Finding Fulfillment (it's not what you think)
In many ways, running Evermore is the most satisfying job we’ve ever had. What could be more rewarding than helping dogs live happier, healthier lives? While we have yet to reap major financial benefits, the value of making an exceptional product and getting to connect with our customers and vendors on a regular basis transcends money. For a long time though, we’ve been missing something that has a real tangible impact on how we operate our company, fulfillment.
So what the heck do we mean, since we just told you how personally rewarding we find this work? From an operational standpoint, fulfillment is how we get our products from our warehouses to you, our customers. One of the great things about independently building a business from the ground up is that we have our hands in every aspect of what we do. Up until this week, fulfillment has meant that we spend a good chunk of our time schlepping heavy boxes back and forth to FedEx and UPS, as well as driving food to our retailers and local customers. Lately we’ve been stuck in a holding pattern where we expend so much energy getting our products to our customers that we don’t have the bandwidth to undertake the marketing efforts required to attract new ones.
Amateurs discuss tactics, professionals discuss logistics (Napoleon Bonaparte)
Luckily there are many businesses that exist with the sole mission of helping other companies get their products to customers. It’s been over a year and a half since we began the search in earnest for a third-party logistics company that specializes in frozen shipments. Alison quickly located our dream option: a company with a strong sustainability ethos, a sterling reputation for customer service and three warehouses nationwide. It also seemed well beyond our reach given our budget and its inflexible minimum order volume. We scoured the rest of the country for comparable options and found another company with three warehouses, that also promised the option for biodegradable coolers, no minimum volumes and bargain basement pricing.
It was a no brainer and come June of 2016, we sent a pallet of food to the latter company. Describing our experience with them as disappointing would be an understatement. The biodegradable coolers we were promised never materialized. Shipments were sent in comically large boxes with insane amounts of dry ice, at carrier rates that negated any savings we may have been experiencing. Efforts at communication fell into the void. Calls were never returned; emails never answered. The only place we had reliable contact with was the billing department.
After months of trying to iron out the kinks, it became clear that it was not a good fit. We learned the hard way that you truly do get what you pay for. We took shipping back in-house and negotiated our growing pains quite literally with a lot of heavy lifting. Even though we were too busy to engage in marketing activities, during the fall we experienced quite a bit of organic growth, completely through word-of-mouth and our inclusion on Sue Thixton’s List. By the time the holidays rolled around, our dream fulfillment company no longer seemed so far out of reach.
[We] Get By with a little help from our friends (The Beatles)
In order for us to truly move over to a seamless fulfillment system, we needed to
completely revamp our online store. If you check our website regularly, you may have already seen the new shopping page. This was a huge project for the two of us, especially since we’ve been making more food and filling more orders. Thankfully we get by with a little help from our friends, and by friends we mean boyfriends, husbands and most importantly, customers. We are extremely grateful to have JD (aka Dakota’s Dad) as part of our subscriber pack. He had reached out to us a while ago, and after some back and forth, generously offered his time and expertise to attack projects in areas where we needed a little help. Thanks in large part to his efforts, we have a shiny new Shopify store and more user-friendly subscription software.
This week we are launching in earnest with fulfillment on the East Coast, with the West Coast up next. So far we have been incredibly happy with the customer support throughout the onboarding process and look forward to being able to grow our business with this partnership in place. We are grateful that we’ve managed to hit this milestone as an independently owned and operated, self-funded company and to have amazing customers who constantly spread the word about our products and even roll up their sleeves to help sometimes.