Getting to know Johanna Tropiano over the last three months has been nothing short of a gift. The work she’s doing and the integrity with which she walks through this world are so inspiring.
We have quite a bit in common too. Johanna is the founder of Conscious Closets, a blog dedicated to helping others cultivate more awareness about the clothes they buy, and how to craft a more conscious wardrobe that does more good (than harm). I found Johanna as I began making purchasing ethical clothing a priority this year. And her blog has been a constant source of inspiration.
She’s also the co-founder of The MEND Project, a nonprofit dedicated to educating about, and helping those impacted by primary and double domestic abuse.
Interestingly, many years ago I helped launch the production of a documentary about domestic violence, and have a huge place in my heart for this subject.
So needless to say I’m honored and deeply grateful to have Johanna here today to share more about what she’s up to, the importance of living consciously and of course, why Harry Potter is…well…everything. *wink*
Hope you enjoy our chat!
Thanks for chatting with me today Johanna, and for being a part of our guest editor tribe! Let’s start from the beginning, tell me a bit about yourself – what do you do, create and love?
Hi!! So going back to my roots, I grew up in the south, in a small town in Jackson, TN. That’s where I went to college, got my MBA, started my career, and lived until the age of 30. I’ve had many careers. I was a middle school English teacher. Then I worked for Merck Pharma in sales. I went on to the biotech sector and launched a brand new life-changing biologic for AMGEN, and then left the corporate world to do work for International Justice Mission – fighting injustice, violence, and trafficking.
I moved to DC to work at IJM’s headquarters, and that’s where I met my husband Brian. We got married and IJM transferred me to the Los Angeles area to head up fundraising for them in SoCal. That’s where I currently reside with my husband and maltese, Rufio.
I’m super passionate about human rights. About everyone having a voice and the ability to speak out against injustice. I recently left IJM to pursue my own passions. I started a lifestyle blog called Conscious Closets that challenges people to consume less and ethically and save lives in the process.
And my most recent project is starting a nonprofit called The MEND Project that focuses on issues of Intimate Partner Violence and how we respond to victims when they come forward for help.
Thanks for sharing the path that led you to now. I’m always fascinated by the variety of paths we all take, that lead us to the work that fulfills our soul. Can you tell us why you decided to create The MEND Project? And also your blog, Conscious Closets?
The MEND Project is something that my co-founder and I have been talking about for three years. We both have overcome domestic violence and through those experiences, we saw a lot of gaps in information for victims, their friends, families, communities, etc.
We are creating everything we wish we would have had when we were being abused. So it’s been in our brains for three years, but we have been officially building it since March of 2016.
I’ve been doing Conscious Closets now since 2014. Working in anti-trafficking for 5 years was what really opened my eyes to the horrific abuse of workers and how we as consumers contribute to that. So I wanted to do something in my own small way.
I love that you’ve taken difficult life experiences and the education working anti-trafficking, and used that as a powerful catalyst to help other women and to make more conscious choices. It’s such a beautiful thing to witness. While I know this is heart-centered work, it can’t always be easy. Tell me about the biggest obstacle you’ve faced and how you got over that hurdle.
I think the hardest thing since starting The MEND Project has been re-visiting my trauma from my first marriage and the abuse I endured there for over a decade. I have worked so hard to get healthy and work through the trauma and the PTSD from that relationship, but when you start putting yourself out there, it’s scary, and you are forced to remember what happened. I have to keep working through it and acknowledging the trauma to stay healthy and I have to give myself grace as I’m working on this new project.
Ah yes, grace. Something all of us need to give ourselves a bit more of I think. As a woman in business, who do you look up to? Who inspires you?
I’m most inspired by my former boss, Gary Haugen, who started International Justice Mission. He has always been so courageous and strong. But also very present with whomever he is currently engaged with in the moment. He treats everyone with the utmost respect and even though he leads a $60 million dollar organization, meets with the Pope and the U.S. President, he remains humble.
To me, he is the definition of grace and hope under immense pressure. I admire him greatly and am so thankful to have spent a lot of time with him while at IJM. I definitely aspire to be the kind of servant leader that he is.
Wow, he sounds like such a generous and kind soul. Thanks for sharing about him, I can’t wait to check out more of IJM’s work too. So…what does it mean to you, to live a life and have a business – with SOUL?
I think we should all think more about how we can give back to this world rather than take from it. If we all had that mentality, can you imagine how different we would live? Or treat each other? I think having a business with SOUL is acknowledging that. And orienting your business toward giving back to those around you and the world around you – rather than taking things from it.
I love that, and I’ve definitely seen an increase over the last few years in businesses who are trying to give back to the world. I hope it continues! On a slightly different note – if you didn’t know, we’re big birthday fans around here, so what’s your dream way to spend a birthday?
Wow. I’ve NEVER thought about this before! Wine tasting in Tuscany or the Loire Valley. I love Europe and I love wine.
Nice!! I’m right there with you. Tuscany is one of my favorite places on earth. Ok, a few rapid-fire questions for you: what are the 5 things you can’t live without (like ever)?
- My husband, Brian
- My dog, Rufio
- A delicious Rosé
- A good cup of coffee
- Harry Potter
Ok, I knew I liked you for a reason (Harry Potter is everything!). What are the top three places you’d send someone if they were visiting your ‘hood (Long Beach, CA)?
I LOVE LONG BEACH! This is way too hard! First I’d send you to my friend, Michelle Qazi’s gorgeous vintage home good store, 6th and Detroit. Then I’d have you stop by Blind Donkey for a bourbon tasting. And then to my favorite hole-in-the-wall local wine bar, District Wine.
Tell us what you’re working on right now that feels like a celebration?
The website for The MEND Project – which just launched this week! All the ideas that have been floating in our heads are now actually taking shape in a beautiful way that I literally am so excited to share with the world.
Congratulations, that is such a huge celebration!!! If you knew then, what you know now, what message would you have for your younger self?
Trust your gut and your intuition they will rarely lead you wrong. Don’t let anyone steal your voice. And there’s no shame in bad things people have done TO you. Only beauty in rising above those things.
And finally — what is one thing you know to be true?
This is a super hard question for me, because I feel like the second we “know something for sure” it changes. Maybe that’s what I know for sure. Nothing stays the same, and we can either accept it or grow with it.
. . . . . .
I am so grateful you’re on this planet Johanna. While we might not have crossed paths in real life yet, I can honestly say that I admire you, am inspired by the work you do, and truly, can’t wait to see what kind of magic you create next in the world. Thank you for being a part of our community and for sharing so vulnerably, your stories, over the last three months. You’re a gem (and if you ever need a Harry Potter world companion…just sayin’)!
Please head over to Instagram and check out Johanna’s gorgeous feed (major fashion inspo) or visit the Conscious Closets blog to check out her incredibly useful tips for cultivating a more thoughtful, conscious wardrobe.
Also please be sure to follow The MEND Project and find out how you can support their efforts over on their brand new (beautiful) website.
And of course, you can always pop over to Johanna’s contributor page to check out all of the posts she’s written for The Girl Who Knows – there are some pretty powerful pieces in there, so I urge you to take a peek.
Photos courtesy of Johanna Tropiano