Shawn Johnson East on building a lasting brand after her Olympic win
Whether it's thanks to her Olympic discipline or the sheer energy of her youth, Shawn Johnson East makes her dizzying success look easy. The 24-year-old former gymnast managed to parlay a gold medal win at the 2008 Beijing Olympics into a robust media career as a best-selling author, philanthropist, reality TV personality and, now, investor on CNBC's Adventure Capitalists. But the path to a multi-hyphenate lifestyle after sports wasn't always obvious for Johnson East.
"After the Olympics, I went through that whole phase of just being a brand, at just being that 16-year-old all-American girl that signed endorsement deals," she says.
But her paydays as a famous face were short-lived. Johnson East says her career wake-up call came when an injury forced her to retire just one week prior to qualifying for the 2012 Olympic team. The resulting downtime saw Johnson East re-evaluating her cachet as a brand.
"I kind of hit this lull and had this consuming fear of, 'I'm not gonna get those endorsements anymore. I need to figure out a new job. I need to figure out a way to take the next step.'"
For inspiration, Johnson East turned to some familiar faces: tennis superstar sisters Venus and Serena Williams.
"Looking at the brand and the business they had created around themselves, and their careers and their journeys — it wasn't like they became someone different. They just expanded what they were capable of and went into other markets and projects. And I loved that. I didn't want gymnastics and my business to just be my face. I wanted it to be me really diving into something new," she says.
And much of that entrepreneurial exploration is still very much in process for Johnson East.
"Now that I'm transitioning into the business world, I want that finish line to be as big and monumental as the Olympics. Whether that's developing a super successful company or continuing with this brand- - I just wanna continue learning and grow something monumental."
About "Adventure Capitalists"
Thrill-seeking investors Shawn Johnson, Dhani Jones and Jeremy Bloom travel the country to test products in extreme conditions and potentially offer investments. In each one-hour episode, four separate entrepreneurs showcase products designed for outdoor adventure. These cutting-edge products and inventions run the gamut; from outerwear that can insulate against freezing temperatures (even when wet), to a robotic fishing lure that brings dead bait back to life and a full suspension mountain bike that can trek over any terrain. The adventure capitalists then put these innovations to the test, often in harsh conditions, to determine which are actually worthy of an investment.