A view of the stageCreate and Cultivate Powered by Mastercard, San Francisco, California, USA - 21 Sep 2019Mastercard continues its mission to spotlight and inspire women small business owners across the nation through its ongoing partnership with Create & Cultivate.

Conferences geared toward educating women are big business, it seems.

Create and Cultivate, the conference series whose keynote speakers have included Jessica Alba, Issa Rae, Meghan Markle and Kim Kardashian West, has come a long way since its beginnings seven years ago. It started as a hobby, said founder Jaclyn Johnson, who envisioned the company as an educational tool for women looking to take the leap toward launching their dream careers.

Now with 25 installments under its belt, Create and Cultivate is a multidimensional business with various revenue streams, including a bespoke events service, a fast-growing online platform and a soon-to-expand product line sold at Target. The company has more than tripled last year from eight employees to 25. In 2019, it generated just under $13 million in revenue, according to Johnson.

“We’ve done a good job of curating an experience that allows you to mix and mingle and network with women you wouldn’t normally in an intimate enough environment,” said Johnson. “Sitting with a lawyer for 30 minutes costs you, what, $1,000? The [Create and Cultivate] tickets are $275.”

Live experiences of the conference, summit or festival variety have become the popular thing in recent years. Fashion, beauty and media brands are all cashing in, driven by Millennial demand for unique, offline experiences and, of course, the prospect of profitability. Though, as WWD recently reported in the case of Beautycon, there are often challenges.

In the case of Create and Cultivate, the model is profitable and has been from the start. The conferences account for 50 percent of Create and Cultivate’s revenue, said Johnson. She added that though her company has not taken on any investment, she is an angel investor in both Away and Live Tinted, the beauty brand founded by influencer Deepica Mutyala, whom Johnson met through a Create and Cultivate event.

“The fact that we’re completely self-funded has really helped us,” said Johnson. “We’ve taken no outside money, we’ve been scrappy. When everyone else is focused on fundraising, we’ve focused on building a business that makes money. That is authentic to the message.

“We reverse-engineered a media company,” she continued. “We built an experiential-first business, focused on building the community, then built an online presence — the opposite of what most people have done.”

Create and Cultivate’s conferences typically host more than 1,500 attendees. They generally fall within the age range of 21 to 45 and earn at least $75,000 a year.

The other 50 percent of Create and Cultivate’s business consists of its bespoke event services, of which more than 30 brands, including Aerie, Timberland and DSW, are clients. There is also the digital platform, which is visited by “tens of thousands of women,” said Johnson, who have the option to subscribe for either $95 or $140 a year to access content by Create and Cultivate’s editorial team, as well as videos of past conferences. There is also a podcast series and a product line of office supplies sold at Target.

“It’s important to diversify not only the type of revenue that we’re getting, but also the type of businesses we have,” said Johnson. “We have a rabid, dedicated audience. Also, we’re lucky in the sense that we’re pretty small. We can pivot and adapt and come up with new concepts quickly compared to other people.”

Moving forward, Create and Cultivate will expand its team even further. It will also soon grow its product category and is exploring entertainment development options.

Further down the road, said Johnson, are the topics of international expansion, and potential investment in order to do so.

“International expansion is definitely on our list,” she said. “We’re looking at Canada, London and Australia as starters. It will be a 2021 conversation, I think. For 2020, we’re focused on building out U.S.-based ideas.”

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