Single-Minded Entrepreneur: A.J. Johnson
By Paula Santonocito
SMW: You are also involved with a number of other endeavors: You are on the multicultural council advisory board of pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and you were the only non physician on a promotional tour for GSK’s ALLI, the first FDA approved, over-the-counter weight loss pill; you host and produce radio and television shows; and you hold seminars and classes for corporations and other groups. How do you balance it all?
AJJ: And now I’m researching and preparing to head to Switzerland to speak to executives of Novartis Pharmaceuticals at their international diversity summit in November. I don’t balance it all—it balances itself, seriously! I think that is part of the plan when you live your calling—it’s all worked out for you, you just have to submit, surrender, and flow…it’s amazing—never any date conflicts, schedule overlaps…I believe I’m called to do all of this so it all works out.
SMW: What aspect of your business do you find the most rewarding?
AJJ: When someone tears up because I’ve helped them reach a goal or aspiration—it can be a physical goal, mental, spiritual—helping someone achieve what they thought was impossible. The reward is a reward that I can hardly put into words. It makes me feel…obedient…worthy, used for greatness? Just talking about this chokes me up. The surprise in a certain celeb’s shy eyes when she nailed a dance for her video after I taught her a sexy dance move, or when I help someone find themselves after leaving a relationship that consumed them, or helping a busy CEO of a major company find their peace…there’s nothing like it.
SMW: How has being a single woman influenced your career, especially your decision to launch your own company?
AJJ: I love these questions! Umm…for me, as an actress, being single has been very helpful when most who are in a position to hire me are men. I know how to flirt productively, and with little to no compromise, and doing the flirting feels better when I know there is no one at home who will get their feelings hurt! (Laughs.) Now, at the same time, I started to NOT want to do long term projects that shot on location because that means you are always away or leaving…there’s no way to start a relationship that way. As president of THE AJ ZONE I find that I have more entrepreneur related, enhancing conversations with men then I do with women so being single helps me to have more of those conversations with more men. I’m not sure that the tireless energy and time and focus I have had as I launched and have built THE AJ ZONE would be possible if I had to share it in a relationship. So far, even my dog has an attitude if I don’t come to bed till late or if I start moving around too early. I have a Mastiff, and he’s as big as I am, so when he feels ignored it’s not a lot different than what I imagine my boyfriend would be like. (Laughs.)
SMW: What advice do you have for other single women who want to pursue an entrepreneurial path?
1. Whatever you want to build a business in, make sure you are sooo passionate about it that you would do it for free—you just may more than not initially.
2. Make sure you want to and can do the work of five to 10 people, ‘cause you will.
3. Building a business single just may take a focus and determination that can keep you single longer than you want—ask yourself if you’re ok with that.
4. If the many sacrifices of being your own boss (no steady paycheck, you are responsible for everything) outweigh the benefits and you still feel like the entrepreneurial path is worth it, you’re good!
A.J. Johnson, actress, dancer, and spokesperson, is founder and president of THE AJ ZONE, a lifestyle coaching firm.
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