We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michelle, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I believe entrepreneurship is built on risk taking, however the risks are greatly reduced when you are not only passionate about the product or services you are selling but you use the products or services religiously and you can vouch for them. I took a lot of risks as a business owner, really believing not only in a product I was selling but one that I invented and had patented. All of that requires a lot of investments, and I had to really come out of my own pockets and make a lot of sacrifices when I started. I was also a single mother as well, so I don’t necessarily know if I would’ve recommended someone committing the same risks I did with my small business. Nonetheless, I also don’t necessarily know if we as BIPOC are completely safe not taking the entrepreneurial risks and working as employees for bigger corporations because toxic workplace environments within these institutions are pervasive, and BIPOC tend to have higher morbidity rates due to stress induced diseases. So, I guess its all a risk, it just depends on which is worth it for you.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My business was made through my journey of self acceptance, and wanting to be empowered as a BIPOC woman. I wanted to explore my innate beauty and go completely natural but that in itself was a process and an internal journey. However, they say necessity is the mother of invention and it was in that necessity of not wanting to use chemicals but find a way to manage my hair that I came up with a natural hair styling tool called the Hair Weight, and my business Amtu Hair Art & Tools, ( Amtu is my nickname). We also create custom hair jewelry that are heirlooms. Legacy is very important to me, especially as a parent, leaving a trail of treasures and love to always be remembered, found, and energy embodied. With regards to my business, I am most proud of our global partnerships and commitment to fairtrade. Being that I am a BIPOC woman with an awareness of disenfranchisement, fairtrade is essential to me -my custom hair jewelry is handmade through an artisan’s collective in Nepal, we trade and work with each other, we’ve been in our working relationship for years. They are also apart of a community of colleagues that I knew while I was working and living in Nepal during a previous life many moons ago. I am proud of how my business and the products we provide are the outcome of the merging of cultures and relationships with them, as well as a celebration of natural beauty and our authentic self. I am very proud of that. The lessons that I’ve learned is that everything is a teachable moment, and when you feel down always think about how far you’ve come.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I think at this point in history, where many have been quarantined – I’d love to explore local California nature and landscapes, I’m still discovering them. I love all the programs at Pureland Farms, I’m currently really into self-care and healing.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to shoutout my daughter, she is the driving force behind everything I do, because I am deeply driven by the love. I would like to shoutout Victoria Franklin for being an incredible mentor, and support system and leading as an amazing example, she’s also an incredible mother to my dear friend and soul sister Roxanne Frankin. I would like to give a shoutout to Victor H., he is an incredible force behind my journey as an entrepreneur, an inspiration behind my creativity and an incredible advocate, he has really been there for my journey throughout this experience, I can’t shout him out enough. I would really like to give a shoutout to my manufacturing partner Bobby, it has been an incredible journey working with him across the globe and I have so much respect for him. I would like to shoutout my team in Nepal, Yanik & Dev Dai. I would also like to shoutout Shymi, who was there from the start, helping and making sure that I would succeed, she is truly such a talented and compassionate person. I would like to give additional thanks to my friends Jeff Caesar, Dez’Mon, David Volodzko, Ruby Flores and so many more incredible friends that have been supportive in all my ventures, no matter the distance or time, they have always been there.