BU sophomore Emma Johnson created Em John Jewelry—a business that sells bracelets, pouches, necklaces, key chains, and bag charms. She is featured on platforms including E Online, Seventeen, Us Weekly, The Huffington Post, Marie Claire, and on Oprah’s list of Favorite Things in O Magazine. All of the revenue has gone to support her college tuition. As of this semester, Johnson paid off her four years studying Mass Communication in sales.
You are forming a creative empire. What sparked Em John?
My mom does a segment on Good Morning America every week, where she features five brands at exclusive deal rates. She is constantly looking for the newest, latest, greatest gadgets everyone needs. So, I would constantly give ideas to her about companies she should feature. Three to six months after the segment would air, I would always say, “How did they do? How much money did they make?”
She would say, “Oh, $300,000, $500,000, $1,000,000 in one day!”
I would say, “So, where is my cut for recommending this brand to you? I wish I had a company like this.”
She would say, “You can. Start one.”
And then you got to work?
Yes. Going into my junior year of high school, I sat down and cut a bunch of my grandpa’s dress shirts and ties into strips. I had charms in my bedroom and bought things off of Etsy and eBay and just strung charms to create bracelets. It was just a Sunday craft project. I posted a photo on Instagram and suddenly friends asked where I got my bracelet and how much it was. A week later, someone working in a store in my neighborhood in the Upper West Side of Manhattan saw that Instagram post and told me they wanted to buy two dozen of the bracelets. From then on, I knew something was taking off. If people were willing to buy a product I was making, I was clearly onto something.
Your image remains consistent through each of your social media platforms. How would you describe your brand narrative and/or aesthetic?
It is important for me to keep things bright and cheery, so when anyone spots my social media, they notice it right away. It is really attractive to the eye. Having a pop of color is very important. People want something that is fun. Staying with that pattern of fun, bright, cheery, and cute is crucial. “Cheap and cheery,” I like to say.
I am forcing you to choose one social media platform to run your business. Display your creative design, share your story, and generate sales, which do you choose?
Definitely Instagram…I’m Instagram-obsessed. Instagram has been a huge factor in my business. Anytime I post something, whether it’s a promo code, a new product, a collaboration I’m doing, sales instantly skyrocket. People click on the link in my Instagram bio and shop through my website using the promo code. I feel like today if you don’t have an Instagram you are not with society or not with 2017. I use hashtags of Em John and repost customers’ photos—I show not only my own content, but also other customers’ and fans’ content.
Who is your role model?
That is so hard! I would say…okay…first, anyone who works at Refinery29. My dream is to work at Refinery29. They have such cool style and know social media “ins and outs” and all of the trends—the latest and greatest.
Second, I would say the creative director of O, The Oprah Magazine—Adam Glassman. He knows what is trending and what sells, what’s in and what’s not. I have sent him so many products and he will straight up say, “Emma, this sucks and no one will buy it.” Other times he will say, “Everyone needs this.” He is so right. He knows what people want and what they don’t want, which is a talent I have yet to learn as a business person.
And third, while this is corny, definitely my mom. She is so savvy. She works with women entrepreneurs and small businesses every single day. She is a huge champion for small businesses and helps out the local guys who have great ideas, but are just not yet discovered.
Shira Levin, Staff Writer
Shira Levin is a sophomore majoring in advertising in the College of Communication. Born and raised in the City of Angeles, Shira is your typical West Coast native attempting to make it through another East Coast winter. Spot her around campus in oversized sunglasses, exercise leggings and blacked-out Nikes.