Meet Our Mamaprenista of the Year: Sharise Johnson, Founder of SMJ Communications
Building a business can feel like birthing a baby. There are so many new challenges to figure out at each milestone. Coupled with raising actual humans, the constant problem solving and figuring each stage out as we go along can become the everyday norm for us.
There is a striking similarity between successful leaders and mothers, as they share a significant number of qualities. Both possess strength and compassion, anticipate the needs of others, and encourage their family or team members to be self-sufficient. Despite not being perfect and not always having the right answer, they have the ability to make everyone around them feel at ease.
This describes the traits of our Mamaprenista of the Year, Sharise Johnson. Sharise is a wife and mom to three amazing girls all under the age of 4. She’s accomplished a lot in three short years – given birth to her three incredible daughters and built a thriving and successful business.
Her entrepreneurial journey began In 2019. She decided to start her own business to afford her more flexibility, freedom, and autonomy in her career and as a new mom. Throughout her career in education, she was disheartened when the perspectives and lived experiences of marginalized communities were not considered in strategic communications decisions, so she decided to do something about it.
She opened SMJ Communications, a strategic communications firm that provides best-in-class communications services to schools, school districts, and education nonprofits.
In the fall of 2021, Sharise moved her business model from a consultancy run solely by herself to a team model in order to meet client demand. That decision led her to triple her revenue over the past year.
In addition to generating more than $1 million in revenue this year, the biggest accomplishment Sharse achieved was quickly scaling the business to run without her at the helm, something that takes careful time and planning. Without knowing it at the time, this was significant because she found out she was pregnant with her third daughter in February 2022. Additionally, her daughter was unexpectedly born prematurely at 32 weeks gestation. After building her firm and team in less than a year, having the team, systems, and processes in place to stop working at a moment’s notice to take maternity leave and enjoy the special and transitional time with her family, was a huge business accomplishment.
Today, her team represents diverse communities and backgrounds. More than 90 percent of her staff identify as women of color as together they work to ensure the voices and perspectives of marginalized communities are represented in the education sector.
They’ve supported and led communications for media organizations, Fortune 500 companies, school districts, and non-profit organizations for more than 50 years combined.
And, as if she wasn’t already breaking glass ceilings, she turned the unimaginably difficult experience of caring for two of her children in the NICU into an opportunity to help others. She recently founded The Elaine Symone Foundation, a nonprofit that provides advocacy, support, and resources to NICU families of color.
We want to thank you Sharise, for paving the way for other Entreprenistas and for sharing your stories and talents with us. Working mammas know the importance of work life integration and between running a business and being a mom to three young girls, you are an example to watch and are truly this year’s top Mamaprenista. Learn more about Sharise and connect with her in our Entreprenista League community of founders!