Josh Johnson, specialty sales manager, MDB
Jane Kitchen -- Kids Today, 2/1/2012 2:00:00 AM
Early years: Since graduating from Harvard in 2006, Josh Johnston has only worked at MDB. He went to school with MDB family members Tracy and Teddy Fong, and was recruited for the newly created position of specialty sales manager in the fall of 2006.
"It's certainly not where I thought I'd be ," said Johnston. "...They had a need, and I had a desire, and it was just sort of a natural fit. We were - and still are - a small family company."
At the beginning, Johnston worked out of MDB's Atlanta office, and was responsible primarily for specialty store accounts east of the Mississippi.
He dove right in, learning all he could about the industry - hands on.
"I traveled about 20,000 miles in six months," remembers Johnston. "I went all over the East coast, and I stopped at anything I came across that had anything to do with baby."
He spoke to specialty store owners, asking what MDB could do to meet their needs, and listening to their answers.
"I just kind of made it my baby - meeting people, talking to people," said Johnston.
That hands-on attitude paid off; Johnston soon found himself responsible for all accounts nationwide.
Growth: Not only did Johnston's responsibilities grow, the company changed and grew as well, acquiring or starting four new brands. When Johnston started, MDB consisted of only Million Dollar Baby and DaVinci; in the past five years, it has launched Babyletto, acquired Nurseryworks, and, most recently, debuted its new Franklin & Ben brand.
"As a company, we've gone through a lot of changes," said Johnston.
In the past year and a half, said Johnston, MDB has focused on separating out its product line, with DaVinci being offered to online customers and Million Dollar Baby being exclusively for independent retailers.
The new traditional Franklin & Ben line, launched this fall at the ABC Show, was a culmination of two years of effort, and based on conversations and feedback he and others at the company have had with independent retailers over the years.
"We took a look at the industry, and we took a look at our business," said Johnston. "... The independents are struggling. There's not a whole lot of really great quality product geared toward independent specialty... This is something that lets them stand out against the competition."
And with its trend-right good looks and sharp price points, the Franklin & Ben line really got the buzz going.
"It was definitely very exciting to be a part of that," said Johnston. "...One of the most exciting things for me was seeing retailers who I've been trying to get business from for the past five years - almost every single one of them was in our booth buying into the program."
Having worked exclusively with specialty stores in his five-year career, Johnston understands the challenges those stores are facing.
"Wholesalers need to be making a decision that this is an important part of our industry, and our heritage, and how do we support that," said Johnston.
Future plans: But MDB - and Johnston - don't have any plans to rest on their laurels with the success of Franklin & Ben.
"My focus in the future is growing that business, and continuing to work closely with the independents not only on Franklin & Ben, but also to see what else can we do - I don't think creating one product line is the end," said Johnston. "It's an ongoing process to see what are their needs today and tomorrow and what can we do to help fulfill those needs...I don't think that's something that ever stops."
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