Growing up in Cocoa, FL, Del Johnson, Owner of Café Krewe 22, Pampering Palace and Del B Angel’s, was determined to beat the odds. Her mother battled substance abuse problems and Johnson experienced many forms of abuse growing up in foster care. Despite these challenges, she’d go on to earn her degree and work as a Phlebotomist for 15 years, an Occupational Therapist for seven and serve as Director of five group homes for foster children. By early 2019, Johnson was ready to “take the plunge” into the world of entrepreneurship. Her story demonstrates the importance of persistence, maintaining a positive attitude, leading with your heart, having faith and trusting the process.
“While working as Director of the group homes, I came home one night in January 2019, with no real plans, and told my husband that I was going to leave and do something else,” Johnson said. “I loved my position, but it was time for a change.”
Johnson continued, “I had a god daughter and we were out one day getting our nails done. They took their time with me, but rushed through the process with her. That got me thinking about opening a nail salon just for kids. Around the same time, I had the idea to start my own group home, but that would come later. My husband was very supportive of the nail salon idea and said ‘let’s go full throttle’. By February, Pampering Palace was open for business.”
Johnson’s next venture was inspired by New Orleans – more specifically the Crescent City’s heavenly deep-fried and powdered sugar covered pastries known as Beignets.
“My son, CJ, plays for the New Orleans Saints,” she said. “Every time I’d go visit him, people would ask me to bring back Beignets. That got me thinking about starting a coffee shop and also making my own Beignets. I mentioned the idea to my husband and my landlord, who happened to also own the spot we’re in now, and they both loved the idea. The next day, I signed the lease. The irony is I don’t even drink coffee, but I knew the community wanted a local coffee shop and that my Beignets would sell.”
Johnson was originally planning on opening Café Krewe 22 – named after her son’s jersey number and a Mardi Gras term for the word ‘crew’ – in early 2020, but COVID-19 pushed back those plans. Fortunately, this gave her an opportunity to get the shop ready and iron out the remaining details.
“From January through June, my God daughter’s mom and my cousin – who are coffee connoisseurs – and I, met at the shop weekly to test out different coffees and to get the portions just right. We also practiced using the machines and pouring so that each cup of coffee would taste the same every time you come in. The pandemic actually gave us an opportunity to master the work. By the time we had our soft-opening on July 18th, we were ready to go.”
Johnson describes Café Krewe 22 as a local coffee shop with a true “mom and pop” feel. Each cup of coffee is brewed and poured fresh and flavored coffees are offered in addition to flavored syrup. The space also has study rooms – available at no charge – and a meeting room that can be rented by small groups.
Johnson also opened her group home, Del B Angel’s, in early 2020. We asked her what it’s like to own and operate three businesses and, as you might expect, her response was filled with optimism and positivity.
“My time is great,” she said. “I’m at the coffee shop to train people. I have a team in place to handle everything. At the group home, I have a staff of eight including a Program Manager. We have great teams in place which allows me to stop in just to make everything is running smoothly. It’s about finding good people, supporting them and putting them in positions to get things done.”
Johnson added, “I love all my businesses, but my heart is in the group home. It makes me so happy to be able to provide something like this for our community and to educate people about our home and these kids. These aren’t bad kids – people need to understand that. I’m also in a position, as an owner of three businesses, to help certain people get jobs. We work with a group called employU to help people with disabilities become employed.”
For Johnson, who loves to show others that – regardless of your situation or past experiences – anything is possible; the future is full of opportunities. It also may include a fourth business.
“I want to expand Café Krewe 22,” she said. “Possibly a beachside location. Down the road, we may look at franchising. Most of all, we want to continue to provide great customer service and a comfortable space for people to relax and enjoy our coffee. We’re also looking at opening a uniform store next to Café Krewe 22.”
Johnson added, “I enjoy being an entrepreneur, but I also love to show others that they can do it too. I’m not afraid to try new things. If things don’t work, I can always go back to a 9 to 5.”
What advice does Johnson have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Trust God and the process,” she said. “Fear keeps us on the fence. Take that leap. The more you doubt yourself, the longer it will take to fulfill your dreams. Also, don’t worry about what your friends think. Focus on what you want to accomplish and don’t let anyone tell you it’s a bad idea. Lastly, it’s not all about the money. However, you will have to spend some money along the way if you want to succeed.”