Most 17 year-old girls are just getting by in high school, but not Emma Johnson. Emma does all of that regular teen stuff while also being the founder and owner of her own super fun and widly successful company, Em John Jewelry.
Em John Jewelry has become somewhat of a viral craze, with celebs and influential figures flaunting signature and customized Em John bracelets and pouches, and as seen taking over publications and news outlets shows such as Seventeen, The Huffington Post, O The Oprah Magazine, E News, Marie Claire, US Weekly, and many more.
I had the chance to talk with Emma and discuss her journey with Em John, her advice on starting your own business, and the importance of empowering and supporting female entrepreneurship.
What was your inspiration for starting Em John?
Emma Johnson: My mom does a weekly segment on Good Morning America where she promotes exclusive deals from different brands. I often recommend ideas to her, some of which she actually uses. When my ideas would appear on TV I’d be shocked at how well they did. Each company makes a lot of money, which caused me to say, “Gosh, I wish I had a jewelry company!” To that, my mom said, “You can… just start one!”
As a rising entrepreneur, were you ever faced with doubt from yourself or from your peers? If so, do you have any tips on overcoming doubt and building confidence?
EJ: No doubt personally or [from] the people who know me best. The only doubt that’s come is from distant peers, who know little to nothing about me. It’s easy to dismiss that doubt when you consider the source. There’s a difference between helpful criticism and feedback that’s designed to benefit me versus naysayers who just like to hate on others. The best way to respond to doubt is to consider the source and its motivation.
Your mom Tory Johnson has worked to create opportunities for women in business. How has she helped you to find your voice with Em John and do you think it is important for young girls to have mentors?
EJ: She’s my biggest supporter and I’m so lucky to have her as a role model. She understands what it’s like to own and run your own business and when I get stressed out about anything she’s right there to tell me it’ll all work out in the end. I think it’s super important to have someone close to support you 24/7 and tell you that you’re doing an amazing job. There’s nothing better than a personal cheerleader by your side.
Em John has been getting a lot of publicity lately. What have your learned is important about creating a brand?
EJ: A brand is only as powerful as its perception among customers. The Em John brand is what customers think of it. So, my job is to stay closely connected to my customer base and listen to whom they are and what they have to say.
How do you balance being in high school and having a social life along with running your own business?
EJ: For me personally, the biggest obstacle is balancing Em John while still being in high school! It’s my senior year, so the first semester was insanely busy with college applications. However, I treat Em John like any average extracurricular activity. I commit multiple hours a day to it just like teens commit to sports, dance, etc., everyday!
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome so far?
EJ: Time is my greatest struggle. I compete with brands where the people behind them are able to spend all day everyday building the company – whether they work on their own or with a staff. I am in school full-time and rely on the kindness of friends and family to help.
Why should we encourage young girls to see themselves in positions of leadership such as business owners, founders, and CEOs?
EJ: I’ve grown up in a house where my mom is the sole breadwinner and my dad works for her. It’s never occurred to me that girls can’t live their dreams and create anything they wish.
Do you think it is important for young women to support the success of each other?
EJ: For as much as we talk about girl power, the truth is girls of all ages, from teens to adults, can be one another’s harshest critics instead of our greatest cheerleaders. Each person must recognize that in herself and realize that it’s a lot more fun to cheer and to love than to criticize and hate.
What advice do you have to young girls who are interested in starting their own business?
EJ: I’d say don’t over-think it. Just dive in. You won’t know what works and what doesn’t until you just start doing it. You can spend weeks and months plotting and planning, but there’s nothing like reality. Also, a business only works if you can generate sales — otherwise it’s a hobby. So learn early on to have confidence in your pricing and to ask for the sale. Make sure your pricing allows you to generate a profit. Where you start isn’t where you have to stay. You’ll evolve as you go. Don’t worry about having all the answers because you won’t even know the questions to ask–and that’s okay!
How do you envision the future of Em John ten years from now?
EJ: I have so many dreams for the future. A big one would be opening an Em John pop-up shop; that’s the ultimate small business owner’s dream along with having Em John products sold in stores all over the world! In the meantime, I love creative collabs with cool brands.
Cover image courtesy of The College Prepster.