Kansas profiles: Marketing an invaluable tool from Kansas
“Every business can use a skid steer.”
That statement refers to the skid steer loader, which can be used for moving pallets, receiving deliveries, relocating products and hundreds of other outdoor tasks. Today we’ll meet a young Kansas family that has built a business in marketing these skid steers from rural Kansas.
Jon and Jenny Stillwell are the owners of Stillwell Sales, a company that specializes in used skid steers. Jon and Jenny have rural roots. He is from Scottsville and she is from Hunter.
“We met at the Mitchell County Fair,” Jon said.
Both went to K-State. Jon got a degree in biology and Jenny got hers in education. At the time, Ebay was starting to grow in popularity. Jon tried using Ebay to sell some used equipment he had picked up at an auction. It went very well.
He found that buying secondhand equipment for resale was a good strategy.
“A lot of it was good, store-returned merchandise,” Jon said. “You could buy those by the truckload.”
Jon and Jenny married and returned home to Mitchell County. Jenny took a teaching position in Beloit. Jon established Stillwell Sales as his business in his hometown of Scottsville.
“We were selling several hundred items a month on Ebay,” Jon said. “I bought a skid steer and found out that they were a hot item.”
He decided to try to sell a skid steer online, and it turned out to be a sweet spot for the business. Skid steers are popular because they have so many uses in construction, agriculture or everyday work.
“Every business can use a skid steer,” Jon said.
Today, Stillwell Sales specializes in quality used skid steers, new trailers, used tractors, telehandlers, mini-excavators, wheel loaders and more related equipment. No longer using Ebay, Stillwell Sales primarily sells its products directly. Stillwell Sales advertises on websites such as machinerytrader.com and tractorhouse.com, and also provides equipment repair.
When the business grew to the point that it needed a full-time person to do paperwork and run the website, Jenny left her teaching position and joined the business full-time.
“Most of our business is skid steers,” Jon said. “There are hundreds of attachments for them.”
The days of Jon scouring old equipment auctions are gone.
“People are coming to us (with their used equipment),” Jon said. “Jon has developed quite a network of people,” Jenny said.
“The big dealers want to sell new or like new equipment,” Jon said. “When they take in a used piece of equipment in trade, they contact me and I make them an offer.” Because his business is not brand-specific, he can work with all kinds of products. New equipment prices have gone through the roof, so Jon’s used equipment offers excellent value. This business model has worked extremely well.
“We’ve sold product to almost every state,” Jon said. The aforementioned website is very important. “When we started our business, we had dial-up (Internet access). It was very slow because it takes a lot of bandwidth to post all these pictures of these pieces of equipment.”
Cunningham Telephone, the local rural telephone company, installed fiber optic cable 10 years ago. This enabled a boom in online viewing of their products by customers.
Stillwell Sales has increased its facilities as well. “We now have two shops and a large storage shed for our inventory,” Jon said. “We bought the old bank building, which has become our office and we’ve purchased and cleaned up two more lots to display our equipment.”
This is a very positive development for a rural community such as Scottsville, population 25 people. Now, that’s rural. “There are several young families that have moved back here,” Jon said.
Scottsville is situated between Beloit and Concordia. “I tell people, it is paved road all the way here,” Jenny said. For more information, go to www.stillwellsales.com.
We salute Jon and Jenny Stillwell of Stillwell Sales for making a difference with their entrepreneurial spirit. Every business can use a skid steer, and now the skid steer has helped build a successful business.
— Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University. The mission of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is to enhance rural development by helping rural people help themselves. The Kansas Profile radio series and columns are produced with assistance from the K-State Research and Extension Department of Communications News Media Services unit.