I've been a longtime fan of Jessica Clayton's. I first met her when she did PR at Patagonia and as I got to know her more, I quickly realized what an inspirational woman she is. Jessica has sailed around the world, moonlights as a doula, and just founded her own PR agency, Wilder, with Patagonia colleague Coley Malloy-Glasgow. Lucky for us, she took time out of her busy schedule to chat with us about her unbreakable bond with the ocean, working with sustainably-minded brands for Wilder, and the raw human experience of witnessing a birth.
You grew up in New England racing sailboats. What have been your favorite sailing experiences?
I come from a long line of sailors. Josiah Perkins Creesy, captain of the famous clipper ship Flying Cloud, was my great great uncle. His wife, Eleanor Creesy, was the ship’s navigator. She navigated that ship all around the world in a time when women did not hold those types of roles. All of the women that came after her have been strong, independent women who sail and live by the sea. I have been lucky to sail all around the world. I have raced in the fjords of Norway. I have sailed the New England coast, from Boston to Maine. And I have lived aboard sailboats in the Caribbean. I once raced from Newport, CA to Northern Baja on this incredible trimaran built to break the round-the-world record. It was wild!
That's incredible! You clearly have a very deep connection to the ocean.
It’s in my blood. Whether sailing, surfing or swimming, the ocean puts me at ease and helps me to dream. Being on the water, closing my eyes and smelling the ocean air, it makes me feel like I can do anything with this one precious life. I sleep best when I can hear the rattling of ships halyards and sea birds in the distance. It’s just a part of me.
You traded the East Coast for the West Coast for college, and then got a job in PR at Patagonia. Was that a goal you had in mind when moving out there?
I went to UC Santa Barbara and started working at Patagonia shortly after I graduated. I can’t say that landing a job at Patagonia was a goal of mine though. I had worked at a Patagonia retailer, Marblehead Outfitters, all throughout high school - I always knew and loved the brand. In college, I didn’t even realize the Patagonia HQ was 25 miles south! I studied geography in school and wasn’t quite sure what I would do after I graduated. I never really stressed about it though. Things always just work out the way they are meant to. I tend to have super strong instincts and a keen intuition. One day in July, about a month after graduation, it hit me like lightening that Patagonia was right down the road and that is where I should go get a job. Then I just made it happen. I started in the environmental department, then I worked in recruiting for a couple years. That was a cool job – I learned so much about the business as a whole and met some absolutely incredible people. Later I moved into PR where I stayed for eight years.
You and a colleague from Patagonia just started your own PR agency, Wilder. When did you realize it was time to head out on your own?
Once I hit the decade mark at Patagonia, I knew it was time to shake things up. Someone one told me that we should all “replant” ourselves every ten or so years – that’s exactly what I did. I have always thought that I might run my own business at some point in my life. It’s that strong, independent female thing that tends to run in my family! I knew that I didn’t want to run a business alone. In one of those super instinctual, lightening bolt-type moments, I thought of my past colleague and friend Coley Malloy-Glasgow. I just knew she would be the perfect business parter to help launch Wilder. I called her, we chatted, and it was on.
Sounds like it was meant to be! Can you tell us a little bit more about Wilder and the vision you and Coley have for the agency?
Wilder is a boutique press agency based in Santa Barbara, CA. We have chosen to focus on small sustainable brands, mostly in the apparel industry, though not entirely. The brands we work with are dedicated to finding a better, less-harmful way to make their products. These brands care deeply about the materials they use and the supply chains they work within. Our clients use business as a way to help inspire a cleaner, more ethical world. We aim to bring forward incredibly unique products that carry interesting stories and uncommon origins. Through our strong connections to the sustainable product movement, we are working to find unique brands that may not currently be on folk's radar. Our goal is to become a valuable resource for the press on the sustainable brands front. Patagonia taught us so much about what it truly means to be an environmental company. We take that filter and apply it to everyone we work with.
Outside of your PR work, you also moonlight as a doula! What brought you into the world of birthing and what do you treasure most about the experience?
Yes, I literally moonlight as a doula! It seems like babies are always born at night – which is convenient for my day job :) I am not sure exactly what drew me to birth work. Again, it was just a feeling I had and I knew I needed to pursue it. A lot of the PR work is done over email and on the phone. I was craving that raw human experience. I wanted to feel like I was helping people on a real primal level. The doula work meets that need. I have learned so much about the human spirit through attending births. It has really helped me grow as an individual. And I just feel so good helping families to have a positive birth experience. In a strange way, it has made me better at everything else I do in my life.
In this digital age, I feel like it's hard for people to step away from the screens and have that human connection. Do you hope to get away from work for a bit this summer - maybe a trip or two?
Yes! Now that I don’t have a day job in Ventura, I can be a bit more flexible with my time. I plan to spend a couple weeks working from the east coast in August, visiting with family, spending time in Maine. Maine is my spirit state. The Blue Heron is my spirit animal! And I don’t like lobster, for the record!