Tammy Johnson has become synonymous with Greenville entrepreneurship in the past few years. She started her first company, Liquid Catering , out of her garage at age 26. She was the only employee Almost seven years later, that small start has become High Spirits Hospitality, which oversees operations for Liquid Catering, The Old Cigar Warehouse, Bravo1 Protection, High Spirits Events and Topside Pool Club.
Along the way she has been honored as the SBA Small Business of the Year, Business Black Box’s Entrepreneur of the Year, the SBDC Young Entrepreneur of the Year, one of Greenville Business Magazine’s Best and Brightest and a graduate of Leadership Greenville and the Greenville Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator program.
Coming of her biggest event of the year, Tacos N’ Tequila, we caught up with the hard to track down Johnson for some Least Asked Questions.
Who was your first hire? Why?
I hired a director of operations because I needed to focus more on the sales and customer service side of the business. That person was in charge of the lot of the day-to-day work, which I loved to do, but was having less time to do. I knew I needed to focus on growing the business so that made a lot of sense for me.
What was it like the first time you had to fire someone?
Well, I had experience firing people in previous jobs, which helped. But in the way you may be thinking. I learned from working in the corporate sector is you needed to have practical and clearly stated employee expectations and rules. You needed to be clear in what an employee was doing right and what they were doing wrong. That created a paper trail to show why someone was fired. So, when I had to make the decision, the system I had in place made it for me.
People say that at the end of the day, being the head of a startup is lonely because you don’t have someone to actually relate to. Do you feel that is true? Why?
As a woman business owner, I do feel that, especially because of my age. I don’t have a lot of peers who actually do what I do or have had the same experiences. It gets lonely. You feel exhausted at times. Despite being in the same work place as people your age, you get sort of put in a box as the boss, which makes it hard to socialize. I do have a group of peers I met through the Greenville Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator who are my go-to when things get tough.
A lot of entrepreneurs get caught up in the worrying about things like logos. What is your best advice for them to be really worrying about?
Put a great group of professional experts together as your team early on. That means a good banker, lawyer, HR professional, accountant, marketing team, and financial advisor. Don’t hire someone just because they are your friend, look for folks that have experience in your particular industry. You need to care more about your cash flow than your t-shirt design.
What is the one company that you wanted to start, but never did?
I had an idea for an event staffing app that I got fairly excited about it for a few weeks. This was just at the start of the “gig economy” trend. Someone launched it nationally while I was still trying to figure out logistics. Looking back, that was a relief.