380 Mimi Johnson: In the Glamatory
What did you love to do as a little kid? Sometimes it’s a powerful cue about your true talents and the purposeful path you are meant to follow. Are you doing the things you loved as a 5 year old?
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who turned her little girl passion for makeup … into a thriving business.
Mimi Johnson is the founder of the beauty boutique The Glamatory – and a growing online community and subscription box called Grind Pretty. With a social media following of more than 50,000, Mimi’s work is seen on TV networks Bravo and VH1, and her high profile clients include Kenya Moore and Angela Simmons.
Featured in Essence and InStyle Magazines, Mimi shares how her entrepreneurial journey began back in 2011 with what she calls “an emancipation of Mimi” party.
Now back to the inspiring celebrity makeup artist and entrepreneur Mimi Johnson.
She’s the founder of the Glamatory and the subscription beauty box Grind Pretty.
With its vegan- and cruelty-free makeup and a powerhouse lineup of some of the most exciting talent in the industry, the Atlanta-based Glamatory brand is consciously beautifying the world, one client and product at a time. It’s laboratory-themed beauty boutique features luxurious makeup, beauty education and upscale services – attracting some of the entertainment industry’s hottest stars.
As part of Mimi’s mission to support all women, The Glamatory also provides opportunities for makeup artists to share their talents and passions with the world.
Mimi J’s artistry has been featured on a variety of popular TV shows on networks such as Bravo, VH1, and WeTV, and she has had the honor of working with a number of celebrity clients, such as Angela Simmons. She is also the founder of Grindpretty.com and is a social media influencer with a growing brand that has attracted over 50,000 followers.
Melinda Wittstock: Mimi, welcome to Wings.
Mimi Johnson: Thanks for having me. I'm so excited to be here.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, me too. I love all things glamor, and you have a business called The Glamatory. I want to know all about it, and what was your inspiration in founding it.
Mimi Johnson: I do, sure. The Glamatory is a laboratory themed beauty boutique. My flagship store is here in Atlanta, Georgia and we also have an agency full of great makeup artists. Grind Pretty is our product line. We have a vegan product line that I created, and we are excited to expand in different territory.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that's so exciting. When you were a little girl, were you always into glamor? Was this a dream like right from the start, or something that came a little bit later on?
Mimi Johnson: You know what? I've always been that girly little kid. I remember getting in my mom's makeup and getting in trouble a lot. What I did not anticipate was being a makeup artist. I have always been artistic. I went and did the traditional thing. I went to college. I graduated with a marketing degree, and got a “job”, but I was the designated makeup artist for all my friends. I was actually in IT as a consultant. One trip to New York, I stayed the weekend, and did my friend's makeup.
My friend was like, “You know what? You're really good at this. You should be a makeup artist.” And I was like, “Okay, well sure.” I had an entrepreneurial spirit, so I basically said okay, I'll try it. And I fell in love with it. I started doing makeup to where it got to a point where I didn't have a day off, and I was like okay, I have to make a decision. I left my job in 2010, had an Emancipation of Mimi party in 2011, and the rest is history.
Melinda Wittstock: Wow, so I'm always curious about Founders' stories. You know, that moment where you decide, okay that's it. Like, you had your emancipation party, I love that, and you take this leap into the unknown of entrepreneurship. Of course, there's all that giddiness at the beginning, and all the excitement, and then you're learning stuff and you're thinking wow, this is maybe a little harder than I thought. What did you experience walking through that kind of refiner's fire to get to where you are now? What were some of the biggest challenges?
Mimi Johnson: Oh gosh, I would say in the beginning… Now, I have this dream to be this great makeup artist, and I'm a small fish in a pond. I'm in a big city, and I didn't have the connections per se to just leap in and get celebrities. So my thing in the beginning was, how do I make a name for myself? I think that's when I leaned in on my marketing degree and got creative. There were a lot of people that I knew in the music industry, and I came up with this strategy, okay well let me partner with a great photographer who knew celebrities or connections. Let me partner with a hair stylist. Let me partner with a videographer.
I created this segment on YouTube called Beauty Behind the Beat. So, I would ask my friends, “Hey, invite me to listening parties. Invite me to anything music-related,” and I would reach out to women in the music industry. They were necessarily all artists. They could be the people behind the scenes and make decisions. That's how I kind of I jumpstart in getting my name out in Atlanta. I also did a lot of sweat equity, which is people think oh, I don't want to work for free, but I didn't look at it like that. I looked at it as this is something could pay off into something later, and it did.
I did a couple of things for a photographer. That photographer in return came back and was shooting for The Real Housewives of Atlanta, and therefore I got on that show that way. Some challenges along the way, once I became a makeup artist, I am a single mommy and I had my son in 2012 and my world shifted. It was like [crosstalk [spp-timestamp time="00:09:55"]-
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness, so you were balancing entrepreneurship with being a single mom. I've done that. I do that. It's challenging.
Mimi Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. You know, at that point I was doing great as a freelancer by myself and all of that. I would get these calls the night before that were last minute, and they were big calls for TV production and whatever. I can't move like that with a kid. So that's when it really hit me. What's my real plan? What's my exit strategy? What's going to create for my family? That's when The Glamatory became an idea in my head, because I wanted to create something that eventually could make money in my sleep. It could be a franchise opportunity and so forth. That was really the motivation behind creating The Glamatory.
Melinda Wittstock: How wonderful. I think it's interesting when we have kids and businesses at the same time. A lot of people who listen to this podcast know this story already, but I remember in business number one as an adult, because I used to do them when I was a teenager. But this is one as an adult. My daughter was six weeks old. The funding had come through for the business, and I'm launched. It was a news agency on Capitol Hill, and I was running around with a microphone, and my whole kit, my reporter kit on one shoulder. Then I had my breast pump on the other.
Mimi Johnson: Oh my goodness.
Melinda Wittstock: And there was this day that was so, so busy where I did all these stories, because in the first year of the business I was reporting as well as doing all the sales, as well as all the fundraising, as well as all the operations, payroll, all of it. At the end of one day, I pulled out what I thought was my microphone, and it wasn't. It was actually the breast pump [crosstalk [spp-timestamp time="00:11:52"].
Mimi Johnson: Oh my God.
Melinda Wittstock: I was aiming it at a senator. It was Senator Patty Murray of Washington State. It was hilarious. I was pointing at her. I was so tired, I didn't even know. She was like, “You're kidding me, right?”
Mimi Johnson: Oh my gosh.
Melinda Wittstock: She was cracking up. It was so funny, but I found that those experiences, like getting through that, is that my kids have made me better in business. They've made me a better leader, and being in business has made me a better mother.
Mimi Johnson: Absolutely. Absolutely. It keeps you focused, it really does.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, it's true. It's kind of like you have to, with this whole issue with time that women are so challenged by, you've got to figure out what is it that only you can do, what can other people do. So what kind of help do you need as mom, like having someone come and prepare meals if you have to, or clean, or do the laundry, or whatever it is, so you can really be focused really on what's important to your kids. And likewise in business as well, what's all the busy work that you can take off yourself.
Mimi Johnson: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: How did you manage that, because I think a lot of women get stuck here where they think I don't have enough money to do that yet, and so they burn out trying to do it all themselves rather than just moving Heaven and earth to get that first hire, that second hire, third hire, like that. How did you navigate all of that?
Mimi Johnson: Yeah, honestly I made some mistakes. I thought I could do it all, and when you do that, you're not only burning yourself out, but you kind of shortchange all the projects that you're working on because you're not putting 100% effort in each thing. So, I've learned to focus on one or two things at a time. Get those accomplished them move on. I've also learned to delegate. I didn't have the funding in the beginning, and I leaned on family, I mean those friends. I interviewed interns in college that needed college credit, so I got creative there.
Just a bit of advice that has always stuck with me, Kim Fields, the actress, I was listening to her speak one time. I asked her how does she balance everything, being a director and an actress. She is also married with children. She told me it's like walking a tightrope in a circus. You have to make adjustments with every step. That has really stuck with me because there is no such thing as perfect balance. There's always going to be work to do. Your kid's always going to need something. So I think it's just prioritizing what you can do, like you said, and not trying to do everything at once. Just focus one or two things at a time and go from there.
Melinda Wittstock: Really, really true. I think that we do fall into the trap of thinking we can do it all, because honestly our minds are wired that way. Through the millennia, through time, women have had the ability to manage lots of kids, feeding everybody, looking after everybody, honey your socks are over here. Because we have this ability, so our minds can do that. So we think that we have to, but we don't. I think the biggest epiphany for me was even stuff that I was good at doing, letting it go. Just letting it go, even if somebody else wasn't able to do it as well, 80% is better than 100% in that case if you can double down on really working on your business instead of in it.
Mimi Johnson: Yes, for sure. For sure, yeah and there's some opportunities that you have to pass on.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. Yeah, it's true.
Mimi Johnson: And I had to mark that. I just learned that.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Mimi Johnson: I did not like saying no to money.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh gosh, that's a good one, right, when you have the wrong kind of revenue or the wrong client or whatever.
Mimi Johnson: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Mimi Johnson: Yes, yes, yes. I mean the wrong client, or just overworking yourself. When you start to think smarter, and that also goes into pricing. If you underbid your stuff, and you're working yourself crazy where you could take a couple clients and charge more. I had to learn that over time.
Melinda Wittstock: We all do. I have one of my mentors, even now is business number five, still I fall into that trap of undercharging. Nope, double. Like, what really? And then you just have to get confident enough to be able to say the price without choking.
Mimi Johnson: Yeah. Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: So go as high as you can without choking, right? I think that's a process. It's hard to start too high, because then if you don't believe in yourself your client or prospective client is not going to believe it either.
Mimi Johnson: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness, we're solving the world's problems here. This is amazing. What's the big vision for The Glamatory? Is The Glamatory something that's going to scale beyond Atlanta? What's the big vision?
Mimi Johnson: I hope so. My vision is, well I can't disclose all of my secrets right now, but I see The Glamatory possibly having a presence in several other cities. I also see the product line growing globally. More than that, I really wanted to make a social impact, and I have something in the works where I support the autism and special needs community. My son is actually autistic, which adds another level of crazy to my life.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness.
Mimi Johnson: Yeah, yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: That's a lot.
Mimi Johnson: But you know, it's my motivation. I think things happen. We don't know why, but I feel like there's a purpose, and the purpose that I'm placed in this position is to show other women, maybe mothers, maybe not, but other women that you can still do it. You can still achieve your dreams. You can have obstacles, and setbacks that you can still make this happen. So, that's part of the reason why I keep going.
Melinda Wittstock: That's so inspiring, but also exciting.
Mimi Johnson: Yeah, I'm excited. I'm scared sometimes, but I'm excited.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, we all are. If you're not scared, you're not growing.
Mimi Johnson: Yeah, absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: I don't know, what do you think about this? I'm curious at everybody's view on fear in the sense of there's some things that when they're scaring you, that's a really good sign because it means you're getting out of your comfort zone, and you're stepping into your zone of genius and that's kind of a little bit frightening because it's change. You've got all this kind of “Am I good enough?” and all that kind of stuff. The courage is to blow past that. That's the moment when fear is kind of good, or it's telling you you're going in the right direction.
Then there's the other type of fear that's really bad, like subconscious, where you're just stuck in your own way like you're paralyzed, or procrastinating, or being too perfectionist, or afraid of success, or afraid of failure, or all these. Those are tricky because they're subconscious. Sometimes we don't even know that we have these fears. What's your perspective on fear and how to overcome it in business?
Mimi Johnson: Gosh, I don't know another way to put this besides on a spiritual level of having faith, and really finding your purpose. I feel like if you're doing something and you discover that you're doing it with a purpose, it's always going to prevail. There have been times in my business where I could not pay the rent. I'm like I'm losing it. I am failing. I should just quit. But there's just something in me that says no. It's a reminder of look how far you've come. You weren't put in this position to leave it.
I was just thinking I'm crazy, but I was like you know what, I'm going to try. I have this faith. Sure enough, this big job comes through the next day, or this client comes through and buys $500.00 worth of stuff. It's happened so many times in my business within the lifecycle of it. I honestly have to call it having faith, and having faith in yourself and believing in yourself. I think a lot of times that fear comes in and brings us doubts. It starts negating everything that we've worked hard for.
I don't know a billionaire or a millionaire who has not failed. I think we're scared to fail. Look how many times millionaires have gone bankrupt.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, like I think of my own kind of serial entrepreneur journey. There are so many things that can go wrong. Sadly, a lot of those things are things beyond your control. If you could control everything, you'd have a much higher chance of success, assuming you're smart and you've got a good idea and all that kind of stuff. It's just things happen, like your timing might be off, or just there's a whole bunch of different things.
I think often those failures, they have to happen to us because that's how we learn. It's just having a positive attitude about the failure, like seeing it as feedback. Say your customers don't like that or they don't like that price, well they're telling you a way to make it better. They're actually guiding you to succeed if you can see it or listen to it in that way.
Mimi Johnson: Yes, yes, yes.
Melinda Wittstock: I like what you say though, that it is sort of a spiritual thing in the end. I've come to that conclusion.
Mimi Johnson: Yeah, yeah definitely faith over fear for me. That's how I live. Sometimes we seek out things for merely profit, and that's when I think sometimes we fail as well. I think you have to have some type of mission or purpose than what you're trying to do. I don't know a business or a person that has purpose, that's fulfilling a purpose that's a failure.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh gosh, that's so true isn't it?
Mimi Johnson: Yeah. Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: It really is, because when we're in alignment, all those failures and setbacks don't really bother us so much because we know they're just little blips on the journey and it's just part of the thing. If you're just building something for a short term profit, not that there's anything wrong with a nice short term profit or whatever, but if that's the only motivation it's much harder when things are going awry.
Mimi Johnson: Yes, absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: Right?
Mimi Johnson: Absolutely, because you're just doing it for a buck and don't believe it.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. Yeah, now this is really true. I want to turn the corner a little bit into tactics for personal branding, and Instagram. I remember you mentioned that one of your biggest challenges getting going was developing a following, developing thought leadership, being known, being recognized, being seen, all of that. You've obviously done a very good job with that, so what are some pieces of practical advice you can pass on to women who are trying to figure out their personal branding, and perhaps a little bit worried, or reticent or shy because they're confusing personal branding with personal bragging?
Mimi Johnson: Yeah, yeah. So I think I had to first identify what my strengths were and what I was going to deliver. What was my style? It all related to makeup. I am in Atlanta, and at the time I started, makeup was really heavy, like drag queen makeup here. I'm more of a natural type of person. So, I felt in the beginning I was a failure because I couldn't execute this heavy style of makeup. I remember years later I went to New York to show my portfolio to an agency.
The agent looked at my book, closed it really fast and said, “You know what, I can see you do clean beauty. I can see you do clean work, but I'm a little confused as to why you have this dramatic black lipstick look here and then you have this clean picture here. If I were Loreal, which one would I hire you for?” I was like, “The clean one.” He said, “Yes, just stick with that. That's what you do.” And ever since then, that was my thing.
I knew that that was my style. I was going to do naturally pretty glam, and I ran with that. All of my pictures that I post, the aesthetics are naturally pretty. It's an enhancement to someone's beauty. Then I knew that that was my audience. That was my girl. The people that came to me wanted that. So, I think the key to great branding is understanding who your client is, or who you're trying to attract and make sure that your aesthetics are consistent to that.
I think a lot of people try to be all over the place with their branding message. I could put out dramatic makeup. Then I could put out natural makeup. Then I'm only using green products. I think you have to be very straightforward with your branding and who you are. Your style has to come through. I think the most important thing is authenticity. People can sense when things are forced and not authentic. I think that's probably the most important thing.
That would be my key advice of branding, just really being authentic, making sure that shows, and understanding what your strengths are, what you're going to deliver, and make sure that you deliver that and be consistent with what you're putting out aesthetically on your Instagram and website and so forth.
Melinda Wittstock: That's really, really good advice. You know, it's funny with Instagram, social media and all these things, because we can get so wrapped up in doing that, and just posting. It's like a full-time job.
Mimi Johnson: It is. There are full-time positions for it.
Melinda Wittstock: No, there really is. Even with Instagram, because they're all a little bit different and really taking time, I think in my experience, is to really take time to make every single person feel special. I mean, this is the whole Gary Vaynerchuk strategy and it works. It's like pick a few people and interact with them in a really deeply personal way publicly so everybody kind of sees you being really authentic and being yourself, and making other people feel special. Then that amplifies. Everyone says oh wow she was so nice to that person. Wow, that's really cool.
A lot of people forget that. They're in such a rush that they just kind of go for immediate scale. I think that strategy is just all the better, of making people feel super special.
Mimi Johnson: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Mimi Johnson: You know, to add to that, I feel like it's such me, me, me, me society right now, and it's why don't have this many followers? Why don't people follow me? Well, you should be asking yourself what are you doing to engage with others? What are you doing to collaborate with others? Because that's the true way to grow. Collaboration, that's the key, and engaging with others. I think a lot of times it's just what can I get out of it? What can I do? I'm posting this beautiful picture of me.
It's kind of like the boasting on Instagram when you don't know the true story behind. I'll say this, I'll post celebrity pictures and beautiful pictures of makeup and things like that. I get the most interaction when I post something about me, and it's authentic. I could post a celebrity, and cool I get the likes, but the engagement comes when it is true to me and it's something about me, whether it's my journey, whether it's something that I accomplished, maybe it's even transparency on some way that I had a hard time.
I think people just get caught up in posting their best of the best, of the best, and making it seem like everything's perfect.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh gosh, I know. There's a lot of that around for sure.
Mimi Johnson: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: I'm so inspired by you, Mimi. I think you're doing amazing things in the world, and I just want to say it's so great to hear these amazing entrepreneurial stories where you have adversity you've got to overcome, like being a single mom with a child with special needs, and you push through and you find faith, and off you go. I can just only imagine really big things ahead of you, and I just wanted to really make sure that everybody finds a way to connect with you and find you, so can you give a little shout out for yourself about how people can follow you on Instagram-
Mimi Johnson: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: And use what you do?
Mimi Johnson: Yeah, and thank you so much. You can find me at mimijonline. It's M-I-M-I-J Online. That's on everything. That's my website, Instagram, Facebook. You can find my businesses on LinkedIn, by following that as well.
Melinda Wittstock: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us.
Mimi Johnson: Thank you so much for having me.
Melinda Wittstock: That was great. Thank you.
Mimi Johnson: Thank you.