Sneakers to Software with Devin Johnson

About This Episode

For a lot of people, they follow the set path. For others, their paths take a different route. That’s what happened with Devin Johnson, who chose to pay his school tuition by selling sneakers in his trunk. Then eventually after some trial and error, founded Kennected, and is now selling Software from an office. Join us as Devin stops by Decision Point to share some of the lessons he learned with Brad Seamen.

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Sneakers to Software with Devin Johnson

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Brad Seaman: So you started out with a, with a trunk and some tennis shoes, right? Yeah,
[00:00:03] Devin Johnson: that’s right. So I, that is true. I started by reselling sneakers. So starting with why I started selling shoes. So my my sister got diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Megastore blastoma. I will fast forward just a little bit.
She’s still with us today. She’s still healthy. Live in as much of a normal life as she can. So she did. But she was diagnosed when I was turning 16 with this cancer going into high school. And my mom had to move into the hospital. My sisters in Riley’s children’s home for almost two years going through chemo, the surgery, learning to walk again, learning to eat again.
I mean, everything you can imagine with having a brain tumor and the effect of it, you know, she was experienced that on top of fighting the cancer as well. With that my mom, you know, had a brief conversation with me and say, you know, we’ve, we’ve got about three months and then you’re going to have to move in here with us and you’re going to move to inner city schools.
I was going out to a, I was going to a school called new pal new Palestine high school here in Indianapolis. Really nice school, had a lot of good friends, you know, didn’t want to leave it for inner cities. And I knew shoes were valuable. Right. You know, my, my dad was around, but wasn’t around. It was he’s very spotty.
And when this situation arose, he, he was the type that you know, ran from his challenges, unfortunately, and we didn’t seem for a year. So there was a year. Where I stepped up and I stepped up by reselling shoes. It did not start from a trunk. Technically started off with a moped, right?

[00:00:00] Brad Seaman: So you started out with a, with a trunk and some tennis shoes, right? Yeah,
[00:00:03] Devin Johnson: that’s right. So I, that is true. I started by reselling sneakers. So starting with why I started selling shoes. So my my sister got diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Megastore blastoma. I will fast forward just a little bit.
She’s still with us today. She’s still healthy. Live in as much of a normal life as she can. So she did. But she was diagnosed when I was turning 16 with this cancer going into high school. And my mom had to move into the hospital. My sisters in Riley’s children’s home for almost two years going through chemo, the surgery, learning to walk again, learning to eat again.
I mean, everything you can imagine with having a brain tumor and the effect of it, you know, she was experienced that on top of fighting the cancer as well. With that my mom, you know, had a brief conversation with me and say, you know, we’ve, we’ve got about three months and then you’re going to have to move in here with us and you’re going to move to inner city schools.
I was going out to a, I was going to a school called new pal new Palestine high school here in Indianapolis. Really nice school, had a lot of good friends, you know, didn’t want to leave it for inner cities. And I knew shoes were valuable. Right. You know, my, my dad was around, but wasn’t around. It was he’s very spotty.
And when this situation arose, he, he was the type that you know, ran from his challenges, unfortunately, and we didn’t seem for a year. So there was a year. Where I stepped up and I stepped up by reselling shoes. It did not start from a trunk. Technically started off with a moped, right?
[00:01:41] Brad Seaman: Like
[00:01:42] Devin Johnson: a spree.
I started with nothing just hustling. Right. And you know, I I’m, my mom would obviously still come around and she was still could get me some places. Now, were
[00:01:54] Brad Seaman: you staying in, did you stay. And you stay in new pal, like you didn’t move. Yeah. Yeah. We were
[00:02:00] Devin Johnson: able to get through it again. She had about three months of you know, savings and whatnot to get us through to where I was able to start reselling enough shoes to help out.
And, you know, then she, she had some other resources step in and take on, but, or take over. But I started reselling shoes. I went to my first sneaker convention. I walked out with almost 2000 bucks and I was there maybe four hours just hustle and bustle and shoes. You know, I walked over the couple of pairs traded up at a little bit of cash, sold.
Those, bought more sold those just in a few hours. I was like, holy cow, there’s this thing of sneaker events called a trading pit. And so you just go to the trading pen, you just hustle, right? It’s all about negotiations and side, this training pit and. Then I got a Toto 50 scooter, no 50. Right. Anyone listening woke up a total of 50 it’s hideous, but they’re like 800 bucks new and you didn’t have to have a license for 49 CC at the time.
Like, since that’s changed, you have to have at least have a permit, I think. But anyways, I’m driving this bad boy home brand new and I shit, you not the mere falls. The Mir does
[00:03:20] Brad Seaman: falls off. So where do you buy? Did you buy this, like in new pal? Did you buy it at like a outdoor dealership? I bought it at
[00:03:27] Devin Johnson: a, a used tire dealership at the time called treads.
I don’t even know if they’re still there, to be honest, they would sell like use tires and mopeds and like cheap Chinese, four wheelers. And so I was proud new owner of this Toto. And then I would, if it was not raining pissed, you know, poor rating or snowing, I was riding this thing around with friends, selling shoes, making just shit happen.
I think I got the most miles and once
[00:03:58] Brad Seaman: on Toto, Toto,
[00:04:00] Devin Johnson: 50 ever, I put like 4,500 miles, you know, on a scooter and in like a span of a.
[00:04:10] Brad Seaman: Now now, did you finish school?
[00:04:12] Devin Johnson: I did finish high school. So you know, I hustled one one-off sneakers. Then I did my own trade show when I got my license. And then from Lee and, and, you know, I built my own website and then I was selling them online and eBay.
And then long story short in that process, I learned how to do some digital marketing, build relationships, sales stuff, make profits. And all these business terms that are key to any founders or entrepreneurs success. But I, in my mind at the time, I’m just making money, I’m just trying to help out.
Right. So it was a blessing in the skies Hancock county when I was able to drive you know, put me as head of household. And I actually went half day. Most of my high school, just from.
[00:05:01] Brad Seaman: Okay. So that’s it that’s interest. So you gotta, you got a head of household status. And so that basically puts you like, okay, interesting.
So then you’re going, you’re going half days, so you can pay the bills and yeah,
[00:05:15] Devin Johnson: I can, I can help out, you know, at the time I didn’t realize the true impact of, of what that really meant. The weight that, that carried. You know, I was just doing my thing and I hated. I know I did graduate. I graduated like 2.9 GPA, you know, nothing speller, but nothing like , it’s not awful, nothing to bring about, you know, but I got, I got the good old, new pal degree.
And when when I actually graduated high school an app came out called stock X. Right. It it’s very popular now. Billion dollar company now, but it it’s like the Kelly blue book, but for shoes, you know, Kelly blue book for car, it’s like, you look for shoes. So now thanks to this app. You can just go on and see how much you should be paying for something.
So it’s the stock market for the resell of fine goods. As far as they’ve now added watches, they’ve got everything now, right? I’m gonna start with just. And when that came out, it killed the resell margin. I mean, that is slaughtered
[00:06:22] Brad Seaman: because it now established a price for that. They were establishing prices on, on shoes versus the market.
[00:06:31] Devin Johnson: Right. It became the golden rule to live and not buy. So, yes, sir. During that kind of transition of graduating high school, this comes out. I also meet what is now my business partner, Cody and. He starts a relationship with me. And by leading me to faith at the time I’m graduating high school packed full of money, think I’m everything.
Plus some, you know, I, I’m an arrogant little shit, to be honest with you. And I was just so full of myself. And I, I really didn’t see a bigger purpose than that living in the moment. Right. I, I didn’t, I didn’t believe in, I wasn’t a big believer. I didn’t have a whole lot of faith. Right. And so he started off by introducing me to God and my faith journey.
And, you know, before, you know what, I’m baptized a couple of weeks in the no-name and I’m going to Bible study. And he was in a transition phase of his life from, he was an entrepreneur then got called to God and did some missions work and then non-profit work and was ready to go back into business.
I was selling websites and I was selling some visual marketing services to offset the challenges of the shoe market. Right. And he’s like, well, I see you have a business here. We’ll, we’ll start a little digital marketing company. And so if you, if you look at my LinkedIn or big around you’ll, you’ll find something called mission to market in my, my background.
And that was our first little marketing agency where we would really sell anything that you’d buy as long as. Ethically could fulfill it, but a lot of times it was websites and some door hanger advertising, Google my business spouse. And that is where, you know, I got exposed to LinkedIn and the power of lead generation and the whole idea of connected all came from.
[00:08:24] Brad Seaman: That’s awesome. So where are you guys at? So tell her everybody that’s listening, where you guys are at today. How many, how many employees size
[00:08:30] Devin Johnson: wise? Yeah, so in-house employees W2 here in Indianapolis and our headquarters, but 61 count our overseas development, virtual assistants, you know, the whole staff all in or, but 104.
So that’s counting our, again, our dev house and everything. That’s technically.
[00:08:49] Brad Seaman: Awesome. Awesome. Well, so talk to us a little bit about, so tell us a little bit about your experience with, with LinkedIn and rip a little bit on kind of where you see, you know, where do you see the market go in? What do you think about LinkedIn and how should people be using it?
[00:09:05] Devin Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. So LinkedIn, if you’re not on it or you think you should be using it more, you’re absolutely correct. Right. And if you’re not on at all, you just have a profile. You need to pay more attention. And this is why, so there’s a ton of statistics out there and I get it. You can, you can make a lot of statistics up, but one night is, is very well known out there as over 80% of B2B data and B2B conversations, stem from LinkedIn.
So LinkedIn is the place to do business, represent business and build relationships, right? So regardless, without even without a connected solution or, or what we provide. You should be spending time and a growing your personal brand on LinkedIn. If you are in business for yourself or in a professional setting period it was one of the very few places you can get great organic Creech and very few places that, you know, the average income is now north of 70,000.
Right. It’s abnormally high compared to any other social media network.
[00:10:15] Brad Seaman: What do you, what trends do you think are happening? Like what do you think? Like what’s next what’s, you know, LinkedIn has changed to be a content platform. W what do you think the next kind of evolutions or breakthroughs, and in LinkedIn, where’s the LinkedIn going?
Any,
[00:10:29] Devin Johnson: any thoughts take on it and thoughts on it? They they’re really driving towards that you know, lower touchpoint, higher value relationship orient. And being in driving quality versus the quantity through LinkedIn, due to how many, you know, qual quality connections and decision-makers live within the ecosystem.
So in your outreach methods on LinkedIn, you should be intending to lead with value or building a relationship, and you should have a reason why you’re reaching out to individuals, not just connecting the. And throw in a bunch of shit in people’s inboxes. Like those days are dead. It’s just not, it doesn’t work.
We all get pissed off when we get a spammy mess inside of our inbox. And what is working is being intentional. So what do I mean by that? Instead of reaching out through second and third degree connections, re reach out to second degree. Cause at bare minimum, you have connections of that. You share. Right.
And also try to pair that with the industry that you should be talking to, or you can add value to and common experiences. So you can add, you know, father for instance, in your search on LinkedIn, like, and quote father and quote. Right. And if you’re looking for CEOs, look for commonality, the rule of thumb that we teach.
I have three to five things in common in any search before you ever do any outreach on LinkedIn, that a way your messaging can be very intentional and direct and start quality conversations. Does that make sense?
[00:12:20] Brad Seaman: No, that totally makes sense. Let’s do. So you sorta hit on the Boolean search or the search method from LinkedIn wants you to talk.
It sounds like you’re pretty knowledgeable on, on how you should write and what, how you should search. Why don’t you break down for people to listen to what are some tips on, on how to use the search in like, yeah.
[00:12:40] Devin Johnson: So number one is important to know that it works like a math problem. It follows order of operations, right?
So whatever you put first in your search, it’s going to prioritize. So for instance, if you’re looking for CEOs, right, or business owners, you start with. Th the key phrase or title you’re looking for currently. Okay. Now you start with a quote, then the roles, the quote, CEO in quote, and that will pull a CEO in the current profile, right?
It’ll be in the it’ll search, the whole profile versus anything that relates to CEOs, the club. It’s called, you know, bullying searching, right? Any major database, you can use this method, but in LinkedIn, that’s what it is, is a major doubt. It’s the biggest B2B database in the world. So quote, CEO in quote, and then pouring it with the word.
And so following your search of the title you want, and I’m using, CEO’s an example, put all caps, a N D. Quote, so space quote, then find something in common, put a hobby interest, put something you’re passionate about inside of the CEOs you’re charting to reach out to. And I’ll, I’ll use being a father just for this easy example.
So this example would be CEO and father. So you’re going to find second degree connections that are CEOs and fathers. Within a particular industry, you can add the filter of industry as well. And your list is all of a sudden, a hundred people, maybe 120 people. However, you have three things in common now to tailor the messaging of, Hey, we both have common connections.
I see we’re both fathers as well and grown businesses together. Love to see how we can share synergies in and bring value to another toxin. I would respond to. ’cause you, you obviously looked at the profile or I felt like you looked at the profile and you’re intentional and there’s some commonality right away,
[00:14:55] Brad Seaman: right?
Yeah. Like, so I did the bully of surgeon. And so in my mind, like what you’re suggesting is you’re creating a content platform that to write copy. So when you type, so when I typed in CEO father, I got all of a sudden, I do. Avid reader, reader, father for husband, father of four. I mean, there’s all kinds of guys on here that have four kids.
So my mind immediately goes to how to write copy around now that something like, Hey, I see you have four kids probably hard to read all your emails, you know, blah, blah, blah. And I have four kids too. So when you get the person on the phone, you have it. It’s that connection.
[00:15:33] Devin Johnson: Yeah. And, and that’s, that’s where LinkedIn wants you to be, you know, spending your time as genuine relationships to grow and impact businesses in connected.
The technology platform is enhancing that and pushing that forward even further at scale. Right. So, but regardless if you’re not spending the time on LinkedIn, you should be, and you could expand that out CEO and follow. You could put, this is one thing I really want to get out into the world is think outside the box.
I know you have your ICP, your ideal customer profile, but think outside the box to create messaging and an approach that’s outside the box. If you look for CEO’s think of crazy stuff, if you don’t, if you’re not a father, aren’t get it. Put golf. Put honey. Put, you know, things that are hobbies and people get excited about and would want to relate to.
Here’s what
[00:16:35] Brad Seaman: I think is really important because is particularly with certain personalities, you better be a golfer. If you’re going to say something about golf. Cause if I get you on the phone and I realize you’ve never hit a golf ball, we’re getting, I mean, now, now I’m just like, I’ve lost respect. I’ve lost respect for you.
Look, I might not hang up on you, but if you’re, if you know, so like when people, I think you gotta be careful when you, when you use personalization, because like, I don’t get buttered up. Like when people are like, Hey, I really like what you built. I could care less what you think about what I built.
You know, like that does not do good for me. I just delete you. I get this, does it feel genuine? Right? So you got, and, and the thing about Jay being genuine. I don’t know how people can tell, but I think they can tell when you’re not being genuine.
[00:17:22] Devin Johnson: Right. I’ll help you with that. So I call it like, bro talk like you would text, like if I would text you bad to come over, play poker or for a barbecue, I would say, yo Brad let’s let’s let’s connect and play some cards over at my place.
Right. Or, Hey, I’m having a barbecue come over, bring him right. I would use. Lighter language. I get LinkedIn as a professional platform and I don’t want to take away from that, but what people relate to is people being themselves, right? They, they appreciate that in the world. So when you’re making this copy, you know, put it as if you would text someone that you’re close with.
I promise you. I know it sounds crazy to use basic light, easy messaging promise. The response rate goes up 10, 15%.
[00:18:15] Brad Seaman: Yeah, no, no, I agree. I think transparency. I think making people laugh. I think all that stuff helps. I think memes, I mean, I respond, I’m like a hundred percent show rate on memes, but I think I sent you a funny meme.
I couldn’t get a hold of you. And I said to your buddy beat up Bart Simpson. Did you probably write it back? So I read some of that stuff. I mean, it’s goofy, but it’s like. If you look, if you can’t make a S if you can’t make a prospect laugh, you can’t sell a prospect. I mean, that, that’s not to say it’s, you know, there, I think there’s a, an interaction level.
You want to be respected. You want to be, you know, it’s not Def comedy jam, right. But at the same time, you gotta be, you gotta be able to, you know, you gotta be able to get somebody to, to laugh and relate and talk. And laughter is an important, I think, important or humorous and important part of that.
But all right, well, this was a Devon. This was awesome. Is there anything, any questions I didn’t ask you that you felt like I should
[00:19:18] Devin Johnson: have asked? You know, not, not Ralph top of my head. But you know, it’s always, always a good time to hang out and if there’s some value out into the world and you know, I just appreciate you having.
[00:19:30] Brad Seaman: Yeah, man, this was, this was great. Well, I had read the Oprah always ask every guest how she did, so how, how to do while you’re a
[00:19:38] Devin Johnson: stud. So
[00:19:40] Brad Seaman: I appreciate that
[00:19:42] Devin Johnson: five out of five.
[00:19:46] Brad Seaman: However, my ranking is you give me a full ranking. Okay. Awesome, man. Well, this was great. I love having you on. I love to love what you’re doing, man.
You’re I love that you’re sitting there where your office is. You’ve come a long way. Lot to be proud about and excited to continue to follow you guys, and as always great to talk to
[00:20:03] Devin Johnson: you. Likewise.

[00:00:00] Brad Seaman: So you started out with a, with a trunk and some tennis shoes, right? Yeah,
[00:00:03] Devin Johnson: that’s right. So I, that is true. I started by reselling sneakers. So starting with why I started selling shoes. So my my sister got diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Megastore blastoma. I will fast forward just a little bit.
She’s still with us today. She’s still healthy. Live in as much of a normal life as she can. So she did. But she was diagnosed when I was turning 16 with this cancer going into high school. And my mom had to move into the hospital. My sisters in Riley’s children’s home for almost two years going through chemo, the surgery, learning to walk again, learning to eat again.
I mean, everything you can imagine with having a brain tumor and the effect of it, you know, she was experienced that on top of fighting the cancer as well. With that my mom, you know, had a brief conversation with me and say, you know, we’ve, we’ve got about three months and then you’re going to have to move in here with us and you’re going to move to inner city schools.
I was going out to a, I was going to a school called new pal new Palestine high school here in Indianapolis. Really nice school, had a lot of good friends, you know, didn’t want to leave it for inner cities. And I knew shoes were valuable. Right. You know, my, my dad was around, but wasn’t around. It was he’s very spotty.
And when this situation arose, he, he was the type that you know, ran from his challenges, unfortunately, and we didn’t seem for a year. So there was a year. Where I stepped up and I stepped up by reselling shoes. It did not start from a trunk. Technically started off with a moped, right?

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