By Adam Turner
Work doesn’t have to be work.
In fact, business is pleasure for 22-year-old junior public relations major Andrew Pennington, an entrepreneur who chose to pursue what he’s most passionate about.
A Corbin native, Pennington runs his own online business at contractoryardsale.com, a niche-specific classifieds and auctions market place geared toward people in need of a venue to sell business materials.
“The idea behind it was to have a place where say, if you built a doghouse and had 15 boards left over, you would have an outlet to sell those to local people,” Pennington said. “And, of course, the idea is not limited to just you or I or anyone else in the community. Places that have old stock or surplus or stuff like that from all over can sell their things as well.”
Similar to eBay and Craigslist, the website began roughly a year ago on Pennington’s laptop for $500. Pennington said his family’s profession inspired the site.
“They manufacture concrete blocks in Corbin actually,” Pennington said. “And my father has a distributorship through a window company and he had a lot of stuff leftover. People would buy them and then return them or it would be the wrong size or the wrong color. Over 25 years, he’s compiled a lot. And I said that the people who come in here to buy stuff don’t even know you have this. It’s hard to send them from your location down the road to a warehouse to look at something they may not need. But if they can get on their laptop or iPhone to look at it, then they could call you directly about that.”
After the idea was in place, the name was easy.
“A contractor yard sale is an actual thing,” Pennington said. “If you’re a contractor you can have a yard sale at your house and that’s what they call it, and I just thought it was cool that that domain name was even available. And it was a cheap one too!”
Since, Pennington has kept busy at work maintaining the website, soliciting clients and brainstorming new ideas to help his dream prosper.
Pennington said his enterprise has been profitable thus far, even though he was told it would take at least five years.
“That’s not particularly true for a lot of online stuff, but it’s true traditionally,” Pennington said. “Originally, I profited off the ad placement, but then I realized that with Craigslist and eBay classifieds, people weren’t going to pay for a basic picture and description.”
He added that is because people expect everything on the Internet to be free, so his solution was to cater to that era.
“With Internet services, it’s like they charge for something besides what they do. So say, my profit model is you can place an ad for free, you can add pictures and a Youtube video for free, that’s fine,” Pennington said. “But if you want a premium listing like you see at the bottom on the homepage, it costs you. If the auctions finalize and they sell, you get ten percent just like eBay. You end up not very well off if it’s just a dollar’s worth, but if someone sells $1,000, I’m gonna do alright.”
Pennington said though the experience is time consuming, it is satisfying knowing he can provide a service that helps people save money.
“People are going to realize that if they don’t offer a product where the people who are looking at can save money, they’re not going to sell it,” Pennington said. “This solves a problem and people our age are making companies that solve problems. It’s not ‘Let’s wear a suit and be a businessman and live a boring life and have everyone hate us and not pay enough taxes.’ I feel like when students get a degree and graduate from college, they kind of have the wrong view of what entrepreneurship can be.”
Still, Pennington admits that entrepreneurship may not be for everyone, but he offers simple advice for those ready to take the chance.
“It’s very important, and it’s going to sound ridiculous, but you just have to do it. You have to,” Pennington said. “If you’re in it for the profit solely, it’s probably not going to be very satisfying, but whichever one you are passionate about, you should pursue it.”
Pennington said he urges students to use the resources available to college students, especially the Center for Economic Development located in the business building.
“I don’t think you’ll have another time in your life where you’ll be surrounded by this much knowledge in this many different areas combined with the sense of community that Eastern has,” he said. “They [economic development] have a business incubator and all those folks there have been amazing and helped me.”
And Pennington stresses that now is the perfect time for students with little more than a dollar and a dream to start.
“You have more time. You might not think you do, but you do,” Pennington said. “You’re a lot more flexible, you have more energy, you’re not old! I know that sounds funny, but you’re not washed up and tired of it. We are in a better position knowing as much about technology as we do now, a significant advantage to our parents’ generation. They’re not starting online businesses. It’s up to us.”
Looking ahead, Pennington hopes to eventually give back to the world in a more meaningful way.
“What I think the next thing I would love to work with is social entrepreneurship, helping someone with a for-profit model instead of a non-profit,” Pennington said. “Why not help people in the process? And I think that will be what interests people in college more than just making a profit. It’s very interesting how you can apply business to awesome things. It’s limitless.”
For the moment, however, he is simply living his dream.
“This is what interests me, even over public relations and business and honestly even over college. To me, new and progressive ideas, I like that idea of business.”