32 year old Fresh Johnson has a unique voice that most of New Orleans recognizes as soon as she begins speaking. She began her career as a sales assistant with Cumulus Broadcasting but always knew that radio wasn’t the most lucrative career field outside of upper management and syndication. Nowadays, you can’t go too far without hearing her voice on the radio, hosting an event and today, 11 years after launching Elle R. Jae Events, her boutique wedding and special event planning company hearing her lead her own wedding podcast, Let Them Eat Cake!
Q: What paths did you take to get to today in your career?
A: Before I started my company, I was a Sales Assistant with Cumulus Broadcasting. I had just moved back home from Lafayette, where I worked in the Promotions Department of then Citadel Broadcasting, Lafayette.
My business have been in operation for 11 years. To celebrate my 10 years in event planning, last Fall, I launched a wedding podcast called Let Them Eat Cake. In regards to other ventures, I’m contracted as a public speaker with a group called Dear World. I also still work as a part time radio personality and do voiceovers for commercials and narrations for digital media projects.
Q: How did you get started? Tell us your motivation for starting this business.
A: I always knew that radio wasn’t the most lucrative career field outside of upper management and syndication. I began to brainstorm ways to supplement my income without running myself into the ground mentally. One day, when I still lived in Lafayette, my best friend came over and asked me to not only be her maid of honor in her wedding, but PLAN it! She suggested that it would work because I had been planning sorority events for a couple of years and she thought I’d be great at it. That was my first wedding and it kind of spread after that. I’ve always been happy because it’s something that I love so it doesn’t feel like exhausting work. I wanted to create something to leave for my family one day and though radio will always be my first love, it will never be mine alone.
Q: What are you most proud of (related to your business)?
A: January 20, 2017….after 10 years, I was finally able to resign from my full time job to be a full time entrepreneur. It doesn’t feel real sometimes.
Q: As an African American/Black entrepreneur, what were some of the biggest challenges and/or surprised you faced when starting your business?
A: I’ve always been surprised at the blatant ignorance that some people spew simply because I’m black. I remember walking into bridal salons or rental companies asking for dresses to use for shoots, or even decor, which is a totally common and normal practice, and being treated very cold. Aside from 2 very special women locally, who I will always love for working with me, I used to have to bring in vendors from out of town to collaborate.
Q: What advice do you have to fellow African American/Black entrepreneurs starting business?
A: You’re starting a business in the age of a tool that wasn’t prevalent 11 years ago…social media. Research it, plan for it, use it. You’ll win.
Q: New Orleans is such a “robust” entrepreneurial ecosystem. What are the resources (people, networks, organizations, programs, books, articles, etc.) that you have found most useful in starting and/or growing your business?
A: Professional groups are amazing to join. I wish I had time to do more and be active, but even just following these groups on social media has yielded me loads of information. ((Innocence Project’s Young Professional Council, The Black Professional, Business Rules for Women)) These organizations have introduced me to people and things in NOLA and beyond. I love podcasts and books! There’s a wealth of free information out there, take full advantage.
Q: Is there anything you know now that you wished you had known earlier in terms of starting or operating your business?
A: Hiring someone to handle your accounting is invaluable. I hate math, but I’ve always tried to do as much as I could in house but I learned that consulting with a finance resource can save you money and lessen mistakes. Prioritize and outsource in areas you may lack; it’s worth it.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about your business or your personal story?
A: As a business owner who has a personal brand that doesn’t align with their business, I’ve always struggled with keeping things in its place. I always felt like I had to hide the radio personality when I had my wedding planner hat on. I was always told that I’d come off as a jack of all trades and master of none. It took me a very long time to be able to incorporate myself into my company in a concise manner. I’m saying this to say that in the millennial era, multiple streams of income is now the norm and you can totally be a master of it all. Be consistent, know your audience, talk to them often.
Facebook, IG, Pinterest: @ellerjaeevents
Linked In: Fresh Johnson
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Phone number: 504-237-3469