Diverse Community Connectors (DCC) helps communities thrive by empowering them to grow strong connections from the inside, out. We sat down with founder JMarie Johnson-Kola to learn the story of how her Washington State-based community outreach business came to life to feature her business journey in this Small Biz Spotlight.
Turning passion into profession
At the early age of six, JMarie Johnson-Kola realized her purpose in life would lead her out of the small Louisiana town she grew up in.
“From as far back as I can remember, I had a desire to experience all there is,” she says, “but also to find the harmony between everything.”
That desire fueled her decision to turn down a scholarship to Louisiana State University and instead pursue work in the public sector, from the Marine Corps to city governments and school districts.
JMarie would spend the next twenty years defining and developing her purpose and eventually transforming it into Diverse Community Connectors (DCC) — a consulting business that helps communities and organizations develop deeper, more harmonious connections among the people within them.
Prompted by the inefficiencies she saw while working in various public organizations, JMarie’s mission with DCC is to help communities of all sorts leverage member engagement, collaboration, and inclusivity to innovate and build strong futures.
Her method of community outreach mainly focuses on the art of empathetic conversation. By guiding groups through layers of questions and prompts, the goal is to achieve honest but gracious dialogue.
“My goal is to help people concentrate on the assets of others,” she says, “so they can see how bringing everyone’s assets together builds a strong community foundation.”
This is no easy task; it takes time, patience, and a lot of trust-building. But JMarie approaches every conversation emanating calm. Her voice is soothing, her words are articulate, and she puts patience first.
Recently, she received an award for the highest engagement level from Washington State’s Parent-Teacher Association for her work developing a statewide outreach strategy.
Getting in the driver’s seat of the journey
Building a small business wasn’t a linear journey for JMarie.
“I always had a rough idea of what I wanted my business to be, but I was never confident it was actually a product or service people would buy,” she says. As a Black female entrepreneur, she says it’s her confidence that poses the greatest challenge to her business success.
It wasn’t until 2016, three years after setting up her LLC, that she decided to focus on building her business. Enrolling in Business Impact NW’s Launch and Grow program was pivotal in DCC’s growth, she says.
“[The program] helped me to see that my business wasn’t just any old service, but a necessary and critical service,” she says. “It was exactly the guidance and push I needed at that time.”
Learning and growing
Now that DCC has officially launched, JMarie can focus on the future. Currently finishing out her Ph.D. in Transformative Social Change, her goal is to become a thought leader.
She also recognizes that she’s an eternal student. “I’m a Ph.D. student, a wife, a mother, a business owner, and a community leader,” she says, “and I’ve learned that you have to give and take and really find balance in everything to keep going.”
Learn more about Diverse Community Connectors here.