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On the record with Sheila C. Johnson
Entrepreneur offers advice to women in business
Published Tuesday, July 1, 2014 6:12 am
by Michaela L. Duckett

Business maven Sheila C. Johnson, CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, said it is important for women in business to assert themselves. Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to never give up. 

Sheila Johnson knows a thing or two about business.

Since launching Black Entertainment Television in 1979 with then-husband Bob Johnson, Johnson has gone on to tackle other ventures including sitting on a number of refutable boards, producing documentaries and becoming part-owner of three professional sports teams – the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals.

Johnson is also a partner in ProJet Aviation, a comprehensive aviation service company, and a partner in Mistral - the makers of fine bath, body, and home products. In 2012, she launched her own collection of luxury scarves inspired by her travels around the world. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Johnson is also founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, a hospitality and management company which oversees a growing portfolio of luxury properties, including three Florida golf and family resorts reaching from the Gulf to the Atlantic – Innisbrook Resort in Tampa Bay, Reunion Resort in Orlando, and Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast.

Johnson’s equestrian-inspired and luxurious Salamander Resort & Spa debuted in August. Located in the heart of Virginia’s horse and wine country, the flagship resort was recognized by USA Today as among the world’s top eight hotel openings of 2013.

Salamander was recently selected by Tryon Equestrian Partners to assist with the development and management of hospitality and golf operations for the $100 million Tryon Resort opening this summer in Mill Springs, N.C.

The Post caught up with Johnson while she was in North Carolina last week to make the announcement. In the following Q&A, Johnson gets down to business. Read on to see what she has to say about surviving in business as a woman in a man’s world and watching the “double bottom line” for success.

The Charlotte Post: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs on building a successful business?

Sheila Johnson: “First of all, have an enormous amount of patience. Really believe in yourself and your passion, and be very careful who you bring into your space as you are building a company because there are a lot of people out there that really do not want you to succeed and have their own agenda. It’s very tough for a woman these days to be able to do this. So you’ve got to be extraordinarily careful. And lastly, never give up!”

TCP: In business, it’s often a “man’s world.” Sometimes women feel their voices are not heard. What advice can you offer on speaking up and being respected in the boardroom?

S.J.: “I encounter it everyday, and it’s just a matter of being able to learn how to eyeball them and let them know that you have no fear, you are willing to collaborate, you are willing to hear their side, but in the end, we weigh all issues. And if you are the boss, as a woman, that’s where the ultimate decision comes down to, and they have to respect it.”

TCP: What makes Tryon Resort stand out as an equestrian destination?

S.J.: “I think what’s important about this property in North Carolina… is that we are exposing everybody of every socio-economic income to horses. I think that’s important. There should not be any boundaries that young people cannot reach across to be a party and experience the equestrian community. We are open to bringing everyone here.”

TCP: What should we know about the Salamander brand?

S.J.: “We are continuing to grow our properties. I want to become one of the most successful hotel brands in the country. We not only own, but we also manage hotels. We are about business. We are about excellence. We have a team of executives that I think are the best in the country. It is my job to keep that team together…”

TCP: What other projects are in the works for you?

S.J.: “I do so many other things. I am [an executive committee member] of the United States Golf Association, where I am working on more inclusiveness and more diversity. I own three teams in Washington, D.C…. People say, ‘You where so many different hats.’ They don’t understand, these hats are important in keeping my entire company going because I have cast my net very wide so that I can network and make a difference.”

TCP: What is some of the best advice anyone has ever given you about business?

S.J.: “The best advice I have ever received is about watching the double-bottom line. It’s not only about making your company work economically, but it’s also about giving back to the community. Because when you do that, the community comes back to you, and that’s what’s important.”

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I read the article on Shelia Johnson, she is so smart, successful, brilliant, wise and it was great to read about her. Very positive story. I have a start up Information Technology business (JMA Technology, Inc.) If it is possible I would like to contact Ms. Johnson for some advice. have read many articles relative to the different projects that she is involved with.
Posted on October 5, 2014

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