If you haven’t heard of EmJohn Jewelry or don’t own a piece from her collection, then after reading this interview you are definitely going to want to go check it out. Boston University’s very own Emma Johnson is our newest Monday Motivator, and it is extremely deserved. She is a young entrepreneur who is putting herself through college from her jewelry and accessory business which she started while she was in high school. Emma always wanted to have a business of her own, and one day she brought the idea up to her mother who told her to go for it! That was all Emma needed to hear before she decided to craft her own business from scratch. Since the summer before her senior year, Emma has seen her company grow and grow from just an instagram feed to a full-blown website and to her jewelry being carried in stores all around the country.
She has been featured on E! Online, Oprah’s Favorite Things, and Seventeen Magazine. I was lucky enough to be able interview her and learn about her work ethic that has helped take her and EmJohn Jewelry to the next level.
1. How did you start your business?
My mom does a morning segment on Good Morning America called Deals and Steals. I would recommend businesses and then later on ask how much they benefitted after the show aired. I had an eye for business, and realized I wanted to be able to have my own. The summer going into my senior year, I had some clothes from my grandpa, and I decided to cut them up into strands and make bracelets with charms. I uploaded pictures onto social media. People saw them, and they wanted to buy them, and a small shop in my neighborhood wanted to sell them. Next, customers wanted something that you didn’t have tie on and off, and that’s where the beaded bracelets came in. You can wear them all the time, and they won’t get damaged in any way. You can swim in them, workout in them, and just basically wear them for whatever occasion. I would go to school wearing them and people would buy them off my arm. They are great for camp because having bracelets is a huge trend, so campers were always reaching out as well! I would also go store to store on my Saturdays with my bracelets to sell to them, especially when I had a new idea.
2. You are a jewelry designer and a busy college student at a top university. How do you do it all?
In high school, I asked my Mom how I would manage everything. She said that I needed to treat my business as an extracurricular activity, and like athletes or band members didn’t skip out on practice because of school work, I couldn’t skip out on EmJohn because of school. I have time to balance things out in between classes, before class, and after class. I am constantly taking calls in between classes. I get up early and stay up late to respond to emails. School is definitely the top priority though.
3. What is it like to be one of Oprah’s “Favorite Things”? Was it life changing?
Over the summer, I sent them a key chain for a back to school feature on things to brighten up your purse and backpack. You know, just to see what would happen. The Creative Director emailed me saying that my key chain needed to be a “Favorite Thing.” It was absolutely crazy! I decided to send over pom-pom key chains in all different colors spelling out Oprah. It was insane also, because I was the youngest owner on the list, and I had sent my key chain on a whim for a different issue, but they loved it so much they put it in favorite things!
4. Do you ever find that you aren’t taken seriously because you are such a young entrepreneur? If so, what do you do when that happens?
In the beginning I would reach out to many stores saying that I was 16, and asking to sell my jewelry in their stores. They treated it as a craft project at first, but once they realized that I was doing all the emailing and business stuff and was persistent with reaching out, they decided to take me serious. A lot of times I got no response, but sometimes I heard, “This is so cool, and you’re so young and doing something great!” It’s important to think that just because you get a no doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it or that it’s over. A lot of times people give up because they hear no, but to me it means you have to try harder and harder to keep going. I would reach out to other people who started their own businesses about how they were inspirational to me, and then they would reach back and give great feedback.
5. What makes you feel confident?
I come from a very close family, and my family wants to help no matter what. Having people so close to me cheering me on at all times makes me feel confident. If I need their help, they will drop everything they are doing to be an assembly line for EmJohn! I love getting emails from my customers about how much they love my product, and about how they are going to tell their friends about me.
6. What is your inspiration for your jewelry? Do you design all of the charms yourself?
I get a lot of the inspiration off of instagram. I replicate the images I like in a charm form. I will see cute sayings and then put them on a pouch, and I will ask my friends what they think is interesting. I get a lot of my inspiration from walking around NYC and from looking at blogs.
7. What is the most challenging part of being a young entrepreneur?
My biggest challenge is balancing it all because I don’t have a huge team of 20 people. It is really just me. I am answering all the emails and sending them out, I design all the items, and do all the social media and website work. Being in Boston and not in NYC where a lot of the stores I sell to are based can be challenging as well.
8. What are your plans for your business? Are you growing? Do you think this will become your “job” when you graduate?
I have thought about getting more people. I have campus reps across the country that have trunk shows and help Em John. I have a manufacturer that helps make it all. For Valentine’s Day we launched a hoody; I’ve always wanted to get into clothing. I want to expand into a coin purses because they are so useful; people are always using them to store their ID’s, keys, and money. I would love to have a holiday pop-up shop. I think they are so fun because they are one weekend full of fun and everyone has a good time. I want to expand to so many stores. Whenever I see my items in stores and overhear girls asking their moms to buy them it makes me so happy. I would love to do this after college, but it’s all about keeping it fresh and fun. I love keeping it new and thinking of new ideas, and reaching out to customers to learn what they like to see .
9. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs? Are there any classes that really helped you?
Just go for it! I told my mom I would love to have a business, and she said go start one. I just went for it. I got feedback from friends on what they liked, and I listened. I think it’s about never stopping! Go after your goal even if you don’t get an email back. People are so scared of the idea of rejection, so they don’t go for it, but I did. It’s not an overnight success. People assume that they will make a million dollars overnight. It’s a guessing game and always a work in progress, and you have to stay focused. If you want something go and get it. I’ve been invited to Women’s Leadership Conferences, and yet, I know as much as you do. I’ve been asked to ask to speak at huge conferences alongside Hillary Clinton and Lupita Nyong’o!
I took a media class in high school and learned the power social media has. I connect with so many celebrities and blogs to help promote EmJohn. Everyone is on social media and is connected.
10. If you could do one thing differently (business wise), what would you do?
Going into this, I had no idea that companies had seasonal looks; They have seasons people promote months in advance, and I do my promoting closer to the actual season or event. I would plan more ahead, and I would schedule it out more so it’s not a last-minute rush. I think of some of my best ideas days before an important date like Valentine’s Day or Christmas.
11. What does She’s Fit to Lead mean to you? How does someone become “Fit to Lead”?
Just be a go-getter and go for it. Don’t worry about rejection and failure. No one needs negativity. There is so much of it in the world. Go after what you love, and your passion will become a reality when you don’t take no for an answer. Don’t wait for the thing you want to come to you, because then it won’t!
We are so glad to have Emma as a Monday Motivator! Her “don’t take no for an answer attitude” explains so much about her success with EmJohn, and what makes her such a strong entrepreneur. She is an inspiration and a role model for everyone who wants to start something of their own, because she demonstrates that with determination and passion you can accomplish your goals.
You can meet Emma and shop EmJohn at our #ConnectToConfidence event on May 21, 2016 in New York City. Save the date!! More details to come very soon.
Go check out Emma’s creations at http://emjohnjewelry.com/ , and follow her instagram at @emjohnjewelery!
To read more by Sarah, click [here].
To meet more Monday Motivators, click [here].