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Meet Trailblazer Courtney Johnson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Courtney Johnson.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
It was the late 80’s, I was in elementary school and the Snellville shopping plaza was where many of my first loves surfaced. My ballet studio, the yogurt shop, our town’s little bookstore, and Leonardo the jeweler were all conveniently in a row. My mother and I visited them in that order every Thursday afternoon. We always spent the most time with Leonardo the jeweler- examining jewels, rubbing pearls across our teeth, designing custom rings, and falling in love with all the sparkly things. Nearly 30 years have passed, and I still love time with my mom, dancing, ice cream, a good book, and all the sparkly things!

I launched my handcrafted jewelry business, Agape Gems, in 2006. For many years, it was something that I enjoyed doing at night and on the weekends. Fast forward to 2016 and I decided it was time to take the greatest leap of faith I have ever taken. I walked away from my fulltime career to be a fulltime entrepreneur. I spent two months designing a new collection, hosted a launch party for my longtime supporters, and haven’t looked back!

In 2017, I won the Belk Southern Designer Showcase and in 2018, launched my collection in 9 Belk stores and on Also in 2018, I opened a permanent showroom in AmericasMart with several other independent jewelry designers which have opened the door to many other opportunities. I’m excited to share that you can now find Agape Gems in almost 30 stores!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has not always been smooth. For every win, there has been at least 1 loss. Some days, I set-up at an artist market and sell nothing at all. Sometimes, I show my collection to a boutique owner and for a variety of reasons it is not a good fit for their store. I send 100 emails to 100 different gift shops and only two responded, and they both say “No.” The list goes on and on. Those struggles are not unique to me, they are part of the journey. The difference between me and the next woman is that I have faith that God is working all things for my good. My logo is a feather that serves as a constant reminder of Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet, your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” I have to remind myself of my wins, of the times that things worked out exceedingly better than I could have imagined when good things happened for no apparent reason.

My advice to anyone just beginning this journey is :

1. Check your motivation for starting your own business. You will work longer hours, for no pay sometimes, and with very few accolades. If you don’t know the reason you are pursuing this path, you will get discouraged. You need a strong motivation to push past your feelings and keep moving forward.

2. Enjoy the journey. Celebrate your wins. Write down the lessons you learn. Give yourself some grace when you make a poor decision. Share your experience with someone else who is a few steps behind you.

3. Don’t be afraid to outsource. Recognize your strengths, admit your weaknesses. Then, hire someone to handle the tasks that you keep avoiding.

4. Learn the difference between important and urgent.

We’d love to hear more about Agape Gems.
Agape Gems features handcrafted jewelry, made from precious metals and natural gemstones. My collection is most known for my ethereal color palette, and a timeless and ageless style. My favorite pieces usually have a little sparkle, a hammered texture, and/or a geometric shape inspiration.

I’m most proud of the giveback portion of my business. I regularly support several organizations in Atlanta thru my work. I think a spirit of giving is one of the most important pillars of Agape Gems.

Finding a mentor and building a network are often cited in studies as a major factor impacting one’s success. Do you have any advice or lessons to share regarding finding a mentor or networking in general?
As a mom of two, I don’t have a ton of time to attend networking events. However, I find that just being kind in everyday life is the best form of networking. Build authentic relationships with people and they will want to support your business when opportunities arise. And I try to support other local small businesses whenever possible as well. Pay it forward!

Finding a mentor can be tricky. When you meet someone that could potentially be a good mentor, ask them if you can interview them. Learn more about their journey to see if it could be a good fit. Then once you find a mentor, always remember that the final decisions for your business rest with you. Listen to their advice, filter it through your current capabilities, then make the best choice for you. Own your choices and your results.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photo Lady J.

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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