Hustle Mindset

Meet The Father-Son Duo Behind A Multi-Million-Dollar Design Firm That Has Been Fueled By DEI Support

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Father-son duo John and Joshua Johnson are behind a multi-million-dollar furniture and interior design firm securing major contracts.

Inception

The pair is leading Space Continuum, a venture that John started in 2016 after working decades in corporate roles. During an interview with AFROTECH™, John noted he evolved from working in corporate America to dealerships where he planned construction projects and offered design and installation services. He was then approached by top manufacturer company MillerKnoll to start his own dealership in Chicago, IL, which would help to increase its minority presence in the sector.

“A lot of the corporate clients were saying, ‘Listen, we have initiatives that we need to meet and we’re asking, how can you help us meet those particular initiatives?’ With me already being in the marketplace and with my history and experience, everyone knew of me. So, they approached me and asked, would I consider becoming a MillerKnoll dealer, which I did. And we have worked as a MillerKnoll dealer, working with a lot of the matrix clients here within this marketplace to meet those corporate diversity goals,” John told AFROTECH™.

According to the Space Continuum website, the MillerKnoll vertical aims to assist businesses in meeting the needs of today’s talent by creating a deliberately curated workspace through collaborations with prominent manufacturers, thought leaders, and designers.

Becoming A Family-Led Business

One year from the inception of the full-service contract furniture dealership, John considered the future of the company and understood the importance of maintaining the minority footprint. So, he tapped his son, Joshua, who obtained a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing and has 15 years of experience in the tech industry. Upon John’s retirement, he intends for Joshua to succeed him in the company.

Joshua currently serves as its vice president of new business development.

“I’ve been around the furniture industry. I am familiar with how to process goals… and of course, like my father stated, there are not many of us in that environment, so we’re pretty much a fly on the wall,” Joshua explained. “As far as the legacy standpoint, when he asked me to come back, I was familiar with the business. I saw different ventures that we can branch off into and grow the business and continue to build on its success.”

John added, “He has come in, done a marvelous job taking hold of a lot of the managerial tasks. Now, he’s out in the forefront representing the business, and he’s going to take it to what I call new frontiers. The foundation, business, commercial planning, interior design services, etc., it will always be there, but he’ll be able to add on to and grow it even much more than I’ve had the opportunity to do.”

Clients

The imprint of the father-son duo in the furniture and interior design firm has been fruitful. To date, they have secured contracts with clients including Harrah’s Casino, Honda, Ford, Exelon, University of Chicago, Memphis Airport Authority, and the Obama Foundation, which recognized Space Continuum as Supplier of the Year in 2018.

The firm’s projects include the Logan Art Center, University of Chicago Theological Seminary, Rush Transformation Hospital Chicago, Il, and the Barack Obama Presidential Library.

“We build spaces that impact lives,” John explained. “We want to make our space more inviting for people to come back to work, and especially having gone through the pandemic where lots of people have gone home. They work there for a number of days, but employers are at a point where they want to have those folks come back into the space. So, the biggest challenges that they give us as a company is ‘Come in and help us with making this space very inviting and yet making it pleasing and workable for our folks to be able to function, collaborate together, have conversations, enjoy their time within the workspace in order to become more efficient and increase our growth and our profitability.’”

Furthermore, the continued opportunities presented to the firm have served to advance its efforts, while holding companies accountable to their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) standards.

“Being in this space, DEI is so important, when it comes to entrepreneurs,” Joshua mentioned.“We understand that racism is very prevalent within corporations and also the government or who they choose to work with. There’s nothing that we can continue to put a cover on, so DEI is so important when we are actually presenting our certifications, along with our capabilities and success done in the past, to show that we’re able to fulfill these contracts. So we’ve been very successful in that area, and we continue to build relationships, have conversations on a deeper level about what we can do, and also continue to put pressure on our manufacturers to make sure that they continue to support us and diversity and inclusion.”

Technology

Space Continuum has also elevated its offerings over the years, and this can be credited to its use of technology. At its launch, designers relied on architectural draft paper rolls, and today the design staff has pivoted to AutoCAD software, which is a software that can create 2D and 3D designs digitally, per Charter College.

Additionally, its clients can experience the designs through virtual reality (VR). In 2019, the technology was integrated into the company, allowing clients to walk through spaces in real time by putting on VR glasses. This has resulted in expedited feedback, which is beneficial for clients engaged in larger projects to reinforce their satisfaction with the project.

Furthermore, the firm’s extending its reach in the technology sector and growing its portfolio by becoming national distributers of EV charging stations in 2023 for commercial and residential use. Joshua says the move was inspired after hearing Steve Hightower, president and CEO Hightowers Petroleum, was shifting his attention towards electric vehicles during a speaking engagement.

“I started asking him questions. It’s very hard to get into that industry,” Joshua shared. “Through a lot of hard work and different manufacturers, I was able to find one and have a great discussion with them, showing my credibility, what we’ve done in the past, sell them our vision. Their vision aligned with my vision, and now we’re off to the races. So it’s a very great partnership. The company’s called Hypercharge, and we’re looking to really know if they have a win-win situation in Illinois and also across other states nationwide.”

As the company continues on, both John and Joshua are unified across all forefronts to build on the company’s capabilities while never forgetting their core mission, which is to improve society through impactful design.

“We deal with so many different things that deal with human nature in the design and planning process,” John reflected. “So, when I see things that particular way, I understand that the impact of what we do is really going to have a more psychological, mental impact upon the health of people being able to return to the workspace and to be able to just be… good people working within the space to increase the betterment of society.”

Joshua added, “As the company will be transcending into my hands, the keys to the power, the keys to the kingdom, the mission statement would change slightly as we empower our clients. That’s a full circle of everything that we do as far as the services and offerings. It’s empowering when we’re actually creating a space that adjusts to your needs. It’s inviting. It’s taking your vision, becoming a reality. And then we could also offer technology services that are more efficient to your life and empowering you to be more efficient in your life.”





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