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Local women lose their jobs due to COVID-19 and find success in entrepreneurship

Posted at 5:24 PM, Dec 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-30 18:27:48-05

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Downtown Cleveland is indeed the heart of several corporate offices, local businesses and municipal buildings, and the thousands of employees working in them is what keeps the blooding.

But COVID-19 halted that flow of employees in 2020, including former downtown employee Keren Johnson who had just started working for the Cleveland Housing Court in early 2020.

“Losing that [job] was a little bit of a confidence hit and it was hard to navigate,” said Johnson. “Holiday season in 2020 was really hard and I was struggling a lot with just what to do, getting sworn into public office was the pinnacle of my career.”

Rohnesha Horne worked for iHeartMedia Cleveland for 12 years and held her dream position as Director of Marketing when she was let go last April.

“It was heartbreaking, I grew up there,” said Horne. “I started that job when I was 25 or 26 years old and that was family to me.”

In August of 2020, Horne lost her grandfather, and she said that was her final push into entrepreneurship.

“I just sat there and I thought about his life that he dedicated to this company and how we dedicate our lives to companies, and they can just let us go at any time,” said Horne. “It was the day he died that I said I would start my own company.”

By September, Horne birthed RH Event Planning and Consulting; she went from planning local concerts and rubbing shoulders with celebrities for iHeartMedia Cleveland to traveling the country under her own name, doing the same thing.

“I’m able to still do my dream for myself, I’m able to still be the director of marketing, CEO, concert producer, or publicist,” said Horne. “I’m able to wear all the hats and do it successfully for myself.”

The spirit of entrepreneurship was alive and well in 2020. According to the Ohio Secretary of State, 171,023 new business filings were reported last year.

So far in 2021, the state reports nearly 182,000 new businesses have been created, and you can count Johnson in that number.

“In December of 2020 I made a vision board and I put on there that I wanted to be a business owner, I didn't want to go back to work,” said Johnson. “On my birthday, January 3rd, I decided to go ahead and file my LLC and get started with my business.”

Johnson started 1384 designers, a laser printing business that crafts everything from home decor to graduation gifts, but the custom, human-sized keys she made for local realtors became the key that opened a new career of real estate for her.

“There’s a ton of success to be found in real estate and there’s a ton of gratification that you get as well by helping people achieve their dreams of homeownership,” said Johnson.

Early next year, Johnson plans to obtain her real estate license and work for a Black-owned company.

It’s hard to ignore that life has come full circle for Johnson. She was once working with people on the brink of losing their homes. Soon, she plans to help people, especially Black people, own their own homes.

“There’s a lot of work to be done in our minority communities to help people acquire homes,” said Johnson. “We know that homeownership is one of the keys to wealth, being able to help people prepare themselves, prepare their finances and get ready for that is really fulfilling.”

Those looking to contact 1384 designers can call 216-513-7443 and those looking to contact RH Event Planning at 440-578-7744.

Help Wanted: Ohio

'Help Wanted: Ohio' dives into the issues surrounding employment in Northeast Ohio.

We investigate the broken unemployment system, our broken skills development and education systems, the impacts worker shortages are having on our local economy, as well as the hardest-hit industries. We hold leaders and legislators accountable and look for those working towards solutions.

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