Eric Johnson ’72, P’08

As a child growing up on Chicago’s South Side in the late 1950s, Eric Johnson ’72, P’08, watched his father successfully build Johnson Products, a manufacturer of ethnic hair-care products. Seeing how a business could strengthen a community, as Johnson Products did by creating jobs and paying good wages, made an impact on the young Johnson.

Following in his father’s footsteps, in 1989, Johnson became the chief executive officer of Johnson Products Company, the nation’s first African American-owned publicly traded company. Today, Johnson is the president and chief executive officer of Baldwin Richardson Foods, one of the largest African American-owned businesses in the food industry. With more than 323 employees and $274 million in sales, Baldwin Richardson Foods is a leading manufacturer of custom food and beverage ingredients for global brands including McDonald’s Corporation, Kellogg, General Mills, Dunkin Brands, Starbucks, and Frito-Lay Quaker Oats.

A common thread throughout Johnson’s storied career: giving back, especially to organizations that educate and expand opportunities for urban minority communities facing economic and educational disadvantages.

“In our business, we believe that diversity leads to the quality of our decision making,” said Johnson. “As entrepreneurs, we are accountable for ourselves and if successful, for others. This is a belief that I fully embrace.”

In 2016, Johnson was inducted into Babson’s Alumni Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. He was awarded the Ronald McDonald House Charities’ Crystal Heart Award in 2011, the National Black McDonald’s Operators Association (NBMOA) Lee Dunham Visionary Award in 2012 and McDonald’s System First Award in 2014.