ShipMonk provides technology-focused order fulfillment services to small and medium-sized e-commerce companies. With its two state-of-the-art warehousing facilities located in San Bernardino, California and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the company serves customers from coast to coast as well as internationally.
ShipMonk’s founder Jan Bednar immigrated to the United States from the Czech Republic alone at sixteen years of age to pursue an education and to find success in America. Almost immediately, his friends from home began to envy his access to products that were not available to them in the Czech Republic. Bednar quickly realized that many American companies were not willing to ship to many smaller countries overseas because the demand was too small, and the cost was too high for it to be viable.
“There are a lot of barriers to entry there, be it customs fees and taxes or just that American brands don’t target those countries,” says ShipMonk Chief Revenue Officer Kevin Sides.
Bednar began fielding orders from friends and bringing products with him when he returned home during holidays. Demand grew, and very soon, he had more orders than he could manage on his own. He realized that he had stumbled upon an untapped market with much potential and developed his first company to fill that gap: BedaBox. It was a package-forwarding company that mainly shipped American products to international customers, and it was immediately profitable.
The instant success of BedaBox resulted in a great deal of recognition for Bednar. He was awarded two very prestigious honors, winning the Florida Venture Forum collegiate competition and the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) business plan competition. As a result, BedaBox was invited to join a business incubator project at FAU that was designed specifically to accelerate technology start-ups like BedaBox. The 28,000-square-foot, collaborative space at FAU Tech Runway provided entrepreneurs like Bednar a place in which to operate, a community of peers, and many more amenities suited to the needs of growing technology companies.
While operating BedaBox from the FAU location, Bednar was approached by a customer about fulfillment services. “He had no clue what fulfillment services were, but he met with them in downtown, in Fort Lauderdale, to find out what they were looking for. I think that’s when the light bulb really went off. Nobody was really servicing fulfillment from the technology standpoint at all,” says Sides.
Bednar began offering fulfillment services under the name BedaBox Fulfillment. It started as a trial, to see if fulfillment was a viable model, but it was so successful that, within one year, this became the primary effort of the business. Fulfillment with an emphasis on technology became the centerpiece of what would soon be ShipMonk.
BedaBox quickly outgrew the FAU Tech Runway location and moved into a larger space. Within a few short years, the company outgrew that location and then the next. Finally, after settling in Deerfield Beach, Florida, it opened a second warehousing facility in Los Angeles, California. The company held onto the package forwarding component of the business for a few more years but eventually sold it to focus entirely on fulfillment. Today, as the company celebrates five years of operating under the ShipMonk banner, it employs roughly three hundred people at its two warehouses in Florida and California and its three additional offices. Next month, it will be opening a third warehouse in Pennsylvania.
Its order fulfillment service enables e-commerce companies to offload inventory management and logistics tasks so that they can turn attention to marketing, sales, and growth. Customers send their inventory to ShipMonk, integrate their website and online sales channels with ShipMonk’s platform, and then trust the ShipMonk team to handle the rest.
After the company accepts inventory from a customer, it performs thorough quality control checks and stocks the products in preparation for shipping. When it receives an order, it packages the products according to the specifications provided by the customer, uses a sophisticated proprietary algorithm to determine the most cost-effective method of shipping, and sends the product out.
The company has been able to separate itself from other fulfillment companies by focusing on technology. “There are a lot of fulfillment companies out there, but we’re right for people who value technology. Younger e-commerce brands expect companies to have a high level of technology and the transparency that comes with it,” says Sides.
If an e-commerce company sells its products through Amazon, eBay, or an existing website with shopping cart software, its system can be instantly integrated into the ShipMonk system and orders will be automatically filled by ShipMonk’s fulfillment team. It has out-of-the-box compatibility with more than one hundred shopping cart systems and online marketplaces, so whatever online channel a company is using can be plugged into the ShipMonk platform very easily.
“We have assembled a staff that has one goal in common: to be the very best they can be at what they do,” says company Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jan Bednar. His staff is committed to providing customers with unsurpassed customer service. “This determined attitude drives our culture, which is goal-oriented and supportive. We also try to live our values. As much as we want our clients to stress less and grow more, we seek to implement this approach in the workplace as well,” he adds.
The company calls its special team of customer service agents happiness engineers, and their job is to ensure that every interaction with ShipMonk is positive. When a customer signs up for the service, they are connected to a dedicated happiness engineer who becomes their main point of contact within the warehouse and manages everything for them working in complement with the company’s software platform.
This approach has let it build a brand that is unlike anything in the fulfillment space. “Our values are being tech-centric and customer oriented. We know that our competitors are often bigger than us. Where they fall short, however, is a customer experience tailored and personalized to the individual,” says Bednar. A model centered on providing the best value to customers through service and technology makes it notable.
ShipMonk’s success has resulted in rapid growth. The company has at least doubled every year since it was established and is on track to double again this year. The primary limiting factor has been the difficulty in discovering qualified personnel fast enough to meet the ever-increasing demand. Finding people who are qualified for the work and a good cultural fit for the company can be tough. To mitigate this, the company is seeking to expand its hiring region. Next month, it will open a third warehousing facility in Pennsylvania. Later this year, it plans to expand further into international markets.
Another way it is dealing with the shortage of available personnel is by embracing automation in its warehousing facilities. While many of the company’s competitors are beginning to follow its lead by incorporating technological solutions into their businesses, ShipMonk is forging a new road. Automation equipment allows the company to significantly increase its efficiency and reduce human error, resulting in substantial time and cost improvement. Investing in these new technologies also helps it manage its growth.
“Seasonality is an important challenge. We plan for 10.5 months and build capacity to support six weeks out of the year. That said, through prudent planning of operating expenses throughout the rest of the fiscal year and leveraging the newest warehouse technologies, we’re in a position in which we can mitigate the hit from seasonal surges and temp hires,” says Bednar.
In 2018, Jan Bednar was named as one of Forbes’ annual ‘30 under 30’ picks, an accolade which recognizes thirty of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs under the age of thirty. That same year, ShipMonk was recognized by Inc. 5000 as twenty-ninth among the countries fastest-growing companies.
After half a decade in business, the company is celebrating more than just a fifth anniversary. It has achieved substantial, year-over-year growth, numerous awards and recognition, and a company that has come to represent the cutting edge of technology in the fulfillment space.
“ShipMonk is an emerging industry leader in the e-commerce fulfillment field. If you ever need fulfillment solutions, you should definitely consider speaking with us,” says Bednar. As the company says, ShipMonk is committed to helping small to medium sized e-commerce companies ‘stress less and grow more.’