How One Woman Went from Homeless to Millionaire In Less Than Two Years

In an episode of Sex And The City, the lead character Carrie Bradshaw, once poignantly concluded, “Maybe the past is like an anchor holding us back. Maybe, you have to let go of who you were to become who you will be.”

In extraordinarily different circumstances, in a far cry from the glamorous lives portrayed onSATC, a 21-year-old homeless woman named came to roughly the same conclusion, though perhaps, through a more excruciating journey.

She made a meager living as a cocktail waitress in Hawaii, and was living out of her car with just two dollars and three cents to her name and $35,000 in debt. Haunted by a childhood filled with brutal and systematic physical and sexual abuse, she attempted suicidefollowing a cocaine binge – but in that moment, ironically, her life changed forever.

Today Dani Johnson is a multi-millionaire many times over, runs five companies and spends her time jetting around the world, giving back through her various charities.

How she went on to make her first million despite a tortured past and despite being homeless, is the stuff of entrepreneurial legend.

Her story suggests, as Dr. Phil would put it, “It doesn’t matter what your mama did; it doesn’t matter what your daddy didn’t do. Nobody but you is responsible for your life. You are responsible for the energy that you create for yourself.”


This is Dani Johnson’s story.

It was Christmas Eve, 1990.

“I was stoned out of my mind for two months – sleeping with eight different guys. I got to eat only by dating all these people. I realized that I had become worse than the family I grew up in and that was devastating. My mom and dad were drug addicts and I had never seen my parents sober. My childhood was filled with threats and getting beaten daily; week in, week out. My whole life was filled with horror and terror and lies and I vowed that I would never be like my family. And there I was doing cocaine…”

She hated cocaine ‘with a passion’ and recalls that when coke was introduced into the home by her parents when she was a teenager, the violence had intensified and the emotional instability was ‘horrifying’. “They would say one thing and then another thing after 15 minutes.”

That Christmas Eve, she joined other waitresses at the beach on a drink and drug binge.

“I was sweating as I was constantly dancing. I see the coke and I leaned down and I did a line. I remember waking up at 10 the next morning on my beach mat and I am asking everyone for coke. I was walking around saying, ‘Where do I get more of that stuff?’

That day, I would have given my body – I would have become a prostitute for coke and that’s how low I became. I hated everything about myself. I knew my future would never be good. I was suicidal from the age of six. My life was not worth living. There was no chance to turn it into anything better. I was disgusting. I hated how my parents raised us. My life was filled with broken promises and lies and people stealing and people beating me and people hating me and me hating myself even more…”

Fueled by the after-effects of the drug, in an almost catatonic state that morning, Dani decided she was going to end it all. “I started walking towards the ocean and dived underneath the wave.”

A few more moments under, and her life would have ended there – not an unsurprising demise given her circumstances, the coroner and police chief would have quietly concluded.

But as it happened, in that instant, her life changed forever.

‘Almost a Miracle’

“I heard a voice say, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’’

It felt almost like a miracle to her.

“The feeling of coke left instantly – I wasn’t wanting it anymore. I rolled up my beach mat, turned around and hiked a mile that I needed to in order to get back to my car. I drove 45 minutes to the beach where I was living. And the whole time I was driving, it was as if the left side of my mind was saying, ‘This is not what is intended for your life, you shouldn’t be drinking. There is more to life,’ and the right side was saying, ‘You’re a failure, you’re a loser, you’re filthy; worse than your parents. Drive this car into the ocean.’ This was like a war inside my mind with these voices and I was literally in a trance.

And I have no idea why I chose to listen to that first voice.”

So Dani began to ask herself: What can I do? What do I need to do to get myself out this situation?

“As a cocktail waitress, I was not making enough, so I had to figure out my options.”

She needed $4,500 to be able to afford an apartment but with a small income derived mostly from tips coupled with the island’s high rents, it would take her four months to save enough money.

“I didn’t want to be homeless for another four months. Rent in Hawaii was outrageously expensive and I couldn’t afford plane tickets back to California. I knew no one. I was terrified I would be raped or beaten or kidnapped because there wasn’t any shelter. I was a kid who, between the ages of three to 16, was abused and molested. The emotions were still there. You try to push this back but when you’re homeless, it is at the forefront of your mind all the time and it was terrifying to me.”

That night she fell asleep in her car without any answers but the following day, the proverbial light bulb went off.

“I get this idea. Everything I ever owned was in the backseat of my car. And there was this weight loss program I had purchased long before I was homeless, lying in the back seat. I had used it for a week. I never paid attention to it before. And it just caught the corner of my eye in the sun. It was warped from the humidity. But it was as if this device was talking to me. I picked it up and it was as if this thing was saying, ‘I’m your answer.’ And my first thought was, ‘No, I’m not going to peddle a weight loss program! No way I’m going to do this!’

As if it was beneath me. As if it was sinking to a new depth. And you know, sometimes you have that feeling that you need to do something you don’t want to do?

I turned the box around, saw the manufacturer’s details and called them from the payphone.

I started asking them the question: What is it going to take to carry the product in Hawaii? As it turned out, it would require me to have licensing – and money, that I didn’t have.”

And this is when Dani – given her very scant means – decided to get resourceful.

“I handwrote a flyer [for the weight loss program] but I needed a phone number to advertise so people could contact me – and I didn’t have one. So I picked up the Yellow Pages in the phone booth. You know cocktail waitresses always have coins! So I looked through the Yellow Pages and called a small telecommunications company. And I chatted with this guy for some time, trying to build a relationship. I asked him what the cost of their voice mail service was.

He said to me, ‘Don’t drive all the way to pay for this. Send me a check for $15. Here’s your new number…!’

Dani, of course, was elated – down to her last quarter for that week, she got the break she needed.

“I put up the flyer at the Post Office where everyone in this town went to, and three hours later, not thinking I would get any messages – it was filled with 25 messages. I didn’t know what to do with them!

Long story short, I ended up with 40 checks, totaling $4,000 dollars from people I didn’t even know – that first month!

I called up the manufacturer with an order but they wanted a physical address to send the product and I didn’t have one. So I talked the local liquor store into letting me use their address.”

Dani made a quarter of a million dollars that first year just by selling the weight loss program, was a millionaire by the second year and went on to open up 18 weight loss centers around the country. She sold the business in 1996 – a multi-millionaire.




Building An Anti-Poverty Network ---

Lack of access to a host of networks – social, transit and the Internet itself – is keeping people in poverty.


"The 50th anniversary last week of President Lyndon Johnson's declaration of the War on Poverty provoked an outpouring of interest in (or, at least commentary on) the enduring levels of poverty in the United States. Unfortunately, most of this followed the predictable path of using the subject as just another opportunity for the same old debate about Big Government versus No Government...."

Read More at:

Nelson Mandela: His Life Was His Message

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." -- Nelson Mandela

As the world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela and honors the extraordinary legacy of his extraordinary life, the message that it shared -- of courage, resilience, forgiveness and commitment to a cause bigger than oneself -- has no less relevance for each of us today than it had during the height of the apartheid era.

When Mandela was born in 1918, no one would have said he was destined for greatness. He rose to great heights of power because he refused to descend to the small thinking of so many around him. He became one of the greatest men of our times not because of where he was born, or how he was treated, but because of the way he chose to respond to the forces of hatred and bigotry.

Our struggles may shape us, but never define us



I’ll admit it, I stumbled upon this war on poverty‘s 50th anniversary while watching a political show one evening. I didn’t know there was a war on poverty. I’m aware of many wars where the objective is control, conquer and enforce policies for money, power, political and personal gain. War is ugly, brutal and very costly, so is poverty. Should we use the word war when we’re speaking of poverty? I understand it places a level of severity to the situation but there’s a lot of the underlining’s of poverty that need to be approached with a firm but understanding approach.  A person in poverty doesn’t boast about his illiteracy, lack of finances and resources. They don’t boast about their social awkwardness cause society outcastes them. Poverty is much more wide spread with people from various backgrounds that are not use to and are ashamed to ask for help. With that being said do you approach that person with a war mentality with hopes of uplifting them and showing them another way to combat their poverty? It’s much bigger then the way we word a title, it’s the thought of our past approach and our way of dealing with this issue.

While doing some research I came across statistics that prove that poverty is still a huge problem in our society and in many cases has gotten worse.  Such as the “one percent” that we hear of often has 40 percent of America’s wealth while the bottom 80 percent only has 7 percent of America’s wealth. I rather not bore you with statistics but focus on the need for a different set of policies and ideas being implemented. Are the leaders to do so part of my generation?  Is it the generation after me? We can’t have any mentors when it comes to this subject because they are part of the failure we continue to live with. Whether they became infected with thinking like the leaders that came before them or became silenced, discouraged and/or intimidated they have no place in the new approach we need to set forth.

A prime example:  The Center for American Progress (CAP) had a press release named “Reverse Robin Hood” stating the GOP voted to cut 40 billion out of food stamps over the next ten years.” It’s estimated that 210,000 children will lose access to free lunch programs and 55,000 jobs will be lost in the first year of cuts alone.” This is not a War on Poverty, but a War on the Poor! Is anybody listening?

You have to prepare for war mentally and physically. When you’re walking along side of someone and they trip your natural instinct is to try and catch them from falling. Maybe the answers aren’t that far…maybe they are within. Maybe “WAR” has nothing to do with it.




A young man named: Ramón

This was my third trip to the Dominican Republic, this time it was to a city called La Romana. It was booked as normal 7-8 days at a fancy resort. I always make it a priority to go to the city and meet the locals. With about two days left to spare in my vacation an uncontrollable force came upon me to get out of the resort and go to the city to meet the locals. So the family and I got on a 2 dollar van that the locals take to the city of La Romana which is about 35min away.

While exiting the van at our drop off a young boy approached me and asked to shine my shoes, I was wearing sneakers at the time and I declined. He didn’t continue to ask me like his two companions did but he just stopped and stared at my children in admiration. With my horrible Spanish and a little translation I asked if he was hungry, he stated “yes I haven’t eaten since yesterday, I didn't make any money.” I was dying for food that was not from the resort so I asked him to show me a good place to eat. He gathered his tools and belongings ( his yellow book bag, a tote bag with his shoe shining products and a empty paint can used for sitting while shining shoes.) While walking a few blocks thru heavy and dangerous DR traffic, Ramón stopped and pointed us to a restaurant that was down some stairs a bit secluded near a bus station. I told him to come along and eat with us. As we sat down to some simple food: fried chicken, platano and yucca I had to initiate a conversation. I learned that he was from Haiti, it was just him and his mother and she was very sick. His father left, he has a brother that is somewhere in the streets so it just leaves him to provide for him and his mother. It seemed as if every answer had to be pulled out of him by a question. He told me how he was robbed of his shoes and he was just left with the sandals he had on his feet, which were not in good shape. So that explained when I handed him some money he quickly put it in his pocket and looked around to see if anybody had seen the transaction. Ramón was 13yrs old but only a few inches taller than my 8yr old son. I admired his role as a young man trying to take care of his family but I was angered by his current conditions and this being the story of so many in this beautiful country. That may be opinionative but I met some beautiful spirited people in these poverty stricken communities. With so many foreign investors that capitalize off of the land and people why isn’t there more suitable living conditions, work, training, education, programs and awareness that can combat these conditions. The fancy resorts, tourist attractions and rich lifestyle is right next to the poor. Tourist areas are guarded by security 24/7. Foreign Investors don’t care about the people, the culture and the land they only care about their investments. I saw this with my own eyes and spoke with the Dominican people (everyday locals away from the resort). Back to Ramón

I didn’t want to treat my time with Ramón like he was the subject to an interview so I just relaxed and continued to eat with him like he was one of my children.  My heart was angered so I don’t know if a smile came across my face naturally, I believe I forced a few. I felt helpless as I gave him more money and asked him if he was ok. He stated yes, I rubbed his head as I do my son’s and we parted ways as he finished his meal. If you’re in La Romana, Dominican Republic and you get off the bus stop near a grocery store ( I believe its called Jumbo or la plaza) look for a short young man with hopefulness in his eyes carrying his tools and a yellow book bag, that’s Ramón. He’ll show you around and share his story with you, only if you ask. Oh yea give him my email/website info or get his information, not getting his is my only regret.      


Overcoming Poverty in The Black Community: Striving for The Promised Land

Poverty is a global issue that affects people of all races all around the world.  From inner cities to villages, many people struggle on different levels of poverty today.

As many people struggle to overcome poverty worldwide, there live a people.  These people not only have a rich history, they have a unique story of overcoming many obstacles.  Although black people have overcome many obstacles in the past, poverty in the black community is a struggle today.  Addressing these struggles is a first step.

Donate To Doctors Without Borders

( --- "Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971."

"Today, MSF provides independent, impartial assistance in more than 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. MSF provides independent, impartial assistance to those most in need. MSF also reserves the right to speak out to bring attention to neglected crises, challenge inadequacies or abuse of the aid system, and to advocate for improved medical treatments and protocols."

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Urge The President To Help End Child Nutrition

World Vision --- "Every day, an estimated 19,000 children die before they reach their fifth birthday, mostly from causes we can prevent. Hunger and malnutrition contribute to one-third of these deaths. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. Simple, inexpensive interventions can save these children – together costing as little as $20 for a child. But for millions of parents in the developing world, these treatments are out of reach."

Millionaire Quits Microsoft Job To Educate Africa's Future Leaders

    (CNN) -- Having just quit a highly lucrative job with tech giant Microsoft in the United States, where he'd made millions working as a program manager, Patrick Awuah would wake up once in a while wondering if he'd done the right thing.

    "And then I read the words of Goethe," remembers Awuah: "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it -- begin it now."