Name: Morgan France-Johnson
Alma Mater: Spelman College C’07
Business Name & Description: Aesthetically Spoken, LLC is a greeting card line that caters to the LGBTQ community; Lux Creative, LLC is a graphic design company that specializes in branding development and marketing materials.
What year did you found your company? Aesthetically Spoken, LLC – January 2012; Lux Creative, LLC – November 2012
What has been the most exciting and/or fearful moment during your HBCUpreneur career? It’s hard for me to list just one moment, as the entrepreneurial journey is one of the most exhilarating roller coasters I have ever been on! However, if I were forced to pick just one exciting moment for Lux Creative, it would be when I secured a business deal with an international brand while living in Dubai, UAE. This accomplishment affirmed that I am as good as I know and believe I am.
Exciting moments for Aesthetically Spoken are centered around the positive feedback I receive from other members of the LGBTQ community whenever they are able to share the perfect heartfelt greeting. As my overarching purpose is to positively impact lives, knowing that people truly appreciate what I do is very exciting for me.
Fear, like excitement, pokes its head up every once in a while. The most fearful moments always occur before my team and I made our most pivotal changes. The common reminder that fear projects lies in the basic concept of Newton’s Law of Relativity: For every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction. At times, we have found that increased vision is met with low visibility, growth with set backs, and opportunity with void. However, the converse is also true— opposition is met with formidability, loss precedes gain and most importantly fear is met with faith!
What made you want to start your own company? Since I could remember I wanted to “start something.” I distinctly remember at the age of 6, watching a news story with my mother about homelessness in Baltimore and afterwards saying, “Mommy, I’m going to ask God to bless me with money so I can build a place for all of the homeless people to live.”
At 6, I knew my purpose. I didn’t know what that was called back then, but I knew I was going to change the world with my ideas. Spelman cultivated my seed and honed the skills that I would need to make my mark on the world.
Who was the most influential person/people for you during your time in college? Honestly, all of my Spelman Sisters. As a native of Baltimore, I had very few experiences with African-Americans with such diverse perspectives and experiences; they gave me glasses to see a world I never knew existed. I’m forever grateful to Spelman and the women I call “Sister.”
How do you handle complex problems? I spend 20% of my effort on the problem. What’s the real issue here? What other areas does this problem affect? And so on. Then I spend 80% of my effort on the solution. I call mentors, read books, search the web, call my attorney. I do what’s necessary to ensure I’ve neutralized the problem and do my best to prevent any recurrences.
What is something you wish you had known prior to starting your company? This journey isn’t for the faint hearted, expect opposition. Stay vigilant and build your personal networks wisely as you’ll need a support system outside of business to ease the disappointments that will occur along the way.
You are the first HBCUpreneur we have had that is operating not one, but two companies at the same time. As an HBCUpreneur operating multiple companies at the same time and those considering it; what can you tell us about the experience, challenges, and advantages of being a multi-CEO? Balancing the complexities of “normal” life while owning and operating one business is difficult. Two businesses requires an intense level of focus, having great teams in place, and having a good support system. I’m reminded of the Shonda Rhimes Stanford graduation speech in which she stated: when you are in charge of multiple entities, home/multiple businesses, you will have to sacrifice. Everything can’t have your attention 100% of the time. You will mess up. You will make mistakes. But it’s all worth it.
What do you believe HBCUs can do to spur more innovation and entrepreneurship while their students are in school either as undergraduate or graduate students? As a freshman at Spelman, I attended a seminar that prompted me to change my major from Child Development to Economics. That one seminar ultimately changed my entire life. I believe that HBCUs can spur innovation and entrepreneurship by hosting meaningful events that spark creativity while simultaneously educating and supporting individuals who are considering entrepreneurship.
Given the LGBTQ community has an estimated $830 billion in buying power; what are some of the blooming opportunities you believe are on the horizon to HBCUpreneurs looking to provide goods or services to the LGBTQ community in particular? I believe that it is the responsibility of those in the LGBTQ community to assess the market for needs and meet them. Aesthetically Spoken, a card line created specifically for the LGBTQ community was born simply out of need. I found myself in need of a Valentine’s Day greeting card fitting for my same sex significant other. Heteronormative pronouns and insinuations were not fitting; and, as a graphic designer, the inspiration to create an LGBTQ greeting card company derived from this disheartening deficit.
How do you deal with rejection? (chuckle) I keep moving. The year I graduated from Spelman, I joined a network marketing company. (Pre-Paid Legal. Now, Legal Shield) Network marketing is FULL of rejection. We were taught to not take it personally. Once you realize you can take a no and keep moving. You can do anything.
When you have down time how do you like to spend it? Down time?!?! What’s that? I really enjoy spending time with my girlfriend, friends, and family. I enjoy the outdoors, traveling, being active, yet I also enjoy staying in and reading a good book. You’re liable to catch me enjoying life in a variety of ways.
What was your most memorable HBCU memory? Again, there are so many. Most memorable would have to go to standing on the grass on the Spelman Oval, holding the hands of my other Spelman Sisters and speaking my name to the Universe like so many other Spelman Women before me. It was a spiritual experience. That’s when I knew I had made the right choice.
In leaving is there any advice you have for budding HBCUpreneurs? Don’t quit.