The Design Business Show 140: Leveraging Opportunities Through Licensing with Shontavia Johnson

Director : Melissa Burkheimer | May 18, 2021
Check out episode 140 of The Design Business Show with Shontavia Johnson to learn all about licensing and leveraging opportunities in your business!

An expert in digital brand building, intellectual property law and entrepreneurship, Shontavia Johnson is a recognized leader and influencer throughout the country.

Twice named one of the top young lawyers in America, Shontavia’s unique background makes her the perfect coach for professional women who want to start businesses that leverage their ideas, expertise and intellectual property. She is a recovering patent lawyer who loves, but doesn’t actively practice, IP law.

Shontavia is the founder of the Brand and Business Academy, a program that teaches working professional women how to create their businesses in six weeks or less. She also serves as Clemson University’s associate vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation, where she connects students, corporate partners, startups and other universities.

As a speaker, Shontavia has given the closing talk at TEDxAtlanta, spoken at SXSW multiple times, and taught law and innovation principles in Europe, Asia, and across North America. She has appeared in TIME, the Washington Post, the LA Times, and on NPR. She was named one of 200 black women in tech to follow on Twitter in both 2018 and 2021.

Shontavia loves books, Meg Thee Stallion, and adventure sports. The craziest thing she’s ever done is bungee jump from the highest commercial bungee on the planet.

Here’s what we covered on the episode:

Shontavia’s Journey Through Intellectual Property Law (3:40)

  • How Shontavia was on episode 136 of the podcast where we talked about her story and she shared tips on how we can help protect ourselves as entrepreneurs; she’s back again to discuss other legal things you need in order to protect your business
  • Shontavia shares the story of how she decided to go to law school because of a boy and says she didn’t know anything about law when she started and picked intellectual property law because of her degree in bioengineering and the high paying salary
  • In 2006, Shontavia graduated from law school and took a job as an intellectual property lawyer and shares that the work was interesting but she felt unfulfilled and unconnected at the firm
  • After a year and a half at the firm, Shontavia quit her job and went to South Africa for 3 months and while she was there she had the opportunity to study comparative constitutional law, which is comparing the Constitution to different countries around the world
  • The person who taught her law course in Africa was a Justice on the South African Constitutional Court; he was a young civil rights lawyer in the middle of this movement to dismantle apartheid years ago and his stories inspired Shontavia to figure out how she was going to help people
  • How Shontavia started writing to get her message out there because she knew not a lot of people understand intellectual property; she kept writing which resulted in some of her pieces being in TIME and The Washington Post

Using Relevant Topics in Your Business (14:17)

  • While teaching at Drake University, Shontavia wrote an academic article on memes, which many other law professors criticized her for but many other people liked, so she wrote a public article regarding memes that landed her the chance to speak at TEDxAtlanta
  • How Shontavia started writing was by taking relevant topics and writing about the controversial position on it and gives examples, and suggests if you are writing to bring a different viewpoint on topics to help you stand out
  • Shontavia’s pop culture class, which is where she takes something that is happening in pop culture and teaches people lessons about it relating to intellectual property or entrepreneurship and explains her recent Cardi B lesson
  • How to use what others are doing and relate it back to your business, and other examples of how Shontavia has done this in her business and how you can too
  • We discuss how your personal brand and corporate brand can be the same, or they can be separate but you have to make the choice for yourself, and give examples of people who have their personal brand and corporate brand all in one
  • Shontavia shares what she wanted when she started writing, which was for people to know her for pop culture and how it relates to law and wanted to be the person people thought of when there was a question about law within pop culture, and shares how she was very intentional in this
  • The switch Shontavia made from writing to video content over these topics, which helped her become more comfortable with speaking, which in turn helped more people find the videos and led to people reaching out to her

Leveraging Your Business Through Licensing + Landing Opportunities (32:39)

  • One step to get to licensing Shontavia shares is building up enough social proof and enough content where people trust whatever piece of intellectual property you have is something that if they deliver it to their audience, it will be of high value
  • Once you create what you’re delivering or selling, Shontavia says there are 4 options to leverage and scale your business through licensing, assignments, white labeling, or affiliate deals — she describes each type and how you can use them in your business
  • Shontavia shares an Instagram page called, Influencer Pay Gap, that helps people understand the influencer industry and where people can anonymously submit the pay they are getting for influencer deals
  • How to go from being offered smaller deals to getting bigger deals Shontavia says is about building your social proof and how she’s seen the social proof work in her business
  • In the last couple of years, Shontavia shares that she has gotten an agent and has found it to be very helpful because they bring opportunities to her that she might not know about otherwise and there’s the benefit of not having to do the back and forth of reaching out
  • For people who want to start a career in speaking or use speaking to leverage other opportunities Shontavia suggests the book, “The Breakthrough Speaker” by Smiley Poswolsky
  • If you put in the work, the rest will fall into place, and Shontavia shares that she did around 90 speaking engagements before she ever got an agent
  • Connect with Shontavia on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or join her email list at


Links mentioned:

Brand and Business Academy 

Episode 136 of The Design Business Show 

Influencer Pay Gap Instagram Page

Connect with Shontavia on Instagram 

Connect with Shontavia on Twitter

Shontavia’s YouTube Channel 

Join Shontavia’s Email List


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