The Yoder family opened a yard in 1986 to fund a wilderness camp.
J.Aaron Greene The Yoder family opened a yard in 1986 to fund a wilderness camp.

Yoder’s isn’t the only lumberyard to get its start as something else. But what began as a way to fund community service work is now a $25 million operation with a suite of contractor services. Its rise to one of the country’s top small LBMs isn’t wearing at its service roots.

The Yoder family supports these two ministries:

• Fairplay Camp is licensed by the South Carolina Department of Social Services as an Intermediate Group Care Facility. The camp is also a member of the South Carolina Association of Children’s Homes and Family Services, as well as the Wilderness Road Therapeutic Camping Association.

• Jamaica Relief Ministries began in 1989 in the aftermath of Hurricane Gilbert, which caused extensive damage in Jamaica. Short-term work and ministry teams were organized and brought to the island to repair homes, schools, and churches.

We do business so we can do ministry. We budget 10% of our annual profit for missions. We consider it a non-negotiable tithe and don’t factor that money into our growth. Most of it goes to Jamaica Relief Ministries, which my dad started in 2001. He and my mom head the organization and travel to Jamaica four to six times per year.

Side Job My grandfather moved from Virginia to South Carolina in 1979 to start a wilderness-therapy program for adolescent boys. He needed to fund the camp and was in the process of opening a pizza shop when a local encouraged him to start a lumberyard instead. He, his brothers, and my father were home builders in Virginia and also had a building supply yard.

Change of Plans They designed the new lumberyard as a place for boys at the camp to get work experience. We started with three employees in 1986 and did $1 million that first year. Sales grew 22% each year until 2006. I came on as general manager in 1999. We didn’t have a growth plan. We’d see a need and try to fill it. Two years in, we realized the business could be something more. We had no idea it would become what it is today.

Market Shifts The downturn cut sales volumes by one-half. We shifted our focus from custom homes to multifamily and commercial. There definitely was a learning curve. We hired a sales rep just for those jobs.

Lead by Example I split my day among working in the office, handling operations, and being with the customer. Our five department managers report to me. We have super people and expect them to lead themselves. As a manager, I think “dipping down” to talk with employees is important.

Measuring Growth My dad is an entrepreneur. He loves to see things grow. He never took dividends. It was about providing jobs for employees and using the revenue to help the missions.-As told to Hallie Busta