Arielle Johnson is the founder and CEO of Female Icons Encouraging Real Concepts of Empowerment (F.I.E.R.C.E.) Detroit, a non-profit organization established with the aim to connect women with many tools and resources. As a business owner and event planner, some of her most notable clients have included Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, Detroit Jazz Festival, the Michigan Women’s Foundation in Detroit and Major League Soccer. She has recently launched a sister company, F.I.E.R.C.E. Staffing, to incorporate her events and hospitality background, extend career training to a broader community and increase employment potential for young adults.
Rolling out recently spoke with this fearless female to discuss her various organizations, her success habits and what superpowers she resonates with the most. Check out her fierce interview below.
How did F.I.E.R.C.E. come about? What was the inspiration behind it?
I became a mom at age 19, and overcame the challenges of domestic violence, supporting a child alone and getting through college. Fierce Empowerment was initially started as a mentoring support organization for teen moms. I was able to complete my undergraduate degree and learn to be a mother through the positive social network of women who mentored and supported me. When I thought about the young ladies back home in Detroit who were in my situation, but did not have access to a social network that could empower them, I started Fierce (Female Icons Encouraging Real Concepts of Empowerment). The Fierce women in my community always have, and always will be the inspiration behind my work.
Aside from F.I.E.R.C.E., you’re also a business owner and event planner and you’ve had some notable clients: Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, the Major League Soccer, Detroit Jazz Festival and the Michigan Women’s Foundation. How did you go about landing these big contracts? How did you successfully manage such huge contracts?
Earning these contracts was again a result of my positive social network, women noticing my work, appreciating my passion and giving me an opportunity (Totally FIERCE). Successfully managing these contracts was only done through teamwork and engaged mentors. I am blessed in the fact that I have women I can call such as, Danaeya Johnson (big sister) and Sommer Woods who will not only teach me best practices for managing these projects, but will also challenge me to go the extra mile. In addition, having a strong team that understands quality service is essential to ensuring success. I only hope that I am as impactful in the lives of the people who I have managed, as my mentors are to me.
Tell us about F.I.E.RC.E.’s sister organization, F.I.E.R.C.E. Staffing.
F.I.E.R.C.E. Staffing is a social enterprise that provides temporary hospitality staffing and consulting for businesses in Detroit. We connect with people in the community that need opportunities and training, and equip them with knowledge and work experience to become successful citizens that can contribute to the resurgence of their city. We also are invested in the growth of small businesses in Detroit that need to refine their approach to customer service, so we provide consulting that will evaluate and implement strategies that will contribute to their success.
F.I.E.R.C.E. Staffing places a strong emphasis on customer service and stellar hospitality. The social responsibility that F.I.E.R.C.E. Staffing takes on, is the core of our values and mission. The work will not stop at job placement. Once connected to F.I.E.R.C.E. Staffing, participants will always have access to information, support and growth opportunities through our training facilities and nonprofit community partners, such as F.I.E.R.C.E. Empowerment.
As a Black woman/woman of color, what do you consider your superpower to be?
I believe my superpower is the innate ability to connect to the women that I serve through our shared experiences. I am uniquely positioned to help them best, because I was once them. Connecting with them allows me to simultaneously connect to my purpose and mission of my organization, to “restore broken communities by transforming young women and families.” I started F.I.E.R.C.E. because I wanted to connect with girls who were often overlooked and facing an overwhelming amount of barriers. I wanted them to bond with the fierce women in our network, and discover that a new life was achievable, and that their growth journey did not have to be traveled alone.
If you could thank any Black woman history maker for her contributions to society, who would it be and why?
I’d like to thank Mary McLeod Bethune, because she conquered her own personal barriers to work on behalf of her people. Mary had a commitment to young girls of color. She started a school for young women despite having limited money and resources. This amazing woman actually built the desks for the school herself, growing the institute to become Bethune-Cookman College. Ms. Bethune was an advocate, giving a voice to women and children of color, constantly using her success to empower others.
Mary McLeod Bethune handed me a road map of determination and strength, as I have conquered my own barriers. I still have challenges ahead to overcome. I am still writing MY story, as a young single mom trying to raise a Black king, maintain a household and build businesses. However, I refuse to leave any woman or young girl behind while I make my ascent to the top. So, if I gotta build all the desks myself, to ensure others have the opportunity to grow and learn, then ya girl is ready!
What are the three most important factors of being a successful woman?
- Relationships: Establishing high quality connections with others, has been essential to my success. When we take the time to genuinely get to know the vision, goals and values of others we are able to identify the best way to make impactful contributions to each other’s work, each other’s lives.
- Strategy: I have jumped into many projects without much of a plan, just had a vision and was ready to go! This quality is for sure a gift and a curse, as I have struggled more than necessary due to a lack of quality planning (says the event planner). Having a strategy is so much more than having a plan though! A strategy not only provides you with a plan of how to get from point A to point B, but a strategy provides your why and the facts that make it relevant. Strategies [help] make assessments of what potential barriers to success will be, and the plan to knock ’em out (as only a fierce woman can). Strategy evaluates the competition, identifies potential partners and resources. I think you get the picture. Strategy is good.
- Confidence: A successful woman of purpose is not only confident in her gifts and skills, but she is confident in her mission. Her inner confidence is never a question, due to the way she presents herself. Many find it hard to ignore the woman of confidence when she speaks, because her delivery makes everyone want to believe. I don’t think any of us would follow a leader who wasn’t confident in who she was, or where she was going.
What are three success habits you implement into your daily routine to maintain your success/sanity/peace of mind, etc.?
- Prayer: My faith is the foundation of all that I do. I know that I am nothing without Christ, and that being in His presence will always put me at my best, and protect me from dangers seen and unseen. I remind myself daily that The Lord is my rock, in whom I take refuge, Psalm 18:2. This really helps on those days when I feel alone, and buried in responsibilities.
- Working out/staying fit: Monday through Friday I am in gym at 6am doing high cardio circuits and lifting weights. I also became a vegan last year, which was a great improvement for my energy. Starting my day with a workout helps me clear my mind for the day, and for sure builds mental toughness.
- Time with the ladies: I love my girls. I always brag about the fact that I have tons of amazing friends. I am not the chick that complains about not getting along with other women. The laughs, tears, prayers, goal setting and talk about men gets me through every time! There is nothing a good girl’s night can’t fix in my book.
For more information on F.I.E.R.C.E. Detroit, or to see how you can help, visit their website at http://fiercedetroit.com/