“To develop Grit, find your story, share it with the world and share it often”, With Phil Laboon and Carla Williams Johnson
Find your story, share it with the world and share it often. I learned this from my mentor Jennifer Kem who helped me understand that our story isn’t our weakness, it’s actually our strength. Too often we look at ourselves and think that what we’ve been through isn’t relatable or that it just emphasizes our failures but really what it does is shows the world how we overcame everything that was thrown our way and how we rose above it all. Our story makes us relatable, builds us up and gives others the courage to do the same.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Carla Williams Johnson, a Media Marketing Specialist based in Trinidad & Tobago. Due to her unique understanding of media and her imaginative approach to marketing, she founded Carli Communications, which offers advertising and marketing advice to entrepreneurs and business owners who are interested in building a business in the ‘real world’. Her philosophy is to help you M.A.P out your business through (M)arketing, (A)dvertising and (P)romotion in order to A.M.P up your business through (A)ction, (M)otivation, (P)rogress. She has also conducted thousands of advertising campaigns and has secured publicity for hundreds of business owners and entrepreneurs, thus allowing them to authentically connect with their customers in an ever changing environment.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path
For over a decade, I’ve worked in the field of marketing, advertising, and communication. I spent my early career working, building the dreams of others before I finally found the strength to build my own dreams….one brick at a time.
I remember when I first knew I was going to be in advertising. Honestly, I was one of the few people who got excited whenever a commercial came on or be super excited while flipping through a magazine and seeing a creative ad, only because I just loved to see innovative ways of utilizing media. I always found it weird that others would not be as excited as I was but, I guess that’s what made me unique.
I knew I had to get into advertising and I immediately ran to my Gateway computer with dial up internet service (…..yes I know I’m aging myself here) where I surfed the web to research the top agencies and to see if any were based in locally; and what a pleasant surprised when I saw there were quite a few. I’m not ashamed to say that I called each and every one of them, speaking to the creative directors telling them about my love, my passion and my desire to be in advertising.
All were welcoming, none had vacancies but it didn’t deter me. I kept calling, writing and sending emails and I was finally accepted to work in the media department at the top ad agency lending support to the Coca Cola brand. That was just the start for me and before long I was working on international brands and flexing my creative muscles, earning these brands billions of dollars in sales.
Before long my colleagues would say I should open my own business because I was so talented with such great ideas. They saw that I had a unique understanding of the advertising and marketing world and ability to understand the media through creative thinking.
I’m not gonna lie, a voice inside me said, ‘You could do it’ but fear is such a powerful thing. Getting a salary is better than not knowing where my next paycheck was going to come from. By that time I had a young daughter; I thought it would be irresponsible of me to even think about going off on my own……but honestly it all came down to fear of the unknown…….What if I don’t make it? Where would my next paycheck come from? What if I fail? Those were the questions buzzing around in my head.
Fast forward 16 years later, I was working an 8–4 job and was unhappy with where I was to the point of being physically ill, and under-appreciated at my job. I had since graduated to managerial position but I was just so miserable, particularly by the way I was treated.
One morning I was called in by the Human Resources Manager who informed me that my job was now redundant. So here I am after sacrificing to stay in a job I hated, I’m being told that I was no longer needed. But you know what…….it was the BEST news ever!! I felt as if a weight was lifted off my shoulders and was happier than I had ever been in a long time.
I felt like this was my time to shine, on my own. My life changed when I finally decided to trust my instincts and listen to the small but determined voice within that constantly said, “You could do it, don’t worry, you’ll be alright.” After years of corporate entities building their successes on my brainpower, I decided it was time to become my own entity.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When I arrived at my next phase in life, I was a young single mother, with no job, no plan of action, no money, and no clue what to do. I was a bit scared, but a lot determined that I needed to get focused. I fell back on what I was good at and what had always made the companies I worked for successful. I started to meet people, expand my horizons, and make valuable connections.
Sometimes I made no money at all, sometimes I made just enough to cover my bills and there were days I cried long tears and almost lost it because I knew I was working hard.
I remember one moment distinctly.
I’M HAVING A MOMENT were the four words I screamed to my coach the day I felt as if the entire world was falling apart. There I was, parked at the side of the road, a shell of my former self!
This wasn’t normal crying, this was full bodied, questioning my existence type wailing
I knew I was doing everything right! Daily live streams, posting on social media and scheduling of interviews on radio and press, but still I had inconsistent clients. I was extremely busy but still the returns were wavering.
Then it struck me! My foundation was weak!
I was doing everything right — BUT FOR THE WRONG TARGET!!
Truth is getting a few sales here and there didn’t mean I found my ideal client. They may follow me, give me all the accolades but it didn’t match the volume of work I was putting out
So there I was, a week before my daughter’s 16th birthday and two weeks before Christmas, bawling my eyes out because I had no money to give her a sweet 16 (not to mention my car battery died on the way to an important meeting).
This was the turning point for me. I dusted myself off and took the rest of the year to plan my strategy and fall back into my marketing roots. I had to remember that people paid me to get them out of the rut I seemed to be in.
I revisited my client avatar, re looked at by brand personality and started changing my strategy and in six weeks I was able to land a client who, without hesitation, paid me five figures.
Not only that, I was getting numerous calls for interviews and to be featured in local and international publications. Clients were calling, I was getting referred left, right and centre and I created and sold my first online program.
First of all, I let go of all the fear, self-doubt, and less-than-stellar results of my first year as an entrepreneur, rose to the occasion and trusted in the Universe’s plan; but even deeper still; I wanted to prove others that I could do it!!
People have a tendency to ‘use’ newbies in the entrepreneurial realm because they think they’re eager to be recognized and to make money, which may be true in a sense. I remember I was contacted by my then coach to work with her on a major project that was supposed to take my business to the next level. This was someone I trusted, because she wasn’t just a coach, she was a friend…….and I don’t have many friends.
She was there when I was going through my stress in my job and wanted to leave, she was who I called when I needed to vent, or cry or whatever………so when she presented this life changing opportunity, I did not hesitate to say yes.
It wasn’t long before the cracks started to show. She put together this team of newbie professionals (myself included) and exploited us for our expertise; she refused to listen when we gave our advice or feedback and was treating us more like bad employees.
Worse yet, she expected all of us to put working on her project above all, without being paid while she went off to build her second and third business ventures.
Luckily for me, I realized my worth before it was too late , but it did open my eyes to show that sometimes there are people who know how great you are and how powerful your message can be, but they can’t take it so they try to ‘out your flame’. Sometimes those people are who you call friend.
In business, you must realize that sometimes there are people (even the ones closest to you), who make it their mission to hold you back in life and in business. This is when you have to show what you’re made of and push through towards your dreams
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
I literally snapped THE HELL out of it!!!
I know I am the freakin boss when it comes to creative ways to use media to advertise and promote a brand. I believed it wholeheartedly and I did not leave the corporate world and opened my own business for someone else to use me once again to build THEIR dreams on MY shoulders or to shrink and hide…….it was time I built my own empire.
I needed to help people and to show them that they too can build a life they’ve always dreamed of.
I realized that I am good enough……DAMN GOOD AT THAT!!!
I was my own problem. I was blocking my own blessings because I was not courageous enough to stand in my own genius.
So I got out of my own way and embraced my own truth
I felt happy;
I felt free;
I felt like the architect of my own dreams
I didn’t let my false feelings of unworthiness or not being ‘good enough’ get in the way of me rising to my dreams. Instead, I took my destiny into my own hands, embraced my God given gifts & talents and forged forward to build the future I wanted.
So, how are things going today? :-)
Thing are utterly fantastic!! I’m not going to lie, there are times I feel like pulling my hair out but every time I hear one of my clients gets featured or sold a product it fills me with a joy I cannot explain. I must admit that I’m so inspired by the men and women who choose to put themselves out there every single day; The ones who have and continue to get creative with their ideas and their executions because they’re not afraid to stand out from the crowd; The ones who chose this roller coaster ride called entrepreneurship and as scary as the highs and lows might seem, it’s the thrill and the excitement that keeps them wanting more.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit?
It is amazing the types of things entrepreneurs are face with on a daily basis; and while grit is a necessary component in handling whatever life throws our way, grit together with grace is the winning combination for the ultimate success.
I’ve had to use my own courage and resourcefulness to navigate this entrepreneurial journey;
I’ve had to break through barriers of being ‘a little island girl’ from a country that only few know about; I’ve had to make my mark in an industry that tends to favor the opinions of my male counterparts;
I’ve had to shine through as being honest, reliable and real where there seem to be so many fraudsters whose main goal is to deceive in the name of making a quick buck.
These are the reasons why I created my business and how I continue to thrive. I take all that I’ve been through and used it to propel me forward. That is the way of the successful entrepreneur.
If I had to give just five pieces of advice I would say:
1) Know why you got into business in the first place. Trust and believe your why is the most powerful ingredient in your business because that is the thing that keeps you going when you feel like giving up. Remind yourself often why you got into business and let that fuel your fire to continue.
2) Find your story, share it with the world and share it often. I learned this from my mentor Jennifer Kem who helped me understand that our story isn’t our weakness, it’s actually our strength. Too often we look at ourselves and think that what we’ve been through isn’t relatable or that it just emphasizes our failures but really what it does is shows the world how we overcame everything that was thrown our way and how we rose above it all. Our story makes us relatable, builds us up and gives others the courage to do the same.
3) Use your failures as lessons; as a matter of fact dismiss world failure from your vocabulary all together. When things don’t go your way or when people show you their true colors find the lesson and let it strengthen you as you move forward.
4) Believe in yourself and forget what others may or may not say. Think about it this way, you wouldn’t be in business if you didn’t know what you were talking about so think of yourself as the master of your industry and run with that feeling. You have what it takes to succeed; you absolutely have to believe that. I had a hard just being myself because I always felt that I would be misunderstood but I have learned its bad to say nothing and worse to sound like someone else. So I just get out there and do it and people love me for it.
5) Trust your gut. I cannot tell you how many times I went against my own intuition and got myself in hot water. Listen to your instincts and allow that to lead you. Having the confidence and the desire to follow through will be much easier once you feel aligned and at peace with the decision you’ve made.
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 you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?
There have been a few but the person I am most thankful for is my mentor Jennifer Kem. She has been so instrumental in the growth and development of my business. I met her virtually back in 2016. At that time I was a bit lost and I had gone to a telesummit where she was a featured speaker and I was hooked ever since. Luckily for me she was doing her own Brand Story Challenge at the time and truly helped me find my own voice……fast forward I am now a part of her signature program and my business has been seeing tremendous growth. I don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for her tough love and guidance.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Here’s what I know about the people I work with, they have the knowledge, expertise, passion and desire in what they do and would like to share it with the world, but, they just need a little nudge on HOW to get it out there the right way to touch the lives of others…….that’s where I come in.
Honestly I fulfill my dreams helping others fulfill theirs. I love that I can truly support people who need it. My vision is to help as many business owners as possible promote themselves in the right way to the right people and to make their lives better.
Sharing my story has done a tremendous job of showing others that it is indeed possible to build a brand that’s worthy of recognition.
I feel as if I have fought through so many barriers and have had so many things working against me, but I’m doing it…….this small island girl is doing the impossible. I am living proof to everyone that everything you desire is possible.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes indeed….do we entrepreneurs ever stop working? lol
Without giving too much away, I will be developing s program specifically for the introverted entrepreneur which will assist them in building and promoting their brand in the real world. I have found that more and more introverts are moving towards entrepreneurship; however they need a little help with focusing their energy into things that would help them grow and flourish without losing themselves in the process.
This program will definitely help them understand and execute the various components of marketing their business so they can get the results they want.
What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Listen. I mean really listen. Sometimes the greatest, most creative ideas come from the most unexpected of places. Don’t discount someone because they work in a different field, or what happened in my case, come from a completely different culture. Hear them out, include them in brainstorming and creative meetings and let them feel like part of the team.
You are a person 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. :-)
This one is a hard question, but I would say we should have some sort of creativity project in schools where we allow our children to use their imagination and find creative ways to look at and even use everyday things
I mean being creative is not just sculpting or painting, you can find creativity in everything. I offer innovative ideas to increase my clients’ income all the time by looking at out of the box ways to use media and I do it because in a busy world, clients need to find creative ways to stand out to customers.
Let’s expose our children to this from a young age because while academics are great, sparking their creativity can take them that much farther.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My absolute quote is from Maya Angelou
“I did then what I knew how to do.
Now that I know better, I do better.”
I live my life by this because it reminds me to never stop learning, growing and improving
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I invite everyone to Make the Carlicomm Connection on:
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.