With the rise of more and more black women breaking away from traditional 9-5s to become their own bosses, the CEO is getting a revamp as the SHEeo. CEOs are forging their own paths, blazing their own trails, and turning their passion into a profit. Curious to know how she does it? In the Meet The SHEeo series, we talk to melanated mavens leveling up and glowing up, all while redefining what it means to be a boss.
As an avid vacationer, Jo Neishia Johnson loved shopping her favorite stores for swimsuits and vacation wear. But when many of the stores began to only sell their products online, she found the quality and the aesthetic no longer appealed to her tastes or her budget. She launched Beulah Swim as a solution to a growing need for high-quality swimwear, resort wear and fashion options at low to mid-prices for the confident woman who is ready to slay her vacation. Beulah Swim has been a featured vendor in large-scale events such as ESSENCE Festival and continues to expand its product offering for the fearless and fly traveler.
In this week's feature, meet Jo Neishia Johnson of Beulah Swim.
Courtesy of Jo Neisha Johnson
Title: CEO of Beulah Swim
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Year Founded: 2016
# of Employee(s): 1
30-Second Pitch: "Iconic moments aren't created, they're curated; and many people, from those with very little social media presence, to influencers and celebrities, strive to capture 'Instagrammable' content. Studies show, 40% of millennials prioritize their travel based on their ability to capture great pictures; and commonly, fashionable millennials pre-plan curated looks, inspired by pre-determined destinations they will visit. Beulah Swim is an emerging brand that offers exclusive swimwear and statement fashion for the fearless and confident woman who is ready to slay her vacation!"
What inspired you to start your brand?
My style preference has always been more than Forever 21, but a lot less than Gucci; BCBG was always my first stop to shop. After a lot of these well-known labels started to phase out their brick and mortar locations, I was forced to do more online shopping. In looking, I was so uninspired by a lot of the fashion that I found available in most online boutiques. In my opinion, I felt that the quality of the products was not what I wanted or the offerings lacked originality. If I did like something, I could find that specific look in multiple boutiques, and that was a turn-off as well. I did find some more custom brands, and then the dilemma became, I didn't want to pay upwards of $300 for more exclusive, designer looks offered by smaller brands.
Because I love to vacation near water, and because I saw a need for high-quality, low to mid-price swimwear, resort wear and fashion options in the smaller brand sector, I moved forward with Beulah Swim.
What was your “a-ha!” moment that brought your idea into reality?
Statistics revealed that Black millennial women spend more than any other demographic on travel and they have one of the highest purchasing powers in retail. Again, when I discovered that there was a need for selective, high-quality, mid-priced poolside and fashion looks, I knew that Beulah Swim would be successful.
Who is your ideal customer?
Women between the ages of 25 and 44. They are likely educated professionals who live in metro areas with a decent discretionary income. Our customer is social, a consistent online shopper and a "cultural traveler". She averages three trips a year and spends about $2,078 on each vacation.
What makes your business different?
What differentiates Beulah Swim from other online boutiques is service, selection (product offerings), and sustainability (quality).
What obstacles did you have to overcome while launching and growing your brand? How were you able to overcome them?
Two major obstacles that I constantly face while growing my brand are effective social media engagement and consistently meeting my sales goal. Initially, I did not want to serve as the face of Beulah Swim. So, I would hire models and photographers once a month to shoot content. However, I have realized that the resources I was spending on photoshoots would give a greater ROI if I spent it on inventory. So, going forward, I will be my own muse and I am expanding our product line beyond swimwear and resort wear. This way, I can shoot content more frequently and invest more in products to sell.
Also, IG analytics showed that I always have a lot of clicks to the website, but the sales did not reflect the activity. Several people have told me that my price point is too high for them, which I'm okay with. I do understand that everyone is not my target customer, but I also understand that people may also question the quality of my pieces, being that Beulah Swim is an online boutique. To remedy this issue, I have signed up to vend at numerous pop-up shops in different cities so potential customers can see and feel the quality of my piece and this has proven successful. The most common compliment I receive at pop-up shops is always in reference to the quality of my collection.
What was the defining moment in your entrepreneurial journey?
Vending in New Orleans during ESSENCE Festival weekend this year has been the most defining moment in my entrepreneurial journey thus far. I have wanted to give up on so many occasions but the love and support Beulah Swim received was overwhelming and I was reassured that there was a space, a need for us.
Where do you see your company in 5-10 years?
Beulah Swim will be the preferred brand for fearless and confident women who are looking for fly pieces to vacation in. By then, we would have expanded our product line to include countless travel-based products.
Where have you seen the biggest return on investment?
My biggest ROI has been vending. I get to introduce my label to and connect with potential customers, as well as gain new customers.
Do you have a mentor? If so, who?
I have two mentors. One of my mentors owns a Human Resources consulting firm; she is one of the most resourceful people I've ever met. I also recently connected with a more seasoned boutique owner who has offered to mentor me.
Biggest lesson you’ve learned in business?
Be grateful for loss; grow from it and appreciate that it wasn't a greater loss. Also, whenever you have the greatest feeling of opposition to attending a networking event or training workshop that you had planned to attend, push through and go! Without fail, that's when I've always benefited the most from connections.
Anything else you would like for people to know, or take away from your entrepreneurial story?
Never, ever give up. It's okay to take a break or even alter your course, but never give up!
For more Beulah Swim, follow them on social media @beulahswim.
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Those of you who are true diehard fans of the movieLove Jonescan probably recall every single scene, right? Well, that means you remember the one when Darius told Nina something along the lines of wisdom comes, not in having all of the answers but, instead, asking the right questions. Y’all, I’m not sure if it’s the journalist or counselor in me, yet I couldn’t agree more.
In fact, I think that a huge part of the reason why a lot of us find ourselves in relationships (professional, romantic, or platonic) that either end up being a total waste of our time or devastating as all get out is that we either went into them on pure assumption or we failed to ask the kind of questions that would give us the answers that we were truly looking for.
That’s why, a few years back, I penned the piece “The 'Pre-Commitment Interview' Every Dating Couple Should Have” — it’s also why, today, I’m going to share some inquiries that you should make when it comes to considering prospective sex partners as well. Because no matter what your perspective is on sex overall, I think we all can agree that anything that contains hormones that bond you to another person, could give you a disease, and/or could get you pregnant is serious enough that you should ask at least a few things on the front end. Ready?
1. What Do You Think Is the Purpose of Sex in a Relationship?Giphy
Okay, so this one is a bit layered. The reason why I say that is because not everyone is going to give you the same answer — and that’s because not everyone abides by the same principles or perspectives. For instance, because I do tend to apply a lot of Scripture to my life, I personally believe that the main purpose of sex is to cultivate oneness (I Corinthians 6:16-20 — Message) — and since there are things out here like oxytocin highs and fluid bonding that says that sex connects people in ways that are oftentimes totally underrated in the current state of our culture, seems to me that even science agrees on many levels that I would be correct (y’all be careful out here, ya hear?).
So yeah, it’s extremely important that, before you give your parts (and sometimes your heart) to someone else, you have some sort of understanding about what they think sex is designed for and to do between two individuals. One reason is to see if you both are on the same page (or at least in the same book). Another reason is that, well, if they’ve never given it much thought before, you could be in for quite a ride — and I’m not talking about the cowgirl position.
Indeed, a motto that I live by is when people don’t know the purpose of something, they are bound to misuse or abuse it — and if all a guy thinks sex is about is pleasure or simply having something to do, you could look up and be treated just like that: not much more than a pleasure outlet when he’s out here bored and wanting some stimulation. No more, no less.
If that’s all you’re after as well, y’all are grown…go forth. However, if you want something a bit deeper than that, hearing his views on sex’s purpose can bring forth a lot of clarity about whether it’s time to move forward with him…or…not.
2. Would You Consider Yourself to Be a Sexually Responsible Individual?Giphy
Did you know it’s been reported that we currently have more single mothers in the United States than at any time in our history? If you add to that the fact that only one-third of men and a quarter of women use condoms (SMDH), yes, it’s important to know how sexually responsible he is — or isn’t because it really is time out for folks acting like pregnancies “just happen.” They absolutely do not; especially with all of the birth control methods that exist out here.
It's another article for another time about how single-parent dynamics can have long-term effects on kids, even as adults (Google it sometime, though). For now, I’ll just say that if you know that you know that you know that you are not ready to bring a child (or another child) into this world, you need to take every precaution to make that happen — and outside of abstinence (the only surefire way to avoid an unplanned pregnancy), you need to be sexually active with sexually responsible individuals.
So yeah, ask him if he wraps it up every time. And none of that going-raw-until-it’s-time-to-ejaculate-and-then-putting-on-a-condom-real quick nonsense either. Pre-ejaculate can still get folks pregnant out in these streets, not to mention the fact that it can transmit STDs too. And since condoms are 98 percent effective when they are used correctly, safe sex includes rubber usage.
Speaking of sexually transmitted diseases/infections, you are also well within your rights to ask him about how often he gets tested and the last time that he did so. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should get tested once a year if you and your partner are exclusive and every 3-6 months if you and/or he have multiple partners. So, if you ask him about when he’s gotten tested, and he changes the subject or tries to gaslight you and play like he’s offended, you know that’s a red flag, right?
Since reportedly, there are 110 million people in this country who have an STD and a whopping 20 million who will become infected this year alone, anyone who takes their health seriously and wants to be careful about the people they sleep with, they will not only get tested consistently — they will appreciate a partner who brings the topic up; especially a prospective new one.
By the way, there are multiple different at-home tests that you can take these days (read more here). They’re not the cheapest on the planet, yet they are an option. Just an FYI.
3. Where Would Sex Take Us?Giphy
Back when I was sexually active, I made it no secret that my pattern was that I had a tendency to sleep with my friends (which means several of my male friendships were absolutely not platonic; check out “Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'”). So, while I’ve never had a one-night stand, and I knew the middle names, birthdates, and other random intel on all of my partners, one of my personal biggest missteps was not factoring in just how much sex really can alter a dynamic.
With four guys, I got pregnant (check out “Why I Named The Children I Aborted”). With one of my closest friends, it made things so complicated that our friendship ultimately did not survive it. With another, we found ourselves jealous and distrusting because we never discussed if we were only going to sleep with each other or not (check out “14 Lessons I've Learned From 14 Sex Partners”). Yeah, with all of these men, we just started having sex without considering what could possibly transpire once we did.
Can anyone predict the future? Even the ones who think they can, they should roll with some humility because sometimes we fail to factor in uncertain situations and circumstances. That’s why this question can help you and him to think about things that passion would encourage you to underestimate. Things like, “If we do this, do you think our relationship will remain the same?” or “If I got pregnant, what would you want to do about it?”
Sure, these types of questions aren’t the most romantic in the world, yet let me tell it, that’s what’s wrong with a lot of people now — they want sex to be a rom-com when those things are scripted. Learning someone’s mindset about sex and its potential consequences can give you clarity and bring you peace of mind in ways you could never imagine. TRUST ME.
4. Why Should I Trust You with Me?Giphy
A couple of days ago, a friend of mine and I were discussing if there is such a thing as a tactful oral sex song. Two immediately came to mind. One is by a friend of mine named Shannon Sanders. Back in the day, he had an underground cult classic LP entitled Outta Nowhere, and the song is called “Interstate.” The other is Usher’s totally underrated single “Good Kisser.”
While I was listening to Usher’s joint, that had me thinking about some of Usher’s other sex-themed songs. One in particular is “That’s What It’s Made For” off of his Confessions album. Sexy? Yes. Reckless AF? Also yes:
Game rules, no cap no cut
But even Superman couldn't turn your love down
I slipped up, slipped in
Hey man what the hell you doin?
Raw dog is a never
I know I know better
Heard her whisper
Don't worry I'm safe
Didn't matter cuz it's already too late
I was lost in the sauce, dead wrong
And I ain't stoppin' now
Parleein' in the bush again
Didn't think about what I was puttin' in it
Go on and hit it
That's what it's made for
She said, You got somethin’ on right?
That's what it's made for
Boo why you trippin'
You know I got it
Hmph. No wonder his actual "Confessions, Pt. II"single was talking about getting side chicks pregnant (chile). If you’re Elmo shrugging about not using condoms, there’s no telling how life will play out for you (SMDH).
Okay, but let me stay focused. The reason why I’m bringing that song up is even though a lot of us can relate to having moments when we weren’t nearly as careful as we should’ve been, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn from our past poor choices.
It also doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t raise the bar moving forward — so, yes, a prospective partner should feel like he is able to trust you and that you are able to trust him. Trust when it comes to health-related matters. Trust when it comes to honesty (even if hearing the truth is uncomfortable). Trust when it comes to needs, wants, and expectations. Trust as it relates to how all of the things are to play out, both in and outside of the bedroom.
And what should that trust look like?
- Ask him if he always uses protection (too many guys assume that a woman is on birth control; not only that, but birth control doesn’t protect people from STDs. CONDOMS DO).
- Ask him if he’s good about discretion; what happens between the two of you should stay there.
- Ask him if he plans on sleeping with other people too; more folks, more risk, so you need to be kept in the loop.
- Ask him if he would tell you if his needs aren’t being met rather than faking like they are (check out “Men Fake Orgasms (And 14 Other Semi-Random Things About Them In Bed)”).
- Ask him if he will give you a heads-up before sleeping with other people so that you can decide if you want to stop sleeping with him (or if you want to sleep with others as well).
Sex is too serious to be sleeping with people you don’t trust — and trust should be established on the front end…before any clothes start to come off.
5. Is Not Having Sex a Deal-Breaker?Giphy
Now this one is super important because if you’re looking for more than a sex buddy, you need to make sure that the two of you feel the same way. Otherwise, you could find yourself having sex with him and assuming that it means things are about to go to another level while all he’s thinking about is how good of a time he had.
For the record, if that is how it plays out on his end, that doesn’t make him a bad person. We really need to stop thinking someone did us wrong, all because we assumed that they had the same train of thought that we had on a particular matter. Yeah, the only way you will know is to ask — and the main way he comes out being an ass is if he lies. Otherwise, you’ve got to take some accountability for not getting all of the clarity that you needed…before getting into bed with him, not after.
All of this being said, if you’re someone who either wants to take things very slowly or you’re not interested in having sex without a formal and/or official commitment in place, that’s something else that you should bring up to him. And while, again, he’s not the devil incarnate if he’s not down with sex being off of the table (at least for a while), if going without that type of intimacy is some sort of deal-breaker for him, at least you’ll know what many of his intentions are before he had the honor and pleasure of having sex with you. That way, you won’t feel taken advantage of or blindsided.
Another bonus that comes with this question is you might be able to stay friends — or at least cool. The benefit in that is you’d be amazed how many men come back around to women who moved at a slower pace once they are ready to make a serious commitment. I’ve been counseling enough folks at this point to have lost count of how often I’ve witnessed this with my very own eyes.
No question, asking if no sex is a deal-breaker can help you to see if a relationship with him (at least right now) should even be on the table.
6. How Should We Hold Each Other Sexually Accountable?Giphy
There’s no telling how much safer and peace-filled our culture would be if grown folks simply learned how to hold themselves and others accountable — LAWD. And what exactly does that mean? To be accountable is to be responsible for your words and actions — and to expect those in your world to do the same.
Sexually, let’s look at this from a couple of different angles. If all of these other questions get the green light and both of you decide to take things to the next level, what happens if things get hot ‘n heavy and neither of you has a condom? How would you hold each other accountable? Or what if the condom breaks? How would you hold each other accountable? If you’re both being responsible, somebody would go and get some condoms in the first scenario, and a Plan B, along with an STD test, would be in order for the second one.
I used to be a teen mom director for the local chapter of a national non-profit several years ago, and boy, there was nothing like seeing teenagers having sex while having no clue how to do it responsibly. In many ways, it was beyond tragic because they were so selfish, immature, and sometimes just…silly.
Knowing the character of the person you are dealing with when it comes to sex can bring forth a lot of peace of mind. So yeah, it’s a good idea to also discuss mutual accountability. Pose a few hypotheticals to him; it can never hurt.
7. Are We About to Be Exclusive?Giphy
Out of all of the things that I’ve already said that you should never assume, this probably tops them all. Although there used to be a time when it was common that marriage and sex went hand in hand, we all know that isn’t the case anymore. So no, you can’t assume that he’s only going to have sex with you, just like he can’t think that’s the tip that you’re going to be on — unless you mutually decide that exclusivity is where sex is going to take you.
And even then, because no relationship is a monolith, does that mean that you’ll still date other people and just not have sex with them? Does that mean that sexual exclusivity also includes emotional commitment? See what I mean?
I know a guy who used to be notorious for saying, “I may be her boyfriend, but she is not my girlfriend.” Yeah, he was an ass, yet that doesn’t change the reality of what was going on — women were only involving themselves with him while he was out here being a “boyfriend” to several different women who didn’t know about each other. And they were so caught up (I knew a couple of ‘em) that they didn’t think to ask him…so, he used that to his advantage. They were only with him, yet it wasn’t a mutual reality.
Bottom line, sex doesn’t make something exclusive — a conversation with some established boundaries does.
I get it. Some of you might think that this line of questioning is “too deep.” To that, all I will say is, is it that the questions are too deep, or is it that you don’t take yourself seriously enough when it comes to sex, and who should have that type of access to you? *insert Jeopardy music*
Sex is one of those things that, once you do it, you can’t take it back. So, it’s better to have the answers that you’re looking for before doing what can’t be undone — for the sake of your mind, body, and spirit — and time. You feel me? Gee, I certainly hope so.
Besides, if you’re considering a responsible man, he should actually have a few questions of his own. Because again, wisdom lies in asking the right questions. Sex is certainly not excluded from that…either.
Your body is a privilege.
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