I'm going to bankrupt this business if I don't change something now.
For the past three years I've been doing something no serious e-comm business owner should do. Pack and ship each and every order.
I'm stuck in my business.
I only have a few hours to work each day and I was spending most of them packing and shipping orders. By packing and shipping every order I am unable to focus on the bigger things that need to get done. And I know the bigger things are what move the needle in my business.
I know this because I've done the big tasks. Like creating the ultimate guide for Turkish towels. The best blog post to exist on the internet filled with everything anyone would need to know before they buy my product, Turkish towels. My investment in that blog post both time and money by hiring a copywriter has resulted in almost $40,000 in direct sales to date.
So yes I know that working on bigger projects and not fulfilling every order is a much better use of my time.
But even though I know that I've still been picking, packing, and shipping every order from my Shopify store.
If I want to grow my business I need to use a fulfillment center.
And it’s not just about growth.
I also want to spend my summers in Minnesota.
I live in Arizona and the summer is unbearable. 115 degrees is no joke even if it's a dry heat. I grew up in Minnesota and it's my personal goal to spend the entire summer in Minnesota.
The past couple of years I have spent a few weeks here and there and it's been wonderful.
And really at this point the only thing holding me back from spending the whole summer there is that I am not ready to shut down my business for two month. I sell beach towels after all. Closing for the summer doesn't make sense.
But if I had someone fulfilling my orders I could essentially run this business from anywhere - summer or anytime.
So I know it's time to start looking for a fulfillment center.
Why haven’t I done this yet?
Here are all the reasons I told myself I couldn't use a fulfillment center:
- I don't have enough orders
- My packaging is way too complicated for anyone else to do
- I don't have UPCs so how will they know what to ship when someone places an order
- I won’t be able to add personalization
- I won’t have control
- I have bundled products - how will they keep track of my inventory?
- It's too expensive
Just reading that list makes me want to shake myself. Because I know none of those reasons actually make sense.
So here’s what I’m doing now.
ShipBob, a fulfillment center, contacted me well over a year ago. At that time switching to a fulfillment center felt way too overwhelming. Because ShipBob contacted me I had a direct phone number from one of their account executives.
I gave him a quick call and here's what I learned.
First of all, the man who answered the phone wasn't the account executive who reached out to me last year. However, he still knew who I was, what my company was all about, and was able to help me with on the spot. That made me think ShipBob’s got their systems down to an art. And I need help with my systems.
During our call I learned that I don’t need to have a certain number of orders each month. They offer different programs for different levels of business. So if you're in the beginning stages -there's a program for you. And if you're at enterprise-level - they can help you as well. They help you where you're at.
Custom boxing is no problem, like at all. They actually encourage custom boxing. ShipBob will either provide blank boxes and or poly bags to ship your products or you can provide them with custom boxing. They'll never ship anything with their branding on it.
They're all about helping you grow your brand not their own. They work with Packlane and Noissue and recommend them for shipping products. I've also looked into Uprinting and Lumi (but Lumi required larger quantities than I could order).
I don't need UPCs (but I should have SKUs - more on that in a later post). At ShipBob, each product gets a separate bin and that's how they manage the inventory in their warehouses.
They look at my real-time orders to see where my products should be shipped. For me and most of my orders come out of California so I'm will be shipping my inventory to their warehouses in California. They'll also look deeper into my data and give me other suggestions on where I should start my inventory. This will mean that my customers will get their orders quicker and my shipping cost will be lower.
So far pretty much every one of my objections as to why I can't use a fulfillment center has been busted. So I'm moving forward with the process.
I scheduled a follow-up call and will be learning more. I also contacted 2 other centers and will wait to hear from them.
I still have a lot to learn and I will keep updating as the process goes on. Stay tuned for Part 2.