Locker brand Mustard Made has ventured into the United States with the help of a third-party logistics provider, after the COVID-19 pandemic put pause on the founders’ plans to travel stateside themselves.
Founders Jess and Becca Stern have operated the multimillion-dollar business from Newcastle, Australia and London, UK, since it was founded in 2018. With a team of 14, the fast-growing wholesale and retail business sells its vibrant lockers as storage solutions direct to customers, as well as via 120 stockists.
Becca Stern tells SmartCompany an expansion to the traditional home of the school locker was always on the cards, however, the pandemic threw those plans into array, as the Mustard Made team were forced to cancel what was to be a “massive year of travel” during 2020 and Jess and her family were unable to relocate to the US for six months as planned.
“We had to kind of rethink,” Stern explains. “If we are going to do this, we’ve kind of got some of the balls in motion and we’ve done the research to kind of try to piece together how it works – starting a business in America. Are we going to put this on hold or are we going to go for it?”
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So instead, the team “just kept asking questions” to find the pieces of the puzzle and this research into the US market led them to discover an organisation called the US Launch Pad, which helps UK companies with their logistics and fulfilment when launching into the US.
“Our biggest challenge is always logistics, because our products are so big,” explains Stern, who adds that sales, “the fun part”, comes after you find the right logistics solution.
“Finding a partner that could help us with our biggest challenges has been the strategy and so far, they’ve been really amazing, and they’re kind of our feet on the ground.”
Managing the logistics of moving large furniture items around the world has been a key challenge for the business from the day the Sterns started it, but it’s one they have met with a focus on customer service and communication.
This focus on customer service is continuing with the US expansion, with the team hiring a US manager, who is currently based in the UK, and working with US Launch Pad to build its local customer service team.
Stern says the expansion will happen in stages, with US stockists to begin selling the colourful lockers by the end of this year. Already, businesses are signing up to a waitlist to stock the products.
“We want to make sure the logistics side is working smoothly … and iron out any issues before we commit to supplying,” she says.
“We’ve got a team to think about now … it’s about being brave and being wise too.”
That’s not to say the brand doesn’t have bold plans for growth, with Stern saying the Mustard Made story has consistently been “bigger than my biggest dreams”.
The focus is now on learning everything they can about their newest market in the US, continuing to grow their collection of lockers, and sharing their story with even more people.
“Imagine how many people haven’t even heard of Mustard yet,” Stern says.
Read more about how Jess and Becca Stern have grown Mustard Made without ever working from the same office in this exclusive SmartCompany Plus interview.