Johanna shares her adventurous journey in her blog, from a conventional life in the big city to an entrepreneur in mountain experiences. She has started an outdoor company, offering a different experience for those who take the step to join the travelling. I wanted to know more about Johanna and her company Mountain Sisters. Over a raspy phone line, and with the sound of a hotel reception in the background, I got an intense and emotional chat with Johanna.
Johanna describes herself as a passionate skier. With a background as a project manager working with communication and marketing in the advertising industry, she loves story-telling and branding. “I think it is extremely interesting to analyze behaviors and attitudes.”
Previously Johanna lived a conventional life in Stockholm, but in connection with a kick-off trip to the Alps, her passion for the mountains was awakened. As a little girl she skied, but it was first as an adult, and in connection with the kick-off trip to Engelberg in Switzerland, that her fascination for mountains came to stay.
“I was filled of delight inside. When my colleagues, who were on the trip, saw my enthusiasm they joked and said that I should quit the job and stay in the Alps. I did not take the step then, but a few years later I decided to leave my old life, change profession and become an entrepreneur. The attraction to a life in the mountains became too strong, I had to listen to my inner and follow my passion.”
In the beginning Johanna worked with film-making. Eventually she started the company Mountain Sisters. “It was difficult to find the kind of travels I was interested in as well as like-minded to team up with. In addition, I wanted to inspire others to follow their passion too. Mountain Sisters are meant to be inclusive and carrying, everyone is welcome regardless of their level of skill. Moreover, I was annoyed about the conventional way of communicating in the travel industry and wanted to challenge it. “
Why are you calling yourself Brave Johanna?
“The concept of Brave Johanna really means something to me. From the beginning it was a good friend who came up with the name, that was before I started the company Mountain Sisters. She also convinced me to start blogging, even though I was sceptical at first. I didn’t see myself as a blogger or an influencer. The concept Brave Johanna felt kind and not superior, I believe it signals what I want – to inspire people to dare taking the step to explore their own adventures. The word ‘brave’ is a warm word in Swedish. It signals what you are, without a need to possess. “
Why did you switch from your safe and established existence as a communicator to become an entrepreneur and adventurer?
“When I discovered my great passion for the skiing I felt as if I had come home. When I go skiing, I feel a complete presence and become one with myself and the surrounding. During those moments I become the best version of myself. When I discovered that, it was no longer important to have a career, a house and a newly renovated kitchen, which were things I previously appreciated. To dare to follow my dreams about skiing and a life in the mountain is the true me. There is so much more to be gained when living outside the safety puzzle and dare to have confidence in life.”
At one point during the interview, Johanna’s exceptional driving force and determination becomes evident. Since she is currently living in Engelberg, I am curious why she chose to move there. Perhaps it is my sudden divergence from the set of questions sent out in advance that makes her out of balance for a short while. Or it is just the tough memories popping up that affects her. Carefully, she explains that she needed a restart in life after a ski accident, and that Engelberg has become her emotional sanctuary.
“I have been involved in two severe ski accidents. The first took place immediately after I had resigned and started Mountain Sisters. The timing wasn’t the best. I crushed the kneecap and had to begin my life as an entrepreneur with nine months of rehabilitation. But I had decided that I would be back again on skis the coming season. “
The second accident has put deep traces in Johanna. “I was involved in a second severe accident on skis soon after the rehabilitation. Luckily, I did not break anything the second time, but it felt as if I had a guardian angel. It was a long fall, which quickly got out of control. There were a lot of rocks beneath, and I had a lot of time to think despite the high speed when I tumbled down the slope. It was such a strong and anxiety-ridden experience to think that I was about to die. ”Johanna takes a breath and then continues:
“It was a girl who had died recently in the same area, and that affected me mentally. But for some unknown reason my fall was slowed down before I reached the rock. Afterwards, I was in shock and didn’t know what was real or not. I felt that the accident was partly caused by the fact that I had not listened to my own judgement. So nowadays I always listen to my own gut feeling and carefully choose with whom and in what context I do ski runs.”
After the accident, Johanna needed to come to a place where she felt safe. And then Engelberg was the obvious choice. “I felt that I had a second chance in life and must move to the place that had become my mental home.”
What do your guests and your audience get when they travel with Mountain Sisters and listen to your lectures?
“I try to lift others and make them find their own sources of joy by showing that I follow a path I believe in. It is not about comparing achievements, but to do what feels right for every individual. In addition, I reason about female and masculine communication.”
“My focus is on inner joy, when we grow because we have fun and want to learn something new. It’s not about performance. Since we travel as a group in Mountain Sisters, our focus is on the community and the inner journey. The participants can put aside all musts, and we travel with a stress-free spirit. Our goal is to feel joy, experience the activities together and to connect with like-minded people.”
Johanna collaborates with various guides depending on the destination and local rules. “We have a team of certified instructors and guides in the company, and a network of mountain guides for the trips we organize to the Alps.”
“Mountain Sisters is a genuine travel company, and many participants have expressed that they feel strengthened and uplifted afterwards. Several people have been in a phase of change in life, facing difficult decisions at the time of the trip. After the trip they have had the motivation to implement the change. Or to take on the challenge they have dreamt of, for example buying a house or climbing Kilimanjaro. They get inspired to believe in themselves, and to meet like-minded people.”
What are the biggest challenges with starting a business like yours?
“The courage, to dare to believe in your own idea when others do not. When you break inward patterns, most of the worries come from others who think it is shaky. Then the trick is not to crash but to have patience and endurance. To believe in yourself.”
Johanna’s background as a project manager is useful when she addresses the challenges. “I use a helicopter perspective, am solution-oriented and constantly continue forward. There is no point in acting in affection, so I always try to be positive and solution-focused. I try to find a positive entrance and not get stuck in other people’s thought patterns.”
Johanna herself gets inspiration from being physically active, being out in nature, running, skiing, climbing and meeting like-minded people. “Previously I had several role models such as Petter Stordalen, Blondinbella and various brands, but it has changed over time. Now I get more and more inspiration from within myself. I also try to learn from the guides I work with.”
I am curious about what Johanna thinks is the coolest she has ever experienced. The answer is a bit unexpected. “I’m still waiting for the coolest experience. It may well be a combination of human encounter and mountain experience.”
What are your goals in life?
“I want to make a difference for more people. I want them to grow, feel good and continue to follow their own inspiration. In addition, I want to live by following my own love and inspiration every day.” The reason for Johanna’s stay in Stockholm this time is a ski instructor examination she has just passed. Next, she aims for an authorization as a climbing instructor. Her long-term goal is to become a mountain guide one day.
What tip do you have for those who want to become an influencer and entrepreneur?
“Dare to believe in what you want to do. You will need power and energy. If you follow your passion you will get extra glow. Be patient, persistent and humble. Have a sound attitude. Personally, I set very high goals and requirements. Therefore, I must work on landing and enjoy the present, be patient and not forcing things.”
It is time for a final question.
How do you handle climate and sustainability issues in your business?
“For me, sustainability is more than just climate and environmental issues. I value equality as well. That’s why I started my company Mountain Sisters. Of course, I care about the environment, but sometimes it feels like one challenge gets higher status at the expense of other challenges we face. As a lecturer I like to talk about sustainability, but then I also want to talk about equality. If we get closer to ourselves and take care of ourselves, we also come closer to nature and make wiser decisions, I believe. During our travels we make people live through themselves and open their eyes.”
Johanna has recently started a collaboration with a major travel company in Sweden, arranging hiking trips for which the approach to the destination is made by train. Concerning the trips arranged by Mountain Sisters itself, people have the choice to approach with either flight or train.
We finish the conversation and continue with our duties for the day. For me, the remaining feeling is that I have established a new interesting acquaintance with a very driven woman whose passion for joint mountain adventures is indeed a big inspiration!