Grinding to fulfill your dreams isn’t always pretty, but makeup artist and business owner Mimi Johnson is working to change that by lending fellow entrepreneurs a helping hand — or two, or three.
Johnson, who has her own beauty boutique “The Glamatory” in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna, recalls having a vision and $30,000 in the bank when she first decided to go into business for herself. The beauty maven and mother of one is now raking in the dough, earning a six-figure income as a makeup artist to the stars, including Angela Simmons and “Real Housewives'” star Kenya Moore.
Johnson also remembers not having much help when she first got her start in the industry. So she made it a point to help others as she navigated her own career. Cue the birth of Grind Pretty, an online platform dedicated to highlighting women of color in business while also sharing entrepreneurial tips, creating networking/collaborative opportunities and offering visibility to women-owned brands.
“I wanted it to be a movement that inspired and motivated, and for other girls and women to look and see people who look like them who are doing great things and who are truly grinding pretty,” Johnson told Atlanta Black Star in an exclusive interview.
The makeup guru, 37, who quit corporate America to chase her dreams of owning a business, said she was motivated to launch Grind Pretty back in 2017 when she found herself being flooded with questions from other women who also had an itch for entrepreneurship and wanted to know how she built her brand and clientele. Johnson said she wanted to pass on that knowledge, as well as the knowledge of powerful women she’s met in the industry, to other Black women professionals.
Although Grind Pretty mainly focuses on those in the beauty and fashion industries, the platform is open to all entrepreneurs from public relations pros and producers, to life coaches, event planners and photographers.
“I feel like we all should eat,” said Johnson. “Especially women of color, I feel like we should help each other out and we’re not in competition with each other.”
As part of the Grind Pretty movement, members are featured in an online directory and enjoy opportunities to be profiled in the platform’s magazine of the same name, along with access to exclusive content, including educational videos and articles, according to the website.
Additionally, Johnson’s recently launched beauty subscription box is an extension of her mission to highlight Black women entrepreneurs doing great things. The boxes, distributed quarterly, highlight products from at least four business owners, getting their goods directly into the hands of eager consumers, influencers and the like. Johnson also uses her boutique to promote and embrace other Black-owned businesses.
“It gives them another way to market themselves,” she said of the beauty boxes. “And it’s another vehicle for an emerging brand to be successful.”
Like most women of color entrepreneurs, Johnson built her business from the ground up and relied on funds from family, friends and her own pockets to help turn her dreams into a reality. She admits there were times she wanted to quit, but she remained focused on the bigger picture: giving others the opportunity to succeed.
“I thought, ‘This could grow into something if I keep nurturing it,'” Johnson said. “I’m now able to work with people who inspire me, and they’re paying me to do a service. I grew up listening to Missy Elliot and Da Brat, and here I am doing their makeup! Those were full circle moments to let [me] know that everything you’re working for isn’t in vain.”
“Those were those moments where I’m like, ‘Yeah, this is what I’m supposed to be doing,’” she added.
For those aspiring to have their own business one day or those who have, but have gotten a bit stuck, Johnson said it’s important to constantly remind yourself of your purpose.
“Look at what your mission and your purpose is,” she said. “That has to be loud and clear. Your WHY has to be loud and clear, because I find that a lot of times people are just doing things for money. But when you have purpose behind what you’re doing, it takes it to another level.”
Johnson also emphasized the importance of education, but she doesn’t just mean a college degree. She said that includes educating yourself and being unafraid to ask for help for matters on which you’re unfamiliar.
“If you’re not an expert in something, involve someone who is,” she said.
Her last piece of advice? Get out of your own way and “just do it.” Johnson said much the time budding entrepreneurs tend to talk themselves out of really going for their goals.
“Scared money don’t make money,” she said with laugh. “God places things and ideas in us, but if we don’t sow that seed … someone else will. So don’t get in your own way and just go for it.”
“It really is the grit and the grind, and continuing to invest in yourself and into your business,” she added. “I’d rather fail than wonder what it could’ve been like.”
“I just kept reminding myself of that, and those small victories I don’t take for granted.”