Do you have a social media channel that already has a decent audience? Having an audience to sell to is an instrumental part of a successful ecommerce equation, and one Yard Mastery already has with their popular YouTube channel.
Josh Whitford, COO of Yard Mastery Inc., describes their journey with monetizing their YouTube Channel and branching into an ecommerce website. They started small but caught onto dropshipping as a strategy for facilitating growth.
Yard Mastery is about four years old and not only provides lawn care tutorials, but sells products to DIYers, as well. Josh describes their typical customer as homeowners and DIYers who want to take better care of their yards. “Primarily, we’re a content business,” he says. “We produce videos and newsletters to educate people.”
Here’s their story of growing a successful ecommerce business, facilitated by dropshipping:
Josh and his business partner started with a lawn care YouTube channel and sold a few products, such as t-shirts, to viewers. As the channel grew, some manufacturers noticed Yard Mastery and approached them wanting to package some of their products for a DIY audience. Yard Mastery partnered with these manufacturers to bring their products to the YouTube audience.
“We had an audience, and we found a way to monetize that audience - by partnering with different manufacturers that had products that we liked,” says Josh. They went for products they had already recommended and incorporated them into their content.
For Yard Mastery, this was successful, but they eventually found they needed better systems in place as the business became more busy. “As we grew, the need to have a bit more control over the orders, order flow, process, and fulfillment is how we eventually found Mothership,” Josh says. They had been looking for a solution to streamline how they operated with dropshipping partners and make all those tasks easier.
“I was looking for a solution where we could have multiple dropshipping partners, user and data protection, and products that are related,” says Josh. He came across Mothership, which focused on primarily suppliers at the time. After an initial conversation, Josh asked if Mothership could make the software work in the reverse direction (for small ecommerce businesses who want to manage the dropshipping relationship with suppliers). Mothership was able to accommodate, so Yard Mastery signed up.
Yard Mastery has significantly grown its product offering over time. However, Josh describes how, as a small business, it’s imperative to them that they manage its cash flow well. “If you make the wrong bet, that could be the end of the business,” he says. Adding new products and storing them in inventory can be quite risky.
How does Mothership help Yard Mastery manage cash flow? “Mothership really allows us to test the waters with a product or in the market without having to over-commit capital,” says Josh. It allows them to try out new ideas quickly and efficiently without sinking a lot of cash into inventory. Josh says they can start small, build momentum, and gather data to help them make better product decisions. For example, they have a fertilizer blend which they began selling through dropshipping but have now chosen to hold in inventory as they saw how well it sold.
“We’ve been building our own products or partnering with different manufacturers to resell their products to our audience,” Josh says. “As we’ve grown as a business, we saw there was a need for variations or different ingredients, so we built our own line of fertilizers.”
Having an established audience has played an essential role for Yard Mastery. “We are able to listen to our community, get their feedback - we understand how they’re using it, where they’re using it, and what things they want to see in different fertilizers,” says Josh. “Now we have a large enough audience; we can go and make those products. The dropshipping model allowed us to prove products, prove the marketplace, and prove how things would be received,” he says.
Yard Mastery uses the data gathered from dropshipping products to determine when it makes sense to commit investment into bringing products in-house. He points out that having that data is also valuable proof for fertilizer manufacturers. “If you wanted to go to a fertilizer manufacturer and you have no history with 'em, and you said, ‘I want a line of fertilizer,’ they're going to ask for a half million dollars or whatever, like a million dollars. I don’t know what the number is, but it’d be substantial,” he says.
“By utilizing some kind of dropshipping model, you're able to prove that you have the demand, you have the sell-through capacity to (the manufacturer) that takes some of those risks on,” says Josh.
Yard Mastery now operates with a mix of in-house and drop-shipped products.“From the customer’s standpoint, them not being aware of how any of this works in the back end is the best piece,” Josh says. “Whether we fulfill it, or one of our vendors fulfills it on our behalf, it’s a seamless process for them.”
An interesting part of Yard Mastery’s growth is that now, with their branded fertilizers that they store and fulfill, they’ve become a dropshipping supplier for other small brands.
“In a way, Mothership empowered us to partner with brands and not have to carry inventory and do all those types of things,” says Josh. “We're now able to offer that same kind of service to other people in our niche, which is a unique position to be in, to be able to help empower other content creators, other entrepreneurs, kind of the same way we were empowered.”
For Yard Mastery, Mothership continues to be a valued solution within their business. “For me, it's a tool in the toolbox for new product lines or new brands or new partners,” says Josh. “It's something that we have at our disposal. So as the opportunities become available, we have options with different content creators or manufacturers to start small, build something, prove it out, and then grow it from there,” he says.
What would Josh say to other small businesses who may be considering whether they should work with Mothership?
“I'd say, for the small business entrepreneur type person out there, if you're looking to get into a market, or a niche, or an audience, and you don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest into inventory. But you can find somebody that can fulfill those types of products for you; this is a way to build that momentum up and prove the market,” he says. “And then you can scale and grow as you see fit from there. I'd say that's the most important value add.”