As the opportunities and the audience grow, it can be easy for one to find themselves being pulled in a million directions with outside influences taking over. For Katherine Johnsen, creator and VP of Growth and Partnerships for Counter Culture agency, she has learned the importance of staying true to herself and ensuring that you grow with authenticity and passion. This has led to countless incredible experiences and the creation of lifelong relationships that Katherine attributes to her happiness and success. We got the chance to speak with Katherine about all of this and learn some of her secrets to building the next generation of opportunity for creators and brands. Read the full conversation below.
Hi Katherine! Thanks for chatting with us today. For those who don't know, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Excited to chat! So, my name is Katherine Johnsen and I'm the VP, Growth & Partnerships of Counter Culture agency which creates culturally relevant program with creators and for brands, amongst many other things. I've been with Counter Culture for 2 years and before that I spent a lot of time leading partnerships for some of the biggest tech and startup conferences in North America. I'm also a creator myself and on the brand side, have worked with tons of brands in tech, fashion and footwear, food and CPG so I like to think that I know the landscape pretty well and that can really help our partners.
Throughout your time in the tech partnerships world and now at Counter Culture, has there been anything that you have learned that is a common thread across it all?
Definitely! The biggest thing is that your relationships are everything. I spent a lot of time with company founders in the tech space and bringing that time into partnerships, I've seen how much those connections that you build can lead to success. I'm constantly trying to expand my network and stay connected with those who are close to me.
That's a great point! As the network builds, how do you always stay in touch with so many people?
I travel a lot and one of the guys I worked closely with at Microsoft who was one of the Top 5 People To Know in the NY startup scene used to tell me to divide my flights into 5 minute intervals and use that time to reach out to as many people as you can, just to check in on them. Just give when you need nothing and then when you need to tap people, they're more than happy to help you because you maintained a relationship there.
With all of the different projects and travel, how do you stay organized?
My calendar is everything and I'm a big advocate of time blocking. I allocate different blocks of time in my schedule to focusing on certain tasks without distractions and that's very helpful. I also make sure to prioritize. We all have so much going on but if you can prioritize 3 tasks for the week and get them done, then that's a win. I love this quote which is, "you don't always have to climb the whole staircase. You just need to take the first step."
Oooh love that! As a creator yourself and a coach so many other creators out there, what is one piece of advice you stand by?
I'm a firm believe that if you like something, then it's cool. I think it's so important to shed the weight of other people's opinions and just focus on liking what you like. A through line to all of the coolest people in our lives is that they are all authentic to themselves. What we often tell creators is that, by just looking at what other people are doing and looking at other trends, you will fall flat. We always say just listen to "what makes me excited to wake up in the morning?" and if you share that, I think it builds authentic community.
That definitely shows in your content!
For sure! My channels are really just an extension of my daily life. I like to share what I'm doing as opposed to doing things to share them.
Love that! Lastly, on the business side, what advice would you give to creators looking to make a living out of this?
2 things! The first is when working with brands, be mindful of your value and your identity and always stay authentic to that. Brands will often come in with their own idea of how they think something should look and will try to use money to push that forward. The key is finding a way to make it your own - that will be the sign of a good partnership - and not being afraid to walk away if it's not a good fit.
Secondly, it's important to think about your long term goals and understand the best ways for you to build your community and ultimately drive revenue. Partnerships are just one way to make money but there are so many other ways to expand your channels and revenue streams. Maybe that's building a mailing list, maybe it's connecting through events or selling product. At the end of the day though, the biggest thing is always prioritize your community. The people out there that are able to do all of these cool things as their full-time job are able to do so because of the community that they built.
Make sure to check out Katherine and Counter Culture on Instagram and keep it locked to Pier Five for more conversations with cool creatives and industry leaders!