Elaine Gonzalez Johnson: The Latina mogul influencing women of color to live healthy and be active
Through her work as an entrepreneur, author, and motivator, Elaine Gonzalez Johnson encourages people, particularly Latinas and women of color, to adapt healthy lifestyles.
In May 2012, Elaine Gonzalez Johnson agreed to partake in an activity that would change her life. Invited by a colleague to participate in the Broad Street Run—the largest 10-mile race in the nation—Johnson took one of the first big steps towards building a healthier lifestyle and really making a difference in her community.
Having only picked up running as a hobby a few months beforehand, Johnson stood alone among the several groups and teams that made up the more than 30,000 participants of the run. It was the first time she had ever participated in such a long race, but she remained determined.
After finishing the race, Johnson felt a sense of pride, fulfillment, and accomplishment unlike most things she’d ever experienced up to that point.
“I don’t know that prior to the Broad Street Run I’ve ever challenged myself, physically; and then challenging myself physically, it really poured into other areas of my life,” Elaine Gonzalez Johnson said during an interview with AL DÍA.
That was the beginning of what would become not only an annual tradition of participating in the running event, but a new life purpose for Johnson.
About a month later in June 2012, Johnson reached out to some of her close friends and relatives to meet at Lincoln High School on a Saturday morning to do 2.5 miles of walking and running. About a half-dozen women showed up.
That first meeting turned into a weekly meeting, which then ultimately launched Latinas in Motion. Founded by Johnson, Latinas in Motion is an organization created to encourage, inspire, and empower women to be active, and to live healthier lifestyles through exercise, eating right, and self care.
Johnson said the question that was at the heart of her effort to form Latinas in Motion was: “How can I inspire women of color to really put health and wellness at the forefront?”
Born and raised in North Philadelphia to Puerto Rican parents, Johnson said conversations about health and wellness rarely came up in family discussions when she was growing up. But she believes now that it’s an important conversation to have, especially when considering the statistics that indicate that Latinas have a very high rate of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. She noted that exercising and eating right was two of the most effective ways to reverse those statistics, and that was the message she wanted to help promote with the new organization.
Since it was founded in June 2012, Latinas in Motion has grown nationally, with chapters currently in Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Puerto Rico, and Texas.
When Johnson created Latinas in Motion, she was also working full-time for the School District of Philadelphia. While working for the GEAR UP program in Philadelphia, Johnson was responsible for educating high school students across the city about college and the many different career opportunities that were available to them.
“It was so important to be able to really expose the students to what life is beyond their small community because a lot of them have never been outside of Philadelphia. A lot of their families never went to college. So we were talking to potential first-generation college students,” said Johnson.
However, after several years of fulfilling the duties of this work, Johnson reached a point at which she felt she was doing a disservice to the students by staying there.
“I absolutely loved the experience, but I felt like it was time to just really take on full entrepreneurship because that’s really where my purpose was,” Johnson said.
“I believe my purpose is to really inspire and encourage women to live their absolute best lives, but doing so in a healthy way,” she added.
So in late August 2017, Johnson resigned from her job with the School District and became a full-time entrepreneur.
In a word, Johnson would describe her full-time entrepreneurial journey as ‘scary.’ She noted that there is a level of comfort with getting a bi-weekly paycheck that often comes with most traditional jobs. Being a full-time entrepreneur doesn’t offer that, which is why, Johnson acknowledged, the entrepreneurial journey may not be for everyone.
But she advised anyone who does want to jump into entrepreneurship or start a business to have a plan and free themselves of any potential self-imposed limitations.
“I just really want people to know that working on your dream is worth it... even though it’s scary, it’s worth it. And even when you don’t have all the answers, do it anyways if you feel like that’s what you were called to do,” Johnson said.
In the five years between starting Latinas in Motion and becoming a full-time entrepreneur, Johnson credits much of her success to writing things down. As a habit, she would write down what she’s grateful for; create a to-do list; and go over affirmations to start her day.
After doing this for years, Johnson decided to create a product. In April 2017, she came out with “Plan, Pray, Slay: The Planner” as a way to help other women organize and execute their goals in a similar fashion. Within only a few months, the planner sold more than 2,000 copies.
Shortly thereafter, her husband Darryl, in collaboration, worked to create an equivalent planner for men, titled “Plan, Pray, & Prosper.”
In both instances, Johnson said she didn’t necessarily know just how impactful the work she was doing was for others. Her ideas initially started with a desire to help her city, but she soon realized that she was influencing people from across the nation. To Johnson, her success is evidence of the power of believing in yourself.
“Look at your daily habits,” Johnson suggested. “What are you doing right now that other people are not experts in? That may be your next business idea.”
In addition to wearing multiple hats as an entrepreneur, educator, and influencer, Johnson maintains two other titles she holds in the highest regard: mother and wife.
While her work is a big part of her life, Johnson values her family and faith as her main priorities above anything else. However, Johnson wants to show that it is absolutely possible to juggle all those priorities and still maintain success.
“Success to me isn’t a mansion, it isn’t a BMW,” Johnson affirmed. “Success to me is having my family be proud of me… showing people what’s possible, being a creator of things that make me proud, but then makes God proud, as well.”
Johnson wanted to find a way to highlight that she shouldn’t have to feel like she’s being put into a box.
“I have to create a brand where I can showcase all of my ideas and all of my creativity, and show people that all of them are Elaine,” she added.
So Johnson started to brand herself as a mogul, and officially created the brand ‘mogul mami.’
The idea Johnson hopes to promote with the brand is that everyone should have the freedom to take on as many roles and identities as they want to, without feeling pressure to choose between home and a career, for example. There shouldn't have to be an either... or.
“We have to really start to change the narrative,” said Johnson. “That’s the reason why I started Mogul Mami, that’s the reason why I speak on that brand, that’s the reason why I feel like it’s important to talk about what we’re doing so that other people can free themselves of the or and start adding a slash.”
As the mother of an 8-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, Johnson wants to instill that same mindset within them. She wants her children to use their creative ideas to its full extent and, as a parent, she feels it’s her responsibility to encourage that, not condense it.
Johnson noted that when children develop a sense of ownership at a young age, it can completely change the trajectory of their life. She wants to play a role in doing so for her children, while also helping so many others do the same.
Going into her second year as a full-time entrepreneur, Johnson has many more goals she hopes to accomplish. She feels there's still much work left to do.
In regards to Latinas in Motion, Johnson hopes to travel to the different chapters across the U.S., and hopes to see more women join the movement. In the coming years, Johnson would like to see the number of chapters of the organization continue to grow, eventually to every state.
Johnson highlighted the fact that she makes joining Latinas in Motion void of a membership fee because, “I care more about the mission than I do about the money,” she said.
While she is the founder of the organization, Johnson emphasized that it is still a group effort, and it’s not just about her.
“At the end of the day... I wouldn’t be Latinas in Motion if I didn’t have this empire of amazing women behind me; I would just be singular,” said Johnson. “The power comes in numbers, the power comes in community, the power comes in fellowship.”
The hope is for that power to extend out to more women of color, and to get more people to challenge themselves to become more active and live healthier lifestyles, both physically and mentally.