The demand for cornhole bags, boards and other products has been booming lately, along with the game itself. Established players are struggling to keep up, along with the new players who are cropping up all the time. Cornhole bags are fairly easy to make — sew together some fabric and fill with plastic pellets. And while I’m confident that our cornhole boards are the best in the market and sold for a great price, anybody who’s handy with a saw can figure out how to build a set of cornhole boards, and if they get both good and efficient at it, they can join the ranks of professional board builders and turn it in to a profitable business if they want.

The Internet has given manufacturers of cornhole bags, cornhole boards, cornhole accessories and cornhole apparel the power to sell to and build relationships directly with customers. It’s pretty easy to set up an account and start selling cornhole bags, boards and more with sites like Amazon, eBay, Etsy and Facebook Marketplace. It’s not even that hard to build your own e-commerce-enabled cornhole store like on the web with services like Shopify and Wix, or the powerful combination of WordPress and WooCommerce that I myself use.

Why Customers Buy Through Resellers

Generally speaking it’s about relationships. No matter what they’re buying, people generally like to buy from somebody they trust, or that adds value to the process. That might be a friend, or a pro they trust, or a web site that presents the bags in context of independent reviews and specs, along with other valuable services like a directory of all the cornhole clubs in the country. ; )

In some cases, it’s about convenience on top of that trust. This applies to both resellers who focus on face to face sales and people who promote and sell bags via social media or the web.

In the case of a local reseller, it’s the ability to hold the bags, maybe even throw them, then forking over some money and walking away to play your next game with them.

Take Amazon. I myself buy as many things as possible through Amazon. Part of that is that I trust the heck out of them — I know I’ll get good pricing, great communications, ridiculously easy returns, and I can always look up everything I’ve ever ordered to post a review or buy another one.  Even if I know the manufacturer sells the same product, and I’m on their web site, I’ll leave there and go buy their product on Amazon.

Manufacturers also frequently make available to their resellers things like limited edition bags that customers can’t buy themselves, and the ability to place orders at any time, even when they aren’t taking direct orders because they are backordered.

Why Manufacturers Sell Through Resellers

So why would they work with resellers, which entails giving up some percentage of their sale? Engaging with resellers lets the manufacturers of cornhole product capture more market share (i.e. sell more cornhole bags or boards or whatever) by leaning on resellers to market their brand and product while they focus on innovating, manufacturing and, yes, in most cases, continuing to sell their products directly. This article explains the differences between wholesale and retail distribution.

I’ve only been doing this for a couple years now, but employ all of the models below think I have a solid enough understanding to explain it in a way that bag and board makers, potential resellers/retails, and end customers can understand. If you have anything to add or correct, or if I missed a major business model, please let me know in the comments or hit me up on Facebook.

Why become a reseller? (And what makes a good one)

Anybody who has a way of engaging with a lot of cornhole players can be a valuable reseller that helps a bag or board maker grow their business. This can be any cornhole player who fellow players ask for advice and recommendations on bags, a league or tournament director, or an online business like a web site or Facebook page that provides content and services to the cornhole community, like Cornhole Central with our directory that you can use to find clubs, leagues, tournaments and venues where you can play cornhole, and our library of bags where you can read reviews, get tech specs and more.

Attributes of a Good Reseller

You don’t need all of these, but some combination of two or three, for sure:

  1. Ability/desire to reach, connect with and meet the needs of cornhole players
  2. Creativity to come up with custom bag designs that people will want and love
  3. Helpfulness and patience to enjoy working with customers as they buy a product, and until they’re satisfied
  4. Time and money to invest in the processes below, and accept the risk of returns and unsold inventory

Business Models for Selling Cornhole Bags and Boards

Traditional Wholesale

Wholesaling or distributing is when the manufacturer of a product (cornhole bags, in this case) sells them to a reseller or retailer, i.e. a business (brick and morter or web-based) that specializes in marketing and selling that product directly to consumers, who in turn sells it to a customer. Obviously in this relationship the bag maker sells the bags to the reseller/retailer for less than what they themselves sell them for, so the reseller can make a profit. This is usually based on the actual or committed purchase of a certain number of bags, or perhaps requires that the reseller always buy the cornhole bags in lots of a certain size.

Pros and Cons for Bag Makers

  • Pros: The bag maker sells large numbers of bags or boards to one customer, usually in bulk transactions that are more efficient (read = more profitable) to print, make and ship.
  • Cons: They don’t have any visibility into who is actually buying their bags or boards, let alone the chance to build a relationship with them.

Pros and Cons for Resellers

  • Pros: Usually the best margin of all programs on a precentage basis, and it lets them own/build the relationship with the customer.
  • Cons: Takes a lot of investment and effort of buying product not yet sold, taking them into inventory, storing them, shipping them if necessary, accepting any returns, etc.

Which brings me to the next kind of relationship between cornhole bag makers and cornhole bag resellers…drop shipping.

Drop Shipping

Drop shipping is a fast-growing form of wholesaling where the reseller/retailer sells a product they don’t yet own, then buys it directly from the manufacturer for an agreed upon (discounted) price and has it shipped directly to the customer. Dropshipping is becoming a very popular business model in all kinds of markets, and cornhole should be no exception. Most makers are still tied up in traditional wholesale arrangements.

Pros and Cons for Bag Makers

  • Pros: The bag maker gets some visibility into the customer, without needing to own the relationship.
  • Cons:

Pros and Cons for Resellers

  • Pros: This hybrid model lets you own the relationship with the customer without needing to buy and hold inventory, or deal with shipping.
  • Con: Does require work per transaction, from the initial sale to holding their hand while they wait, and making sure they are satisfied with their purchase.

Affiliate/Referral Sales

Affiliate programs revolve around the use of a system like Affiliatly that automatically tracks sales to all customers who come to your site through approved “affiliates”, who you can compensate/thank however you want.
This is how Amazon’s affiliate program works. You can put on your web site a special link to any product on Amazon, and if people buy it you get a little money, usually 4-10% depending on the product category.

Here on Cornhole Central, for example, I have an affiliate relationship with West Georgia Cornhole. The buy button associated with their bags links to the product page on their site, but with a little code at the end. If you go to one of their product pages on my site and click the “Go Buy” link you get taken to their site, but there’s a little code at the end of it, representing my affiliate relationship with them. Here’s an example: https://westgeorgiacornhole.com/acl-2020-hellfire-cornhole-bags-set-of-4/?aff=19
The little ?aff=19 at the end of the URL sets a cookie in the user’s browser so anything they buy for a given period of time (until the cookie expires) is associated with the referrer, who the maker can show their appreciation and gratitude to.

Pros and Cons for Bag Makers

  • Pros: The bag maker owns the transaction and gets to build a relationship with the customer that they can leverage for cross-sell, up-sell and future sales.
  • Cons: Speaking of the customer relationship, they are responsible for customer service/satisfaction too. They also need to set up and pay for the Affiliate program, but Affiliatly which I recommend is super easy to set up and use, and lets you manage up to 50 affiliates for just $16 a month.

Pros and Cons for Reseller

  • Pros: There’s no “per transaction” work at all, it’s totally passive income based n the work you do to get people to click to their site with intent to buy.
  • Con: Usually lower % commission than wholesale, and no opportunity to build a relationship with that customer.