Lessons from a Thriving Power Couple, With Marisa & Terell Johnson of La Create Sp_ce
Common Goals and understandings: It’s important to have goals that you both are working towards. Whether it’s financial, planning vacations, working out together, having something that you both agree is a common goal helps you stay accountable with your partners and gives the couple wins.
As a part of our series about lessons from Thriving Power Couples, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marisa Johnson and Terell Johnson.
After studying business marketing at San Jose State University, Silicon Valley native Marisa Johnson found her niche and passion for innovation and unique branding in the tech and entertainment industry. Marisa fosters a talent for inspiring others while compiling ideas and bringing her clients dreams to life. Marisa has worked in a variety of industries implementing digital strategy and sponsorship integrations for companies such as Apple, Beats by Dre, UFC, NBA’s Sacramento Kings, and BET, as well as developing social media solutions for mega church Faithful Central. Most recently Marisa and her husband launched a creative and tech consulting company, Johnson Partners Group as well as the first creative co-working space in Inglewood; La Create Space. Both companies encourage technology, production, collaboration, and business development. Marisa and La Create Space have been featured in Forbes, Black Enterprise, and Afro Tech.
Marisa is also the founder of the She is Speaker series, a tour encouraging the growth and development of women in business. The launch showcased media maven Karen Civil and was sponsored by Nike, Kind Bar, Belaire Champagne, Cora Women, and Jam Cellars.
Terell is the founder of La Create Sp_ce, Johnson Partners Group and CTO of Vibu Media. Terell was born and raised in South LA and currently works for Facebook as a Video Infrastructure and Collaboration Engineer.
Terell attended college at San Jose State University where he majored in radio, television & film with an emphasis in broadcast engineering while playing football and serving as president of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Epsilon Mu Chapter. After San Jose State, Terell worked as a technical director in the live event production industry, where he traveled the world directing shows for major Silicon Valley companies. Terell’s Tech career started when he was recruited to work at Applied Materials and would later go on to work in the engineering departments at Cisco Systems, Applied Materials, and Snapchat
With a love of the arts, music and video, Terell is an engineer and creative at heart. Working in the tech industry in the mid-2000s, Terell saw technology, communication and entertainment all merging and changing what it is today.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you two to your respective career paths?
Terell — I am a video engineer at Facebook and have been working in the IT Field for over 15 years. In most of my roles, my team managed areas of internal infrastructure, including networking, the buildout and maintenance of offices and campus and had ownership in many of the tools used by employees to work. While in these roles, I understood how important the workspace and facilities are and how technology can enable collaboration. I took all those skills and knowledge and built a coworking space for my community that brings tech workspaces to Inglewood.
Our Space is inspired by a Snapchat Office in its early Venice Days; complete with the same tech, look and feel. For us our business and space is the shell that allows us to bring together our members, partners and resources to share them with our members and community. We are a tech enabled space and are dedicated to giving our members the tools they need to succeed.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you two got married?
Our honeymoon was really dope and interesting. We decided to take a sunrise hike up Mount Batum in Bali, Indonesia to see the sun rise. It was an incredible experience that required us to wake up at 2am and make the 3-hour 5600 ft Trek to see the sunrise.
We have had the chance to meet really great couples due to having kids and attending events and birthdays. We work our hardest to give our kids a good life and in return our kids bring us joy and opportunities by the people we meet.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When we first opened, we were able to get our electricity turned on over the phone. We were billed and the bill was going to the wrong mailbox. We had forgot about it early on and once we opened, we had a big event.
Luckily, I came early, and the power was out. I played it cool and blamed it on the building and quickly called the electric company. The power was back on within about 15 minutes, but the lesson was learned.
We now are on top of this with epayments. Nothing like coming in and the power is off on the day of one your biggest client to date.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think our company stands out because of Us and the reasons we found the company. We really bring a different perspective to Inglewood and having worked and working in Tech brought a new visibility to Inglewood. We also were the first Black Coworking Space in Inglewood which was huge and allowed the entrepreneur community to come together. We also are a production Studio which is huge because there are so many creatives and Entertainment professionals’ minutes away from Inglewood. Traditionally many of our members would have to go to Hollywood to create projects. Now they can just go down the street and have the same experience as they would have to drive up to 2 hours for.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are launching a new Virtual Community that brings together many of the groups of people we support together in an online app. This is allowing us to grow outside of our physical space and open up opportunities for creating new products and services. One thing that we are really excited about is our Creative Classes and Business Trainings.
For Creatives, we are creating classes in areas such as Podcast and Video Production that teaches both new and experienced creatives how to create, produce, and market their podcast content as well as curriculum for engineers on how to turn these skills into a paid service into a successful business with clients.
Our Business Trainings are aimed at working with businesses, brands and digital service base consultants on how to set up strong business foundations focusing on the needed services to conduct business using many of the digital and online platforms.
For both training and classes, we have partnered with online platforms such as Square and Shopify to offer training and resources directly from the companies while extending benefits to our members.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
I think that as a CEO, it’s important to try to lay out the strategy of your company as quickly as possible and try to find great people to make your vision become a reality. I think that when you have people who believe in your vision, you will start to take the steps needed to make your dream a reality. People are the key to a company and making sure that you have clear goals and a path towards that goal is really important for the success of your company.
How do you define “Leadership”?
I define leadership as leading by example. I think that all good leaders are able to continue to seek out other leaders to learn and grow from. For me, I believe that a leader works smarter not harder and brings people together to get the best output possible.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Marisa — Terell, one of the positives about going into business with your spouse. You have each other to lean on when things get tough. You’re able to pull out each other’s strengths and step in where the other is weak. I’ve been pregnant at some of our most pivotal moments with our business and Terell always carries the load when it becomes too heavy. I couldn’t do this without him.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We created a Holiday Toy Drive “Create Space for Joy” in which we gave away toys and gift cards for a local grocery store. We were able to work with Mattel Toys to provide the toys for kids and Ralphs to provide the gift cards. We saw the joy in the families who were struggling and were happy to help our community. This is the second time we have hosted this event and the reach is getting bigger and bigger. We look forward to and will continue to do this event year after year.
What are the “5 Things You Need To Thrive As A Couple”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Communication: You should have a person that you can communicate with. Someone to hear our problems and perspective and have someone who you can talk to.
- Friendship : Couples should be friends, I think that if everything breaks down, you still have your friendship. Being Friends allows you to have fun and realize that you genuinely like someone.
- Boundaries: In all relationships, there are boundaries that all people must know and avoid. This allow people to be individuals but
- Common Goals and understandings: It’s important to have goals that you both are working towards. Whether it’s financial, planning vacations, working out together, having something that you both agree is a common goal helps you stay accountable with your partners and gives the couple wins..
- Completely Opposite Goals: Along with this, having opposite goals are great. This allows people to work on things that the partner may not have as a goal but gives one the some
You are people of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Marisa — Giving people the opportunity to take advantage of their own life. Showing our community, the importance of learning a trade or skill and then mastering it. Giving everyone the opportunity to open up a bank account while making financial literacy a mandatory part of curriculum. Anything to even out the playing field is a movement we stand behind.
Terell — For me, I want to build a place where we can find our local businesses is really important. I think it’s important for us to be hyperlocal when using businesses and services. I believe that in our society we need to think smaller before larger so that we can build up our communities, cities and country from within. We are invested in training small businesses and helping them adapt to and evolve to using online tools to grow and scale their business.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Marisa “If it was easy everyone would do it” My father Mario would say this to me from the time I could remember. He always told me adversity came with any great thing worth having. As an entrepreneur I hear those words replay in my head daily. Our dreams are so big they are frightening at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Anything worth having takes work and if anyone is going to do the work and make their dreams a reality, I know it’s us.
Life goes on and someone has it harder than you. This is something that my uncle used to say. I grew up in Watts where many people don’t make it through HS. My uncle taught me to use other people’s mistakes as lessons to learn and grow. This is something that allowed me to learn what not to do and allowed me to focus on things that brought joy and experiences that I would not be able to if I fell victim to the norms of my neighborhood.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Marisa — Beyoncé and Jay Z. We want legacy and we want change. What better two people to have breakfast with to discuss the two topics.
Terell — Magic Johnson — I would want to meet Magic and discuss opportunities to make the change we want to see in LA and the world. I have a lot of good things that I want to do and seeing how to have the greatest impact and legacy would be the topics of our conversion.
How can our readers follow your work online?
Follow us at @lacreatespace @terelljayjohnson @sheismarisaj
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.