Creator and editor-in-chief of Where Women Create, Where Women Cook and Where Women Create Business, Jo Packham is a publishing powerhouse.
The first time I met Jo Packham, she gave me a passionate, “You can do this!” hug as I waited in line at Jo Ann’s fabrics. Ok, so it wasn’t Jo in the flesh, but that was the feeling I got when I first picked up the 2016 spring issue of her magazine, Where Women Create.
Mixed media and assemblage artist Rosemary Lebeau sat gracefully on the cover and I felt like a twitter-pated school girl as I flipped the pages. The velveted weight of the paper married with the crisp, inspiring photos; it was love at first sight. Each article felt so authentic, not the usual watered down and over edited version we usually get from other magazines (Thanks to this interview, I would later find out how Jo is able to capture the true essence of her subjects).
I quickly went home and began the long journey of carving out my own “creation space.” Something separate from the kids and the litter of laundry and housework that nips at my ankles. Distractions that often become the excuse for not connecting with my creative spirit and sticking through the messy, insecure hours my creating demands so I can triumphantly ship a finished product into the world.
When I met Jo for the second time, it was a response through LinkedIn. She instantly taught me the impact of replying with a personal note vs just pushing “connect”. To me, she is not only a creative powerhouse, she is in the business of building relationships in a way that supports success for everyone involved.
Back in 2012 Karin Ulin entered a contest on www.dowhatyouloveforlife.com to win a subscription to your magazine, Where Women Create Business. She shared in her comments … “she didn’t have a clue when and where to start.” Women see someone like you who has been in the publishing business for over 30 years and they think, “I will never get to where Jo is!” Do you have any advice for women that are suffering from “failure to launch-itis”?
I believe 90% of the success is showing up. Do your homework. If you are a “stay at home mom” or someone like me who just simply decided she wanted to get into the publishing business, you need to do your homework. Find out what part of the game you want to be in, who or what your competition is… What is the best way to do this? How much money and time do you need to invest? What can you afford to do right now, so what you do is actually what you WANT to be doing and doesn’t become a failure because you are not doing enough or it is too expensive or too overwhelming, because you are doing too much.
Everyone is afraid to start small, but starting small and doing it right the first time is key. Like going on LinkedIn and writing a short message and making people feel like they are important. You can have success in each stage and not be overwhelmed by it, but you really have to do that homework first, then make a plan. Then follow through the steps of that plan. Yes, of course one out of a hundred-million people will have success right out of the gate but it is like that famous folk tale or urban legend about Liberace, where the guy walks up to him and said, “I would give half my life to play like you do,” and he says, “ I did.” So you just have to do it. You actually have to show up and do the hard work. Then you have to take it one step at a time, because there are millions of great ideas out there but people are so overwhelmed and so afraid, that those ideas never see the light of day.
I think people are afraid to commit.
Absolutely! Life is so fluid these days and with the information highway, it is overwhelming! We compare ourselves to other people, like Ree Drummond who has 5 million followers; but they are not engaged followers. If you have 500 engaged followers that support you and through them that support multiplies and grows, then you will have more engaged people than Ree does. My world is larger than some and smaller than others, but I know that there are 500 women out there that I could call and say, “You guys, I really need help with this. Will you help me?” About 95% of them would step up to the bat and say, “Sure! What do you need us to do?” Where people with 5 million followers, 90% of those people don’t even read it!
That puts things into perspective. We have to bring ourselves back to reality in regard to our expectations and ask ourselves, “How tight and how strong is our circle?” and, “ Are we showing up for our followers or friends like we want them to show up for us?”
In our magazines, we have a formula where we feature one famous person, 3 well knowns and the rest are real people …they are just us. They have small studios, they cook in their kitchen, they started a tiny restaurant. At the end of the day, we get more comments and followers from those real people, because the people that THEY know are completely engaged!
We dismiss our power as a community and as individuals. I look at Joanna Gaines and I think, “Oh my goodness she is fantastic and fabulous!” But we have to watch ourselves and not put people on a pedestal… because when you do that, you give away your own power. Everyone has their own unique and special gifts. Joanna Gaines is fantastic… and we have our own fantastic-fabulousness we shouldn’t be afraid to put out there and share as well. You mentioned in a past interview that the people at the top feel isolated and alone, yet they are so eager to share their skills and what they’ve learned. I’d never thought of that before.
“You are surrounded by so many people and yet you are so alone. The higher up the food chain you are, the more isolating it gets.
Why don’t we build in networking and connecting as we go? Why don’t we build in freedom?
(Big pause for laughter from us both…Exasperated Laughter.) That is the million dollar question and I haven’t got a clue. Everyone is coming at you from all different directions and you feel obligated. When you are just starting out and are brand new, you are willing to try anything because you really don’t have anything to loose. But when you are at the top of the food chain, like Joanna Gaines for example, it is very different. There is much to loose if you make a mistake or the wrong decision. She has exploded: the show, the mill, the line of furniture, the silos, the B &B… and now she is quitting the show. Her PR access!…Even Oprah doesn’t do as well because of not having her show. You can get so overwhelmed with all of the opportunities. And yet your terrified to say no, and the people who surround you, don’t want you to say no, because you don’t know when it will all end and go away. Nothing lasts forever.
I hope we realize that we have no control over the future. That our job is to be present. If you show up for yourself in each moment, every day, that is really all you’ve got. Doing that, gives us back our power to say, “I’m good right here, right now,” like Johanna and Oprah have done. When I do things for others in a way that is not me, I don’t come off as authentic and I get burnt out. My writing and the things I produce don’t have that same sparkle or magic. The world needs magic now more than ever. We need people to show up as they truly are.
Which is why we let the people featured in our magazines write their own articles- and we don’t change them, for that reason! 40 years ago, when I first started my career; whatever publicity you could get, you took. I was creating a line of cross stitch booklets and Woman’s Day was the biggest, most prestigious craft magazine on the market. They wanted to feature craft designers for Christmas and asked if I wanted to be involved. I said, “Of course!” And they asked if I could send them a sample of my Christmas ornaments. I said, “Sure.” Then they called and said they didn’t like my Christmas ornaments and asked if they could make my ornaments for me because they had a different vision… I needed the publicity for the book, so I said I didn’t care. So, they made a series of ornaments for me. Then, they called me a few days before the photo shoot and asked if my “whole family” would be in the photo. I am divorced so there is my son, my daughter and myself. Woman’s Day said, “Well we need your ENTIRE family and we would like your ex-husband in the picture. My ex-husband and I are really close, so he came and did the shoot. Then, they asked me to write a letter to be published along side the ornaments and the family picture, with my signature on it. So here was my article; with not my ornaments, not my family, and I try to tie it all together in this letter, sign it and they don’t let anybody proof it.
So here comes November and I can hardly stand it, I am so excited. I go to the news stand to get a copy and I open it up to see the article with… Not my ornaments. A picture of Not my family. Not my letter and Not my signature! I immediately called the editor and said, “So what happened … exactly?!” She said, “Well, your letter didn’t say exactly what we wanted it to say because it needed to be about “not” your ornaments with the picture of “not” your family and we didn’t like the way you signed your name — so we changed it.”
That very day, 30 years ago, I promised myself, that if I ever owned my own magazine … the people that I featured, would actually get to BE the people that I featured. You can talk to anybody who has been written about in the press, I don’t care who it is or how famous they are; the first thing they say is, “Why would they choose THAT picture?! I hate that picture!” …and the second thing they say is, “I don’t know what I said that made them think I said that, but I didn’t say that!” So, I never wanted that to happen to anyone else if I ever had my own magazine.
My goodness, what a lesson! At the time, that was probably super crushing but, what a gift! I mean, what a gift to us, because you learned something that would (in the future) really help clarify everyone else’s personal message. I am sorry you had to go through that though! That’s awful!
At the time, I was crushed. But it set the trend for our very, very, successful magazine.
You have built a fantastic team around you. What are signs that women can look for in their growth to know it is time to hire help and how can we stay connected to what is important?
From my perspective, it is time to hire help when you are doing the things that you are NOT best at. For example, if you are a pie maker and everybody says you should open a pie shop and you wake up one morning and YOU aren’t the one making the pies. You’re the one hiring and paying the bills and worried about the ordering and you have hired someone else to make the pies…then you need to get back to what you are best at. #1, because you enjoy it more. #2 because you can do it better than anyone else — and you are faster! I can do the accounting in this office if I have to, but it will take me five hours to do what it would take my accountant a half hour. Whereas if he were trying to do a photo shoot, it would take him 2 days and I could do it in 20 minutes! I have alway found a way to get someone to help me that is doing what they are best at because everybody has their strengths.
I read on vintageimagecraft.com that you have a personal theme, “From a woman’s soul. Through a woman’s eyes. By a woman’s hands.” That is so beautiful! Is there a spiritual connection between who you are and what you create and do for a living, or are those two things separate?
I think they are very much entwined. I am not religious or go to church, but I do view myself as extremely spiritual. There are a lot of things I believe in; and I think that people who are good, honest, and hardworking are spiritual by nature. It is part of who they are. Whether they know it or not, it is the spiritual people who are the givers and are the kindest. They are always there and are task oriented. Because they get the job done… They’re the ones. I don’t think that you can’t ever separate the two, from my perspective.
How important is having a spiritual practice? Do you have something everyday that you do to nurture your creative spirit? How do you stay connected to that feeling?
You know, I don’t …and I do have a hard time, in the sense that you are talking about it. For me, reconnecting with spirituality…It’s like, having an interview with you and sharing what we have in common, who we are and how we believe what we believe. THAT feeds my spiritual soul much more than meditating and sitting on the beach and thinking happy thoughts. That stuff doesn’t do anything for me. When I am down and need to feed my soul, I introduce myself to someone I have always wanted to know or I call one of the women we featured in the magazines. Or I will go back and read past issues because it is the people and the connection that gets me up in the morning and keeps me going and balanced so I don’t go off the edge. I think that creative people always stand on the edge. I think, by nature, we are always taking the leap…Sometimes that’s good, sometimes that’s not so good.
Sometimes, being on the edge is a scary place to be. But I feel like we have one hand reaching forward and one hand behind us. I also believe, spirituality and creativity are intertwined and that awareness in what I do, drives me forward… I feel like it is my responsibility to have my hand in back of me holding onto the person that is just one step behind me; helping them forward. I see you doing that. You’re such an inspiration! You don’t take all your nuggets of wisdom and horde them away. You completely showcase everyone’s gifts and not put people in a box. You are showing us all the variety of ways we can be ourselves out there – and I think that’s beautiful!
Thank you so much!
How do you know when it is time to throw in the towel and let go of a dream and when to fight for your vision and not give up?
I wish I knew! How do any of us know when we are close to the finish line or if we are just too stupid to quit? What drives me is that I have worked so hard and I may be so close and yet not see the finish line. If I quit, am I going to be sorry? So that keeps me going…I am not the one who has the answer to this question. If you find someone who does have the answer, let me know and I will feature them in the magazines!
What are your goals for 2018?
I would like the magazines to keep selling really well. I want to sell a million magazines. I, of course want to pay my bills, but if I sell a million magazines and I feature you, then you are in front of a million people and have a million more opportunities. If I only sell 100,000 magazines, you are only in front of 100,000 people. We just entered this program/partnership with HSN (Home Shopping Network) Women Leadership Live, The American Dream Foundation, and Where Women Create Business we four companies are banding together to give new entrepreneurs a really viable, affordable opportunity to sell their products on HSN. They have 90 million viewers. It launched in our magazine this issue. This really will give entrepreneurs who have a product and a good idea, an opportunity to give it to the world without selling their soul or mortgaging their house. It is an amazing program where you can bring your idea to life without having to deal with investors who just care about the numbers and not the story behind the idea. People say to me, “I want to follow my dream so I mortgaged the house!…” In 20 minutes the dream is about to become a big nightmare. That dream can only come to life if you are careful about how you plan it and implement it.
Like you said in the beginning, little steps are ok! Show up every day and start small. Nothing happens overnight. We don’t have to go out in a blaze of glory in trying to get where we need to go!
It is a hard lesson to learn. I have had great ideas and I have also made some big mistakes. I was feeling sorry for myself until, one day, when I was on a tour of a vineyard …and the winery owner shared how he had to reinvent himself 11 times! “I didn’t reinvent myself because I got tired of what I was doing, but because I needed the money!” he said. It happens to everyone. We all make mistakes. So we have to be smart about our choices.
I read somewhere in an old interview that Jo once wanted a talk show, I brought this up and we discussed how amazing she would be, interviewing the little mom and pop shop owners; sharing their entrepreneurial stories with the world. An exciting thought. For now, Packham will continue encouraging us to make those smart choices like showing up and working hard for what we want. Spreading her creative magic with her magazines and cultivating opportunities on HSN for us women entrepreneurs. She leads the way; one hand, reached out behind her, to help us forward.
Laugh hard. Love strong. Live to serve.