Meet Emma Johnson: BU Student Who Started Her Own Business with a Single Instagram Post

A couple of weeks ago, Her Campus BU hosted a social media branding event. One of the panelists—Emma Johnson—started her own business through social media and told us about her journey with EmJohn and her future goals for it.

Q. What made you want to start this business?

Johnson: It’s actually a funny story; I had no intention of starting a business. Going into my junior year of high school, I sat down and made a bracelet and posted a wrist pic of it on Instagram. A friend complimented it and asked where I had bought it. I simply offered to make her one. Two weeks later, a store in Manhattan commented on the same Instagram photo saying they wanted to sell 2 dozen in their store. This is when I realized that if people are willing to pay for this, then we’re on to something. This is when I started thinking of making this a real business. Then I said to myself, if I set a goal for this it would really take off, so I set a goal to pay for my college education with this business.

Q. You mentioned you had already surpassed your goal of paying for college; what are some new goals for EmJohn?

Johnson: So, I hit the goal this past August and I’m going to continue with EmJohn. I hope to create an ambassador program where girls at their campus could rep EmJohn and a portion of their proceeds could go to them, so it could help them pay for their college as well and to inspire entrepreneurship. I got the idea during high school from an email I got from a girl from Long Island asking if she could hold a trunk show at her house. It was something I’d never done before, but I liked the idea of it, so I sent her a bunch of products. She invited friends and family over to her house and over the course of 4 or 5 hours, she had made over $3000. So I was thinking to myself, if one girl in high school could do this literally just by word of mouth, girls in college campuses could do the same.

Q. Do you make each product by hand?

Johnson: At the beginning, I would sit down and put together every product by hand, but now that EmJohn has grown so much, I found a manufacturer who prints out all the charms, and then I assemble them together, pack and ship them. So, now it’s a quick process whereas back then, I would have mile-high stacks of fabrics, strips, and charms.

Q. How has your perspective of EmJohn changed since you were in high school to now?

Johnson: Well in high school, I was kind of like no one is going to believe this is real. Friends were like, “Emma, what is this? This is not something that is long-lasting.” Once I got to college, I met so many other kids who were inspired by my story and wanted to help and were actually interested in hearing about EmJohn and listening to what I had to say. When kids weren’t supportive of EmJohn in high school, I felt kind of discouraged about it and once I got to college, I noticed all of this support for EmJohn. So I’d say, EmJohn grew with all of this new motivation from peers.

Q. I know EmJohn was featured in Oprah’s favorite things, how did you put yourself out there?

Johnson: I honestly would just email magazine editors saying, “Hey, can I send you a free product?” So I sent the creative director of Oprah Magazine a keychain for back to school time, telling him my story, and saying this would be a fun back-to-school idea. He actually emailed me back saying, “This is way more than a back to school idea, this should be in Oprah’s favorite things.” Never in a million years would I have suspected something this big to happen. From that one email, we’ve now had a 4-year relationship of just going back and forth and me coming up with new products. I’d say it’s really just reaching out and hoping for the best; if you just sit there hoping that a magazine is going to reach out to you, it’s never going to happen. So you just have to go for it and do it yourself.

Q. What advice would you give for someone wanting to start up their own business?

Johnson: Just go for it. If I would have kept thinking about it and contemplating if it would work, I would still be sitting here without EmJohn. Until you put yourself out there, you have no idea how far you could go. People also always think that people are going to steal their ideas if they put them out there, but I’d say it’s better to be hurt than have nothing come of your idea.

Q. Do you plan on continuing with EmJohn after college?

Johnson: I would love to have EmJohn forever. One of my goals is to have a pop-up shop in NYC with a bunch of other female entrepreneurs. But honestly, it’s just taking it one step at a time; if you asked me this when I was still in high school, I would say no way, but I’m hoping for the best and the exciting things to come in the future.

EmJohn has come a long way since its humble beginning and I’m sure it’ll become even more successful. Check her business out here!

All photos are from emjohnjewerly website and Instagram.

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