Creator Profile: Jhoanna and Ashley of Willa Creative Agency
Hi Johanna and Ashley! Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Jhoanna : LA native living in Venice Beach with my husband and pup named star. I’m a digital brand strategist with a focus in web design and content creative.
Ashley : I’m a creative director living in Venice Beach with my husband, our dog Frankie and our cat Otto. I’m originally from the San Francisco Bay Area.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
Jhoanna : I went to Cal State University of Northridge and studied communications, and went back to school at Cal State Dominguez Hills to learn front-end web development. My first job out of college was one I was with for 5 years and grew from an assistant role to the director of brands. I spearheaded partnerships and activations for brands like BlackBerry, Red Bull, Guess, Vita Coco, Ciroc and others. It was there that I saw the shift from brands engaging with consumers experientially to digitally and knew I wanted to be in that space. That’s what led me to go back to school and immerse myself in the digital space. Then I started Willa.
Ashley : I went to University of Colorado and studied advertising. My program at school wasn’t really design focused, it was much more conceptual, but I really loved learning and tinkering in the design programs. After school, I moved to NYC and worked at an ad agency in the digital department starting out as an assistant. I was really lucky to have some amazing mentors and bosses who encouraged me to continue learning design and brought me in on projects whenever possible. For about two or three years I took two to three night classes each semester at School of Visual Arts. I really immersed myself and took a wide variety of classes, but always found myself being drawn to the type and editorial design classes. After five years in New York, I moved to LA for my boyfriend (now husband)’s job. I was super burnt out from agency life, so I spent my first two years in LA doing interior design. I really loved that, but found myself missing graphic design. I started freelancing both in house and independently for brands like Apple, Kevin Murphy, BMW, Revlon, Toms Shoes, etc. It was through these freelance jobs that I got more involved in print and packaging.
When and how did Willa begin?
Jhoanna : I started Willa in 2012 after working in a larger entertainment marketing agency so I could focus on digital, e-commerce - specifically in fashion and beauty. I’ve been growing it ever since. Ashley joined the agency in 2016 as a partner to build out branding within Willa.
What services do you offer and what makes the experience of working with Willa different from other agencies?
J + A : We work with brands at all stages. If they’re just starting out or a more established brand looking to reboot. We touch all points of a brand from start to finish. We do everything from branding, packaging, photography, design and development and social strategy. But the core of what we do is help brands to thrive and grow online. We really use analytics and data to drive all our efforts.
Jhoanna, when did you know it was time to bring on Ashley? How do you two work together to bring ideas to life?
Jhoanna : When I finally admitted I couldn’t to it all. And I shouldn’t. I needed to let experts do what they do best. Ashley was a creative I would contract for many branding projects and clients were always happy. I also realized that I enjoyed web and content most - and it reflected in my work. Lastly, it’s nice to be a duo. Women collaborating rather then competing is always the way to go - so we figured we would be stronger together since our services complimented each-other so well.
Do you have a most memorable project you have worked on or something coming up that excites you?
J + A : We have launched such great client projects recently like Studio Life.Style, OOKIOH and Amanu, but there is one we are revving up to launch that we have been working on for the last two years… It's the first product we have incubated in-house and it's one we can call our own. TRABO is a digital travel book created by–and curated by–its users. It’s an app we created to allow users to easily organize all the travel recommendations and suggestions they get from friends, bloggers, or editorial sources. In the App Store any day now.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
J+A : Incredible things happen when women support women - we have seen so much of this and how powerful it is in recent years. Women offer a level of compassion and understanding that I think is really powerful in business. And I definitely think we are better together in collaboration.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
Ashley : There are so many creative ladies in LA that have created their own paths. I’m super inspired by Emily Current and Meritt Elliott, who I had the chance to work with a few years ago. They create so many different things and it all comes out so well. My sister-in-law, Shannon Wollack, and best friend, Brittany Zwickl, of Studio Life.Style are amazing interior designers. Their work is really inspiring and it’s been fun to watch them blow up over the last few years. I just got back from India, so i’m obsessed with all things Indian and have been really inspired by the Stockman sisters from Blockshop Textiles. I’m really interested in duos and how they work together.
What are some of your favorite places in LA?
Jhoanna : In the Venice area - I am fan of Lincoln Blvd and all the great shops popping up there between Venice and Superba Ave like Apiece Apart, Superba Food and Bread, and The General Store. More Mid-City: I love Melrose Place area - for the great shops the The Line, Zimmerman, APC, etc and - coffee shops and cafes like Alfreds. Then when I go downtown - The new ROW shops and the restaurant Manuela in the arts district.
Ashley : It took me a long time to love LA, but eight years later I have finally embraced it! I love Venice and spend a lot of time in our neighborhood. I eat at Gjusta at least once a week, sometimes two times in one day. I’m obsessed with tacos and my husband and I are regulars at the taco truck on Rose. We don’t even have to say our order anymore, they know it. Felix is a place that makes me throw my gluten free diet out the window, the pasta and pizza is just too good. Tasting Kitchen has the best cocktails in Venice. During the summer, i’m at the beach in Venice basically every weekend. For shopping, I love Mohawk General Store, Rachel Comey, and Creatures of Comfort. And every time I’m at the Hollywood Bowl I have a moment of thinking to myself, “Wait. I really do love LA!”.