Feature, Profiles, V7I3

Building a Legacy

Legacy Shed Company management (from left): Conrad Eaton, Nate Miller, Carl Overholt.

What does it take to start a shed business?

First, you need an idea. That’s how Legacy Shed Company in North Carolina was created in 2019.

“About two years ago, my idea with Legacy was I thought it would be a good idea to build the strongest shed possible but try to keep the cost as low as possible,” says Carl Overholt, co-owner, who operates the manufacturing side of Legacy. 

“My whole plan was just to try to build the best shed that we can while keeping that cost as low as we can.”

Legacy’s other co-owner, Conrad Eaton, Overholt’s cousin, handles the sales side of the operation. The collaboration, and the implementation of the idea, has worked well for the young business, with annual sales booming.

But the idea wouldn’t have gotten off the ground if it hadn’t been for a chance meeting.

BEGINNING SUCCESS, CHALLENGES

Both Eaton and Overholt had years of experience in the shed industry before launching Legacy Shed Company.

Overholt started with a major shed company about 15 years ago.

“It was actually going to be a part-time gig for me,” he says. “They quickly determined that I grew up in construction, I have a lot of construction experience, so they moved me over into a building bay.”

When the company wanted to restart its on-site building program, they tapped Overholt to oversee the crews.

“I did that for two or three years,” he shares. “I came back to the shop after I got tired of doing on-sites just because it was a lot of traveling.”

After a stint with another shed business, Overholt’s idea for his own shed shop began to form.

Eaton grew up in the shed-building industry in his dad’s shop, Liberty Storage Solutions, beginning in his teens. 

“I started with building and then moved over to sales,” he says. “My dad knew that I was a talkative guy and that I was good with people. So he just said, ‘You know, this is what you’re going to do, and just figure it out,’ and those were the exact words ‘just figure it out.’”

Eaton did figure it out, becoming a part-owner of the business. After about 10 years, the desire to start his own shed business grew. He was on the verge of starting one business, but that fell through.

It was at that time that Eaton was staying at his cousin’s house, and the pair realized that they each wanted to start a shed business.

“Carl’s wife, she asked me, ‘Conrad, what are you looking to do?’” he shares. “And I told her, ‘You know, I’m doing sales, but I’m wanting to start a barn company.’ Carl perked up and said he had no idea. 

“I told him the only reason I hadn’t started is I need somebody that can run the manufacturing side because I’ve got the sales covered. And Carl, on the spot, says, ‘You know, I’ve been wanting to start a barn company, but I don’t know the sales side. I know the manufacturing side.’”

Eaton says at that moment, he and Overholt jumped in his truck and started looking for barn shops. 

That encounter took place in June/July of 2019. On November 23, Legacy Shed Company built its first shed.

Of course, starting a new business is not an easy proposition, and that’s without throwing a worldwide pandemic in the mix.

“It was kind of a two-fold thing when we were starting our company,” Eaton shares. “Nothing ever comes together as fast as you want it to. Our shop didn’t open up as quick as what the guys said it would. 

“Then COVID-19 hits. It was a really scary time for us. I didn’t know if we’d be shut down, and we were not in a position at all to be able to be shutting our doors right when we were barely off of our feet.” 

However, the shed industry bucked the downward COVID-19 economic trend.

“Thankfully with incredible shed sales, we were basically manufacturing as much as we could do, and we were actually six to eight weeks behind on all of our orders out the gate,” says Eaton. “So, it was challenging to keep up, and then another unforeseen challenge was dealing with lumber increases, what we needed to do to adjust. 

“You have to learn in this business to be quick. If you wait too long, you may miss an opportunity and you may really hurt your business greatly.” 

“We talked with the customers,” says Overholt. “We’ve just been honest with them. The prices have gone up since August. We’re chasing down different products from different places. We’re doing the best we can.”

COVID-19 also made it challenging to get sales started and find dealers. Eaton says that the majority of the company’s sales were made online in the beginning since people weren’t willing to take the risk of setting up a shed dealership early on in the pandemic.

“The sales were about 90 percent online, and we were able to use that to our advantage with ShedSuite and tools like that to really slingshot us forward in our first year of production,” he says.

Now, Eaton says Legacy has quite a few dealerships selling its products from North Carolina to Georgia. And the company is slowly adding more dealers as it can take them on.

“My philosophy has never been to go steal dealers from competitors,” he points out. “I always try to find people that come to me or trying to find somebody who knows somebody, or whatever, that’s interested or that may have had experience and trying to start something organically from scratch.”

CONSTRUCTION AND DELIVERY

For Overholt, the operations of Legacy Shed Company are more than building and selling sheds. It’s about people and relationships. 

“When I sat down with Conrad, I told him straight off, of course, we all want to make money, but honestly, I’m heavily involved with our church and I told him I want this to be an extension of who I am,” he shares. 

“I said I’m much more interested in the people and relationships that we’re dealing with than I am with making a profit, and I said I want that to reflect in our company from top to bottom. I want to be sure that my guys that work up at the shop know that they’re not just there to build a barn. We’re here for each other.

“This is a team effort here. If you see a guy down at the end of the shop struggling, we’re going to help you and vice versa. This is about relationships and about people, so I think that’s really translated well throughout the business.”

Legacy builds all of its sheds in three bays. Six men build the structures, with three roofers and two painters to finish up. 

“So, my builders, when the shed is done, will push the shed out of their bay and take it to the paint crew,” says Overholt. “The paint crew does their thing, and then we take it down to the roofing crew, and then we have a guy who does all the finish work, touch up the paint, put in the doors, make sure they look good.”

Throughout the process, especially as the business has grown, Overholt stresses that he focuses on people and relationships. 

“You have to be more and more intentional about that,” he points out. “You can start sliding pretty quick. I hope to continue that as the company gets bigger.

“It’s so easy just to go to work and do your job and go home. You know, that’s task-oriented people. That’s an easy thing to do. I’m a task-oriented person, so I can quickly overlook the people in the process, in completing a task, but I’ve been really intentional about focusing on the people in this business. 

“Sheds are very important, but the people are more important.”

The sheds Legacy offers come in just a few styles, such as lofted barns and utility buildings. 

“It’s like an old-fashioned hamburger or hot dog stand, and they do this every day when they’re open,” Eaton says. “They have a line out the door of people going to get that product because it’s a really good product. They don’t offer a whole lot of things, but their product is so good that people come back for more.” 

He says that’s how he and Overholt have been structuring the business, offering a few good options and gaining the majority of the customer base. 

“So far, it’s worked out really well, but we are in the process of adding a few more designs as we speak, to add steel buildings to our line, and so forth,” Eaton shares.

Also, each structure Legacy offers at this time is painted.

“I had seen a trend back 10 years ago that everybody was selling the treated T1-11 building, and I always have seen that they sell good, there was never a problem of selling them,” says Eaton. “But the problem was maintenance issues, and so we decided to go strictly paint.” 

Right now, Legacy services about a 250-mile radius around its plant in South Carolina, and Eaton admits that delivery has been something of a challenge.

“One of the biggest unforeseen difficulties in this business was discovering how hard it is to find good drivers,” he shares. “No matter if you have a lot of connections, it just hard to find consistent good help, especially when you’re covering a big area. 

“With the boom of the shed industry, everybody has low-hanging fruit; they can pick and choose where they want to work.” 

Add in being a startup business and doing two- to three-times more business than expected, and there’s a lot of stress to have enough drivers to cover the area and try to keep up with delivery timeframes. 

“Now that we’re a year-and-a-half going toward two years into it, we’re getting more established. We’re able to find more help.”

THE FUTURE

“I’ve been on the sales side of the business for 14 years now and we have seen continual growth over the span of that time,” says Eaton. “I think that technology has made it much easier to sell buildings to reach customer bases by the masses.”

He sees the shed industry becoming more like Amazon, being more dependent on the Internet instead of traditional sales. 

“We’ve been trying to use online marketing to reach individuals and then use it to bring the individuals to our location to choose their building,” shares Eaton. 

“One of the issues with online sales is that customers may make a decision on a unit without seeing it, and then when they get it, it’s either bigger or smaller than what they expected because customers can’t really see or tell exactly how big something is in a picture no matter how good the salesman explained it to them or goes through the process with them. 

“You’ll never get rid of the importance of seeing it in person to really get the correct idea, so I keep doing the online marketing but use that as a tool to almost force them to come and take a look before they pull the trigger.”

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