We had the good fortune of connecting with Justin Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Justin, putting aside the decision to work for yourself, what other decisions were critical to your success?
The single most important decision I made that contributed to my success is twofold. The first, have faith in yourself. That is the biggest hurdle for most entrepreneurs. They don’t believe in themselves enough to take the leap. The second, and equally as important, failure is a good thing. Everybody that runs their own business fails at some point. Its what we learn from that failure that makes us successful.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Like many others, the Johnson family found its way to Phoenix Arizona looking for a better life. What brought my grandparents here more than 50 years ago, is the same thing that brings people here today and what encourages them to stay – opportunity. Regardless of who you are or what motivated you to come here, there is one constant in Phoenix: with hard work and determination, this is a city that enables you to prosper. My grandmother came here from the hills of West Virginia, and began to make her way by picking cabbage in Laveen Arizona. My grandfather, and his brother when they were very small boys hitchhiked across the United States, leaving the dark coal mines, looking for a better life. The common denominator between them was their determination to make life better and doing it, here in Phoenix. I am a second-generation Phoenician, not a common thing in America’s fifth largest city. My wife Lauren and I are raising three children who represent a third generation of Johnson’s in Phoenix. That long history and continuity gives me a profound appreciation for the city of Phoenix and a keen family perspective on how it has evolved. Every day, I am grateful to have deep roots in this community of ours. My family has built its life here working in construction. My grandfather and father started off hanging drywall. My brother and I spent our summers working for my dad and grandfather for $.50 an hour as young boys; scrapping houses, stocking drywall, and picking up left-behind nails on a long trail of job sites. Construction is a line of work that tests you, especially on the long hot days that are so common here in the Valley. That test is only overcome by hard work and succeeding gives you a sense of accomplishment. That commitment to hard work extended to my grades in school and to the importance of education. In our family, if you weren’t doing one, you needed to be doing the other. Both my parents worked, but were unwavering in their commitment to making education a priority for my brother and me. One of our family’s great honors came when my father was elected Mayor of the City of Phoenix. I can remember taking the public bus to City Hall after school every day because my dad wanted me to do my homework in his office where he could make sure it was getting done. I knew that he valued his family and our education. Being Mayor was important, but being a father who continued to instill the values his father had taught him was even more important. After graduating high school, I went on to Occidental College in Los Angeles and majored in Economics. It was a great experience becoming an Oxy Tiger, but living in Los Angeles helped me develop a true appreciation for my home here in Phoenix. So, I came back home, met and married my best friend Lauren. We started a family together and today, with our three kids, we are raising them less than a mile away from the Sunnyslope home where I grew up. That home was a small 800 square foot two bedroom house. In those years, Sunnyslope was a tough area, but also a place where hardworking families could afford their first home. Today, that opportunity has vanished for too many hardworking folks and families here in Phoenix. I watched as many people I grew up with and worked with had no choice but to move out to Buckeye, Avondale or Verrado in order to find a home they could afford. Watching that phenomenon helped me decide to become a homebuilder. Construction and the trades were my roots after all – a natural step. I wanted to make certain that the Phoenix I knew and grew up in could still be a place with safe neighborhoods where people could raise a family and call home. I want to provide opportunity for folks in all trades and professions, not only to work here, but to fully enjoy living here as well. And so, in 2005, I decided to start my own homebuilding company, Metro Living DBA Encanto Living, focused on creating affordable opportunities in the City of Phoenix, knowing that we needed to do something to create entry level housing not so different than the home I grew up in. The Mission of Encanto Living is to provide people an affordable way to return to the convenience of urban living, while providing highly desirable/charming architecture and communities.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Unfortunately, Ill have to pretend that we aren’t still dealing with Covid to play this game and actually make it fun. If my best friend were in town, I am a foodie and there are several restaurants that would be a “must go” while in town as well as other fun/delicious stops. For breakfast, I would have to take them to Otro Cafe and Southern Rail at least once. Otro Cafe has the best pancakes in town and Southern Rail has an amazing Fried Green Tomato Benedict. For dinner, Mora Italian for their Pasta pomodoro, Pomo Pizzeria for their pizza and Barrio Cafe for their guacamole and Cochinita Pibil. We would have to go to Churn for ice cream and Windsor for cocktails. A weekend trip to Sedona, the Grand Canyon or Flagstaff, especially in the summer time, is always fun for me or a trip out to Lake Powell or Lake Pleasant for a swim/boat experience can be great too depending on the guest.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The biggest contributor to my success has been my family and my employees. Without the support of my father, my wife, my children and the rest of my family, I wouldn’t been able to accomplish the things I have accomplished. They have help me be more confident in myself, have been the soundboard to ideas, and often helped carry the water when I wasn’t able. Additionally, my company wouldn’t be a success without my amazing team. Each and every employee plays a critical roll in making this company what it is and I appreciate everything they do to help continue our success.