DarryIn Johnson II is happy to tell you that, since 2019, he hasn’t really “worked” at all.
“They say if you work a job that you love you will never work a day in your life,” said the 2017 graduate of William Woods. “Well I am infatuated with what I do and look forward to “not working” every day!”
2019 is when Johnson officially left the corporate world and followed his passion for creative marketing and unique branding strategies. He founded Steeze Marketing LLC, a cutting edge marketing and branding firm based in Wichita, Kansas that specializes in creating such strategies for individuals and businesses with a vision. His company works with a diverse selection of clients, including everything from professional athlete branding to cannabis marketing, with a laser focus on building relationships with people and businesses that help them tell their stories through digital platforms.
“If a business owner does not have customers, their business is reduced to a hobby,” Johnson said. “We know their services are valuable to a certain percentage of the market. Steeze Marketing helps business owners create the content that grabs the attention of that clientele.”
The personal and professional drive to break away and form your own business is not for everyone, and certainly not for the faint of heart. But DarryIn Johnson has exactly the qualities that one needs to be a success – a burning passion for what he does, an attention to detail, and a competitive drive.
Qualities he perfected while playing basketball both collegiately and overseas, working in the field he loves for a number of years before taking the leap to establishing his own business, and yes, learning a few things during his days at The Woods.
Basketball was a major part of Johnson’s life growing up in Topeka, Kansas. After graduating from Topeka High School, he accepted an offer to play basketball at Coppin St. University in Baltimore, Maryland, appreciating the richness of the culture at the Historically Black College and the academic and athletic opportunities it afforded him. But he ended up transferring to a junior college to continue playing, and eventually found his way to William Woods University, to continue his basketball career and academic pursuits.
“I chose William Woods because it was a college that just felt right for the last leg of my academic journey,” he said. “Obviously, it was the right decision for me!”
At WWU, Johnson valued his experiences with LEAD events and Career Days, circumstances in which the University brought interesting and important people to campus to provide real world insights into the students’ chosen field of study.
“In retrospect, those interactions allowed me to build capacity for what I wanted to do next,” Johnson recalled. “As a business owner, I continue to glean value from those lessons. William Woods provided an environment that challenged me to mature into a young man who is culturally literate; knowledgeable about the arts, the humanities and social issues; and someone who can think critically, argue locally and develop strategies to solve complex problems.”
Johnson excelled on the basketball court at The Woods as well, playing for two seasons and helping to lead the Owls to their first-ever Top 25 NAIA ranking. He ended up being one of the few WWU basketball players to actually make money playing the game following his graduation in 2017, playing overseas in El Salvador and China before retiring from the game.
“Playing overseas was an amazing experience, it gave me a lot of insight into the real world and helped me build an amazing work ethic,” he said. “It is crazy how much it correlates over to business.”
After returning to the U.S., Johnson worked for a couple of marketing companies, including as a sales and marketing manager for a company called Aspen Heights in Springfield, Missouri. His experiences working in the field and living overseas helped him develop the skills necessary to create his own business. Which is when he went his own way, creating Steeze Marketing, and effectively stopped “working.”
Taking Care of (his own) Business
“Steeze” is defined as “a person’s distinctive and attractive or impressive style of dress or way of doing things.”
The name fits Steeze Marketing to a T, as Johnson has built a company that takes their clients’ vision and takes it digital in a very distinctive way. Managing a small staff of creative people around the Midwest, Johnson’s company focuses on developing marketing content and unique branding strategies for an eclectic group of customers. Whether it’s professional athlete branding, email marketing, growing social media impact for their clientele or marketing for niche businesses like the cannabis industry, Steeze is looking to maintain its unique approach within a changing industry.
“One of the biggest challenges is staying up to date within the industry without tainting my own brand,” Johnson said. “For example, Steeze Marketing is among a very small percentage of digital media agencies that are integrating into WEB3 (the third generation of evolution of World Wide Web technology). What we see is people are tainting their businesses by shifting their entire business plan to a WEB3 strategy which ends up hurting their current business. Instead, we found a way to integrate WEB3 into our current business model, which has helped boost our brand.”
Under Johnson’s leadership, the digital company has opted to maintain a small team to remain nimble and efficient. It is one of the examples of Johnson taking his dream for his company and turning it into reality.
“My dream going forward is to continue to build a brand with its own specialized niche, and because I built it from grassroots, it has my fingerprints all over it,” he said. “It cannot be easily duplicated, which makes it unique.”
Which fits right into DarryIn Johnson’s professional philosophy, which he is only too happy to share with today’s WWU students:
“Be who you say you are. Always keep your promises to your clients and yourself. And always be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to reach your goals.”
Sounds like a strategy everyone can get behind!