How ‘a little by chance’ turned into Utah’s International Business of the Year
Reception at Walker Edison World Headquarters in western Jordan. (Go Utah)
Estimated reading time: 5-6 minutes
WEST JORDAN – Brad Bonham grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, but he still describes his fall into what has become a hugely successful business as “a bit of a fluke”.
“I was selling gift baskets and gift products at Walmart retail stores,” he said.
Selling these products taught the CEO and co-owner of Walker Edison the power to leverage a much larger retailer’s consumer base for his own business ventures.
This experience and knowledge eventually led Bonham, then of college age, to the Canton Fair in China – the oldest, largest and most representative trade fair in the country – where he researched additional products to sell in Walmart stores.
“We found this piece of furniture disassembled and I had just bought the same thing from Best Buy for about 250 bucks. When the factory owner told me the (original) price, I was like, ‘Damn Holy shit, someone made that much money selling me this thing through Best Buy?” Bonham recalled.
With this, Bonham ordered a container of furniture “on a whim”, with her father being her first backer, paying for the first containers of product and starting what would in 2006 become Walker Edison, an e-commerce based in Utah. manufacturing company that provides high-quality, ready-to-assemble home furniture, shipped directly to consumers’ doors.
After a decade of being named one of Utah Business’s 50 fastest growing companies in the state, Walker Edison was named this month by the World Trade Center Utah and the Governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, as Utah’s International Business of the Year.
“We are grateful for your business operations in Utah and recognize the rapid growth of your international business. Your team and capabilities have grown, as has your brand in the global marketplace,” Cox said in a statement to Walker Edison. . “Thank you for your headquarters in Utah and for your corporate citizenship – to give back generously to communities and causes in the state.”
Moving to different markets
Bonham doesn’t hesitate to enter e-commerce at the perfect time.
“If you go back, maybe even in history to when you should have started an online furniture business, there were times when I, by sheer luck, picked the right time to bring in some of these items” , Bonham said. “Now the market is quite saturated with many different vendors. At the time, these big retailers were really looking to get more products on their websites.”
Although he got into the business at the right time, it still took work for Bonham to expand his business into different markets.
Especially since Bonham said the local investment community had never seen his internet furniture business as “super sexy”.
“I had to build this business purely on retained earnings,” Bonham said. “All the dollars we earned, my partner Matt Davis and I, funneled those dollars back into future inventory purchases and we did that for over a decade.”
To take the business to the next level, Bonham launched what he called “Operation Moneyball”, inspired by the 2011 sports drama film, where the Oakland A manager uses analytics to run his baseball team. and make personnel decisions.
“I had my management team write down any questions they didn’t know the answer to on the board in our boardroom,” Bonham said.
Within two hours, the board was filled with questions related to inventory stock, margins by distribution partner, and a host of other unknowns.
“We didn’t know much about our business, we happened to be in a very high raw space and our products were selling well – it was pretty straightforward at the time,” Bonham said.
These unknowns led Bonham to join Domo, an American Fork-based business intelligence software company, which enabled Walker Edison to use an aggregation tool to access the data.
“The moment we leveraged analytics in our business, data became the focal point of how we made decisions (and) that’s really when it took off,” said Bonham.
Now Bonham said Walker Edison has sourcing offices in Southeast Asia and Brazil, warehouses in Canada, England and Germany as well as a sales and marketing office in London.
Lessons learned and future prospects
Being named Utah’s International Business of the Year means a lot to Bonham, he said.
“It kind of validates our concept that this wasn’t just a business plan for us here in Utah or for us here in the United States on a national level,” Bonham said. “We know how to do business across the country and develop and market products that meet the needs and demands of those in other places.”
To achieve this goal, Bonham said it has invested heavily in corporate culture, referring to the saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.
“I totally agree with that because if you have a terrible culture, nobody wants to work for you and that means your output is pretty low,” Bonham said. “If people enjoy working for you and it’s not a chore when they get up in the morning, they’re motivated to succeed and that’s really what we want.”
This mindset permeated Walker Edison and Bonham said culture is the thread that binds the company together.
“We now sponsor dozens of charities,” Bonham said. “Everyone in the company gets paid to take time out every quarter and we run specific charity events brought to us by our employees and that has made all the difference in the world as a culture building exercise. “
Despite the recognition and success, Bonham said he still sees “a lot of avenue” for domestic businesses in the United States, but the fastest growing business segments are overseas.
The moment we leveraged analytics in our business, data became the focal point of how we made decisions (and) that’s really when it took off.
–Brad Bonham, Founder and CEO of Walker Edison
“In (the European Union) and Canada, we continue to look for opportunities where there is an infrastructure that will allow a company like ours to succeed,” Bonham said, adding that they have hundreds of employees. distributed across the world.
“I think the demand for our products and the way we market, develop and sell them is now a proven business model, where we are one of the largest consumer products companies in the state. “, Bonham said.