From Banana Bread To Billion Dollar Business With The CEO Of Carbon38

Katie Warner Johnson Carbon38 Interview

Co-founder & CEO of Carbon38, Katie Warner Johnson is the kind of person you meet & immediately become best friends with. While managing one of the hottest outfitters in the athleisure industry is demanding to say the least, she somehow remains one of the funniest & most down-to-earth people we’ve ever met—& let’s not forget she can bake a pretty freakin’ amazing paleo cake.

Having spent time in the business world as well as a lifetime studying ballet & the fitness industry, Katie has paid her dues & learned all that goes into cultivating a thriving presence in the world of athleisure. Her entrepreneurial as well as industry knowledge has led to some incredibly lucrative opportunities including a $15 million investment by Foot Locker just last year.

While her success & that of Carbon38 comes from a clear vision & unending effort, Katie credits her fitness routines & healthy lifestyle with giving her the energy to work as hard as she does. Starting with a 4:45am wake up sans alarm clock, her day moves to meditation (she loves this app in particular), a cup of tea, emptying the dishwasher (relatable), & finally her workout. “Working out is the best thing we as female leaders can do,” she says. “An hour every single morning is ideal because it helps to rewire your prefrontal cortex, which is your decision-making center. It’s all prepping you to make better decisions throughout the day & handle stress.” Her workout routines vary, ranging from cardio to strength training, but when she has big decisions to make in the day ahead, Katie opts for long walks in order to get her body into an automatic rhythm & fire up her right brain which helps her process the world more visually & puts her in a creative state of mind. Of course, working out for health reasons is important, too, but Katie says that, “cellulite is going to catch up with you anyway,” so we might as well have some more of her paleo banana almond cake.

Paleo Banana Bread Secret Recipe

Sure, creating a business headed towards a billion-dollar net worth takes knowledge & industry experience, but it takes much more than that, & Katie knows it. Her drive & resilience have led her to find a way to take her passions & make a life out of them. After suffering an injury that ended her path as a dancer, Katie began teaching exercise classes where she noticed the lag in the athleisure industry to meet the demand of women like those she taught. She decided to take matters into her own hands & form Carbon38, a marketplace where women can find all the best athleisure wear they could ever want while mainly supporting small, female-founded suppliers. “I was a first-time entrepreneur, a young woman with no business acumen,” Katie says, “[just] a gut instinct.”

She soon found herself at Global One, a networking conference where industry leaders, CEOs, & investors gather to hear pitches (à la Shark Tank) & potentially invest in budding businesses like Carbon38. Aware that her audience was mostly male venture capitalists who spend their days in khakis & button downs, Katie brought her fitness instructor friends along “in really cute sports bras” to help make the sale. Sure enough, by the end of the cocktail hour alone, Katie had already raised one million dollars.

From that experience, Katie learned the importance of networking, & so she began creating a spreadsheet of over 1,200 potential investors—who she spoke to & checked off the list one-by-one. It didn’t take long before she raised $11 million through 89 of those 1,200 investors. Now on her way to building the brand into a billion-dollar business, Katie always works to ensure that her company is built on reliability & trust, always sticking to her word, whether to her investors or her customers.

While the “b-word” (relax, we’re talking “billion”) is always on her mind, Katie is well aware that the value of a company can’t just be measured in dollars. She’s helped to create a marketplace where female-run companies can share their works with the world, where customers can find something that is not just practical but also fun to wear, where women all around the world can rediscover the excitement & beauty of finding the perfect piece.


Paleo Banana Bread Layered Cake Recipe

Paleo Honey Almond Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
  • for the cake:
  • 6 cups almond meal
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup honey
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • for the frosting:
  • 2 cups palm shortening
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 4 tsp vanilla
  • 8 tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 8 tbsp coconut flour
  • 8 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  1. In large mixing bowl, combine all cake ingredients. Stir until smooth & pour evening into pre-sprayed layered cake pans.
  2. Bake cakes at 350F for roughly 20-30 minutes (depending on how thick your cakes are) or until toothpick is inserted & comes out clean. Let cakes cook completely on cooling rack.
  3. While the cakes are cooling, combine all frosting ingredients, except the coconut oil, in a large mixing bowl & blend with a hand mixer on high until smooth.
  4. Add in coconut oil & stir to combine.
  5. Place your first layer of cooled cake on cake stand. Place a heaping spoonful of frosting on top & using an offset spatula, spread evenly across layer of cake. Place the next layer of cake on top & repeat until all cake layers have been used.
  6. Using the remaining frosting, coat the sides of your cake using the offset spatula until desired amount is applied. Top with desired toppings, cut, serve, & enjoy!
2 large mixing bowls
measuring cup
baking spray
layered cake pans
cooling rack
hand mixer
offset spatula

Carbon38 Secret Recipe



*Editing by Rob Lee.

**Images via Shannan Leigh for Public Lives, Secret Recipes.