Entrepreneur: Faith, perseverance, fun translate to success

MANSFIELD – Thirty-four years ago, Johnny Berguson found himself without a job, broke and desperately searching for work and answers.

But he had an idea. He thought he could possibly sell audio cassettes on horse training.

“My wife said you can do it if you want to, but it will never make us a living,” he said.

Berguson didn’t quite believe that. He borrowed a little bit of money and got started.

To get out the word about his venture he bought classified advertising in horse magazines.

“After three or four months I started getting phone calls,” he said. “I started selling blank cassette tapes to record their services,” he recalled.

That turned into something else: Churches that needed cassette labels. Berguson went ahead and brought a printing press to create them.

Then he added other products to his business that churches needed – microphones, cassette recorders.

It was all about, he said, seeing opportunities and jumping at them.

“Some of the things we ventured into worked out pretty well, and some didn’t work out so well,” he said.

Overall, it would be safe to say things have worked out for Berguson. His online retail business, Kingdom Inc. recently was recognized as a top 1,000 e-commerce site in the U.S. and Canada by Internet Retailer, publisher of the Top 500 Guide and Second 500 Guide.

Kingdom, based in Mansfield, attracts more than 80,000 visitors a month to its online site and most recently had 3,300 unique products for sale in a variety of categories.

The company has come a long way. An enterprise that started at Berguson’s kitchen table now employs 65 people. But his story is one of perseverance and believing in a dream when everyone else said he couldn’t make it happen.

It’s also about faith.

Prior to launching his business venture, Berguson had spent a number of years traveling with his horse Shiek, spreading the Christian gospel.

They appeared on “The 700 Club,” attended horse shows and fairs and visited churches and even race tracks.

“Wherever I could, I tried to remind of the basic message that all Christian churches were teaching,” he said.

But those gigs suddenly, almost inexplicably, went away by 1980.

Berguson tried without success to find jobs.

“I got down to no money at all,” he said. “That’s when I told my wife I should put out these audio-cassettes on horse training. So what happened was, I prayed and began reading my Bible.

He came across a Bible passage: “In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” It was Proverbs, chapter 14, verse 23.

Kingdom Inc. Executive Director Michael Ritter, who’s been with the company since 1993, has seen its steady success.

“I think one of the big things is Johnny is always open to new ways to serving our customers,” he said. “They are also willing to test new ideas when others aren’t.”

It’s a company, he said, that has kept true to its mission to “glorify God by helping its customers, primarily churches and ministries.”

Berguson said he never really sought to be a businessman. After picking up a degree at Mansfield University, he went to work as a land lease agent for an oil and gas company. He later held different sales jobs.

An advertising sales representative job he held taught him some important lessons that would later prove invaluable.

“That helped because I got to see a lot of things (advertising) that worked and a lot of things that didn’t,” he explained.

Running his business, he said, has been a lot of trial and error and learning along the way. He said it’s also been a lot of fun.

Now 64, he said he has no plans to retire, although he may slow down a bit at some point.

His advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: “I always tell people that if you don’t like your work find something else to so because you are wasting a third of your life.”