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Alumni Spotlight: Meet Juanae

Juanae Johnson participated in a nontraditional Youth Entrepreneurs program more than 20 years ago through YMCA Black Achievers in Wichita, Kan. Today, she’s coming full circle. She recently founded a nonprofit empowering young girls to be thriving leaders, and she’ll be teaching the YE curriculum. “YE is not just about starting a business. The values, the lessons and the information that you learn equip you to walk into your destiny.” Meet Juanae. 


YE’s legacy in her life: “I think the most monumental change was the mindshift,” she says. Juanae participated in YE when she was in the eighth grade. She won the business plan competition with her Stair Steppers Preschool concept and won the venture capital award, which was a four-year college scholarship. Even after completing YE, she stayed involved through the YE Ambassador program and participated in Cessna and Smith Barney (now Morgan Stanley) internships. “So many opportunities came from YE. [I opened] up my mind to all the possibilities life has, and not just what my community has. I can do anything I put my mind to, and I can take advantage of every opportunity.”  

Juanae with Mrs. Koch after winning the Venture Capital Award.

On launching her nonprofit: Fueled to equip girls from the inside out, Juanae founded the nonprofit iThrive Empowerment, Inc in Houston, Texas. Her goal  is to empower, enrich and impart key life changing principles into girls 12-25. iThrive Empowerment will teach girls personal development, self confidence and business skills. Juanae’s YE journey comes full circle as she teaches entrepreneurship through the YE curriculum. “Because of what I learned through YE, I know how important it is to teach the girls how to turn their passion into profit,” she says. 


Why entrepreneurship matters: Juanae stresses how YE’s hands-on business lessons impacted her life at a young age. Through YE, she learned how to create a business plan, marketing strategies, budget projections and how to run a business. “Now, I’m a serial entrepreneur!” she laughs. “I have a real estate company, property company and I’m a nonprofit founder.”

The greatest lessons YE taught:  “Biggest thing I learned from YE is to not be afraid. All you have to do is step out on faith and pursue your passion and giftings. The rest you leave up to God, and just go!” 

"All you have to do is step out on faith and pursue your passion and giftings.” 

The Foundational Values that drive Juanae:  Passion and Opportunity. “Because of my life experiences, because of what I was exposed to, I had passion to go back into my community and make a difference for other girls who are like me,” she says. “Taking the time to see opportunity and to seize the opportunity is so important. A lot of times opportunities just pass us by because we are not aware. You have to know the season and the timing of things. When I see the opportunity — if that is my season and my time — I know that I can jump on that opportunity and move forward.” 

Juanae's graduation from Hutchinson Community College.

Why staying connected to YE matters: “My link to YE has been so instrumental in my life. Being a part of YE isn’t just being a part of an organization. It’s a relationship. Stay involved and stay plugged in. Reach out. YE is a culture of family and empowerment and pushing you to be your best self.” 

Read more inspiring YE Alumni stories on the blog