They call me “Mr. Do-It-All”: Demetrius Johnson on influencing others, music, and willpower
"You know, once you do something in repetition, it becomes automatic and everything else gets pushed out."
Demetrius Johnson actually does it all -- or just about. As a car salesman for Luther Park Place , a founder of production company GPE Productions , and the owner of Sneaker City and HNL apparel , it’s a minor miracle that the entrepreneur found time to answer some questions.
So what do your days look like right now, between work and the apparel sales, and music?
For one, taking care of my kids, making sure that they get up to school. I have five kids on top of everything else that I have going on.
But yeah, after getting them off to school, then I get to work at the dealership. Depending on how much free time I get throughout my day, I work on either my music stuff, or the apparel company. … I usually go to my store, and work the rest of the hours there through the day, then I get home pretty much just in time to eat dinner with the family or just, you know, get them ready for bed.
That’s Sneaker City, that you’re spending the evening running? Where is that?
We did have a location on Broadway. Oct.3, actually, we opened in the mall. We moved there just to get more traffic and, you know, just more opportunities to get our brands out there. Well, you know, the sneaker side … it’s well-known brands you know, the Nike, the Jordans, Adidas. We wanted to get my brand, the Hard Nock Life apparel brand out more.
How did you get started with designing apparel?
I do all my own stuff, and they call me “Mr. Do-It-All” because somehow I'm able to do so much. If I think of something, I try to create it. So when I came up with the Hard Nock Life apparel, I immediately thought, OK, I need a logo for it. And I wanted this to be something old, kind of self-explanatory and ironic that is has my name, Nock. That's what kind of made it a little bit personal to me. But at the same time, the message behind it is bigger. … It started up in 2020, when everyone was living a hard life, it didn't matter. If you were rich or poor. We all felt that kind of pain, all we were thinking about was our health, and we tended to be a little more appreciative of life. So, that's what it's about. It's about knowing that as long as you are here and alive, no matter what you've been through, know to be happy.
Some people think it's a little gimmicky because of, like, the “Annie” song. It has no relation to that at all. … I was able to create a pretty cool logo with those letters (HNL), and kind of mix them all together where it’s one symbol.
Let’s rewind a little bit. You have a background in music and performance from your teens onward, and then you have this whole other career in sales and entrepreneurship. Have you been able to use those things together, or take skills from one and apply them to the other?
You learn a lot about not only about life and dealing with people, but a lot about yourself. ...You're dealing with a lot of different personalities. If you're the type of person that's one-sided and has tunnel vision, you’re not able to understand others and things like that -- you're not going to be a great salesperson and it’s not going to be something that works out for you. I always enjoyed actually meeting people, hearing their story, sharing my stories and things like that, and trying to learn from others. As you know, the fields that I’m in, they all go together. I'm meeting a lot of different people. With the retail store, I'm meeting a lot of different people, with the music, a lot more.
How does that help with the music and apparel work?
Fashion and music go hand-in-hand. Would you agree with that? Right. My artist Jayden (Williams) , that I manage -- I have him in the store on a poster, wearing the HNL apparel. So that's one way to promote him, promote the music and the artist and the clothes at the same time. … If I'm shooting a music video or something like that, I've used some of our cars here.
What kind of advice would you give to a young person who's interested in a similar career?
Aalways make sure that you know what you want to do. Sit back, take some time, look into the pros and cons, and try to figure out if it's something that you want to do, and that you're going to be happy doing. That it's not something you're doing, just because somebody else is doing it … because that’s not going to last, and then you're gonna feel like a failure once you have to stop.
Have you experienced that?
No… I feel like growing up, I tried different jobs, but they were all still in the same category, which was like community service or something where I'm in front of people. I have worked at IBM, where I (was) in a factory where I couldn’t really see and talk to new people. I found out that's not the type of field that I want to be in, no matter how good the money is. ... I just thought about the fact that I like talking to people, I like people. I like doing something influential, and being som where… I can actually influence or make people smile, make people’s day, things like that.
So you're working several jobs and developing a new company simultaneously. How do you keep your motivation up, keep from burning out?
That's a good question. Willpower, I feel like, is my superpower. Like, having the willpower to say that I'm going to do something, or say that I'm not, and actually do it.
I'm a part of so much other stuff, like nonprofits. There's so many different things that, you know, people come to me and want me to be a part of. I don't turn it down because I'm a positivity magnet. Like anything that's positive, anything that's going on in the community, I want to be a part of because ... I haven't always been that positive a public figure. Me and my family haven't always been that, so to be able to switch the gear and now be looked at as someone that's respected in the community as a business owner, family man, salesman… Whatever people look at me as, I know, it's in a positive light.
How can you turn things around like that?
Willpower. Again. I knew that even going down the path that I went, that was more me being a people-pleaser with the crowd that I was hanging around. I was able to kind of shut it off and say, “Okay, well, what you guys got going on, I really don't want to get part of it.” And once I'd made the decision that I'm not going to be a part of it, and I'm not going to go down this path, that was it. ... I know it's weird. I know a lot of people don't have that. And that's why I call it a superpower, because it's not something that's common. It's not something that everyone can do.
It seems like most people when they decide to turn their life around, they've got some sort of inciting incident that fueled the change.
Right. That is something that happened -- something happened back back in like, 2014. I think I was just having my second-to-youngest child back then. But just by having the wrong person riding in my car, I got wrapped up into stuff. And I was like, “Yeah, I'm done.” I even kind of fell back from the music, because even in the music, that can put you in different situations based on the type of music you make and the type of audience you're trying to cater to. I had to change my style of music, and change my crowd, and focus more on my household. Making sure my foundation was solid. You know, once you do something in repetition, it becomes automatic and everything else gets pushed out.