Emma Johnson sat in her parent’s Manhattan home, doing what she always did on Sunday afternoons—creating crafty projects like beaded bracelets. One particular Sunday afternoon, she decided to post her finished bracelet on social media.
A week later, a store in her neighborhood contacted her asking to sell two dozen of those very bracelets. From there she created a collection, entitled Em John, around bracelets, keychains, jewelry and other products.
After realizing how profitable her products were, Emma gave herself an incredibly difficult challenge.
“I set an ambitious goal for myself to pay for college and make $250,000 with this business,” Emma said.
Emma was a junior in high school then. She’s now a junior at Boston University. The 20-year-old is quite the enigma among her college counterparts, having created her own business to pay for her college tuition.
Emma currently runs Em John out of her apartment back in Manhattan. Additionally, she manages the majority of the business without a marketing team, a sales team and a publicist. However, while she’s at Boston University, her parents keep the business functioning.
“I handle designing products, coming up with ideas, marketing, assembling and all, packaging and all, handling [public relations] such as Instagram and sending products to editors, so, I really do it all,” Emma said.
Though Em John initially gained momentum around the popularity of her bracelets, she later introduced keychains to her collection. The keychains, composed of faux fur balls and plastic initials, would become successful. After sending the keychains to many different editors at magazines, the creative director at O, The Oprah Magazine took notice. Her products would be featured in the holiday issue of the magazine.
“The creative director texted me saying he wanted [keychains] in Oprah Magazine. I was like ‘Oh totally,’ so I made 300, thinking 300 keychains [is] a lot of keychains to sell, and in the first week we sold over 3,000,” Emma said.
As for that college tuition goal she created for herself years ago, it is now a reality. Emma has raised well over $250,000 and is planning on continuing her business.
“This past August I hit that goal completely, so that’s pretty exciting,” Emma said.
Emma hopes to grow her business in the coming years and potentially expand that same college tuition challenge to other qualified students.
“I want to expand on the Em John college challenge and have Em John ambassadors that [represent] Em John on their college campuses and at their high schools so that, ultimately, they keep a percentage of the sales and then they put it towards their own college challenge,” she said.