Editor’s note: This is the last in a series of articles about area businesses listed on this year’s Inc. 5000 list.
Andy Yost started selling baseball cards on eBay at age 12.
By 18, he had cultivated a small business selling iPods through eBay, with the initial capital coming from his lawn mowing business he started at 10 years old.
Now, at 27, he owns and operates AY Electronics, a third-party online electronics merchant on Amazon and eBay, which closed 2014 with more than $4.1 million in revenue.
The company sells electronic gadgets such as cellphones and iPads online through Amazon and eBay at below-retail prices, according to its website.
“The barrier to entry was almost nothing, and that’s why it’s such a cool marketplace,” Yost said. “EBay, Amazon-you can kind of just hop in there.”
Inc. magazine recognized the company for its three-year growth, which topped out at 643 percent, landing AY Electronics the 703rd spot on the list of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies.
Based in Hixson, the 2,500-square-foot office/warehouse space is a first for Yost, who worked from a spare bedroom in his parents’ home in Pittsburgh before moving to Chattanooga.
Although the company is expanding to other online retailers, Yost said that Amazon and eBay have been the main sources of revenue and that the longtime rapport with those sites has helped promote visibility and sales.
“They tend to feature [merchants with better reviews] more because they know they’re reliable and they’ll show your products to more people,” Yost said. “Having a consistent track record to perform [goes a long way] because it’s their name on the line. If you buy from ‘John Smith’ and you have a terrible experience, people are going to say, ‘EBay’s terrible.’ They put a lot of pressure on us, but we’ve been able to deliver.”
The company also developed a website, TigerPhones.com, to make finding, purchasing and communicating with customers easier. An added bonus of cultivating a website persona includes lower market fees.
Yost said that the growth for the company comes on the back of competition within the mobile market itself.
Mobile virtual network operators, such as StraightTalk and Net10, work alongside larger companies like Verizon and T-Mobile, but because they buy and resell data at a cheaper rate, competition rises among carriers, he said.
And with increased competition comes the rise for phones that are compatible with the networks.
So Yost’s company has taken measures to make switching phones and networks easier for customers.
He also said that custom internal software that was developed for the company has helped the growth of the company.
The software helps the company keep track of its merchandise’s serial numbers, colors, condition, who bought the product and selling prices. This information helps the company better service the phones it’s working with, as well as the customers who need help with maintenance.
“When I was first starting to need help with some of these automations and some bulk tools, everyone said that there isn’t really anything like it that exists, so we built it,” he said.
Cameron Morgan is a contributing writer. She has previously worked with the Chattanooga Times Free Press as an intern and currently serves as the editor-in-chief for The University Echo at UTC. Connect with her via Twitter.