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July 17, 2014 40 Under Forty 2014

Ashley (AJ) Johnson

Age: 30

Title at work/what I do: Pastor, community educator, and founder of Small Business Night Out. I have made it my aim to turn love into tangible services for our community. As a pastor, I work in the poorest zip code in Hartford to assist people to develop spiritually and economically. As a community educator, I work with those on the path of recovery in the areas of mental health and substance abuse, assisting them to gain the skills necessary for personal recovery and reintegration into the community. As the founder of SBNO, I work to empower, encourage and network small business owners and young entrepreneurs throughout Connecticut.

Town where I work: Hartford

Town where I live: Hartford

College I attended: W.L. Bonner College

My passion, hobby or special talent: I'm passionate about making a difference in my community, for without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community. I enjoy volunteering for organizations like the Greater Hartford NAACP, Northeast NRZ Mothers United Against Violence and the YMCA. I am a talented motivational speaker.

Twitter handle: @ajforthecity

Favorite place to network: Small Business Night Out

Favorite drink at a networking event: Too busy networking

How do I create connections in my professional life?

I create connections in my professional life by keeping an enthusiastic attitude, an optimistic mind set, and an open door policy. I am eager to reach out to people on every level and figure out how I can help them in their profession and in their cause. It is my belief that our lives, both professional and personal, are enriched by those we connect to.

What's been my biggest challenge professionally?

My greatest challenge professionally has been finding the balance between passion and patience. By that I mean I have been blessed to wear a lot of hats professionally and each of these hats has challenged me to see a vision of our community advancing. However, in the same note, it takes a lot of pieces, a lot of people and a lot of patience to see a vision through. I have learned to be a patient man and allow time to work for me rather than against me.

What is the best advice I received?

The best advice I've ever received was from my mother, who told me “Show me your friends, and I will show you your future.” Since then, I have dedicated my time and efforts to establishing a strong network of friends, both personally and professionally. Furthermore, I established SBNO with the ambition to assist other professionals to do the same.

What do I want my legacy to be?

I want my legacy to be that I helped to bring poor people to the table of power. I don't necessarily want my name to be the thing that is remembered, but I want what I stand for to stand for ages.

Check out the other 40 Under Forty for 2014 winners

Dr. Jill Buban

Stephen Carrabba

Leticia Colon de Mejias

Erin M. Concepción

Molly Devanney

Jennifer R. Fiereck

Betsey Castle Gainey

Martin Gugliotti

Bryan Hall, II

Benjamin Howarth

Garrett Kenny

Vincenzo M. Landino

Heather Loranger

Ashley M. Maagero

Kim Margolis

Lindsey Mathieu

Tracy I. McKaveney

Ryan McKeen

Adam McLaughlin

H. Scott Miller

Alison Morris

Peter J. Murphy

Kristina Newman-Scott

Brandon Ojakian

Michelle M. Pandolfi

Erin Pirro

Ken Procino

Steven Raider-Ginsburg

Brian Rich

Matthew Ritter

Robert Ruffolo

Lindsay Ryan Jensen

Zachary Schwartz

Jarrett Solomon

Erica Ann Thompson

Jason J. Warnke

Tim Yergeau

Jennifer Young

Christopher R. Zito

McKinley Albert

Keshia Ashe

Check out the Digital Edition of this year's 40 Under Forty.

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