Starting Out Small – The Creation of an Icon

One iconic business provides an excellent example of this. Transforming his business from a tiny tackle shop to a major company, Johnny Morris (the creator of Bass Pro Shops) proves that baby steps can be key to growing your company.

From Eight Feet to an Indoor Stream

As a shop boy in his father’s liquor store, John L. Morris grew frustrated with the lack of tackle in local stores. Sectioning off an 8-foot section in the back of the store, Morris started his own business selling homemade bait and tackle. Morris’ bait became so popular that he started a mail-order catalog service in 1974.

Then, in 1984, Bass Pro Shop’s flagship store, Outdoor World, opened its doors in Springfield, Missouri and soon became one of the most popular places in the area. The venue was large enough to house streams, trees, aquariums, an indoor waterfall and even live animals.

Kind of a Big Deal

Today, Morris’ business has grown to 56 stores in the U.S. and Canada and a popular mail-order catalog. Attracting more than 4 million visitors yearly, the original Bass Pro store in Springfield, Missouri is the state’s top tourist attraction. In 2010, Bass Pro Shops made number 96 on Forbes top 100 Businesses, and last year the store jumped to number 93.

Humility at Its Best

Even with fame and fortune brought to him by his business, Morris is known for his humility and involvement within his company. It has been said that Morris has a quirky habit to make his driver stop so that he could take photos of interesting trees for inspiration for the interior of his stores.

Morris is also involved in testing the products. In an interview with Bass Pro Shops President Jim Hagale, he said that Morris often described their roles and relationships well. “He (Morris) said, ‘I think we’re a pretty good team. You stay here and work, and I’ll go and test the product.'” Remembering his roots, Morris is still making small steps to improve and build his business.

Bait and Much More

Though Bass Pro Shops grew to be one of the biggest hunting/fishing/outdoor retailers in the world, it has more to offer than just gear and guns.

  • Outdoor World Television: Offering a whole televised experience of hunting, fishing and the outdoor world, Outdoor World Television has won many top industry awards.
  • Big Cedar Lodge: Taking up 850 acres at Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri, this resort offers tons of activities from boating to skiing to fishing and more.
  • Dogwood Canyon Nature Park: Hidden deep in the Missouri Ozarks, this 10,000 acre wilderness is open to the public for historic tram tours, hiking, biking, horseback riding and, of course, trout fishing.

From an 8-foot section to a top brand and successful business, Bass Pro Shop’s story should be a perfect example to all those entrepreneurs out there who are reaching to the stars and waiting to watch their business grow into something amazing. Don’t be afraid to start small. Eventually baby steps could get you to where you want to be or even take you further.