Before inventing a new career or yourself, it is good to know something about the business you want to start. Scott Johnson knew one
business so well, he was actually bored with it. He’d done fine for more than 20 years as an employee at a big candy company, but eventually he had dreamed up a basket full of his own ideas to try. So he quit his old job and launched The Basket Company in 1999 from a single room in Falconer, New York.
“I was looking for a new frontier,” Scott said recently, explaining the kind of motivation it takes to get a new business underway. “I started out part time,” Scott said, “but my candy business grew so fast it became full time very soon.” The Basket Company now sells hundreds of kinds of chocolates, nuts and candy. A visitor to The Basket Company, at 31 Water Street, in Jamestown’s Gateway Center, can satisfy almost any kind of sweet tooth craving, but Scott’s dream extended far beyond a successful retail candy store. He now serves customers throughout Western New York and across the country on the Internet.
Scott Johnson recently addressed the business students at Jamestown Business College. The key to success, he explained is to “find your niche.” Many new businesses either try to sell something different for everybody or they haven’t figured out where their customers are. “I sell chocolates, nuts and candy to people who like to eat them and to people who like to sell them, that’s my niche, in both retail and wholesale.
“The mind never stops,” Johnson says. “I’ll wake up at 2:30 a.m. with an idea for a new product and can’t wait to try it.” Creativity is often a key to business success. For instance, Johnson considers hospital gift shops to be the employees’ only convenience store at work. So his Hospital Variety Display includes such items as bags of Emergency Mix (with honey nuts or M&Ms), Intensive Care Bears, Nurse’s Aid Bridge Mix and Chocolate Therapy Pretzels. He also offers Doctor’s Orders Hard Candy, Prescription Chocolate and Chocolate Pills, all requiring absolutely no prescription.
Johnson also supplies more than 150 different kinds of confection for the new wedding reception and party craze, a buffet made exclusively of chocolate, nuts and candy.
The Easter Season is one of the biggest chocolate, nut and candy seasons of the year. For 2012, Johnson has engaged the Easter Bunny (rumored to be the one and only real Easter Bunny) to hop on out to Water Street, in front of The Basket Company’s well stocked retail shop, to greet children of all ages on most days of the Easter season. A wide variety of Easter Baskets, chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, cream eggs and more can be purchased ready made or created to suit any mix desired. “Right now, we’re full of Easter candy,” Johnson said.
“Whenever I can,” Johnson promises, “I sell products made by local companies, though I can also get imported chocolates.” Western New York and nearby Pennsylvania boast a number of quality makers of chocolate and candy products. “Naturally, I also sell Lucille Ball products of any kind that can complement my chocolates, nuts and candies,” Johnson added.
Johnson’s Commitment to the local community and to charity projects throughout the region is reflected in The Basket Company’s fundraising product lines. Products, displays and contributions are tailored to help organizations meet the needs of charities, not-for-profits and educational projects.
“What I like best about my business is talking to people and working with my employees,” Johnson says. Business, according to most successful entrepreneurs, is always about people doing their best in a way that profits both themselves and others. “I love conquering a problem,” Johnson said, “and figuring something out that makes my business better and works for my customers too.”
Business is hard work. Johnson says that he has earned his hundreds of accounts one-by-one, many by cold calling prospective customers who have never heard of him or The Basket Company. “My success rate is phenomenal,” he said, “after people I call try my products or learn about the quality from other people I do business with.” When asked what ‘phenomenal’ success means, Johnson smiles and says “One out of three or four people don’t say no.” In baseball, that would be a batting average as high as .333.
One of the toughest personal challenges, Scott Johnson said with a hearty laugh, was technology. “At the age of 49, I didn’t own a credit card and was scared of computers. Now my business runs as well on the Internet and email as it does in person. It certainly speeds up orders and fulfillment.” The website makes it easy for individuals and businesses to order online.
Scott Johnson invites readers to visit http://www.thebasketco.com and order online or stop by The Basket Company candy shop at the Gateway Center, 31 Water Street, Jamestown, NY. Easter Season hours are 9 to 5, Monday through Saturday (April 2 through 7). Local phone: 716-487-0088 or 716-485-1226 or, out of area, Toll Free: 877-707-8553.