After years of contemplation and second-guessing herself, Carla Williams-Johnson was thrust into starting her own business.
Now she is strongly advising potential entrepreneurs and early start-ups not to be afraid to take the plunge.
Williams-Johnson is the proud owner of Carli Communications, a marketing and promotion firm based in Trinidad and Tobago, with local and international clients.
It was in 2016 that she officially launched her company, despite having registered it three years prior.
“I was thrown into working 100 per cent for myself at the time because . . . we were experiencing an economic downturn and my position at one of the top retail companies in Trinidad, where I was the marketing coordinator, became redundant. So I had no choice but to rely on my own skills, knowledge and experience to go off on my own,” she recalled.
“At the time, just before the redundancy came through, I was feeling stressed out, frustrated and I wasn’t happy in my position. I was actually thinking about leaving the company. So I saw the redundancy and being let go as a sign from God.”
The first year in business was gruelling. Williams-Johnson said she was initially stuck in the “I have a business” mentality, which was not necessarily the way to build.
“I was caught up in telling everybody ‘I am working for myself’ and ‘I am working from home’, but not putting the strategies in place,” she said.
However, that did not last long. A determined Williams-Johnson quickly took charge.
“I decided when things weren’t going the way they were supposed to go and I wasn’t making the kind of money I know I could have made. I stepped back and made certain decisions – to be more strategic with my marketing,” she recalled.
Within about three months of that transformation in her thinking, she was able to land her first major client.
Williams-Johnson, who now has several local and international clients, wants people with viable business ideas, who are currently in a job in which they are not comfortable, to take a chance and start their own companies.
What is more, she is advising entrepreneurs and potential business owners not to allow any challenge, including the current COVID-19 pandemic, to be a deterrent.
“Things happen in life and business and we just have to learn from them and pivot to do what we need to do. If you are not sure what that might look like, speak to someone who might. There are a lot of experts out there that are giving free information, advice, and consultation that you can actually tap into and use information to build yourself and navigate through this pandemic,” she advised.
Williams-Johnson acknowledged that one of her greatest obstacles was doubting herself.
In fact, she told Barbados TODAY she suffered from impostor syndrome, a psychological pattern in which individuals doubt their skills, talents or accomplishments and have a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
She explained that she often told her herself she was “just a young woman from a Caribbean island that no one will take seriously”.
“These are just stories that I created in my mind that are not true. It did, and still does sometimes, keep me from making that call or sending that pitch,” Williams-Johnson admitted.
“The most challenging thing is quieting those stories and understanding that I am valuable, what I do is valuable and how I help people is valuable.”
She said the best part of her job, though, was knowing that her clients were satisfied.
Her company, which was named in tribute to her late father who gave her the nickname ‘Carli’, helps other business owners and entrepreneurs increase their visibility through greater use of the mainstream and social media, as well as helps businesses enhance their marketing and promotion strategies.
The entrepreneur said that while several companies saw a bleak outlook at the start of the pandemic, she saw opportunity and immediately sprang into action.
“I decided that this is when I needed to show up, because I have the gift of marketing that a lot of people don’t, and they simply did not know what to do during the pandemic. So, I went in full 100 and decided to show up more, use social media more, use traditional media more and really help my audience and clients navigate by sharing tips and tricks and holding workshops,” she said.
“That strategy has worked tremendously well, because by the time things started to reopen in June, I was booking clients. So I did the same for my clients as well, so when things started to open up they were getting more business because people were seeing us. We were remaining visible and top of mind. So we were the first option.”
The mother of two – a 19-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son – said she was still trying to perfect the art of balancing family life and work.
To help her get through the day, Williams-Johnson meditates in the mornings before work and then decides on the three most important tasks for the day.
“I don’t go on social media during the day. I minimise my distraction and protect my energy because it is a lot having to deal with my son being home and having a lot of work to do,” she said.
She believes women in business should share more of their experiences with each other.
“Everybody is dealing with it in their own way, but I think we need to come together and share advice, share tips and kind of lean on each other so we don’t go completely insane. Sometimes you just need to vent, sometimes you just need to cry it out, and you just need somebody who understands to be there for you.”