If you’re just joining in, for the month of January we were inspired to change up our content for the month to focus on women who we find inspiring and can tell us about their journey of “becoming” based on our Book Club book of the month by Michelle Obama. We received such a great reaction, we’ll be sharing them as a permanent column. You can read the rest of the interviews here. Stay tuned for many more!
Jordan Ferney is the founder of the delightful party website and shop, Oh Happy Day, and color experience, Color Factory. She was one of the first bloggers to focus on creating beautiful original content on Oh Happy Day and set the bar high both in quality and innovation. I first became familiar with Jordan’s work when I came on board as a contributor in 2011 creating party tutorials and have loved following along on her journey ever since. I’ve grown to admire her dedication to setting high goals and going after them even if they’re super risky. As a non risk-taker, I value seeing that pathway. She’s always been super generous with her business advice both and I’ve been so lucky to be on the receiving end of it. Lately, one of my favorite things to do is to follow her personal Instagram page because she’s super open about showing both her successes and failures. This year she’s shaking things up a bit and she’s sharing some if it with us today.
Becoming: Jordan Ferney
What did you want to be when you were young?
A Marine Biologist cause thats what EVERYONE wanted to be when I was eight years old. In college I thought I wanted to be an Event Planner and when I realized there were very few courses for that and a degree in Hospitality wasn’t appealing I graduated in English Literature.
What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, maker, etc.
I feel like its only been in the last few years I’m finally able to answer this question (it used to be so confusing to me.) I’m married to an oil painter and can see the years he has spent perfecting his craft and work and it didn’t feel right to call myself an artist. I’m also not a designer, but I am a visual person that can “speak the language.” It was always sort of fuzzy to me what my role was. I now consider myself a Creative Entrepreneur. What that means to me is I’m the one to create the vision and then grab all the power and give it to the right people. I also have a talent for seeing very clearly what other people are good at and taking risks which I’ve learned is integral for creating good work and having success.
How did your childhood influence what you have become? (big question, but you can make it as big or small as you’d like).
I grew up in a big family. (#7 of eight children!) My parents were teachers and so while my parents were very educated we didn’t have a lot of money. I learned very early that if I wanted ANYTHING I had to figure out how to get it myself. It forced me to learn to be scrappy and be a squeaky wheel when I needed something. My parents loved us but there wasn’t a lot of money or parental attention to go around. From my dad I got an ability to understand people’s intentions and human nature, from my mom I got my creativity and taste.
Did you feel pressured in any way to pursue a certain career path?
Luckily/unluckily my parents were hands off to a large degree. There is a lot of freedom in that (they didn’t make me be a lawyer or whatever) but sometimes I get annoyed that they let me be an English Major, (interesting classes but a very unhelpful degree if you don’t have any money.) For my own kids I will always encourage a marketable skill within their subject of choice, even if its a minor.
Did you have anyone along the way that was instrumental in the trajectory of your life?
SO MANY PEOPLE saw something in me and gave me a chance. Teachers in high school, people who I met at conferences, people I met on the internet. Get mentors and advisors. Mine came about organically–I would have a natural connection with someone and sometimes it has evolved into official advisor positions where I pay them or give them equity.
You were one of the first people to produce original content for your blog. What lead you to think that it would be a viable career, especially in the early days when you weren’t getting paid for it?
Ah…. early days of blogging. It was SO MAGICAL. I thought it would last forever. (sad trombone) I’ve always been good about having a bigger vision and investing in myself. In the beginning I was a SAHM who was middle class and our family of three lived month to month on one paycheck. After I got enough paid writing gigs (I was creating content for other websites) I would work during naptimes and at night (and lets be honest sometimes while Little Einsteins babysat my child.) I had a choice. I could keep the much needed money or invest it back in my business. Instead of pocketing the money I hired a babysitter for 15 hours a week and would spend that time creating content for my own site. If you’re reading this now it seems like “oh, of course that’s the obvious choice to grow your business.” But at the time it felt risky and scary and like I was gambling and wasting money. I’ve always been able to “delay gratification” and invest in my own business. That has always been intuitive for me. And it has absolutely paid off. I’ve been able to grow two multi-million dollar companies with no formal business training or outside investor money. I’ve always kept control of over 97% of the company.
Oh Happy Day started as a personal blog, morphed into a larger team, and then you turned to a shop, and now Color Factory. What lead you to each phase? Which one excites you the most? Where do you see each one going?
They’re all evolutions of the same beast. Every time we’ve launched a new revenue source or brand it was usually out of a need to stay relevant (everything changes so fast ie:RIP blogs) AND a need to challenge ourselves and not get burned out. I get bored very easily and have to be doing something new and fresh. Doing the same thing over and over (even if it is successful) is soul sucking. I feel so lucky and happy with my career. We’re in the middle of some big transitions like growing Color Factory and rethinking the goals and purpose of Oh Happy Day (still TBD.) My current goals are: go back to school and get some formal business training, take a sabbatical, start a business using someone else’s money, build a creative incubator where we experiment and make good creative work we are passionate about.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I have to get eight hours of sleep or I’m a wreck. My kids’ school starts late so we have really slow mornings. Usually the kids climb into bed and cuddle and my husband Paul makes me a latte (most parts of my life aren’t that glamorous but that ritual of kindness from my partner is THE BEST THING IN MY WHOLE LIFE.) I then yell at my kids to get dressed and brush their teeth and sign permission slips etc. My husband does school drop off and I walk to the Oh Happy Day office. I use the Teux-Deux app to keep me organized and make sure I’m prioritizing the right tasks (while keeping the big picture goals front and center.) I check my calendar to see whats on my schedule. I used to think I was just “bad at calendars/scheduling” but now realize its a legit learning disorder connected to my ADD. Understanding what you are bad it is something I demand from myself and my employees. There is nothing worse than trying to politely tell people they are bad at something. Understanding my flaws helps me create a work-around so that it is less of an issue. Hiring a scheduling assistant changed my life. It has made me 200% more times productive, profitable and has reduced mistakes. Understanding that my time is better spent moving my company forward instead of forcing myself to focus on details and get better at scheduling etc is literally the secret to my success. I have a lot of meetings with my team to set priorities or to hear what progress is being made and send out a lot of email inquiries to people. I leave the office at six and we usually order take out (we only cook a few times a week) and then just hang out with my family. I always fall asleep watching a show I’ve already seen before (it helps me zone out.) It’s usually 30 Rock or Schitt’s Creek.
What’s a piece of advice that you’ve carried with you?
DO NOT BE A VICTIM. Own your own shit. Do not give other people permission to control your happiness.
ASK FOR THINGS. Do not wait for things to come to you. Do the work and tell people what you want.
DO NOT BE JEALOUS. If you find yourself with feelings of jealousy (totally normal!) it is a sign you need to figure out how to get that thing you want. It was only in my thirties that I realized people get jealous and don’t do anything about it–what an awful way to live your life.
THERE IS NO REWARD WITHOUT THE RISK. That terrifying feeling in your stomach means you are pushing yourself. You might fail. The amount of risk is absolutely connected to the amount of reward.
What’s coming up for you in 2019?
Some big changes that I’m not totally ready to announce but hopefully I’ll be able to share soon.*
*Editor’s note: Jordan recently shared some big news on an Instagram post here.
What does your dream retirement look like?
I like working, it helps me feel connected to people and feel useful. I hope I always have work that makes me curious and and pushes me to grow.
What artists/designers/creatives do you look up to? Both historical or present
I really admire Andy and Kate Spade’s career. I’ve always named them as people whose career I wanted to emulate. Usually the people in charge have bad taste OR are more focused on making money than making the thing good. I always admired the teams they’ve been able to build as well as how they seem to set priorities.
What do you do when someone copies your work?
I love this subject! Early in my career I felt very threatened when I could tell someone was heavily inspired by my work. I learned to try to err on the side of generosity, especially when it was someone very young or learning. I don’t respect people who consistently creatively copy other people. If its a one-off situation I try to trust the person and give them the benefit of the doubt. If it seems to be a pattern I just make a mental note not to trust them. I don’t believe in publicly shaming people but if I was ever really bothered I would consider sending an email. BUT my overall strategy is just to put my head down and work and make new stuff. The honest truth is people who are good at ideas are deeply respectful of inspiration and other people’s work but usually feel generous with their own ideas.
Who is your work intended for? Example: you, your readers, someone who you hope is watching…
This is an interesting question. Usually my work is for my readers. I hope people find it useful. But I usually feel validation if someone whose taste or work I admire compliment me.’
Are you where you want to be in your life?
I just turned 39 and am legit starting to feel like I’m hitting a mid-life crisis. (THIS QUESTION ISN’T HELPING!) I try to think about long term goals. Like “if I did nothing else except these things I would be happy with my life.” That has helped me set priorities. But to answer your question I would say, “mostly.” The parts where I’m not happy are more connected to my own development. I sort of thought when I was younger I would grow out of my terrible flaws, I’m starting to realize the opposite is true. They get more pronounced as I get older.
Anything more/additional you’d like to “become”?
I’m entering a different phase in my career and trying to think bigger, like how to help move society forward. Up to now its been more about my own survival and taking care of my family. But I’m starting to get to a point where I can see that my own career is going to mostly be forgotten and disappear when I die (sorry this is sort of depressing) but to make a bigger impact I need to choose a few causes or things that are much bigger than me where I can make a difference. These things will last and help people even if they aren’t connected to my ego.