Kyle Johnson

Product Designer

Location: Tallahassee, FL

"My biggest hope for the future is to remain as determined and passionate as I am today."

My mother Laura founded Coton Colors 17 years ago. Over the years, I’ve watched the business evolve from painting t-shirts and pottery in our garage to a design studio with products retailed all over the Southeast and Midwest.

When I was in college, I worked part time at Coton Colors’ corporate office and flagship store. After graduation, while my friends were moving to big cities to pursue “real world” opportunities, I realized that my dream job was right where I was in Tallahassee. I started full-time at Coton Colors the Monday after graduation.

My most challenging obstacle was being the “boss’s daughter.” Instead of acting entitled, I had to work doubly hard to prove my creativity and professionalism, not just to my mom but to everyone on staff.

It was also important to me that I made my own mark on my own terms. In every product I design, recommendation I make, decision I guide, I want to be sure I’m representing myself—the part raised by my mom and the part that’s uniquely my own.

As I’ve taken on a larger role in the design process, my mom and I have had to work out our creative differences. Sometimes I find it difficult to stand up for my ideas and creations without feeling like I’m being disrespectful. This has forced me to stretch outside my comfort zone to become more assertive and confident.

When I was tasked with designing a line of more innovative products, it meant I had to redefine the company culture and open up everyone’s eyes – including my mom’s – to new ideas. We are both self-assured individuals with stubborn streaks, so that definitely led to some tense moments. But the final results made it all worth it: The new line is big success, and my mom and I have found a balance between our personal and professional lives.

I hope to grow into a management position with Coton Colors. I also want to expand our brand to different parts of the country. But my biggest goal is to remain as determined and passionate as I am about my work – and do it alongside my biggest inspiration: my mom.