We had the good fortune of connecting with Courtney Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Courtney, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
My perspective on risk is, “Might as well try!”. Nothing is guaranteed in life or in business. The thing that worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today. As soon as you get comfortable and stop working on the next idea, you get passed by the competition. When I left my fulltime job in 2016 to start my own business, that was a big risk that has paid off in ways I couldn’t have even predicted. In 2018, I took a big financial risk to join a wholesale showroom. It wasn’t as profitable as I had hoped but I gained invaluable experiences and relationships. In 2019, I opened a pop-up store. It was more of an investment/risk of my time than money. It paid off and I’m currently working to make the pop-up a permanent brick and mortar location. If I had not taken the 1st risk, and then another and another…. I would have missed countless opportunities.
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 am a jewelry designer. I credit my mother with my love of jewelry. When I was child, she and I spent many afternoons at our local jewelry shop. Although her style is diamonds and pearls and mine is much more minimal, we share a love for the story that is told through jewelry. So often a piece of jewelry is used to commemorate a special moment or event- a sweet 16, a promotion, a wedding, an addition to a family- and in time a woman’s jewelry box can tell the story of her life. Which is why I use only high quality materials and meticulously craft each piece by hand so that it can be passed down and treasured for a lifetime. When I started making jewelry, it was so that I could make gifts for family and friends. Then I started getting requests from those friends to buy pieces to gift to others. After a decade of making jewelry as a hobby, I decided it was time to make my art into a business and I left my fulltime job. At the time, I was a single mom of a 2 year old and a 3 year old. That brought it’s own set of challenges and motivations! I often worked 9pm-2am so that I could have uninterrupted time to focus and also so I could be available during the day to play and just be mom. The smartest decision I made early on was to not get stuck trying to follow someone else’s roadmap to success. I focused on creating the life that I wanted. I was very intentional in choosing Agape Gems as the name for my brand. Many designers use their name, but I always wanted to build something that is bigger than me. Agape is the Greek word for unconditional love. It is my hope that each piece of jewelry spreads a little bit of Agape love to the recipient. It’s why every piece comes with an inspirational card. And it’s why I donate a % of sales each year to nonprofits fighting to end human trafficking. I’m hopeful that as my brand continues to grow, the opportunities to spread love will grow too!
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.
One of the amazing things about living in Atlanta is that almost anything you want is within a 4 hour drive. When my friends come to visit, one of the first things we do is eat! We’ll have brunch at Marlow’s, a Cuban lunch at El Super Pan, an afternoon visit to the Dekalb farmers market, dinner at Serpas (get the bacon wrapped duck, you’ll thank me!), pick up some deserts and tea from Sweet Hut, and of course, finish with a midnight snack at the Waffle House. We’ll spend a day taking in the High Museum of Art, the Civil & Human Rights Museum, and the MLK Center. Day 3 will involve a bike ride around the city’s beltline or a trek to the top of Stone Mountain. We’ll make a day trip to the north GA mountains for a few winery tours and tastings and enjoy the scenic views. Then we’ll escape the city for a few days and head south to Savannah and Tybee island to enjoy the beach.
Who else deserves a little credit and recognition in your story?
I dedicate this shoutout to my kids. They are my greatest motivator to keep pushing forward. I want them to know that they can choose to pursue any path in life. I want them to feel confident in trusting God to direct their path, even when it doesn’t make sense to the people around them. I hope they remember to always look for ways to serve and help in their community. Mostly, I hope they see that they have everything they need inside of them to create a meaningful and joyful life.
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