121: Jill Johnson—Small Business Guru and Business Plan Expert

 Jill Johnson is helping women of color entrepreneurs succeed!

Today, in 2019, 40% of the businesses in the U.S. are owned by women. In this podcast, Jill Johnson and I discuss the challenges faced by women of color in starting a business, finding the capital to underwrite its growth, and developing the business acumen to successfully take their ideas and turn them into brilliant innovations. It is never easy. Listen in and learn how Jill did it!

Access to capital (or lack of access) is a legacy challenge with roots deep in our American history, especially for entrepreneurs of color. 

Jill Johnson-squareWomen of color are starting businesses at higher rates than anyone else, yet they get less capital, have fewer successful exits and produce less income for owners. While there have been innovative capital solutions in recent years, capital constraint remains a defining problem for the majority of women of color entrepreneurs. Jill talks with us today about how she is attacking this problem by sharing her expertise for creating the connections that open doors to opportunity.

In our fascinating conversation, Jill and I talk about her family of entrepreneurs who started and ran a successful newspaper business in New Jersey. But, as we know so well, the newspaper business is not a flourishing growth industry, so Jill and her father turned their attention to developing resources for entrepreneurs, particularly women entrepreneurs, so that they, too, could be successful business leaders. 

As a major step in this direction, Jill co-founded the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL) in 2002, then launched the IFEL Adopt-a-Business Program along with a broader initiative called Women of Color Connecting whose convening summit, January 31-February 1, 2019, helped women of color build their networks, pitch their ideas and find the support they need to thrive.  

Women are becoming a major force in business:

  • As of 2018, there are 3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., compared to only 402,000 in 1972.
  • Women now own 4 out of every 10 businesses in the U.S.
  • Since 2007, the number of women-owned businesses has increased by 58%. Overall, businesses have only increased by 12%.
  • Last year, 1,821 new women-owned businesses were launched every day, with 64% of those founded by women of color.
  • Women are slightly more likely to start a business than men, according to the SCORE report.

Now the big question facing all of us is how to help them succeed.

At SAMC, that’s what we’re all abouthelping people become successful business leaders. That’s why in early 2018, Andy and I launched The Simon Initiative for Entrepreneurship in partnership with Washington University’s Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship to connect entrepreneurs, particularly women, with the resources they need to launch their ventures. In addition, we’ve created an Ebook Primer for Entrepreneurs and a 6-Step Process for Entrepreneurs. Along with Jill, our mission is to open doors to opportunity. Stay tuned! 

Some background on Jill

Jill Johnson is the Co-founder/CEO of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL). With nearly 30 years’ experience as a business strategist, she possesses expertise in financial analysis, marketing and business development. She is an advocate for community businesses and micro-enterprise and is a leading authority in the area of minority inclusion in the entrepreneurial world. She is also a highly-sought-after speaker on topics including: community economic development, business plan development, entrepreneurship, minority and women-led small business growth, and access to capital.

Jill started her career as a financial analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co, then joined City News Publishing Company. From there, she became President of On Point Consulting, a strategic business planning consultancy, advising early-stage businesses through a variety of strategic planning and growth issues.

As CEO of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, Jill is responsible for strategic direction and capacity building, and has led the company in successfully winning contracts with the New Jersey Department of Labor, the Newark Urban Enterprise Zone and the Rutgers Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.

Jill is also a member of several advisory boards, including the National Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (NCEI) Entrepreneurship Council and the Red Tape Commission. She earned her B.A. in economics from Harvard University and is married with four amazing sons. 

Want to learn more? Here’s a great collection of blogs and podcasts you’ll enjoy:



Additional resources:

Download the 1-page synopsis of my book, “On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights” here