How many times have we watched teenagers star in television shows, compete in the Olympics, run nation wide community service projects, or start successful companies and just thought to ourselves, “Well, kids my age are doing all this and the only thing I’ve accomplished today is managing not to take that second nap.” We’ve all felt that pang of jealousy and admiration while reading about a teenage success story. Now, we have a member of the Her Campus community who has a story of her own.
Emma Johnson is a 17-year-old high school student at The Beacon School in New York City. She’s just like any other teenager— fun, energetic, and a little bit crazy. She went to sleep away camp in the summers, is perpetually debating whether she wants to keep her insanely long hair or chop it all off, and has an unhealthy obsession with Essie nail polish and the Kardashians. Her best friend is her twin brother, Jake, and she idolizes her mother, Tory Johnson, a weekly contributor on Good Morning America. Like the rest of us, her premiere concern right now is how she is going to pay her college tuition to Boston University in the fall of 2015.
Her solution? She started a jewelry business called EmJohnJewlery that took off faster than she could have ever hoped. Her pieces have been featured in O Magazine, Seventeen Magazine, E! Online and the Huffington Post, and have been worn by icons such as Rachel Ray, whose stylist has contacted Emma to tell her that “Rach carries her Em John ‘Does it come in Black?’ pouch with her every day!”
On my way to my first class of the Spring 2015 semester, I saw a girl walking around with an EmJohn bracelet on her wrist. I was so excited that I immediately messaged Emma to congratulate her on how big her brand is becoming. I met Emma years ago when we were both awkward preteens at Camp Hilltop in Hancock, New York. Needless to say, I feel a surge of pride every time I see the label EmJohn printed in a magazine or on a website. I realized that I wanted to share her story, because she is an amazing person on her way towards amazing things.
Emma is a Her Campus High School Ambassador and an extraordinarily sweet girl who was thrilled to be interviewed for Her Campus American. Here’s what she had to say:
Her Campus American University: Why did you start this business?
Emma Johnson: I’ve always been obsessed with jewelry, especially bracelets, and I’m interested in entrepreneurship because it’s a hot topic in my family. So in my junior year as I started thinking more seriously about college I wondered if I could start a business to generate enough revenue to pre-pay for my education. Almost overnight I started designing charms, I found a manufacturer, and I posted a few pieces on Instagram. Friends instantly asked if they could buy them. When peers are willing to pay you cash, not just a compliment, for your products, you know you’re onto something.
HCAU: What are your responsibilities with running this company?
EJ: It’s so funny, I get emails everyday asking “Can I speak to your PR team, to your shipping team? To your online customer service team?” and I always respond saying, “Sure, her name is Emma!” I don’t have a huge team besides a manufacturer and a helpful family, so my responsibilities include designing, assembling, packaging and shipping all orders, emailing customers, and running and maintaining all social media and the entire Em John website. I also set up and attend trunk shows. Most days it’s me standing in line at the post office to send the orders out too!
HCAU: What steps did you take to get yourself established?
EJ: I’ve never thought of it that way. Instead, I just focus on doing my best every day — one step at a time. There’s no master plan beyond making and selling great stuff and maintaining good grades in the process. I don’t overthink it.
HCAU: At what point did you realize that your business was starting to take off?
EJ: I got an email from the creative director of Oprah Magazine who wanted to do an exclusive collaboration for Oprah’s huge Live The Life You Want tour, so I created thousands of limited edition bracelets for VIP attendees. My initial charm bracelets were then featured in the December 2014 holiday issue of O Magazine! From there I knew Em John was going places!
HCAU: What do you see coming in your future?
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! In the meantime, I love creative collabs with cool brands.
HCAU: Do you plan to keep such an active role in this business while you are in college?
EJ: Yes! I know it will be tricky, seeing as I’ll be at Boston University and Em John is based out of NYC, but I definitely plan to run Em John from college and even expand it to Boston – with the help of my amazing parents, of course. I have a very supportive family who helps me 24/7 with all things Em John so going off to college knowing that they’re there to help is absolutely amazing. College is a huge opportunity to expand on campus and in Boston since the college community is a big part of our fan base.
HCAU: What advice do you have for women thinking of starting their own businesses?
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 ok!
HCAU: You are a Her Campus high school ambassador, how did you get started and what is your role in the Her Campus community?
EJ: I’ve always been Her Campus obsessed! I go on the site everyday and when I realized they had a high school ambassador program I knew I had to jump in and join the fun. Each week, we as ambassadors learn new skills pertaining to the communications industry – then put it into practice! Each week we are given tasks that involve anything from writing articles and blog posts to spreading the word about Her Campus via creative projects, contests and campaigns. I serve as a consultant to the Her Campus team on high school trends and hot topics.
Really Emma? Last week I exploded a mug in the microwave trying to make easy mac AND the only successful business I’ve ever run was a string friendship bracelet company that sold for $0.25 a piece and lasted three days. You’re not doing too bad for yourself, trust me