Holly Johnson is excited to get to work in her home studio each morning, surrounded by vibrant colored wool felt and Cheeky Monkey Home decorative pillows and accessories.
It wasn’t always so cozy. Johnson had a stressful office job, and when “my first son was born I was motivated to find a way to have a creative business where I could work from home and have the flexibility to care for my children,” she said.
In 2012, Johnson launched Cheeky Monkey Home on Etsy, an online marketplace for independent sellers of handmade crafts. She started the business for the same reason many people take the entrepreneurial leap: She couldn’t find meaningful and unique items to decorate her kids’ rooms, only mass-produced items.
“I was trained as a painter and grew up making my own toys and clothes, and I have always found it more interesting to make something tailored to my needs than to purchase off the rack,” Johnson said. “This hole in the children’s décor market ignited my creative determination to solve the problem and was my inspiration to create keepsake-quality home décor for children’s rooms.”
Cheeky Monkey Home started to grow, and Johnson began to sell wholesale in 2017. Along the way she encountered another challenge: she needed help, in particular sewers. That’s when her Sew@Home Program was born. Now Johnson trains, mentors and employs recently resettled refugee women in the Boston area who seek flexible work from home.
Looking to grow her business substantially over the next several years, Johnson entered the 2018 Mastercard Grow Your Biz Contest, in association with Bank of America. As one of four finalists she traveled to New York City to pitch her business to a panel of judges in hopes of winning the $25,000 grand prize.
Although she didn’t win the grand prize, Johnson received valuable guidance from the contest judges and in September 2019, she launched a new line of tote bags and handbags. Check them out at Cheeky Monkey Home on Etsy.
Grow Your Business
To enter the 2019 Grow Your Biz Contest, small business owners must share their business strategy by submitting a video (up to one minute in length) on the Grow Your Biz contest site that answers the question: “How would $25,000 help your business grow?*”
From the submissions, four finalists will be identified for their business strategy, video creativity and overall enthusiasm to receive a $1,000 Mastercard prepaid card and the opportunity to pitch their businesses to the Grow Your Biz Panel during the final event in New York City on November 14, 2019.
The panel of expert judges for the Grow Your Biz contest include:
- Bonin Bough, host of CNBC’s Cleveland Hustles
- Jaclyn Johnson, founder and CEO of Create & Cultivate
- Ginger Siegel, Mastercard Head of Small Business,
- Kelly Firment, Bank of America Small Business Banking executive
The judges will provide individual consultation sessions and select one grand-prize winner, who will receive $25,000 to pursue their business plan.
*No Purchase Necessary to Enter or Win. Void where prohibited. Open only to small business owners who are legal U.S. residents, and 18 and older. Ends 10/6/19. Restrictions apply. Click here for Official Rules and complete details.
[Holly Johnson] I think I knew I wanted to be an artist at a very young age. I can dream something up in my mind, and then make that into something tangible. It’s the most rewarding thing.
Designer & Owner
Cheeky Monkey Home
Bank of America customer
[Holly Johnson] I’m Holly Johnson, and I have a business called Cheeky Monkey Home, where I make wool felt appliqué pillows.
It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child, that I realized working from home was my dream. And that was the perfect kind of transition point for me to start my own business where I could be at home and divide my time more thoughtfully.
In the first few years of my business, I was really managing everything. And as sales started to pick up, I found that delegating was really a very important next step.
I was also really interested in providing flexible work for mothers who had young children at home. That was the beginning of Sew at Home, where I can train, provide flexible work and community for refugees in the Boston area.
[Holly Johnson] When I realized that I could actually make an impact, for me that just takes it all to a whole other level.
My goal is to expand my business ten times over the next three years. After meeting with my Small Business Banker from Bank of America, the doors really opened up wide in my mind about what the possibilities were.
[Tyrone Billingsly] When I first met Holly, we were able to sit down and really understand the ins and outs about her business and the direction that she wanted to go in. And from there, formulate some strategies on how to grow.
Senior Small Business Banker
[Holly Johnson] He said you really have to be true to yourself and true to your business. I felt that he was genuinely interested in my success.
[Tyrone Billingsly] When I think about Cheeky Monkey Home, it just puts the biggest smile on my face.
What would you like the power to do?
Bank of America logo
Learn more: bankofamerica.com/Appointment
Bank of America and the Bank of America logo are registered trademarks of Bank of America Corporation. All other logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used pursuant to license. Bank of America, N.A. provides informational reading material for your discussion or review purposes only. Interpretations in this release are not intended, nor implied, to be a substitute for the professional advice received from a qualified accountant, attorney or financial advisor. Neither Bank of America, its affiliates nor their employees provide legal, accounting or tax advice. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC © 2019 Bank of America Corporation.