By Jess Washington
Welcome to Mama2Mama. A show where I sit with amazing female entrepreneurs across the DFW who hold so many titles, but most importantly, the title of “Mama”. I’m always inspired to learn lessons from other women and how they balance it all, but when you add children to the mix, it takes things up a notch.
This episode’s guest is literally changing the game of concierge moving with her company Hyphen. As the Founder and CEO, Dennice Johnson oversees various logistics and clientele like Carlos Dunlap, Chris Banjo, and Micha Parsons, just to name a few.
So first, let me tell you how I met Dennice Johnson. Last summer while seated with my friend Leah at a restaurant, we spotted Dennice’s best friend Victoria, who was awaiting a table. After a light exchange, it became one of those moments we realized we should all sit together and enjoy each other’s space. When Dennice arrived, she was closing a business call (which is so typical of her) while toting her adorable son Kipp. Now as a mother of 2 young children, I admit, I revel in the moments that I get to have alone with my girlfriends. Noticeably, Dennice showed a different sensibility I had never seen before. Don’t get me wrong, her toddler was acting as toddlers do. But Dennice was cool, calm, collected and reveling in the moment as we were. Although I hadn’t known her for an hour, and it’s not my style to inquire parenting-styles upon first meeting… I had to ask, “how do you do it?!” She chuckled and said first and foremost, she never gets embarrassed and followed up stating that he was “perfectly fine and simply acting his age.” Even with the explanation I was in still in disbelief. And needless to say, I was quite intrigued to get to know Dennice a bit more after our dinner.
When I sat down in Dennice’s Plano office, we immediately got into the beginnings of Hyphen. While I was under the impression concierge moving was a brand new way of moving, Johnson told me the concept “isn’t all that original ”, but it is in fact rare. There are only a handful of companies that provide similar services in the nation. Hyphen has clients that work within the NBA, NFL and MLB. As you can imagine, these clients have a lot of items and they all need to be handled with 1st rate care. There are a lot of logistics that go into relocation, and a lot more boxes to check when dealing with items of high value. Dennice created a service that allowed everything to be handled through Hyphen. And the service doesn’t stop at logistics. She has taken midnight client calls about the AC not working, decorating a Christmas tree for a family’s arrival, and having a Lamborghini parked and waiting in the arena for a client when they finished their game.
I’m the one stop shop. I can get it all done. Just tell me what you need and don’t stress. I think it was just my touch. I have a different touch. I’m going to treat these people like they’re my family members, not just a number. I think we handle every single client the same way with a lot of love and a lot of care and a lot of privacy, which is very important to them as well.
Dennice recalls the early days in 2015. Then functioning under the name Luxury Sports Relocation. Although she found much success she realized she needed to expand her market and clientele in order to grow. This revelation resulted in the company name change to Hyphen, as recently as last year. But Johnson’s decision to change the name wasn’t just about the bottom line. With Fortune 50 companies like Toyota and Facebook making Dallas their new headquarters, she realized she wanted to venture into helping entertainers and high net worth individuals work with corporate relocations.
Dennice attributes a lot of her success by keeping things as simple as possible. Even when coming up with her new company name, she kept it fundamental.
“What’s, like the middleman? Because I’m the middleman. And I was looking at the keyboard, and I was like, oh, there it is. A dash. I am the dash between two people. So I’m like the vendor, the broker, and then the clients. I’m the connector. So that’s kind of where “Hyphen” was born. We’re just here to facilitate the moves and make it simple.”
I have found in my career the most successful people I know hold a certain set of attributes. And one of them is the willingness to learn and do things you’ve never done before. Because it’s our experiences that truly allow us to blossom as individuals. Well at the tender age of 34, Dennice has more than most. She came to America from Mexico as a child to live with her father, whom she received a lot of her entrepreneurial spirit from. After high school, she worked a myriad of jobs like in fast food, banking, insurance and was even a Montesorri instructor. And Johnson explained that within every position she took, it was her goal to network, learn who the key decision makers were and find how to take her current position to the next level. As far as she’s concerned, if you know the system, you can’t get played by the system.
Always one for learning and an avid reader, Dennice would borrow and sometimes purchase books from her friends at UNT and memorize them. She even sat in the back of the classes and reviewed the syllabus. I guess one can say Johnson has the “by any means necessary” mentality.
It’s this tangibility that also helps her success within Hyphen. Although the 7 year old entity has a staff and numerous vendors nationwide, Dennice makes it clear there is no position in Hyphen that she’s unable to do herself. She can and will wear all the hats if necessary.
“I will do the relocations. I will pack people’s things or belongings myself with, like, bubble wrap and tape and boxes. I’ve pushed cars into containers. I’ve walked a million houses. Shown up to the car shipments, shown up to the closings. And so everything from the actual Labor, I’ve been there for that. And then whenever it’s not business hours anymore, I still am like, okay, time to reconcile the books, time to work on marketing, time to do social media.”
I’m always curious about what inspires people. For me, my family is my foundation, and they’re the ones that pushed me. But I wanted to hear from Dennice if there was anyone in her life that inspires her. I was actually surprised to hear some of the people that Dennice listed. People like real estate mogul Grant Cardone and Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Terrone Armstead have heavily influenced how Johnson operates and a businesswoman. But considering the nature of her business, it’s not too surprising. There simply aren’t a lot of women in the industry of logistics. Definitely not the way Hyphen does it.
Dennice did take note of a woman in Dallas that she’s admired since her teenage years. And that woman is Dr. Cheryl “Action” Jackson, founder of Minnie’s Food Pantry. Dennice recalls helping out and watching Dr. Jackson’s determination to simply help her community, but (in Dennice’s favorite fashion) taking it to the next level by way of main news coverage, celebrity endorsement, and events. Johnson says she “really took a page out of her book as far as being relentless… and being like, I don’t care if you say “no”, I’ll just come in through the back door.” This mindset comes in handy on a daily-basis for Dennice, who admits the job isn’t all glitz and glam at all. She gets the “No”s and sometimes not in the most respectful tone. And keep in mind that there are only so many professional athletes and high profile clients. Dennice knows she and her team at Hyphen must be diligent and immaculate with services in order to see repeat business and obtain new business.
The Business of Motherhood:
I sometimes jest that I didn’t really “grow up” until I had my son James. So when it came to motherhood for Dennice I was curious about the many ways it had changed her. With over 3 years in the parenting game, Dennice relates and jokes that she “doesn’t really even know what I was doing before this.”
But one thing she knows is that motherhood definitely made her aware of things she hadn’t thought of before. These recent experiences made her pick up on cues and think outside of the box. And these heightened senses and nurturing traits carried over to the way she takes care of her clients at Hyphen. They know that nothing is off limits, they are there to help.
I jokingly asked Dennice what advice she could possibly give to a woman wanting to take that “leap of faith,” when she makes life look and sound so easy. But she straightened me up immediately and placed emphasis on the fact that nothing for her was easy, but what separates her from most is that she refuses to be paralyzed fear. Dennice also believes in the importance of foundation and focusing on the future. And that would be the advice she would give to any woman about any situation.
“Being scared of what? Because they were going to say, “No?!”…. Nobody cares! Nobody cares if you posted something and got ten likes. Nobody cares if you posted something and got 10,000 likes. It’s 15 minutes of Fame. Someone else is on their way. You’re not the only one….conceptualize that…. I think just like, I’m here for a good time. Not a long time. So let me just go for it and see what happens. I’m going to shoot for the stars and hopefully I land on the moon or some other awesome Galaxy because I just don’t have time to just be paralyzed by what everybody else thinks. And none of these people are paying my bills, right? Not one of them.”
As our people say…… “Let the church say Amen!”
We go specifically into juggling the schedule of Hyphen and raising her 3 year old, Kipp. I wanted to know the mechanics, but Dennice says she literally takes it day by day and that is actually all that she can do. She gets no off days because a trade or company relocation can happen literally any time of the day or month. This whole time I imagined her work schedule revolved around sports seasons, but Jonhson’s schedule can become volatile at the drop of a dime. And even what we may consider traditional holidays, can be her busiest time of year, because she’s still mainly dealing with the entertainment business and multiple clients whose seasons may overlap. And to top that, we must still take into consideration that a lot of her clients don’t know or adhere to typical business hours. This is perfectly fine for Dennice because that’s where her nurturing personality trait comes in very handy. But this is the reality she lives and manages as a mother.
Speaking of management, Dennice gleams as she thinks of Kipp and his sweet but direct demeanor. She says for that part of him, she sees a lot of herself. Her main goal is to support and cultivate whatever his dreams are. She doesn’t take the energy to foresee what his career will be, but she does confess that her son is not one to just fall in line with everyone. Their shared curiosity of life is what excites her for Kipp’s future.
One thing that really touches me about Dennice Johnson is her transparency. Without divulging too deep in her past, she does admit that the troubles she endured shaped the mother she is today. She is cognizant of her words and energy and how that impacts her son. Although she enjoys the success of Hyphen, again, she lives in her purpose. And for Johnson, it’s all about helping people and looking at life as positively as you can.
We both tear up as we reflect on the many ways our boys literally steal our hearts. But I asked Dennice the ultimate and probably hardest question of all, and that is “what is her favorite thing about motherhood?” For Dennice, the answer was quite simple: Kipp’s existence makes her a better human. Her ability to be his mother allows her the foresight to improve herself, every day.
Social media does a shit job at reality, at showing the reality of what we’re really experiencing. And so when I see him, I’m just enamored and just bewildered by watching him grow every single day. Even when he was really young, I breastfed him for two years. I would just look at him and be like, you’re just an improvement. You’re just going to be so much better than me. This is amazing. This is great… How exciting is this that the world is your oyster. You get to wake up every single day and do whatever you want because I’m busting my butt so that you can have a better opportunity.
Dennice literally absorbs every moment with her boy. And she understands that she’s doing what’s best for her and her family. She herself is not immune to having feelings of guilt or questioning her methods. But Dennice encourages all mompreneurs out there to trust themselves and not be so hard on themselves. She advises to train yourself to think positive as much as you can, because if you start negatively, it’s a hard path to turn from.
When asked about motherhood, the late great Toni Morrison stated “There was something so valuable about what happened when one became a mother. For me, it was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me. Liberating because the demands that children make are not the demands of a normal ‘other. ‘ The children’s demands on me were things that nobody ever asked me to do.”
I had the opportunity to talk with Dennice Johnson about a lot of aspects of her life including how the love of her son liberates her and drives her in a multitude of ways. I think the one thing I took away from that day is the importance of patience. Some days are better than others and that’s okay. That is life. All you have to do, is live in your purpose, and the rest will take care of itself.