Entrepreneur Speaks To Veterans

Scott Johnson, president of The Basket Co. Inc. and native of Jamestown, has faced many trials and tribulations since starting his business in 1999. When he first started his business, gross sales reached $15,000. Now, in 2013, gross sales have reached $920,000.

Recently, Johnson was a guest speaker to a group of veterans for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Disabled Veterans, and shared his success secrets.

Johnson’s story begins as a route salesman for a candy, nut and coffee company, but after 20 years he grew tired and bored with a job which had no chance of advancement. After picking up a copy of The Post-Journal one day, though, he noticed the headline “Classy Baskets Going Out of Business.” Classy Baskets, a business from Upstate New York, had been one of his customers that bought bulk nuts and dried fruits to make the nut tray.

After discussing his idea to pursue a nut tray business with his employer, he was given the go-ahead on the conditions he could only do it after hours, had to purchase all the products from them and hire someone else to do the work. Johnson knew, though, if the retail gift business wasn’t good enough, he would have to pursue wholesale packaging and distribution – jeopardizing his job with his employer. This happened a year after starting the business.

Johnson said he worked hard building a customer base. He worked to get into more local gift shops, bookstores and farm markets.

“Rejection is hard to get used to, but a part of business,” he said. He went on to say not to give up – management can change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

When he became more confident, he placed his products in display racks in several Buffalo-area hospitals. Much to his amazement, he would receive calls within a few days or a week telling him his rack was empty. He found his niche, which would later include colleges and casinos.

“I try everything, all avenues,” Johnson said. “Try everything when you are small to see what works. If you have passion and willpower, you will succeed.”

Johnson pursued this avenue he had found, stopping in at hospitals without an appointment, asking for the manager or buyer, and giving a sample and price list. At one time he landed more than 50 percent of the shops he approached.

“Don’t stick to a computer for information,” he said, asking questions is key.

“Get external help,” Johnson said, saying not seeking help was his biggest mistake. He didn’t have the time nor the know-how to get the help he needed.

Johnson has one final tip of advice and encouragement to give: “You can make it, you can survive. So many good things can happen.”