Fearless Founders: Meet Katie Johnson of Carbon38


It’s time to inspire her mind! In our constantly connected world, women are inundated with information and opportunity. Especially inspiring are the true innovators that push through barriers and prove that women are equipped to excel in any industry. Many of them are changing our world one startup at a time. At Glam, we love women who encourage other women to push forward in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) based education and professions. In this series, Jesse Draper sits down with fearless founders to talk about their career paths, educational backgrounds and why STEM matters:

Carbon38 is an e-commerce site where you can purchase high end athletic wear. I recently began a working relationship with Katie Johnson of Carbon38 who I met through a mutual friend. As someone who represents a technology company that merges fashion with a STEM field, we thought that Katie truly represented a female leader and groundbreaker in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics oriented careers. With the current STEM Initiative, we are looking to spread the word about incredible women in these professions like Katie Johnson. Johnson is a former professional ballet dancer, recently closed a round of funding, and believes that workout wear is the new fashion. Here are 12 things I learned from Katie Johnson of Carbon38….

What is Carbon38? 

Carbon38 is the premier e-commerce destination for fashion-forward activewear. We source, manufacture and sell awesome pieces that can take you from board room to boxing ring, all the while looking pretty stellar. Spandex is the new denim so at Carbon38 we explore the intersection of athleticism and style, functionality and fashion and push the limits of how we look at workout wear. Life’s a sport; why not dress for it?

What inspired it?

In the last 5 to 10 years a new woman has emerged who is an entrepreneur, an executive, a wife, a mom, who also cares about her health and looking and feeling good. Her wardrobe is a vehicle for expression and an important feature of her daily grind that can help (or hinder) her progress. It’s time we had an awesome go-to that was machine washable, wrinkle-free, sexy, flattering, supportive in all the right places and feels like sweat pants. Sounds a lot like what lives in our gym bag, no?

What makes it different than other fitness sites?

Variety is the spice of life! Us ladies shop multi-brand for every other outfit in our closets why do we suddenly change our ways when shopping for yoga pants? At Carbon38 we curate the coolest new designers from around the world and allow you to put together your own look – those Upside Paisley leggings, paired with Basics’ cotton/linen-blend blueberry tank over a Pilot leopard bra and topped off with a Work Out Life neoprene bomber make for the perfect getup to rock out a SoulCyle after grabbing lunch with the in-laws.

What has been the biggest change in your everyday life since the launch of your site? 

I wear a whole lot more spandex. And thus my dry-cleaning bills have gone down significantly.

How did you and your business partner Caroline meet? 

We were ballet dancers together and met while training with the Miami City Ballet when we were 15. We then ended up at Harvard together, lived and worked in NYC down the block from each other, Caroline became a devoted client when I became a fitness instructor and it only seemed natural that we start a business together. I have never spent more time with another human being in my life.

How do the sales on the site work? 

We are standard e-commerce; you browse, you like, you buy. We also have an e-magazine, Page38, that we issue weekly. We interview celebrities, athletes, bloggers, and stylists who help us curate looks and give us background into their own fitness routines. It’s always good to have a little context when shopping.

What is your daily routine? 

I wake up at 6am and roll into the kitchen for my first of 4 daily cups of green tea. I am nursing a back injury so I hit the senior swim at the Westwood aquatic center for some laps and water aerobics (yes, I do have a floral swim cap and nose plug in my possession). I hit the office by 8:30 and do my thing (conference calls, budget meetings, fire drills, the occasional whiteboard cartoon session, 4 pm shavasana, production meetings, fittings, snack drawer raids, etc, etc.) I hit the road by 7:30 and am home by 8:30 (Burbank to Beverly Hills is not the best, traffic-wise) pour myself a glass of wine, answer emails, make tomorrows to-do list, and have another snack drawer raid. My bedtime alarm sounds at 10pm, which signals me throw on my cocktail party onesie PJs, turn on a little Cosmos and head off to dream land, just to do it all over again.

What inspires the fitness clothing designs? 

Life! If it doesn’t work in real life, and make you look amazing, feel amazing, be amazing then it doesn’t get made. In all seriousness, activewear is a pretty basic subset of fashion – kind of like underwear. The silhouette of a pair of underpants is the same regardless of designer. Same goes for leggings. What makes each piece unique depends on seams, fabric, patterns, trims. We comb the fashion sphere for the newest coolest colors, fabrics, and prints. Then engineer the most flattering seams for the perfect pair of tights.

What is your master plan?

To take a bite out of the activewear pie. By gathering the most cutting-edge fitness apparel designers onto one platform we can combine our strengths to gather market share and further diversify the market Lululemon created.

How do you stay focused?

I have a Santal 26 candle on my desk. As soon as things start to get hectic, I take a moment, light my candle, make myself a cup of tea, take a few deep breaths and carry on. Those little routines help to cut through the chaos, re-center my focus and remind me that there is nothing out there that can’t be solved with a chai and a burning wick.

What are 3 workout tips you have for the rest of the working girl world?

1. Commercial-break planks: when watching TV, instead of fast forwarding through the ads, hit the deck and hold a plank. It’ll tighten your core, trim down your waist and improve your posture – all things you will need at your next pool party.

2. Swivel chair: this is a throw back to my time teaching at Physique 57. Grab a sturdy piece of furniture, rise up on your toes, glue your feet together, swivel your knees to the left while keeping your shoulders square and start pulsing until you feel the burn. Repeat on the right. Quads make up the biggest muscle group and are thus the biggest calorie burner.

3. Food: Diet is 75% of the battle. Summer is a great time to load up on veggies and fruits because everything is in season and thus the most nutritious. If you skip the baked beans in favor of the tomato salad at the cookout, you’ll cut a bunch of calories, and boost your lycopene and vitamin C intake.

What was the last picture you took on your phone?

A pretty bouquet of flowers that my co-founder sent me. She’s pretty cool.

UCLA grad, Jesse Draper is a technology expert and creator and host of The Valley Girl Show through which she has become a spokesperson for startups and has helped to pioneer the way of new media content distribution. She oversees everything from pre-production to distribution of the show. Draper started the show because she realized there was no FUN business talk show, only grilling teeth clenching interviews, and she believes the most interesting and inspiring people in the world are the ones who've started a business. In her former life, she was on a Nickelodeon show called “The Naked Brother's Band”. Draper also writes columns for Mashable, Forbes.com and San Francisco Magazine and speaks at business conferences around the world including SXSW, DLD, TEDx, TechVentures and STREAM.

jesse draper