She’s a Marine Corps veteran, entrepreneur, model, and CEO, but Myeka Johnson could add one more: goal getter. Now based in New York City, Johnson attended Woodmont High School in Pelzer, South Carolina, and took more than just a diploma with her when she left. At age 17, she effectively launched the idea of becoming her own boss with “MJ’s Be YOU, LLC.” She renamed it years later as Direct Consultants, LLC, and serviced companies by helping expand their businesses with offices in four cities including Atlanta and Charlotte. Working to become CEO of one’s own domain isn’t without its climb and so at 29, and needing a break, Johnson closed the business temporarily until relaunching it in 2020 as MJI Talent Consulting Agency, merging the idea of growing business—and careers—including her own.

Tell me how you got to where you are now, MJ. I left home at 18 and joined the military instead of going to college. My overall goal was to become CEO of my own company, and I know that sounds kind of big for a 15-year-old, but while I was in high school I played basketball, and my nickname was Bird. I put together an event called Bird’s Basketball Tournament. I had my first event, and it turned out great—that’s when I realized I wanted to meet people and explore, because in order to build a successful business you have to learn about other cultures and the world. And that’s what I did.

How did you know to do that at such a young age? At 15, I don’t even think I knew what a CEO was. At 15, my dad began asking, ‘What do you want to do? It’s time for you to think about college and all that stuff.’ And I remember watching Oprah interviewing Bill Gates. When you’re young, you don’t quite understand what the capacity of a CEO is, but I was so intrigued that I watched the entire episode and even did research about it. What really got me was that someone could come up with an idea and put their name on it and grow it. That really intrigued me.

And from there what happened? My idea started off with just hosting events. And then I was in the military and started traveling and making really good connections. When I got out of the military, I lived in Chicago and then Charlotte, and my business just took off.

What about the Marines? My first duty station was in Japan, and while I was there, there were only four females in our entire unit. A lot of the Marines had companies on the side and I did, too, so even while I was in Japan I was helping people with business consulting.

Wow, that’s amazing. It grew really quickly, and at that point our main focus was business consulting for major companies and also small companies. Then I took a break for two years and moved to New York. I transitioned my business from Direct Consultants to MJI, which has a talent focus. We’re still consulting for business owners, but our main focus is signing models, actors, and musicians while also training them and helping them grow.

How did you get into modeling? I just wanted to try it in high school. I went to Millie Lewis and met Barbara Corell—she is still one of my mentors. 

What guides you or leads you to take all this on? I wake up every morning knowing what I want. I’m the type of person that doesn’t have a lot of negative days, but when I have them, I have a notebook—the original notebook from when I was 15 and wrote that I want to be a CEO. So if I’m having a rough day, I look at this notebook and remind myself of everything I’ve been writing since I was 15 years old.

Check out Myeka’s agency at myekajohnsonincbrand.com.

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