published Friday, February 8th, 2013

Chattanooga-based SupplyHog poised to double in size, officials say

Ben Johnson, left, and Philip Brown, converse while working at SupplyHog, a housing supply company located off of E. Main Street in downtown Chattanooga.
Ben Johnson, left, and Philip Brown, converse while working at SupplyHog, a housing supply company located off of E. Main Street in downtown Chattanooga.
Photo by Dan Henry.

Company at a glance

Name: SupplyHog (formerly called Nopone)

Head hog: Nathan Derrick

Products: Construction materials sold online

Location: 46 E. Main Street

Staff: Eight employees

What's next: Expansion nationwide, raising more capital

Web site: www.supplyhog.com

The Internet transformed the phone into a handheld computer, rendered snail mail nearly irrelevant and opened up a worldwide shopping experience to millions of consumers. But until now, that shopping experience hasn't included a lot of building supplies.

While online sales of movies, clothes and books have thrived in the age of Amazon, the construction business has mostly remained offline. Contractors, builders and do-it your-selfers are still drawn to brick-and-mortar retailers like Lowe's and Home Depot, where they can physically touch the gutters, drywall and nails before they buy them.

SupplyHog, a Chattanooga-based startup, is hoping to change that equation.

The web-based business, which serves customers in a 35-mile radius around Chattanooga, lets users compare prices from competitors before ordering what company officials say is the least-expensive option.

"Typically, a contractor is going to five, six or a dozen places to get what he needs, and we do it all from one place, said Ben Johnson, self-styled director of perfection for the Main Street company. "In many cases, we're cheaper than the other options. And we can get it as fast as you need it."

After nine months spent launching the company from their Main Street office, the SupplyHog is getting ready to grow, both in terms of employees and revenue, Johnson said. That's because while half of the eight-person team is working in Chattanooga, the other half is working from a California-based incubator, pitching the startup to potential investors. An investment will allow the company to hire a larger sales team, and a bigger sales team will allow SupplyHog to take their idea nationwide, Johnson said.

"We can't hire the people we need if we don't have the money, but we can't generate tons of revenue if we don't have enough people," Johnson said.

Because the industry is still primarily offline, workers have to manually enter much of the product information from paper catalogs, he said. It's time-consuming but necessary work. And that work requires workers.

To grow the company, SupplyHog hopes to move to a new location and hire five to 10 new employees by March, he said. The total number of hires, however, depends on how much money CEO Nathan Derrick can raise from investors.

The expansion eventually will allow SupplyHog to launch in more markets outside Chattanooga, said Russell Levine, product coordinator for the company.

"We're building relationships with vendors across the U.S.," Levine said. "There are already a lot of products we can supply nationwide."

Before SupplyHog, Levine worked in construction for 20 years and worked for a building supply company for another decade after that.

"I guess I've seen the way the industry is going," he said. "This just makes life easier."

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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