Updated: Jul 5
Have you considered growing your business through acquisition? Sometimes, when our businesses start to grow more slowly, entering a new market through an acquisition can be a great strategy. Today’s guest, Chet Beiler, Owner and CEO of OverEZChickenCoop.com, shares how he catapulted his growth by bringing on a business that wasn’t obviously aligned with his current business, and how you may consider a similar strategy.
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
How to grow your business through acquisition
The importance of knowing your target market to help optimize your messaging
Choosing the right marketing to find customers where they are looking for you
And so much more!
You can listen to the full interview on your desktop or wherever you choose to listen to your podcasts.
Or, watch the full video interview here!
Visit OverEZChickenCoop.com to learn more about these quality backyard chicken coops!
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Prefer reading instead of listening? Read the full transcript here!
Jon LaClare: Have you considered growing your business through acquisition? Sometimes when our businesses start to grow more slowly, entering a new market through an acquisition can be a great strategy. Today's guest shares how he catapulted his growth by bringing on a business that wasn't obviously aligned with his current business, and how you may consider a similar strategy.
Welcome to another episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, focused on helping consumer product companies, inventors and entrepreneurs harvest the growth potential of their product businesses. Today I'm really excited to be speaking with Chet Beiler, he's the owner and CEO of OverEZchickenCoop.com. We'll put that URL in our show notes, so be sure to check it out. He also owns a business called the Amish Country Gazebos business. We'll talk a little bit about that as well in our conversations today.
Really cool line of products, very unique for our many listeners that have been around for a while. We do a lot of on the shelf type products. This is a cool product that you're going to want to hear about. It's very different, I'm sure, in the way he's developed it and markets it, and I think a lot of people could learn from this conversation today. Chet, I'm really excited to have you on the show today. Thanks again.
Chet Beiler: Thank you, Jon, I'm honored to be on your show.
Jon: We're going to talk primarily I think about your newer business, which is the OverEZ Chicken Coop. We can dive into your gazebo business as well in our conversation, but for those in our audience that don't really know what a chicken coop is, I hopefully most do, but could you quickly describe what it is in general and how yours differs from others in the market?
Chet: A chicken coop is generally for someone who has backyard chickens or maybe a farm, and they want 20 or less chickens. It's very different from a large chicken house where you would have thousands of chickens, for sure, so it's all about backyard chickens and fresh, organic eggs every day and that kind of thing.
Jon: Perfect. It's funny, I've noticed a lot of my friends over the last couple of years, especially since COVID, have started to buy chicken coops and put them up in their backyards. I live in a fairly residential neighborhood in Colorado so you don't need a lot of space for these as long as your HOA allows it, et cetera, and they've really loved it. It's been quite a cool experience. I love getting their eggs shared with us too, getting farm fresh or home fresh however you call that eggs in the background.
Your coops that you've developed really have an advantage, or several advantages, over other coops that are out there. As I read your bio and I've talked to you about this a little bit, you've been in the gazebo business, which is similar, at least in construction wise, you know how to make stuff that goes in a yard. What made you come up with this particular idea to make these coops better than others?
Chet: Since the '80s, I've been focused on helping people enjoy outdoor living on their own property, primarily with landscape structures, gazebos, pergolas, pavilions. I actually started the business from scratch in the '80s and then decided a few years ago that I wanted to grow by acquisition. There was actually a company in Colorado, down South of Colorado Springs, where they make sheds. In fact, I would highly recommend them to anyone, it's called The Shed Yard.
Back in 2015, the four brothers who owned that business, who used to live here in Pennsylvania, moved out to the west and they were building houses and then tiny houses and then they developed the shed company called The Shed Yard. I guess it was 2014, 2015 at a trade show they also made chicken coops, but these were chicken coops that were built like a shed, very hard to move around, expensive to ship and even when you get it to Mrs. Smith's house, to get it into the backyard or wherever they want to position it, was really a big chore.
They designed a modular coop that could be shipped, knocked down and then the components could be taken even through a house. We've even sold up into Long Island and Brooklyn and sometimes we take the pieces through a townhouse into their postage stamp backyard, and they could have three or four chickens there. The business was actually developed back in 2015, '16, and then I bought the business in June of 2020 right after COVID hit. We were in negotiations during that time and what we discovered is that because of COVID many, many millions of more people were deciding they wanted to have more sustainable living and fresh organic eggs every day, and so COVID was not hurtful to our growth.
Jon: Absolutely. These sheds, so you talked about some problems where they're hard to deliver, they're hard to set up. I would imagine it was more of a local business in the past where people would buy from local ranch supplies because they were hard to ship. Now you can ship to anywhere in the country. Is that correct?
Chet: That's right. Actually, there are three categories of coops. You might say, good, better, and best. I'm going to cut them a break and say, even the imports from China are like, okay, but many of those only last a season or two and predators can get in and some of them don't even have a floor and you got to put them right on the ground. You can get those for under $500. Then, if you get the shed-like coops, they are much more expensive. They're very well built, you won't ever have to get another one, but they're expensive to ship and hard to move around, as I mentioned a moment ago.
We decided that maybe we could find something down the middle. It's very good quality. The quality is almost as good as those that are built big, bulky ones from the shed companies, but it's modular. People love these and we're selling them by the many thousands, and it's after we went forward with a nationwide marketing program then our business really took off.
When we bought the company, they were localized mainly there in Colorado and the West. Then when we bought the company we applied some of what we learned, and what you do so well, which is, either regional, we choose nationwide digital marketing to get more attention from homeowners for this product.
Jon: Perfect. Once they buy these chicken coops, to consumers, what's your sense on how difficult it is to raise chickens? That's the question I get from friends that have had them et cetera. Once you get the coop, it's easy to set that up. How hard is it to manage the chickens?
Chet: No, you're right. The coop is very easy to put together. We even have the screws where they belong. Every coop that we make it's fully assembled in our shop and then taken apart and then it's just six or seven different pieces that you put together. It really goes together well, you can assemble it with two people in less than one hour. To your question about how difficult it is to raise chickens, very easy, we call it chicken coop for the soul because it really is cool how it's good for the family dynamics. Parents love showing their children how to collect fresh organic eggs every day. Grandparents make memories with their grandchildren. It's really a way to make awesome memories.
There's this thing called chicken math. If you start with three chickens, probably the next year you're going to have five, and the next year seven, and soon you'll have 10. Some people just can't let go of them even after they stop laying eggs and should perhaps become chicken nuggets, but it's but it's really cool.
The number one challenge is, and the number one reason people get out of having backyard chickens is predators. They get discouraged about the foxes getting into the henhouse, and ours are predator resistance so that's another reason our coops are so popular.
Jon: That's great. Let's talk about the marketing side of it. How do people find your business nowadays?
Chet: You could probably write the script on this one, but we reject billboard advertising or even print advertising. Our aim is to be there when someone searches online for anything backyard chicken related. We find that the return on investment when we're there when they are looking is our best marketing dollars. Now, we do also go to market through dealers. We have hundreds of dealers across the country and then we're on other digital platforms like Tractor Supply and other chains like that.
Jon: The standard answer for okay be there when people are searching for you is traditional search engine marketing of course. Doing paid ads behind that, that works really well. As you said, have you found other techniques or marketing channels that work well and in a similar fashion to be there at the right time as people are looking for them beyond search?
Chet: I think search is the way to go. It's easy to measure, it's easy to turn up or down on a dime. Then during COVID, people became increasingly comfortable buying online. We have a Shopify site and we just try to drive traffic there and then on the retail side that's pretty much automated. Now we're also a partner with Amazon wholesale so that we're on their platform, but we do it in a way where they actually buy truckloads and put it in their warehouses and they can deliver right away.
Jon: Got it. That makes a lot of sense. Search is king in that environment, especially for these are not a decent sized purchase these don't cost $10. There's some half to them, of course and it's a significant purchase, although great value for what you get for sure, so, being there at the right time, et cetera. I will tell you, I'm sure you're doing this as well, a lot of our clients and the experience we've had is, retargeting becomes a part of that too. As I'm looking at your market, I see you do a lot of that. It's about being there when they want it the first time on search and then coming back, so they're reminded, because they may have got there like, "Oh, I want to buy one of those." Then they forget about it a week later, whatever. That reminds them, but it's that that warm audience that you've already started to capture, it can you a great way to connect them as well.
Chet: I don't want to dis the power of a printed piece. In fact, we send this out to potential dealers all around the country twice a year, and we're talking about 20,000 potential dealers. We have this thing where we really want to reach out by email, snail mail and phone. When we send these out to potential dealers, then we follow up with a phone call, we outsource that. The funnel, you have to do different things to make it work. We do really favor selling directly to the end-user. In that regard, we of course value digital marketing, and we wouldn't be here without it, certainly couldn't have a nationwide presence.
Jon: No, for sure. What he was holding up for the audience, that's just listening to, this is just a half shit of what is it? 8 or 5 by 11 or something like 5 by 8 printed flyer that he sends in the mail. I assume that's direct mail, you said, and then you follow up with a phone call for these deliveries?
Chet: That's right. Just make the case for why they might want to offer these in, on their lot, because people do enjoy being able to see them physically, We don't have any stores, we just try to equip dealers and then ship directly from our fulfillment center here and down in Georgia to dealers and to Mrs. Smith, or the end-user, for their backyard.
Jon: Who is your-- So if you're talking now direct to the consumer, who is the buyer, or how do you describe them?
Chet: It would be married with children, living on generally an acre or more, and they value outdoor living, and probably have other pets already, often beyond cats and dogs. Maybe have a goat or sheep, maybe a horse. It's the farm and ranch sector is big, but then you'd be amazed at how many people even in subdivisions and some multimillion-dollar homes in Orange County, California, and they want to have backyard chickens. They go with our coops and get three or four chickens. It's really a trend that we are glad is growing.
Jon: You talk about an acre-plus being the normal or target market. Is there any minimum acreage, because I imagine as long as you fit the run where they need to go, that's good enough?
Chet: You can have a 20 by 20 backyard and as long as your neighbors don't mind you having chickens, you can do it.
Jon: You talked about search being obviously a big part of what you do. You've got a detailed understanding of your audience, the way you just described it, your target market, how has that helped you to better market to them?
Chet: Well, we're trying hard to control how our ads appear all the time. You know that, that requires some finesse and there are some automated ways in which to do that. We're constantly asking, how can we connect online with that end-user? The key for us is to be there when they're ready and can they find us? By the way, I might mention backyard chickens are also very popular in Europe and we're expanding to Europe. In fact, I'll be going to Belgium next week to get things set up there. Western Europe, they've been having backyard chickens even at a greater rate than the United States. Until COVID hit now, we're catching up with them, but it's strong over there as well.
Jon: That's great. I alluded to your other business, your Gazebo business a little bit. Can you remind the audience, what's the website for the gazebo business?
Chet: It's just amishgazebos.com. We're back here in the Amish Country in Pennsylvania. We have Amish carpenters that work in our gazebo shop and in the coop factory, and so we call it Amish Country Gazebos. We ship easy-to-assemble gazebo, pergola, and pavilion kits all over the country.
Jon: Is it similar to your coops where you receive them as a consumer and assemble it with two people yourself, just like the coops. That's great-
Chet: That's right. Although with the gazebos, we get into some larger projects with municipalities and all of that. Then we send our crews out to install sometimes down in Florida, Maine, East of the Mississippi. Then we have a network of contractors around the country that can erect a gazebo or pergola for a homeowner or a contractor municipality.
Jon: For those that are again in audio, not seeing the video, I encourage you to check this out on YouTube, or we'll try to get a picture of it, we'll put it in the show notes. Chet's got a great photo behind him on the wall of a gazebo. We think it's a McLaren in there. Beautiful gazebo though. A great example of a very premium one that might fit in your backyard.
How has it helped? You've had that business very successfully for a long time, and now you've got this new chicken coop, how have the two businesses helped each other? Being so successful in one, how has that helped you to catapult your success for the chicken coop business?
Chet: The biggest challenge when I bought the chicken coop business was making coops faster because people will buy if they're in stock and ready to ship. When we could take a portion of our gazebo shop and turn it into a coop factory, and when we could set up a factory also down in Georgia for the coops, then that really solved that problem. I would not have had the wherewithal, the knowledge or the resources to solve that problem if it had not been for decades of experience in making landscape structures.
Jon: I do like the fact that you've talked about growing through acquisition though, and thinking of that. I think it's great advice that a lot of our audience can learn from, so many people. If you've got a successful product business, let's say, or maybe a service business, so often maybe we think about acquisition, but you look very close in. The layperson would never associate gazebos with chicken coops. It's a different market, different clientele, that kind of thing. The construction, the marketing, all that can really line up the two. I think it's ingenious to think about go beyond the obvious in terms of finding partners or acquisitions that can help further grow your business into other marketing channels, other potential consumers, et cetera. Kudos to you. I think it's great to see that connection.
Chet: If I may, we're so enthused about growing by acquisition that we're launching a private equity fund in January where we're going to pool, of course, lots of money from other investors to grow by acquisition at a faster rate. It's primarily going to be in the backyard living sector. It could be anything from-- So, if any of your listeners know of companies that might like to consider an exit because, frankly, COVID, last year in particular, really created some stress for people who might have been in business for decades, and to take 30% or 40% of their energy and time to try to deal with supply chain issues, all that was creating havoc. Last year has been really tough on a lot of businesses and has burned out a lot of people. Before they just throw in the towel, tell them to give us a call and they can maybe have someone who could purchase their business if they're interested.
Jon: That's great. I'm glad you brought that up. To get a hold of you, should they just go to the contact form on one of your websites or is there a better way?
Chet: That would be fine, although, I'm okay giving my mobile number and they can call me directly, or better yet, let me give my email, which would simply be firstname.lastname@example.org, so that's C-H-E-T-B, as in boy, E-I-L-E-R.com. So, email@example.com, that's the best way to reach me.
Jon: Got it. We'll put that in the show notes for anybody that's driving and doesn't have the chance to write that down. Check out the show notes on our harvestgrowthpodcast.com page as well.
Chet: I might also mention this is weird for me, but I don't think there's another Chet Beiler in the country, and so if they just Google me, they'll find me. They will also find that we were on Shark Tank earlier this year.
Jon: Oh, congratulations. That's great. [laughs] That's fun.
Chet: It was an interesting experience there. We almost had Mr. Wonderful as an investor. I'm known as the presenter or the entrepreneur who sabotaged a million-dollar deal because what happened was I was really focused on Robert Herjavec because of his European roots. The reason I was on Shark Tank is we wanted to get some capital to underwrite our expansion to Europe. Mr. Wonderful had made the offer and then I kept going back trying to persuade Robert Herjavec to come in, and then after a while Kevin O' Leary just said, "All right, I'm out." Then I was left with no deal. But the exposure was fantastic, and we've had lots of people calling and saying, "We have money to invest." Now that's why we're launching the private equity fund.
Jon: Oh, fantastic. Great story. Let me ask you, are there any resources that you recommend to our audience that you found helpful in growing your business?
Chet: Yes, indeed. Of course everyone I hope has the E-Myth nearby, the entrepreneurial myth. Michael Gerber, he has been my coach in many ways for more than 30 years now. I think his work is brilliant. It's simple, but he basically talks about creating all these systems whereby you can have your business work for you instead of you just working for it. It's called working on your business, not just in your business.
When it comes to selling, Integrity Selling for the 21st Century, this is by Ron Willingham. We have found that to be a fantastic book for selling in a way that really you might call it empathetic listening.
Then also with negotiations, wow, I mean, your audience really ought to look at this book. It gives you a serious competitive advantage when it comes to negotiations, and it's called Start With No, and it's by Jim Camp. For me, it's the best book I've ever accessed for negotiations which we all are part of every day in some way or another. It's really a good book about how to treat people with respect, how to draw them out, how to listen with a open mind, a blank slate. Then, if we really listen to each other well, all kinds of beautiful things can happen. That's what we're trying to do as we acquire additional companies, is to really listen to what the current owners want, and see if there can be a fit where they can have a respectable exit and we can continue the legacy of what they created.
Jon: Great. Love it. Thank you for sharing those. I've read two out of the three and both great books, I'll have to check out the third one as well. Is there anything, Chet, that I didn't ask in this interview that you think could be helpful for our audience?
Chet: I guess it's whether the sky is going to fall with the current administration and inflation the way it is, and some of the things that seem to be unraveling in our country. I'm an eternal optimist, I believe our institutions are still strong, and that we can get through this and that no matter what happens, as long as you and I and your listeners look for ways to add value every day, in some way, I think we can get through this.
Jon: I'm glad you brought that up. I think it's very timely advice. It's good to be positive. Your business has been around for a long time. I've been through a couple recessions. We've been around for 15 years. You've been around for a few other or a couple other recessions beyond that as well. I got some great advice when I first started my business anywhere. Basically, in a recession it could be a great time to really grow your business. So many of your competitors are really tamping down, not spending much on marketing and sales, et cetera, and they're losing out a lot of growth opportunities just because it's the fear of it really, but it can be an opportunity.
Sure, you have to be careful. It's not as easy as it is during the high times, but it can be a great opportunity to really grow your business. You talked about being positive, keeping your chin up during that is really a big part of that, and really pushing forward to make sure that you stay stable as a business, but really have the chance to grow, even as the world around us may suffer. Hopefully, it won't, but if we do start to see a recession, it can be an opportunity for us as well.
Chet: Yes. I think as long as we're focused on adding value in some way to our fellow men, we can survive. Right when I graduated from high school back in the 80s, I had grown up on a family farm. There were eight of us kids, four boys, four girls, my mom and dad, and we lost everything because the family farm due to a fire and a recession that was so bad back in the early 80s, so then we had to sell everything, move in with relatives, and then find a place to fix up.
My parents, who were Amish, all they knew was farming, and my mom knew how to clean up after eight kids. How could she add value after they lost everything? Well, she took to cleaning hotel rooms. Now I always leave a nice $5 tip whenever I stay at a hotel [laughs] because I feel like I might be tipping my mom or someone who needs to get ahead like that. Then she leveraged that to start cleaning people's homes down toward Philadelphia. This is when the service economy was kicking in, and a lot of women were starting to work outside the home. Then after I graduated from college at Pepperdine University, I came back to Pennsylvania, helped her grow that business.
This was on the heels of a great terrible recession. Losing our family farm, and my mom and dad with only an 8th grade education all they did was say, "How can we help other people? How can we add value?" Then they were able to repay all their debts. While they didn't get rich, they were able to keep their integrity and make ends meet. So no matter what happens I think if we all think about how can we help others, and do that with integrity, it all takes marketing too, you got to get the word out, then we're going to be okay.
Jon: Oh, thank you for sharing that. that's an inspirational story for sure. Chet, I want to thank you for taking the time for this interview. It's been great, really fun for me, and I'm sure for our audience as well. Let me remind our audience, please go check out Chet's website OverEZchickencoop.com. It's the letter EZ for easy, and we'll put the spelling in the show notes as well. Also check out amishgazebos.com to learn more about Chet's businesses and see the great work that he is done.
Be sure to check out Harvest Growth Podcast to see other episodes we've recorded. If you like this episode, you want to learn more about how you can profitably grow your consumer product business, please subscribe to our show and leave us a review on iTunes or Google Play.
Chet, thanks again.
Chet: My pleasure. Thank you, Jon.
[00:26:53] [END OF AUDIO]