I asked Craig Busch how old he was when he started his business. It actually began in 1985 and today embraces seven companies in two countries, exporting internationally.
“I was 15,” he said. “But not when I started Busch Systems. First I designed and made jewellery; then I had an extensive paperroute. Then I was working part time at Ball Buildall (later Rona, now torn down) on Anne St. We bought picnic table kits from outside suppliers and then my boss looked at me and another guy and said: ‘we have wood; we have nails; why aren’t we building our own kits?’ That’s when I learned about manufacturing costs, time, and partnerships.”
When Craig got interested in plastic productions, he learned the most expensive part is in the mould. He went to an old Barrie company, Plastomer, who had lots of moulds they weren’t using. “They had a line of plastic moulded-injection containers for mostly agricultural use… apple picking, things like that. Automation had sidelined them.”
And that mould became the model for and the launch of Busch Business Systems’ first product… the blue curbside recycling container. When you’re 21 and trying to get a bankloan to manufacture something nobody’s ever heard of, it’s almost impossible. Craig’s parents stepped up to co-sign his loan and Craig put his instincts into full gear on Saunders Rd in Barrie’s south end… Busch Business Systems was born. It was 1985.
When you first start a business, early employees, early successes… these stick in your mind. Craig will always remember the first order… 100,000 curbside recycling bins for the City of Hamilton. (no, not Barrie… Hamilton!) Once Craig’s company tackled the agony of manufacturing, he quickly moved to subcontracting the actual creation of items from moulds and all of his companies today focus on the multi-use of design and they subcontract the manufacturing. It allows them to stay focussed on their core business strengths. Craig talks enthusiastically about how the entire team would cheer when they got a big order, how every person in the company was excited to be part of this growth.
With a degree in Public Policy Administration and part of an MBA from York, this Eastview Secondary graduate says he absolutely loves to design. He gets a huge charge from designing a product that will stack better, ship lighter and outperform any other product out there. He wants the Busch companies to be known for quality, high-end products and he has no interest in ‘winning’ shelf space on discount, big box stores.
When you lift the lid in your kitchen to deposit organic matter, you’re lifting the lid on a Busch container. If you have a cloth diaper service, you’re likely using a Busch diaper pail. If you’re looking at a waste choice on a city sidewalk, you’re likely looking at a Busch product. The companies produce over 250 different products and all are focussed on quality and longevity and low carbon footprint. Busch produces the huge secure document destruction containers used by companies with outside shredding services.
“It can always be better”… that’s Craig’s motto. He’s particularly fond of Italian design and while the rest of us might go to Italy to sample restaurants or wine, Craig’s busy looking at design elements, the cleverness of reduced waste in the mould and manufacturing process.
A year ago Craig and his wife opened California Container and Cabinet Corp in San Diego, CA serving Western Canada and the United States… they’ve developed a unique greenboard technology which is proving environmentally popular.
“I get excited by product design. I enjoy doing things better, innovating things nobody else has done before. I try to keep the design for myself and get rid of what I’m not good at. My business model is to have lots of many things rather than everything of one thing,” he says.
Craig’s got great business management instincts, too. He hires people that he likes and who have fabulous skills and then he finds the right job for them. If he’s got an employee who’s really entrepreneurial, he’ll add to what they’re doing and make sure it’s activities that they love… he has a strong, loyal, young, enthusiastic staff. And each of his companies has a strong leader, or a partner, in charge to carry the business forward. It’s really management by responsibility and Craig instinctively selects the right people for the right areas.
In 2004 when Busch Systems won the Arch Brown Entrepreneurial Award, the entire young staff was there applauding and celebrating the win that belonged to the whole company. It would take a room big enough to hold all 70 employees should that award be given today.
Today Craig’s looking at his fiscally conservative approach, and at the bigger picture. He’s hoping to move his life out of the everything-urgent-important sector into the everything important-not-urgent sector. He has good people all around, and together they have their goals set on sales and growth. While it’s all in a day’s work, Craig doesn’t take anything for granted. Neither does the team. As a community, we’re so lucky to have the Busch group of companies right here, offering environmental solutions to everyday storage problems, whether its recycling, office files, organic waste, cloth diapers, or technology… web-based growth.
Thanks, Craig. Thanks for taking the risk and for growing it wisely!