Healing Trauma and Getting In Touch With Your Power with Kimberly Ann Johnson, Author of Call Of The Wild
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I’ve always worked for myself (beside when I waited tables and a brief foray into public school teaching). But I took the leap from a calling to a career when I became a mother.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I got a degree in Social Policy- graduated Valedictorian at Northwestern University, and then in lieu of grad school, I moved to New York to dance. I went from dancer to yoga teacher, then Rolfer/ bodyworker. I ran a yoga studio in my house in Rio de Janeiro, taught retreats on an island, and traveled teaching workshops and training. After I became a mother and needed to heal from a birth injury, I entered the realm of Sexological Bodywork and Somatic Experiencing. There was always an online component to the yoga studio and with retreats. When I moved from Rio to California in 2014, I had to completely start over. The yoga world had changed in the 8 years I’d been gone, and I was forging a new field.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Not at all. I always wanted to do what I loved and am passionate about. But being a businesswoman has been a major learning curve. My parents are both entrepreneurs, so I did grow up around an entrepreneurial mindset. I had no idea what I was getting into and I am still surprised by the ongoing upleveling and capacity expanding that’s required.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
My marketing strategy is always to teach people. I talk and write about things that matter to me, and matter most to the people I work with. I prefer to be spontaneous rather than have a script, so I just picked topics and let myself riff on them (at the time on FB Lives), otherwise I knew I wouldn’t get going. I gained a lot of traction by just talking about really interesting things that everyone needs help with – birth, sex, trauma, the nervous system. Then writing my first book also really threw a lot of gas on the fire.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
I am learning a lot about delegation versus taking my hands off the wheel. There’s a lot of advice out there about outsourcing and not doing anything that’s not in your “zone of genius.” But what a lot of people don’t acknowledge is that in doing that you have to train/ onboard someone, you increase the number of communications, and you still do need to manage what is being put out for a while. And leading a company is very different than being a great teacher. So I have made the mistake of “delegating” but without enough direction or guardrails, and then it doesn’t go well for anyone!
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I’m really proud of my new book Call of the Wild for several reasons. My first book The Fourth Trimester was an enormous achievement because I wrote it before I had any money. I was building a therapeutic practice in several cities. Some former yoga students let me live above their garage for a year with my daughter, who was 7 at the time, so that I didn’t have to pay rent while I wrote and built my business. But ultimately I wrote a book about the experience that I wished that I’d had and want other women to have. Call of the Wild is the superset of all of the work I’ve done. I’m writing about an experience that I live and own, and so it feels like a tremendous accomplishment. When I started writing the book, the major context of the book was #MeToo. Then shortly before delivery, the pandemic began and George Floyd was murdered. We entered a new level of public conversation about power and race. Being able to weave these threads through the book was gratifying and made it that much more powerful. Also the cover was something I really fought for- it’s the 14th try. The Jaguar was painted by a friend and student who is Colombian and lived among the Kogi people- Kogi means Jaguar. There is just so much layered power and significance in the book for me, and I believe the layer of power comes through for the reader.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
I’m really not very good at hiring. I actually sometimes ask my dad for help. I have a hard time treating people in an objective way and I find myself over-offering or getting confused. I usually tell people how I work- what I’m good at, what the challenges are in working with me, and then ask them to do the same. What do they love doing? What do they know their weakness is? I also like to know enneagram numbers and love languages!
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Because I work with the nervous system and trauma, I have been busier than ever during the pandemic. I was living in Brooklyn when the pandemic began, and so really had a pulse on what the collective as a whole was experiencing. I was able to kick into service and design offerings responsive to the times. I offered many free classes, where I was able to pay colleagues who were out of work and offer huge value and build trust with my community. I was also able to implement different price points and payment plans.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
You’ll see a lot of cross-field pollinations and collaborations. I will be giving in-person sessions and leading retreats- some of them open to the public, some of them just for students- smaller intimate gatherings and trainings. I’m working on a couple of film projects. My first book has a deck of cards and a journal that have come out to make the information more accessible and usable. I would like to make a similar suite for Call of the Wild. Oh, I’m also working on overhauling women’s health care!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Play the long game. Right now, everything seems urgent- racial injustice, climate change, our children’s education, global health. The only way to feel well enough to be of service, and to be capable of making consistent changes is to zoom out and play the long game.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
That it’s imperative to separate a “me” problem from a business problem. I was so hard on myself about everything. Then I realized I was taking business/systems problems as if they were personal failures. I used to have a hard time getting to all my voicemails, and I thought I was screwing up. But actually it was a business problem managing incoming inquiries- so much easier to be objective about, rather than just “I’m sucking at this.”
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
It wasn’t an incredibly grounded year. I had only been in NY for six months when the pandemic hit. And just three months later I was moving back to California for what I thought was going to be three weeks, and I am still here, 9 months later. I receive weekly Somatic Experiencing sessions as a client. I walk on the beach a lot. And I teach- connecting through teaching and being with people grounds me.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I believe in seasons. In different seasons, different parts of life rise to the surface. As a single parent, I rarely feel there is balance, and I know most moms feel this way. That we are doing so many things, and none of them all that well. Combining phone calls and social time with walking or moving really helps. The more movement I get in, the more capable I feel, generally. I get a lot of sleep. And I take small steps, like moisturizing every night feels like a victory sometimes.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I am still learning how to check my schedule every day!
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
1. Know your own daily cycles and rhythms- your best creative times- and structure your day around them. Often we try to take advice like wake up at six and drink lemon water and write morning pages, because that works for someone else. And that might not work for you. Most productivity information is made by more males.
2. Be clear about the 1-3 things you want to get done at the beginning of the day.
3. If you are lost about what to do, change your scenery and move.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an entreprenista means being a sorceress, straddling trying to exist in the current system while building new ones, respecting the female cycles of everyone in my company, placing humanness above productivity or output, being coherent in what I teach and how I run my business.