What is your name?
Blake Johnson and Gary
What is the name of your business?
North Side Pallet in Norcross Georgia
When did you start your business?
What did you do prior to the pallet industry?
I graduated college with a business degree and went American institute of baking in Manhattan Kansas. After that I got a job at Pillsbury and worked there for 30 years. Worked for 3 other companies after that and then got downsized. Unfortunately I quickly learned no one wants to hire a 60 year old sales guy so I had to reinvent myself.
What made you choose to start a business in this industry?
Well being in bakery sales, I know about transportation, I was around the warehouses, I saw and knew the importance of pallets. One day I saw posts on Facebook about pallets and started doing some research about the business. I had a friend who is around the same age and was in a similar work situation so I reached out and pitched the idea and that was back in august of 2021. We started with a 12ft trailer and Gary’s truck (business partner) found some haul off opportunities, made enough to reinvest in the business and buy a larger trailer. We just keep putting back into it so we can grow. We are at the point now where we just bought a forklift.
How did you advertise your business when starting out?
I went onto google maps and started looking for a business that could potentially use pallets, or have pallets to dispose of. It was a learning experience, it has worked though. We are at the point where we have too many pallets!
What made you choose your company's location?
We were in business for 4 months until we found the location we are currently in. After 2 months we realized we were going to need a facility to store and repair pallets. Thankfully it seems like whenever I need something or I am thinking about something it just kinda happens. We are in north east Atlanta so there are a lot of industrial areas around this area. We gave ourselves a radius to work within and it's amazing.
What are your company's goals in the next 2 years?
Honestly I am just focusing on the day to day and as things happen we will adjust. Our next step is probably a larger facility to operate out of. We buy what we need to make thing easier and faster. We want to grow as everyone does, but we are as we continue to do honest work and it has paid off
What is unique about your company?
We are a niche pallet business, we are two old farts who had to start over and reinvent ourselves. We focus on consistent haul offs, selling recycled B grade pallets, and recycling whatever else the companies we work with need. Cardboard, metal, wooden reels, food grade metal or plastic drums. You have to adapt to your environment and your customers.
What are some challenges you face as a business owner?
Getting your ass out of the bed in the morning! Haha but what can be really difficult is just the consistency in picking up and selling. Things change, business ebbs and flows so just making sure you are making money. One week you get no orders, next week you get 10.
If you could start over is there anything that you would do differently?
No, we set the plan in the start. We didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on stuff and feel the pressure to make money. We spent $2,000 and just reinvested, whatever we made we saved. We buy things when we need to not cause we want to, I don't want to be worried about paying off loans.
Is there an end goal to your business?
It really depends on the economy and what's going on, we are going to keep doing what we are doing. Keep growing for the next 5 years, get to the point where I could sell this business to a younger guy so he could take over and I get to really retire.
How do you personally define success? Money? Freedom? Influence?
I think it’s making enough money to live the lifestyle that you are comfortable and blessed with. I don’t want to be richer than this guy or I make more than so and so. If I get to do the things I enjoy and spend with my family I think that is success to me.
For someone just starting in the business what is some advice you want to give them?
Do your homework big time, talk to people in the industry. Look up your local pallet yard and go talk to the owner. Figure out what you can bring to the industry and how you can solve customers problems. That’s a big one, stop thinking about selling a pallet and think about how you can solve someone's problem and replicate it to make it a business.
I am in the best shape of my life, moving pallets around has helped me lose weight and get strong. I am thankful we just bought a forklift because life will be a hell of a lot easier. But moving pallets around and starting this business gave me a new life.
I’ve always felt like a Blue collar guy in white collar world. Working for those big companies all the stress and frustration of being told what to do everyday. Now if I want to take off for the day I take off for the day!
Be honest with your customers. You need to be honest with people, let them know if you messed up. Correct your mistakes, people will respect you more.
You can check out North Side Pallets site here.
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