v1i3


CULTURE

Dr. Adrienne Booth Johnson

FOUNDER and CEO, INFINITY GLOBAL CONNECTIONS / INFINITY GLOBAL EMPOWERMENT

To me empowerment means that you have the right to take care of yourself.  The right to provide for your family.  The right to have a better life, and the right to help inspire others, and your community.


GJ:  Dr. Johnson, thank you so much for joining me today.  I am honored.  Please tell me about your background and how your life’s journey has brought you to where you are today.

ABJ: Thank you for this opportunity.  I am originally from Louisville, Kentucky, by way of Portsmouth, Virginia.  I am a graduate of the University of Louisville.  Upon graduation, I started working for the government.  In 1988, I started working in corporate America for The Coca-Cola Company in Washington, DC.  My first assignment for The Coca-Cola Company was working with colleges and universities, specifically historic black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) in the DMV area.  In 1991, I was promoted, and I moved to Atlanta where I was the Director of Community Relations.  I was a part of the African American marketing group.  I handled all the HBCU’s.  At that time, there were 117 colleges and universities.  While at Coca-Cola, I also worked with quite a few celebrities to include Dr. J, Isiah Thomas, Evander Holyfield, Calvin Peete and Eddie Robinson from Grambling State University.   Also, during this time, I met my husband, Attorney Joe Johnson, and we moved to Detroit, Michigan.  I was promoted to Director of Public Affairs for the state of Michigan.   After giving birth to my daughter Jayla, Coca-Cola then moved me to Fayetteville, North Carolina.  I handled Sales for Coca-Cola.  After Fayetteville, Coca-Cola then moved me back to Atlanta where I continued my career in national sales.  I retired from Coca-Cola in 2010 as the Senior Marketing Manager in multicultural marketing. It was an amazing career.  I love The Coca-Cola Company.  They invested in me as a person and they really prepared me to run my own company. Coca-Cola is a great company to work for!

GJ: After your retirement, what was the catalyst behind you founding Infinity Global Connections and Infinity Global Empowerment?

ABJ: I started my for-profit company first, Infinity Global Connections (IGC).  One of the things that I recognized was that a lot of students and interns who came in for interviews were not prepared. We thought that the universities had prepared students with the necessary soft skills; however, this was not the case.  I started my company doing marketing workshops, executive coaching, business branding, speakers bureau, celebrity appearances, work-force development and business etiquette seminars.  In addition, I thought it was important to find a way to help individuals and businesses to have a global experience.   Also, we did cultural immersion trip packages for individuals, businesses, and universities.   After the for-profit company, I started my non-profit organization, which is Infinity Global Empowerment (IGE).  As a minister, I have always had a heart for serving and helping women.   In 2012, Clark Atlanta University was planning a trip to Liberia, so I decided to go with them.  I had been to South Africa, but I had never been to Liberia.  While there, I noticed that women were either unemployed and or looking for opportunities. I started working with a local bottler and I created a program there for the purpose of empowering women.  The bottler provided the Coca-Cola umbrella, the cooler and the stand.  My husband and I paid for the Coca-Cola products for them to sell. We started working with 30-40 women. We initially thought that the women were only going to sell 3-5 cases a week. They greatly exceeded our expectations by selling 75-100 cases a week.  These women became micro-distributors.  The program became so successful that The Coca-Cola Company adopted it into their Global 5 by 20 Program and this was the official launch of the program in Liberia.  The bottler in Liberia was from Ghana.  After seeing the success of the program, he wanted to know if I could help the women of Ghana.  That is how the program began in Ghana with helping and empowering women.

GJ:  What is the meaning of Wo Ye Bra?

ABJ: Wo Ye Bra refers to the menstrual cycle of a woman.  In America, women will say that I am on my period.  In Ghana, the women will say that I am on my wo ye bra.  Wo Ye Bra is a Ghanaian term.  One thing that you never want to do when going to a foreign country is try to Americanize a program.  You must present something that is relevant to the people of that country.  Therefore, I named the program Wo Ye Bra.

GJ: The Wo Ye Bra program focuses on three areas that speak of empowerment, education and sustainability.   How do these three programs impact the Wo Ye Bra program?

ABJ:  To me empowerment means that you have the right to take care of yourself; the right to provide for your family; the right to have a better life; to help inspire others and your community; also, to give back and inspire other women.  One of the requirements for the program is that the women must be looking for a miracle or asking God for a second chance.  When the women enter the program, they receive a free sewing machine, fabric, sewing tools, and start-up capital.  The women in the program range in ages from 13-53.  I don’t have an age limit.  The women come from all walks of life.  Some are school dropouts, widows, orphans, and abused women.  Most of the women only have a tenth-grade education.  Some of the women cannot even write their own name.  We provide the women with a skill that will help sustain them and their families.  They will be able to put their children through school.  These women have a skill that they can pass along to their children.   We teach the women to keep their sewing machines in good shape.   We also provide the women a certificate of completion for the training program during their graduation ceremony.   The sustainability speaks to the importance of helping the women sustain their businesses and themselves.  Most of the teenage girls in the villages have a problem staying in school while they are on their menstrual cycle.   They don’t have access to adequate sanitary supplies.   In 2016, our daughter Jayla traveled to Ghana to conduct a pilot of the Wo Ye Bra program while abroad studying in London.  As a result of the pilot program, we bought sanitary supplies to the women of Ghana.  My husband and I initially bought one thousand reusable sanitary pads from China.  We took them over to Africa.   We distributed them to girls in middle and high schools.   Looking long-term, we wanted something more sustainable then just giving away sanitary pads.  Our daughter recommended we create a team of women seamstresses where they could make reusable sanitary pads in their respective villages, sell them, make money for their families and sustain themselves.    This is the third year of us doing this successful program for women living in rural villages in Ghana and now expanded to Sierra Leone, West Africa.

GJ: Do you do any work here in the United States that mirror the work that you are doing in Africa with women?

ABJ:  Yes, I do.  I work with women here in the United States.  I work with them on a different level. To put women in business in Africa costs me about three to four-hundred dollars per participant.  That includes all the things I buy for their training.  In America, if I try to put a woman in business, it will cost me about five to ten-thousand dollars.  I speak at women’s conferences on empowerment.  I am a global keynote speaker and I talk about how to take your business to the next level.   I also do business etiquette for women.  I founded the Lake Spivey Chapter of Jack and Jill of America.  I started the chapter with fifteen women, now the chapter has more than seventy-five women and over one-hundred children.  I also recently conducted a workshop at Gigi’s House.  It is located in Hampton, Georgia which is a home for girls who have been involved in human trafficking.   Wherever I am needed, I go.

GJ: What has been your proudest moment working with the women of Africa?

ABJ: I travel to Africa three times a year.  It is unfair to put women in business and leave them alone, especially those that are not educated nor have business savvy.   When I go back, I hold business reviews, and I sit down and talk to them.  I ask them about their needs; what are their needs for continued success, and what are some of the obstacles that they are facing.     One of my proudest moments is with a young lady in the program whose name is Georgina.  Georgina lives with her two teenage daughters.  She does not have her son living with her. She and her daughters live in one room.    Georgina is such a go-getter.  Not only is she sewing different garments and reusable sanitary pads, she just acquired two contracts from two different schools to make uniforms for those students.  She is now hiring people to work under her.   Georgina is also working with a gentleman who makes shoes.   So now, Georgina is not only sewing pads and garments, making school uniforms for schools, she also makes and sells shoes. Georgina is one of our Wo Ye Bra Program Superstars!

GJ: Dr. Johnson, I think what you are doing is fantastic.  You mentioned to me that you are a minister.  So, tell me, how do you see your work in Africa with women as ministry and even in your other business ventures?

ABJ: I believe this is my calling.  I believe that everyone has a calling, but you must figure out what that calling is.  I was a teenage mother and at the time I did not understand why I had to go through what I went through.   Life happens.  I know what it is like to be the underdog, working 3 jobs while going to college full time, and having people underestimate you.  But you must have that belief in yourself.   You must keep your eyes on the prize.    You can’t look to the side at the competition to compare yourself to them.  I teach people to never look back.   I tell people to run your race and stay in your lane.  I tell people to keep pushing, which stands for Pray Until Something Happens.  My son, Bill Green is an Attorney and a Pastor. He and his wife, Kristy, have given us 3 wonderful grandchildren. I am fulfilling the great commission to go into all the world and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

GJ: Dr. Johnson, how have you seen the program evolve since its inception?


ABJ: By leaps and bounds.  We have gone from buying sanitary pads, to now having the reusable sanitary pads made and sold by the women of the Wo Ye Bra Program there in Ghana as well as Sierra Leone, West Africa. We have gone from training twenty women to now having produced one-hundred women entrepreneurs.  We have reached an amazing milestone. Our goal is to train and create another one to two-hundred women entrepreneurs in 2020.

GJ: What is next for you and your organizations?

ABJ:  We are going to continue to invest in Infinity Global Empowerment.  Our Ghanaian team consists of Ellen Adu Baah, Vice President of Operations, and Jennifer Moffatt, Manager of Business Analytics & Development. They provide in-country strategic and logistical execution.   We will continue to add more women to the program, produce more women entrepreneurs and expand the organization into West and South Africa.   We will be doing more grass roots programs and begin focusing on empowerment programs for the men and boys living in the villages.  I am going to keep working with major sponsors and trying to get more sponsors.   Our major sponsors right now are Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, The Links, Incorporated and the BWFC (Business Women of Fayette and Coweta Counties). As for our for-profit IGC company, we will execute more strategic innovative training programs and aggressively pursuing more speaking opportunities.

GJ: What can an individual do to help and further advance the purpose of the Wo Ye Bra program?

ABJ: It is all about donations.  People can make donations and even volunteer their services with social and digital media.   Individuals can go directly to the website.  This is a non-profit organization, so all donations are tax deductible.

GJ: Thank you so much Dr. Johnson for time on today.

ABJ: You’re welcome.  It was my pleasure.  Please stay in touch.

Guest Information

© Digital Elevation, LLC | Powered by Prattis

GARY JONATHAN DIGITAL MAGAZINE

SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE

* By subscribing, you agree to receive email communications from garyjonathan.com. Your email is kept confidential.

GARY JONATHAN DIGITAL MAGAZINE

SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE

* By subscribing, you agree to receive email communications from garyjonathan.com. Your email is kept confidential.