After being fired from an agency role in New York City, Johanna started to question what work really meant, why we do it and how we can do it better.
Combining her skills in communication, creativity and human connection Johanna founded Make Do Co to reconnect businesses to their people and purpose. Through public classes, business workshops and immersion retreats, Johanna works with leaders and organisations to improve their end impact.
We sat down to talk yoga, business, permaculture, failure and taking the entrepreneurial leap.
Firstly, congratulations on Make Do co, I’ve loved watching it unfold! Can you talk us through some of the moments that have brought you here?
So much. There are big pieces and little pieces. One of the biggest pieces is that I was living in New York about 5 years ago, working for an agency there. For a long time I felt quite unfulfilled by the work and in hindsight I don’t understand why I didn’t do something about it sooner. It was just this horrible, toxic environment. One day out of the blue I just got fired. Which was such a shock at the time.
It turned out to be the biggest blessing. I know people always say that about hard times in their life, and this honestly was a huge win. When I was able to look at it objectively I could see that there really was nothing for me in that job and it’s almost like I had all these hints and all these messages but I didn’t listen to them, so life was like “I’m going to kick you out of there, it’s time for you to move on to better things”.
Then I really started to think about what work is and why it is important, why do we work together and how do we work together? This is a big part of what I’m exploring through Make Do Co. Yoga, mindfulness, traditional philosophies and some more contemporary ones which are looking at holistic perspectives really do have the answers of leading a fulfilling life. I think in spaces that have toxic cultures often there’s a lot of fear, blame, ego and all this stuff that sits on top of real human connections. Whenever that is pushed away and people have real empathy for each other and have a purpose they are genuinely working together towards, I think that is so much more powerful, productive and much more enjoyable.
So that was the pivotal moment I guess, but it has really been a series of much less dramatic moments of just exploring these ideas.
What gave you the confidence to step into Make Do Co?
I think listening to other people’s stories, and seeing that other people have done it made it seem possible. I used to build it up a lot and stress about this big change I would need to make, but really it’s just not that dramatic. You just start.
That’s been a big realisation for me – taking the drama out of things. In my mind it was huge, like I’m going to stop this and start this and life is going to be forever different. I really didn’t need to make such a big deal out of it because it is actually very simple and I am enjoying every day so much more than I used to.
You’ve just built your own business and you freelance on the side, are you able keep up a regular practice?
Yes! That’s crucial. I think in Western culture we tend to separate out things, such as commanding the mind or training the body, but what I love about yoga is that it is everything. You can’t have a healthy mind and healthy spirit if you don’t have a healthy body. For me if I am physically well that is the grounding to move onto other things.
Was it always your intention to offer yoga services as part of Make Do Co or did it naturally happen because it is such a big part of your life?
It has naturally evolved, and I’m still iterating on what Make Do Co is, just like most businesses. I really wanted to bring in all the tools that have helped me in my life and things I’m still exploring. Because these things are important to me, naturally they have become part of what I offer. And then of course there is also seeing what people want, people really do want yoga and mindfulness classes. In permaculture they talk about meeting the need where it is, not trying to force something that does not have a demand but actually putting effort into something that is going to respond
As a yoga teacher, I’ve found many teachers or people working with services in the yoga space really struggle with sticking to their value. Can you offer any advice of how to be confident with your cost?
I think it comes down to how you measure success. We get so caught up on money, some people just can’t move past it. Some people will never accept earning under a certain amount and cling to the safety of money and then other people feel like if they want to charge something for their service it is somehow evil and unfair or poisoned by it. Let’s not give money this much power and this much emphasis, it is really one part of the puzzle.
Again, I look to the permaculture principle, which is a design system of sustainable agriculture. Which can be applied to anything. One of the principles is Obtain and Yield, which makes you ask – is the work you are doing going to be worth it? I think that is really smart. I’m not going to put all this effort into something if I get no yield from it. There are other principles that have equal value such as diversity, care of the earth, fair share etc, so if you have a surplus, make sure you are sharing that with people who don’t.
I’ve been talking with a lot of people in the start-up space about work/life balance and whether it should or can exist nowadays, what are your thoughts on this?
The world has changed so much that no one works 9-5. Or even people who have shift work or allocated times to work, for the most part have work to do outside of that. It is just this constant on culture. I think in the past if you could go to work and then just leave it behind when you are away to enjoy your life then that was fine, but it is becoming less and less possible. So if we are going to work more and more, why not enjoy it. I really don’t see the point of doing something as a means to an end, because life is too short for that. What I’m trying to work towards, and what I have achieved already is working on things that stimulate me, and the stuff I read about on weekends is the stuff I write about on Monday and the things we are talking about today are things I go on holidays to explore, so to me it is all life, and I just think every moment should be something fulfilling. I mean when you work hard not everything is comfortable but it should be worthwhile.
What’s your vision for Make Do Co over the next few years?
So much! I have lots of ideas and so many things I would like to evolve. I’m going to continue to do the workshops that I offer, continue looking at creativity and purpose and the empowerment of making and doing something, which is where the name comes from. But I would love to have a retreat centre, with a working permaculture garden so people can come to the centre, explore these ideas, get their hands dirty in the garden, understand the relationships in nature as a bigger learning in life.
Whether your venture is decades old, or not off the ground yet, Johanna can help you connect to your value, purpose and end impact. You can reach Johanna – email@example.com