For more than two decades, Charita Johnson built a successful career in media. But when layoffs hit her company, she chose to hang her own shingle. Below, the founder of Johnson Bridge Media reveals how she started her successful consultancy, and what she’s learned from finally taking a bet on herself:
Tell us about your work background before you launched your business.
I spent 26 years as an executive in production at ESPN prior to launching my agency. During that time, my work spanned across strategic business administration, remote production, studio production, emerging digital, and podcasting. Having such a versatile background helped build the muscle I needed for entrepreneurship. Many of these leadership roles were what I describe as “white paper” jobs: roles that filled organizational business needs but lacked institutional precedent to ensure their success. Nonetheless, I thrived in these roles and developed profitable businesses within the larger organization.
What made you want to strike out on your own?
I was moved to start my own business after the largest ESPN/Walt Disney workforce reduction in 2015. I was suddenly — after 25+ years — on my own. But I knew I had more to contribute to the corporate workplace, so I began to look for “jobs.” I had interviews but wasn’t getting any offer letters. Finally, my husband said, “bet on you. Take everything you did at ESPN — all of the entrepreneurial roles you had — and launch your own business.” I agonized, prayed and finally consulted with family and friends on my direction. A few young women whom I mentor spoke very specifically about what they saw for my pivot and suggested I become an agent. Initially, I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted to do — because I had only experienced agents from the other side of the negotiating table. But now, I realize that knowledge is exactly what has led to my success — and that I am doing what I was always led to do. Everything else happened — so that THIS could happen.
Why did you want to work with both individuals in terms of talent development, and corporations?
Talent development is my passion, whether it’s through the lens of leadership, brand development, or mentoring. Helping others identify and create a plan for growth — and stepping into that growth — is rewarding for me.
How did you land your first client?
All of my clients — both individuals and corporations — have been referrals. I’ve been blessed that the reputation and credibility I established in my previous life is paying off. It’s further confirmation that I am doing exactly what He intended for me — and doing it for deserving, talented people. I’m living my purpose.
What were some challenges you tackled when you first launched? (finding clients, finding office space, etc.)
Finding a creative entrepreneur tribe that reciprocates energy and validates ideation, and being comfortable in a state of ‘blind faith.’
What have been some key wins or most rewarding moments for you and your business?
Negotiations are always rewarding because there’s a tangible outcome and third parties are pleased. In the day-to-day, I have to create milestones and goals to track success — and I share them with my clients. Some days those wins are extremely small (like an e-mail response), and other days they’re monumental (like an offer-letter for a client).
What’s some advice you would share with an entrepreneur looking to launch their own consultancy?
It’s essential to create a network of people and resources that you can lean on for inspiration and counsel. Entrepreneurs often feel alone in their efforts, and that can stifle creativity and growth, which are both essential components for entrepreneurial success.
When you think of the word “elevate,” what does that mean to you?
The process by which we are lifted when we lift others.