Welcome to a new edition of

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On this month’s edition, my interview of

Shakira Johnson Owner/Creative Director of Johnson PR & Events

&

 Founder of OMG Tea Party

 

Shakira Johnson: Thank you for interviewing me.  I am honored and appreciative for this opportunity. My name is Shakira Johnson, and I am the owner and creative director of Johnson PR & Events as well as the founder of OMG Tea Party.

Ayasha: I attended OMG Tea Party back in March. It was great! Can you tell us about the OMG Tea Party and how you got started with it?

Shakira Johnson: OMG Tea Party is about empowerment for women and girls. I decided to create this about 7 or 8 years ago, when a client asked me do an event to promote his art gallery. We thought about what kind of event would encourage people to come to the gallery and showcase the space.  We brainstormed and came up with the concept of a Tea Party with etiquette for girls. We put this event together super quick, maybe in two to three weeks.  We wrote a press release and sent it out to my contacts. After we set up for the event, we left the gallery.  When we came back, there was a line down the street. The event sold out —   it was packed to capacity. Women came from all the country, women from different socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, etc. I was shocked. The media came, covered the event and stayed the entire time. It was a great success. I was thinking that it would be a one off event, not really thinking anymore about it.

The following year, I was doing a site visit at Liberty Hall Museum which is a mansion at Kean University, in Union, New Jersey for another client’s gala. I thought it would be the perfect place to have a tea party. It is a beautiful mansion with spectacular grounds, and I was just imagining what the tea party would be like there. So, we did another one. Again it was a sold out, successful event, and it was then that I realized that it should be an annual event.  People were always asking me when I was going to have the Tea Party again. We would have media coverage all of the time without really even trying. People would just find out about it and then the media on their own just wanted to cover it. From that point on, we just started to do the Tea Party annually. Our Tea Parties would focus primarily on self-esteem and etiquette. We have a full tea with real Victorian China and with full white glove service.  The servers are in custom made clothing.

Ayasha: It reminds me of the type of tea you’d see in London.

Shakira Johnson: Yes, the tea is done very well in the way it is presented. The servers are all in costume and they are dressed in imperial clothing.  After doing the tea for about 5 to 6 years, the event sells out. And we’ve had all different type of people attend including Miss New Jersey and CEOs, etc.

Ayasha: What has been the most memorable experience about OMG Tea Party?

Shakira Johnson: One year, a young lady called me with questions about the day, and asked if I remembered her.  I told her yes, I remembered her and knew that she’d been coming to the tea for the past several years now. She said to me, “I just want to you to know that the OMG Tea Party changed my life. When I first started to come, I wasn’t confident, but now I’m super confident.” This young lady told me that she just had won an award and she told me it came from being a part of OMG Tea Party.  In that moment, it was life changing for me. There always have been adult women who said that their lives had been changed by what we were doing. Sometimes when adults say things it is kind of hard to figure out where it is coming from, or if they’re trying to be nice. When children say things, they are fully genuine. So when this young lady told me this, it became my purpose and calling. This wasn’t just an accident — this was meant to happen.

Ayasha: Wow, this is such as an inspirational story. Why did you expand the OMG Tea Party brand?

Shakira Johnson:  In the process of expanding our brand, people would call me from all different parts of the country — California, Connecticut, Florida — asking when we were going to come to their state to do a tea party.  This was something that I was doing just as a community give back, in between my real business, Johnson PR & Events. So from there we started to think about ways to expand our brand. One of the things the ladies wanted is additional programs.  They wanted to do somethings with girls and somethings without the girls. One of the programs that we started last year was OMG Digi Girlz, a partnership with Microsoft where the girls can go to Microsoft and learn for the day. They are taught how to code, how to make apps, movies, and video games. It is all free. It is about careers and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) for girls. This is a program that we piloted last year.

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The program that we piloted this year, that you attended, was the OMG Women In Business Masters Class. I absolutely loved this event and was so excited to put it together. We had top women in business in New Jersey give a panel discussion at Saks Fifth Avenue in Short Hills. They talked about success on their own terms. We had Sally Glick, who received a 2016 NJ BIZ Women in Business Lifetime Achievement Award. We had Dorinda Walker, who is VP of Consumer Strategy and Key Initiatives for Multicultural Marketing for Prudential. We also had Zakiyyah Flagg, the owner of Flagg Labor, a construction staffing company. She staffs construction sites throughout New Jersey and New York. In addition, we had Kim Keating, owner and president of GIVE Marketing, which connects businesses such as corporate and nonprofits to work together in the community.  Finally, we had Kristi Brink the Vice President of Saks Fifth Avenue, who shared her story.  I moderated the entire event.  After the panel discussion, we had a Master Class by Estee Lauder and they gave us fabulous gift bags, which included a diamond cream that retails for $360 per bottle. They showed all the ladies how to do their makeup for business, and there were tons of products and giveaways for everybody. Tom Ford came and did a fragrance presentation as he explained the different fragrances for business. There were not only great women on the panel, but fantastic women in the audience as well. Shelly Aberson, president of ANW Branded Products, recently honored as one of the Top 50 Women in Business by NJ BIZ. There were other VPs and owners in the audience taking part in this event. It was great and we’ve already been given the green light to do it again next year. There was champagne flowing from start to finish, hors d’oeuvres, a huge blow out desert bar. Right now, I am still floating because of that event –  we had such an awesome time. Thank you for coming to the event as well, Ayasha!

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Ayasha: You’re welcome. It was a great event and next year I’m looking forward to bringing several women with me as well.

Ayasha: Let’s talk about Johnson PR & Events. I want our readers to know how your company can benefit their business.

Shakira Johnson: My bread and butter is Johnson PR & Events, a public relations, branding, and events company. We are one of the premier event companies in New Jersey. We have been ranked by NJ BIZ as one of the Top 40 event planning companies in New Jersey. In addition, we are a certified minority and woman business in New Jersey, which makes us eligible to apply for certain contracts. This is why were involved with the Super Bowl in New Jersey in 2014. We are in the Business Connect program because of our certification through the state. I love events, with a capital LOVE, because of the creativity involved. All the events that we do are from the public relations mindset. I have been doing PR and events for 15 years.  For example, a traditional event planner may think about your color scheme or tablecloths. Those elements are important, but we think more in terms of how can we elevate your brand with an event and what touch points of the event connect with your brand, and what impact you want the event to have. For example, is this event for lead generation or for PR purposes? Do you want media coverage out? Or are we doing this event because you want to fundraise? It is more than just scheduling an event and setting it up. The actual creativity and strategy behind it is what makes our events what they are and so successful. To date, we probably have helped organizations raise over $700,000, just through our strategy and implementation. In terms of media coverage, website, and print, we’ve receive millions, and approaching billions, of impressions. We really think about it in the long range, even if it’s something like a social event, although we don’t do many of them.  We work mainly with businesses and nonprofits. Say, for example, you want to have a birthday party. I am going to approach it from the perspective of how we can elevate your brand in the process of throwing your birthday party. What can we have that people can take away so they will utilize your services or hire you?  That is the mindset that we have at Johnson PR & Events.

Ayasha: Love It!

Shakira Johnson:  And of course, the event can still be beautiful and fun. People don’t even realize that they are in the middle of a huge marketing activation because they are having fun and being festive. But in our minds, we want results and deliverables. It’s great! I also do public relations and branding in terms of helping people with whatever kind of exposure they need. For example, they may want new members, community relations, or media coverage. All those things are helping people obtain what they need for their business.

Ayasha: I think this is what most brands need when trying to take their brand to the next level. I like the fact that your company has a creative mindset and many times you miss that with a traditional event planning company. Where did you start doing PR for clients?

 

Shakira Johnson: The started doing PR and events at Rutgers University. I attended Rutgers University for undergraduate and graduate school, and while I was in graduate school I also worked for Rutgers. Everything there had the purpose of certain impact or a result, or ROI. We did not have an event just to have an event. We were trying to meet milestones or goals. Then we went onto to start doing events in politics; it was definitely the same thing if not moreso. These politicians they want an impact, they want coverage, and they have goals, or need key people to come to an event, or make or strengthen relationships. This is my training, and events are another function of public relationships and branding.

Ayasha: Correct!

Shakira Johnson: I have a strong background in the and political arena. That’s my training to see how it should work.

Ayasha: Where do you see your brand in the next 5 to 10 years?

Shakira Johnson: Before answering that question, I want to touch on again OMG Tea Party Brand because I see that becoming a multi-million dollar brand. It touches people in ways that are beyond me.  I guess you can say the universe or God has chosen to funnel it through me. This is bigger than me, not even something that I said that I wanted to do. I can’t even say that this was my idea. It all came together and everything that it’s done has been blessed. For example, having Sally Glick come to our event. She is the top woman in business in New Jersey, honored with this huge award. I sent her an email, she said that she was in. There was no hesitation.

Ayasha: That’s so awesome!

Shakira Johnson: That’s people reaction all of the time. They say that they are in, or they will come to event like you did and then want to come to more. This is something that is bigger than me, it will be my lasting legacy. Johnson PR & Events is how I create revenue and make money, but the actual legacy is the OMG Tea Party, because it is about helping women and girls to feel empowered. Originally when I started it, I was thinking about how much pressure young girls are under to look a certain way. There is a lot of negativity with that and it is very easy for girls to be led astray. However, what I found out is that lack of confidence is not confined to girls, but affects women in general. There are women of all ages that go through these things. Right now, a lot of the women that I am interacting with are women who are in their 50’s who worked for companies for 10, 15, or 20 years. They got laid off, now they are trying to transition to another job and are hit with ageism. They feel like they don’t look their personal best. Their children may out of the home or in college. They are in their own type of mid-life crisis. Their confidence is not there so it is just about doing events that will empower them. I forgot to mention that we just did a self-defense class partnering with a woman who has a company called Willow’s Concierge. We had a lot of women in that age group who attended the class. It taught them how to defend themselves when they are being attacked, as well as confidence building and empowering. Within the next 5 to 10 years, I see Johnson PR & Events being a multi-billion-dollar brand as we travel around the country doing events and helping women.

Ayasha: Wow, I can see your brand being like Steve Harvey’s brand called Dreamers Academy. I definitely see your brand being an academy of itself. This would be something that you will be recognized for throughout America.  I am going to speak this into existence because I can see that happening.

Shakira Johnson: Thank you Ayasha, you are actually the second person that said. The other person said the same thing to me worked for Prudential. I like that mind set and she said the exact same thing. People always see very big things for us. I am going ride everybody’s wave and your wave…I’m going to say yes, that it is what I see for it too.

Ayasha: How would someone contact with you so you can plan their next event?

Shakira Johnson: They can email me at Shakira@jprandevents.com or call 732-713-1167. In addition, I have a brand new office at 111 Quimby Street, Westfield, NJ, 07090. Of course you can always follow me on social media: LinkedIn Shakira Johnson Twitter: ShakiraMonet Instagram: Shakira Johnson PR.  If you live in the NJ/NY Metropolitan area, I am two to three blocks from the train or you can drive to my office. I am in a convenient location.

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Ayasha: Thank you so much, Shakira, for speaking with me and thank you to all our readers for this edition of Jerz Life Fashion Blog today. Make sure you follow us on social media on the following links:

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Finally, if you have any questions or comments about this interview email me ayasha@urbansocialitesnj.com

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About The Author

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Ayasha Roberson started Urban SociaLites, LLC in June of 2010, she holds a bachelor degree in Sociology from Richard Stockton College and Masters Degree in Administrative Science from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Every 3rd and 5th Saturday check out her blog Social Media Saturday as Ayasha provides you with helpful tips of how to make your brand cool, hip, and colorful.

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