Two weeks after Shakira Johnson resigned from her position as Public Information Officer for The City of Perth Amboy to stay home with her newborn son, she began receiving calls to see if she could work on various events and projects. She hadn't planned on running her own business. She says, "it kind of just happened by default."
At first, Shakira began accepting projects one by one. The Rahway, New Jersey-based Johnson PR and Events was formed and grew organically from there. As she put it, her clients kept getting bigger and bigger, and when she started answering the calls, her business wasn't even formally set up yet. Little by little, she created the infrastructure for her company as needed. Before she knew it, Johnson PR and Events was a success. She was so successful that she had to turn business away because she hadn't had the time to develop a plan to scale it accordingly. Since then, she's determined that it's her role to have the vision and be the innovator for her company and that she can rely on other people to manage many of the day-to-day operations of her business.
Shakira initially learned of UCEDC through her connection to our board member Roderick Spearman and the Union County Fatherhood Initiative. She was looking to do more business development and pursue more government bids. She started attending various UCEDC government procurement training courses, and eventually, she opted for the free one-on-one counseling with our Procurement Counselor, Nadine Clark. When asked if the training and counseling helped, she said it was "absolutely helpful!" She particularly noted how Nadine helped her prepare a bid and gave feedback as she went through the process.
The lessons she's learned over the last 14 years of running her business helped her meet the pandemic's challenges. In March and April, large-scale events were getting canceled, and she worked with her clients to return their deposits.
She did what she could to convert planned events to virtual events. Shakira received grants from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the County of Union, and a Facebook Small Business Grant for Black-Owned Businesses to offset her financial losses. She also recently obtained a PPP loan. In June, Shakira pivoted her business to address social justice issues. She started helping clients old and new with social impact, strategic communications, and social justice initiatives, which remains a primary focus for Johnson PR and Events today