength. Women just make it happen.

The thing I love about women is our problem solving ability, resilience and strength. Women just make it happen. There’s no formula or rule book to follow, we’re still paving new roads. But we do it. Somehow we show up and we do the work. Because of that, I know women in the entreprenurial space have an amazing future ahead of them. We’re still learning, but we’re making it happen, and we’re changing the world while doing it. 

How do you wrestle with your own creative block or inner resistance that may threaten to keep you from moving forward in your work?  How does this resistance manifest for you at times?

I think the biggest thing that has helped me overcome the resistance I face is embracing the fact that I’m going to feel miserable a lot. Work is hard. Getting up early feels horrible. So does exercise to the body and to the brain. I’ve learned to get comfortable with misery. I learned to do this after reading “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. He talks a lot about resistance and misery, and how the people who have learned how to embrace the misery oftentimes are the ones who are able to move to higher levels of thought. My resistance manifests itself in a variety of sneaky ways. I’m a 9 on the enneagram scale, which means I hate conflict and avoid it like the plague. I feel a ton of resistance when I have to face conflict in large ways or small. I’m learning how to fight it daily, but it’s always a struggle!

Do you care to share some of your favorite resources; books, podcasts or blogs that have inspired your work as an entrepreneur?  

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield as I mentioned above is a great one. Brene Brown’s Rising Strong totally changed the way I look at failure, empathy and judgement. It’s SO GOOD. The E-Myth Revisited is also SO GOOD. It completely changed the way I view systems, processes and small business. Every small business owner needs to read it. 

Last but not least! How can women get involved with Yellow outside of the annual conference gatherings?

We have a new membership platform called The Yellow Collective that is just getting started. It’s a way for these entreprenurial women to connect, get equipped and inspired throughout the year. If you have the means to become a member, sign on up! Or you can hop on our email list to be updated on some really exciting things we’ll be rolling out through 2017. Follow us on all the socials as well!