MEET Melissa Dawn Johnson: As the President of Atlanta headquartered, Velvet Suite Marketing Consulting Group, Melissa Dawn Johnson has worked with professional athletes, including NFL players, corporate executives and influential leaders. Her clients she have included Common, NBA-All Star, Carmelo Anthony, World Cup soccer star, Oguchi Onyewu, Mary J. Blige, MillerCoors, and more. This brand strategist has also had her own segment on CNN and contributes to Essence and The Huffington Post.
MN: What did you dream of becoming when you were a young girl?
MJ: I had about 15 careers as a little girl. I wanted to be a dancer and a doctor. I also wanted to do hair and makeup. One thing that remained constant was my love for people. This passion is what attracted me to marketing. However, it was a book I read when I was 14 years old that changed my life… written by Myles Monroe [and] titled, Understanding Your Potential. In his book, Myles talked about the importance of knowing what you want to be. He said the greatest discovery you can have is to learn why you are on Earth. Miles also wrote the forward to my book, Brand Me: Make Your Mark, Turn Passion Into Profit.
MN: What types of services does Velvet Suite Marketing Consulting Group offer?
MJ: We… specialize in elevating the influence of leaders through consulting, curriculum and coaching. We show clients the power brand leadership method. Our overall mission is to change the world one leader at a time. We work in the business and sports spaces. My job is also to help our clients think about the “what ifs” that could occur and threaten their brand (i.e. lawsuits, negative media coverage) and help them develop strategies so they can continue to move their brand forward should unfortunate events occur.
MN: How do you ensure you focus your marketing efforts to suit each individual client’s specific needs?
MJ: That’s a great question. The universal challenge leaders face is understanding how to take what is valuable about them and making it invaluable to the world. What I tell my clients is that every great company is built one leader at a time. Understanding human motivations, understanding what drives humans to succeed as well as getting in tune with our clients’ needs is how we achieve our goals. We take a holistic lifestyle approach with our clients, challenging them to look at their leadership skills in every facet of their lives.
That said, we have turned clients away. Many who want success don’t understand the process… to achieve the success they want. I’ll tell you this, when you get clear about what you want, opportunity will come to you.
MN: What resources did you use to finance your business?
MJ: I started my business three years before I actually opened the doors in October 2006. I got a roommate to make it easier to pay off debt. I also started a business plan. I thought about the people I knew who could be potential clients, and I started developing relationships with those people. I studied the industry. I did my best to pre-sell my business before I left my job.
Regarding the money I initially invested in my business and a friend from high school gave me a couple of thousand dollars to start my business. It was enough to get me through the first two months until I got clients. I started my business in my home.
MN: Is it easier to get results while working with celebrities and top firms than it is with lesser known artists and businesses?
MJ: It’s not easier to get results working with celebrities. Celebrities are about 20 percent of my business. [C]lients need to be open to feedback. It’s important to be open to grow as a leader. Mindset is more important that status (i.e. celebrity).