We had the good fortune of connecting with Paula L. Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Paula L., can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I got fired from my last salaried job—at a volatile start-up in the sporting goods industry—and had zero intention of starting my own business. But I started doing small copywriting jobs and designing ads and it just snowballed. This was a lucky turn of events as none of the many, many resumes I submitted resulted in an offer!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have always been a voracious reader and enjoyed writing assignments in school. I majored in journalism in college, thinking it would be a good foundation for a career in public relations. I landed an internship at a tiny PR firm that specialized in engineering and technical clients. Not sexy, but great training.
Still, I made some mistakes. One error prompted the FBI to dispatch two field agents to quiz my boss about my telephone conversations with some Russians about an aircraft parts catalog I had worked on.
A few years into my freelance career, I realized my education was never going to end. I took graphic design classes at Otis College of Art and Design (and, later, Art Center) and completed dozens of workshops on writing and design. More recently, I’ve taken classes in stand-up comedy, improv, and sketch writing.
The more I learn, the more value I bring to my clients. I don’t specialize in a particular industry; I specialize in getting results. That doesn’t mean I land every prospective client I meet. But if I am not the right fit, I can often find someone who is. What I always want is what’s best for the client, even if it’s not me!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
When friends come to visit, they often schedule trips to coincide with Pasadena Showcase House of Design, the Rose Bowl Flea Market, or the Pasadena City College Flea Market. I hope all three of these events resume soon. Each of them is a full day of fun.
A few other favorite spots include:
• Top’s Burgers on Walnut (Pasadena) for the breakfast burrito.
• Arlington Garden (Pasadena) for the labyrinth
• Place Vendome Jewelry (Pasadena) for window shopping.
• Pacific Plate Brewing Co. (Monrovia) for the dog-friendly vibe.
• Milkfarm in Eagle Rock for the many, many cheese choices.
• Hoopla! Emporium (Altadena) for things I did not know I needed.
• Bingo Boy (West Hollywood) for drag queen bingo.
• Little Beast (Eagle Rock) for wonderful dinners.
• Thrift stores (all over) for hidden treasures.
• The Taco Spot (Eagle Rock) and Urbano Mexican Kitchen (Pasadena) for takeout or dine-in.
Recently my friends and I completed all ten walking tours in the “Explore Pasadena Architecture” map (available online). The variety of styles in residential and commercial buildings is impressive.
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?
The list of friends with corporate jobs who hired me for projects is a very long one! I jumped on everything from writing speeches to producing newsletters to ghostwriting articles. I had to think fast, work smart and not let my friends down. I still get projects and referrals from friends as well as vendors.
One moment that stands out all these years later is winning an award from the Los Angeles chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. The award did not recognize writing or design, but rather a positive attitude and willingness to help. I had no idea I was even in the running until I heard my name announced at the annual banquet.
While I am no longer a member of IABC/LA, I treasure the friends I made at local meetings and the annual conferences.