It seems like a movie of the week. A young girl, broke and homeless, launches a business out of her car—and becomes a millionaire in less than two years. Dani Johnson overcame insurmountable odds (a horrific childhood, poverty, and even living out of her car) to create a multi-million dollar empire. The mom of five (and recent grandma!) spoke exclusively with Celebrity Parents about her childhood, the keys to her success as a mom, and what wealth truly means.
Dani, unlike many millionaires, you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth.
Oh my gosh, no! At 21, I had married a guy who drained my bank accounts, left me $35,000 in debt, with only $2.03 to my name. I was completely homeless and suicidal. Then by the age of 23, I was a millionaire. I had started a business out of the trunk of my car and using a pay phone.
How did you go from those two extremes?
It was sheer determination. I made a decision. Making a decision is so powerful. When you decide what you’re going to do, action will follow. When I realized that I had become less than what my parents were (and they were drug addicts and abusive), I knew I had to do something.
After 30 days of being homeless, I said, “No more. I have to change.” I stopped blaming everyone, and it’s incredible when you stop blaming and take responsibility for your own life. I realized that it was going to take 3 months for me to have the money so I could get an apartment. I had no intention of becoming a millionaire; I just needed to get into an apartment. So I began my business and it grew so quickly that I had to quit my day job because I was losing money going to work.
And where are you today?
None of this was ever my desire. I’m a high school dropout, uneducated, not a big dreamer. I was the least likely to succeed in anything. I believe in people for that reason because I know who I wasn’t. A girl I went to high school with found me on Facebook and came to our training seminars. She said to me, “When we were in school, I knew that you were going to be a failure. But seeing what has happened to you has built my faith. If this could happen to you, it could happen to me, too.” t’s built my faith that if this happened to you, what could happen to me.”
That must have been an amazing full-circle moment for you.
It was. The ironic part is now her son and my daughter are getting married! Isn’t that crazy?! [laughs] It’s all very humbling, especially since no one—and I mean no one—helped me when I was 17 and pregnant. Or when I was homeless. It’s all about the power of decision, reaping and sowing, and prospering where you’re planted. We’ve had ½ million clients come to us with zero advertising and marketing. It’s all been word of mouth. It’s amazing how you can inspire so many people.
Faith figures strongly into your makeup. Do you find that successful people are faithful?
I find that to be true. Faith is the most important component to it all. Without it, you won’t succeed. I’ve studied millionaires for years, and all have had faith, because faith is taking action with no guarantee that it will be successful.
My main focus is danijohnson.com which is a division of Call to Freedom International. I believe we’re called to be free in so many ways; financially, emotionally, spiritually. It’s a publishing company so we publish content for adults and kids, and I’ve been a speaker for 20 years. I’m not part of a bureau; this is all done on our own. We have sold-out crowds every month, filling venues with thousands of people. We have stories coming in every day telling us how people have paid off debt or how they’ve helped save their marriage, or found the job of their dreams. Through our work, people’s lives are changing and they’re telling other people.
What are some of the seminars like?
You can learn so much, everything from how to optimize your time, to learning specific skill sets to optimize your business—even how to get a promotion. Simply, it’s being the best at what you do. Everything I teach I’ve learned through big mistakes.
Making my first million and then blowing it all! It lasted only a year! I spent it all! All gone! Sure, I had a great wardrobe and lots of jewelry but then I had to make it all again. It wasn’t until this last decade that I said I wasn’t going to do it again.
Let’s talk a bit about family. You have five children, two whom you homeschool.
Yes, four kids live with us, and two are homeschooled. At some point, though, they’ve all been homeschooled.
Why did you choose to homeschool?
I travel once a month, so I want to spend as much time as possible with them. They leave at 7 in the morning, they get home at 4, and then they do homework. We’d never see each other otherwise. Plus, they can learn things that they are not teaching in school, like money management and people skills. We love being together as a family; we’re not the family that does tons of activities.
We’re not either, and it seems that we’re in the minority.
It doesn’t make sense to me. Come on, we didn’t have all these activities when we were younger! Everyone is stressed out, and no one eats together. I cook every night. In my home, we have a round table. The lighting fixture is all wires, shaped into a bell with all these keys and locks. The philosophy of my kitchen—and my home—is that the key to unlock a happy family is to sit around the table. You’re grooming the minds of your kids, and by being together they are able to get the value and wisdom that you’ve learned because you’re spending time together.
What is it like working with your husband, Hans?
It can definitely be a challenge. Being in business is much easier than being married, and being a mom is easier than being married. Hans and I had a complete turnaround in our marriage many years ago. I had to learn to come into my role as a wife and mother. Anything with two heads is a monster. I was the founder and president of two companies, and I saw him as the guy in the warehouse. It had nothing to do with him and everything to do with my childhood. I grew up in a violently abusive childhood, beaten and molested. When I got married, I took it all out on him. It took going back to my past, forgiving and going to counseling to help me. Today, I can say that I am married to the most amazing man on the planet. He’s a brilliant genius business man. He’s amazing. We’re passionately in love now.
Let’s talk a bit about your appearance on Secret Millionaire.
The producers were looking for millionaires who actually cared about other people. They asked me to do the show, and I told them no four times, actually. We give in secret, and we’ve been giving in secret for over two decades now. I never wanted to be on TV; I didn’t need the applause. But the experience was amazing, and it touched my heart to work with those organizations. I loved the experience.
What would be your advice to other people who want to realize their dreams and become millionaires?
I think you can balance it all without sacrificing yourself, your marriage, your kids, or your business. If you have a dream in your heart, or a way that you want to live your life, you can make it happen. All it takes is making that big decision to take action. Your life can change in a moment, but you have to be the one to make the decision to change it.