A Balancing Act

All the world is a stage for Tom Johnson, who runs distributorship TJ Studio in Conyers, Georgia, with his wife, Amy. Tom, a graphic designer by trade, is a community theater director on the side who also acts, as does his wife.

“My wife is the president of TJ Studio and also works outside the home as the controller for a local manufacturing company,” says Tom. “My oldest daughter, Madison, has given us two granddaughters—Arianna, two, and Aurora, one—and our youngest daughter and fulfillment specialist, McKenzie, is attending the University of Georgia this fall to study athletic training and physical therapy.”

The Johnsons opened TJ Studio nine years ago to provide graphic design and marketing services to the local business community. Seven years later, they began to offer promotional products, but it wasn’t an entirely unfamiliar medium to Tom, who says, “I’ve been in the advertising/design industry for over 20 years and always handled promotional product design and branding at the agencies and companies I worked for.”

Read on to learn more about a typical day at TJ Studio.


What was your first job in promotional products?

My first job in the industry took place a couple months after I was laid off by the consulting firm I was working for, when a friend of mine asked if I could do some brandedproducts for her company. I said “absolutely,” and we started discussing what she needed.

A few weeks later, I signed up with SAGE for a 30-day free trial and booked a $24,000 sale that included a kit of six branded products plus fulfillment to shipto their training schools all over the country. Needless to say, our garage was pretty full for a few months.

How does this job challenge you?

It challenges me to use my creative/advertising background to find ways to help people market their businesses. I want to make sure they come away with more than just a product. I want to give them measurable value and educate them. 


What changes or improvements have you recently implemented, or are you planning to make in the future?

We are currently re-evaluating our business based on some workshops I attended at Promo University in South Carolina. We have several small businesses in the area with which we do product-based sales, and we are going after creative program sales, marketing campaigns and larger institutional sales that will keep us from becoming order takers. We’re excited about implementing the information that was presented in the sessions that CAAMP and GAPPP put together at the event.  


What do you love about your company?

We love that we are growing and learning, and we love that we are planning for even more growth. It’s been a lot like “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” this past year, and we’re excited to refine our strategy and grow the business in a strategic direction. We love that it’s different every day. And another thing we love is that it’s ours.

Describe your office atmosphere.  

We love the flexibility of having a home-based business and doing things as a family. It’s great being able to work in such a portable office environment as well. It’s also great to be providing excellent service to other businesses in our community. We have ‘a few’ rescue animals sharing our home, and it’s wonderful not to have them cooped up while we work. I guess you’d call our atmosphere warm and furry.

What kinds of projects or tasks might you tackle on a given day?

Being a promotional products guy and a decorator, I could be sourcing new apparel and annual meeting campaign kits for a large client; sewing 450 quarter-zip pullovers; tackling a campaign for the local Chamber of Commerce golf tournament; meeting with members of our leads group to help them get their new business up and running with a marketing campaign; coming up with a new strategy to attract new businesses; learning as much as I can about the business, and thinking of ways to do things bigger and better.

Ask me again in a few months, I’m sure it will change. I’m going after some large state university groups and some local private school uniform and spirit wear programs.


How do you collaborate with co-workers?

Since my wife is the president, whenever she needs me—which could mean by text, phone, email or by taking her out to lunch when she’s at her other office.

What makes your company a valuable member of the promotional products community?

We get involved. We always jump right in. I had the opportunity to serve as a delegate from GAPPP to L.E.A.D. 2017 this past April, and we plan on getting involved with our local group even more. I’m working on my TAS and CAS classes to become a responsible member of the industry, and we hope to be hiring two interns here in the near future to fill the gap left by our youngest daughter, McKenzie, and do things around the office that I don’t need to be doing. And soon, we’ll have to add more than that as we implement our plans to grow the business.