Rolling up our sleeves at our portfolio company’s warehouse
How we share the journey with our founders
At iFly, part of our value-add is that we remain actively involved with our companies after the investment. We want to help out whenever and however we can, and this expands beyond high level strategic talks in the board room. We literally “roll up our sleeves” and work alongside the teams and by doing so, our goal is to not only provide immediate near-term assistance but to also personally experience the journey with our founders.
Last December, our associate, Matthew, had the opportunity to work at Yummy Bazaar for 10 days. Because it was during the holiday season, Yummy Bazaar faced a surge of overwhelming customer demand for its products, and it was essential that all orders were shipped on time and delivered before Christmas. There was not enough time to hire new workers, implement automation or software solutions and so the only way to decrease the backlog was to do it manually. Realizing the team’s burning demand for labor, Matthew volunteered to help.
Yummy Bazaar is located in a township in New Jersey located right outside Philadelphia. Since our investment, they have increased the team size, upgraded warehouse operations and processes, and created a significant amount of demand.
The primary responsibility was to ship boxes, which is an easy task on the surface. The shipper uses a scanner to double check the products, tapes the box, and enters key information into the computer. The software prints out the delivery label with the most cost-effective delivery method and the box is then placed on the pallet. Despite the simplicity, it’s important to be attentive, because any mistake will not only cost time and money to fix but more importantly, may lose a customer. It was Matthew’s first time working at a warehouse, and he observed and learned a lot in regards to e-commerce, operations, and the startup mentality.
- Importance of the team and the startup mentality in an unideal world. Yummy Bazaar hired a core team for roles in UI/UX, accounting, marketing, and a rotational program. However, the top priority during the holiday season is to ship all the backlog on time and as a result, everyone had to be adaptable and work in areas outside their backgrounds such as warehouse operations, customer service, and packaging and shipping. The entire team, including the two cofounders, worked more than 12 hour days, seven days a week. What was most impressive was that everyone tackled the additional responsibilities with eagerness and passion while learning on the go.
- Streamlining the process to increase productivity. It’s important to make sure each step in the process is as simple and straightforward as possible. For instance, picking an appropriate-sized box is surprisingly tricky and can take a while. You want the customer to have a pleasant unboxing experience but at the same time, you don’t want to waste resources or pack too much packaging paper in the box. Yummy Bazaar is currently developing a proprietary algorithm to simplify steps in the process so that it can be done in “autopilot” mode.
- Popularity across the US. Despite minimum marketing, the demand for Yummy Bazaar’s came from throughout the country, and many customers resided in places outside major metropolitan areas. Yummy Bazaar even had a couple of large orders from corporate clients. The average order value continues to increase and the boxes being shipped weighed from less than one pound to over 30 pounds. As an investor of Yummy Bazaar (or any other portfolio companies), it’s always gratifying to watch and feel how their products and services are being liked by customers.
- Importance of customer service. Yummy Bazaar answered many calls and emails each day that certainly varied in topics (e.g., questions about a product, special delivery requests, or even a question about what to do if the dog ate the food). Even though everyone was busy with operations, shipping, or vendor relations, the team made sure to always reply to each question as soon as possible and come up with solutions if needed.
Building and scaling a company is not easy. Random problems of all magnitudes occur on a frequent basis. Because we don’t live in an ideal world with readily available resources and manpower, it takes experience and time before proper solutions are found and implemented. Until then, there will be inefficiencies and imperfections and we accept that fact. However, we must possess the get-things-done attitude, think outside the box, and be adaptable. To all our readers, we welcome any advice or input for Yummy Bazaar as we continue to help the them expand across the US.