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In Conversation: Em John

After you’ve gotten your fill of turkey (and family) this Thanksgiving, swing by STORY this Saturday, November 26, 12-4PM as designer Emma Johnson (“Em John”) joins us for a jewelry trunk show! Nineteen-year-old Em John is a jewelry maker with an eye for new trends, and she’s turned selling charm bracelets to friends and family into a burgeoning business. Currently a sophomore at Boston University, she’ll be showcasing and selling her necklaces, lucite key chains, bag charms, and more! We took a time out from the holiday to catch up with her about her design process, creating one of Oprah’s favorite things, and balancing student life with running a business.

Tell us a little bit about how you got your start. 

I’ve always been obsessed with jewelry/accessories and keeping up to date with the latest and greatest trends. Entrepreneurship is in my blood and it’s something I’ve always been interested in. The summer going into my junior year of high school, I started thinking more seriously about college and I wondered if I could start a business to generate enough revenue to pay for my education. Almost overnight I started designing charms, I found a manufacturer, and I posted a few photos on Instagram. Friends instantly asked if they could buy them. When peers are willing to pay you cash, not just a compliment, you know you’re onto something!

What’s your creative process like? 

 My creativity peaks when I travel. This summer in Spain I was surrounded by color everywhere — in museums, at the beach, on the streets, in food markets.  That vivid color led to creating colorful keychains. Color makes me happy and I think that’s true for many people.

Your tasseled lucite key chains have been chosen as one of Oprah’s favorite things the last two years (!) Can you tell us a bit about how that came about, and what it’s done for your business?

 I was a Style Intern at Oprah Magazine this past summer and watched thousands of submissions come in, listened to the editors on what they’re looking for and knew I could deliver on the fun affordable requirement. As for what it’s done for me, I’m talking to you! And the sales of Em John have put me through college for which I’m very proud. I wish more of my peers would consider funding eduction through entrepreneurship.

What’s your secret to balancing being a college student and running your own jewelry line?

 It definitely can be tricky at times, seeing as I’m a sophomore at Boston University and Em John is based out of NYC. However, I’m extremely lucky because I have a very supportive family who helps me 24/7 with all things Em John so going off to college knowing that they’re there to help was and is absolutely amazing. College is a huge opportunity for me to expand on campus and in Boston since the college community is a big part of my fan base. I try to treat the business just like friends treat their commitment to sports or other extra curricular activities. It’s never a chore or a burden. We all make time for what’s important to us and Em John is extremely important to me.

Where would you like to be in 5 years?

 I have so many dreams for the future. A big one would be opening an Em John pop-up shop in NYC; that’s the ultimate small business owner’s dream! In the meantime, I love creative collaborations with cool brands.

Who/What is your spirit animal?

 Kris Jenner – is that ridiculous?! — because she’s very savvy and obsessed with her family just like I am.

What’s one thing we can’t learn about you from googling?

My mood booster is an icy cold Acai bowl with coconut chips from Juice Press.
Favorite spot in NYC?

The Reservoir in Central Park an hour before sundown.