Did you seek out any mentors or advisors during the business ownership process?
Most definitely. I like to use the phrase, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” says Johnson. We needed individuals to provide a different perspective. We attended a trade show for collegiate apparel and connected with a gentleman who’s been in the licensing industry for 20 years. He helped us broaden the scope to all professional sports and gave the direction to aim for the NFL. He soon joined our board as our biggest advocate. He provides a pulse of what’s going on and why. He pokes holes to uncover why we can’t do something in order to mitigate and prove why we can. He asks those questions before they even come up so that we can position ourselves to be successful. That’s the best type of advisor to have. We also connected with high-end retail executives at companies like Neiman Marcus. They can provide insight on what customers are looking for and the best timing to launch different styles. On the collegiate licensing industry side, a woman we like to call our “guardian angel” has taken us under her wing. The president of GT Alumni Association Joe Irwin has also worked in the apparel industry in the legal, fashion, and collegiate arena and has become our biggest advocate. Other individuals that have helped and inspired us are: Mary Brock, co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, first female president of Morehouse School of Medicine, and Dorsey Levens from the Green Bay Packers.
How do you balance family and business?
Our husbands are very supportive – both as fellow business owners. Being an entrepreneur can consume you, especially when you’re passionate about it. You have to take the time to strike the balance, but there are times when you can’t get that balance. Deadlines can take over your life so it’s important to have a significant other who appreciates and understands that. We spend as much time with family as we can, and during times when we’re away working we use it as an opportunity to set a good example about who our children should be when they grow up. We make sure our children know that they come first. Tolson says, “One of my mentors Johnny Cochran told me, you have to keep your life in perspective. Know what your priorities are and keep things in order. If those priorities are not in order, then your life is going to be out of order. The balance comes in with keeping those things in order and it will all work itself out. It is hard being a working mom.” Johnson adds, “My family is so supportive, in particular my mom. She does so much to help take care of my son. Without her, I know it would almost be impossible.”
Where do you see Team Couture five years from now?
Team Couture will be the staple brand for high-end sports apparel. We want to set the standard and set the horizon for where sports fashion should go. We would like to be a part of New York Fashion Week, design for the U.S. Olympic team, and have fully funded “Your Story” scholarship endowments at multiple colleges/universities. We are blessed to have accomplished what we have in our personal careers and we want every young woman to have the same opportunity. Our ultimate goal is to leave a legacy that is intertwined and at the level and impact of the likes of Coco Chanel in fashion and Bill and Melinda Gates in philanthropy.
Find out more advice on thriving in the fashion industry on page three …