We’ve been working on a series of articles on the Outdoor Games Blog that will owners. of Outdoor Game related businesses. We’re especially interested in members of the Cornhole community who have started businesses. We want to know how these small businesses came to be, what makes them unique, their general workflow, and their plans for the future.
Our first Q&A is with Dan Sinnett, owner of GamedayToss.com. Dan offered up some great information that really gives you an idea of what it’s like to be in the business of Cornhole.
Business Spotlight : Gameday Toss
What’s your business?
Gameday Toss manufactures and sells custom cornhole boards, bags and accessories. In the very near future we will also offer washers, ladder golf, beersbie, and other ‘backyard’ games.
How did you learn about the game that is/are the basis for your business?
I grew up in southern Wisconsin and we had a set of cornhole boards growing up. We played quite often but just thought it was a simple game that a few people in the area played. I didn’t realize its recent boom in popularity until a Saturday afternoon Brewer vs Cubs game at Miller Park in Milwaukee back in 2006….at that point I knew I had to start building and, as they say, “The rest is history”.
Talk about the moment your hobby became a business.
A peek into a custom paint booth/room that I built. Air is filtered coming in and out of the room (out vent in background) Keeps the dust down and creates a bit of a down draft for real nice finishes.
I have always had an interest in being an entrepreneur but didn’t want to do something where I was just another small fish in a big pond. I wanted to find something that was unique, something where I could produce the product and do a really good job at it, and something that was fun. The last thing I wanted is another “job” since I already have one of those. I always had a wide range of interests from wood working, programming and web development and a general interest in business and wanted to find some kind of way to bridge those into a “hobby with benefits”…. something fun that I could pull some extra cash by doing. Building, marketing and selling cornhole boards was going to be it!During the summer of 2006, my wife and I went with a bunch of friends to Miller Park in Milwaukee to watch the Brewers play the Cubs on a bright and sunny Saturday afternoon. We tailgated in the parking lot as we always do and then as we headed into the stadium I was blown away by then number of people playing cornhole. I didn’t know that people knew about this game. I thought it was just a simple game that we had growing up but nothing that was that popular. I saw everything from the commercial boards to people’s home built versions and it got me wondering what kind of market there really was for this game.
That night when we got home I went on eBay to see if/how many boards were selling out there, as eBay is (well used to be, not as much anymore) a great resource for finding what a market is like and I was stunned by how many boards were out there and how much people were making on them.
I have always loved wood working and was looking for a good excuse to fill the garage with new tools and saw dust….and this was it! The next day I made a trip to Menards to pick up materials and a few tools and made my first set. That night I started building the original gamedaytoss.com website and it has been a very fun adventure since then.
When did this business start? Offline/Online
Officially as a business we have always been online. I started with about $100 to ‘invest’ and already had the knowledge and resources to host a web site and do basic, inexpensive advertising. I put together a shopping cart and started pushing traffic and low and behold people started buying boards. I distinctly remember getting the first automated email that an order had been placed…I couldn’t believe it! It was actually working. Ever since that email I have been hooked.The business will remain online only into the foreseeable future. There just is not a compelling enough argument for us to go “brick and mortar”. We do however try to interact with our customers as if they are standing there with us. We are very hands on and want to make sure that the product our customers buy is more than they expected. You can have the best products in the world but unless you have happy customers you won’t have a business.
How much of your life is this business? Is this a full time or part time job? Employees?
Removing the paint stencil that I made using a vinyl cutter. Most people make decals with those cutters, I make paint screens. I prefer paint over decals.
This is a fun question to answer. Technically my full time job is as a Network Engineer for a large international Managed Services company. That is the job that I get out of bed at 7am to go to every day.
Gameday Toss is what keeps me up at night…but in a good way. It is safe to say that unless I am at my full time job, I am ‘working’ on Gameday Toss. Very rarely does it not come up in conversation or there are thoughts about marketing, product development, pending orders, process improvements, etc, etc bouncing through my head. It is a personal challenge, something that I have a lot of pride in and something that I can call mine.
I also have to say that I have been blessed with the most wonderful, supportive and understanding Wife in the world. Like I said, I spend a LOT of time on GDT and she is always right there with me, supporting me, helping me make decisions, being a great listener and giving some of the best ideas and advise. Without her, Gameday Toss would not be .
Where is your business located? Does that have an effect on your sales or distribution?
We are located in Madison, Wisconsin. I operate the business out of my home. The garage has turned into my workshop, leaving the vehicles on the street for the harsh Wisconsin winters. I have even built a completely enclosed and vented paint booth in the basement for finishing boards in a clean, dust free environment.We have always had good sales numbers. Considering what we have done for advertising I have been very happy with our volume. We are on the outskirts of the epicenter of cornhole being the Ohio River Valley region but we are close enough to still keep our fingers on the pulse of what is going in the world of cornhole.
From a distribution perspective I think we are very fortunate being centrally located in the US. It help to keep our shipping costs down and with Chicago only 2 hours away, shipments make it to the FedEx hub that night so our products move around the country very nicely.
Considering our central US location and the partnership we have established with FedEx we are able provide flat rate shipping rates using FedEx Ground to anywhere in the lower 48 states. Shipping starts at $9.95 for your entire order and will never be more than $19.95 for your order. If you have ever done calculations or shipped boards across country, you know it is not out of the question to have it cost $40 or more. We have shipped 5+ sets for a single order and charged $9.95 for shipping.
Our philosophy is that we are in the business to get our products into our customer’s hands, not take all of their money. So we will eat some of the shipping costs if it means our customers get the highest quality products that they will be able to enjoy for years and years to come.
Have you ever worked with other related groups or businesses? Online/Offline
About half done with the boards paint work. Picture of me with the design and the work in progress.
This year we have partnered with a custom cabinet builder from the Madison area who is now manufacturing our boards for us. This was a strategic move because I was quickly learning that there was no way I was going to be able to keep up with demand out of my garage.The tools that I have are not designed for larger volumes of production, nor am I; being the primary builder with occasional assistance from my brother-in-law. I needed to figure out a way to get extra hours in a day or find the ability to produce by way of tool investments and process improvements. I looked into figuring out how we could slow the Earth’s rotation to get a few more hours in a day, but all attempts failed J and investing $20,000 in my own shop was out of the question so the next logical step was to partner with a local wood worker who already had the tools and manpower to create our custom boards on a larger scale.
I auditioned a few cabinetmakers in the area and the ones we partnered with do UNBELIEVABLE work! I have a lot of pride in the work that I do and the boards that I made, but with their access to premium materials, which Menard’s, Lowe’s and Home Depot would only dream of carrying, and their machinery and attention to detail, the new 2011 Gameday Toss boards could almost be considered furniture!
We are always going to be a quality over quantity business, and our partnership has given us the ability to improve the quality AND quantity at the same time.
What aspect of your business do you feel is your weakness/room for growth/open area for new partnership?
A business that says the have no room for improvement is either blind or lying to you. We are no exception. We are constantly looking for ways that we can better serve our customers. We are not just interested in shipping a set of cornhole boards to a customer and calling it a day. We want to make sure that they are happy with every aspect of working with Gameday Toss. From product quality, web site experience, access to information, trust and security, we want to bring that “Main Street” shop feel to our Internet based store.Right now we are working on creating a series of informational videos ranging from product tours and demonstrations to general information about different wood, finishes, advantages/disadvantages, building techniques to buyers guides, just to name a few. We want our customers to know whom they are dealing with when they come to Gameday Toss and we want to build that relationship and trust with them.
We are also working on new ways to get customer feedback so we can ensure that we are meeting and exceeding their expectations. We want our customers to know that when they contact us it is not going into a black hole and you are not going to get a canned response. I personally answer all email and phone correspondence to Gameday Toss. In a day where call centers and response scripts seem to rule, we want to still believe in that personal communication to make sure our customers needs are met.
We are also constantly looking for ways to make our processes more efficient, our quality better and how to bring more value to our customers so they get the most they can for their dollar.
What sets your business apart from other similar businesses?
Custom boards completed. Very patriotic customer...I really enjoyed making these boards!
We honestly think that we make the highest quality product out there. Our 2011 boards are made with Ash frames and Birch surfaces with a price point of those who make their boards with pine 1×4’s. You can not beat the quality or the looks of these boards. The wood grain that you get using the Ash and Birch are beautiful. I wish my furniture in my house looked as nice as some of these boards
We also offer up front, flat rate shipping prices. We have all experienced this. You are on a website and want to buy something from them, you add the item to the cart and go to check out only to find that they want to charge you $25 to ship a 1lb box. It is those hidden charges that scare customers away.That is why we have our flat rate shipping program. All of our orders are shipped via FedEx Ground. Shipping starts at $9.95/per order and will never go higher than $19.95 for your ENTIRE order. We will ship up to 4 sets of bags (32 bags total) for $9.95 anywhere in the lower 48 states. Anything over 35lb then is adjusted based on the shipping address. We use 3 zones centered around Madison, Wisconsin. The closest zone will is $9.95 for all orders regardless of weight, zone 2 is $14.95 for orders over 34lbs and zone 3 is $19.95 for orders over 35lbs. That means if an board set is order and shipped to Southern California, it will only cost them $19.95 in shipping, not ~$50 that other places charge.
How are your games made? Is there any element of construction that is different than your peers?
All of our products are hand made. Our boards are made out of Ash and Birch. We use pocked hole joints to conceal the screws and it makes for a more finished appearance.
We spray all of our finishes using HVLP spray guns in our custom built spray booth. We use General Finishes Polycyclic clear coats on painted boards
Our bags are made of high quality USA made duck cloth. They are surged and then stitched again for extra strength and durability. We fill the bags with filtered/screened whole feed corn and all of our bags come with a 1 year warranty again breakage or manufacturer defect.
We believe in quality over quantity. Sure, I could farm out bags somewhere else and probably find less expensive manufacturing processes for our boards, but that would sacrifice quality and that is not what we are in the business of doing.
How do you market your business?
At first we primarily used internet marketing using PPC campaigns on major search engines. Last year we spent a lot of time and money updating our website to have better SEO and also started putting our products in more places like shopping.google.com and other similar sites to increase organic traffic. By the end of last season well over 40% of our traffic was organic, meaning we didn’t have to pay for it.This year we are focusing on building our social marketing campaigns and local advertising and word of mouth campaigns. We want to become more involved in sponsorships and donations to charities and youth organizations.
What is your favorite part of the business?
The adventure. The challenge. The unknown. I love to push my limits, which is how you learn. Trial and error and a lot of hours of reading to figure out new stuff or how to make things operate better. Most of all, I love having this business being of my creation. I answer to my customers and no one else. My failures are my fault and my successes are my fault. I love the feeling of freedom that you get when you run your own business.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your business?
We want to continue to grow as a company, but at the same time we don’t want to lose focus on what we do best. If we go into a market or launch a product we want to be the best at that. There are a lot of different things that the market demands, but what is the purpose of doing those if you can’t give them the attention that they need to be deployed correctly.We just want to keep building the business on the values that delivering the best products to our customers is our goal.
Working on a prototype for a electronic scoreboard with "Auto Scoring"