It was while doing his own buying and selling online that Leigh Williams started to look into what it takes to get products to customers.
Despite no experience in the logistics industry, what he discovered led him to setting up eStore Logistics in 2008 catering to the warehouse, inventory and distribution needs of online retailers.
The business has grown strongly and Williams’ achievements were recognised earlier this month when he was named International Young Professional of the Year by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport.
Williams talks to StartupSmart about how he started the business, overcame hurdles, and plans to expand in the future.
How did you decide to launch the business?
Throughout my time at university and while working in my first real job I spent a lot of time buying and selling online. I remember selling a shipment of sporting equipment that I had imported from China. I was getting up at 4am before work to answer customer emails and package up orders for delivery before heading off to work for the day. I would get home at 7.30pm, have dinner and go through the same process again.
I started to do some analysis into the logistics industry to understand what offerings were out there to service online retailers. What I found at the time was that the logistics industry was not adapting to shifts in the retail landscape and that most logistics providers were not interested in servicing online retail, and those who were interested were not doing a very good job. Within two weeks of conceptualising the business I wrote a business plan and gave my notice of resignation from my job at IBM. Fast forward four weeks, and it was all systems go!
In your own words, what does it do?
eStore Logistics specialises in providing warehousing, inventory management and distribution services to online and multi-channel retailers, and recently we have extended our offering to traditional bricks and mortar businesses.
Basically, eStore provides all of the magic in the background to ensure that when a shopper clicks a website ‘buy’ button, they receive their purchase in an accurate, cost effective, and fast fashion. This includes tasks such as order picking, system-driven order containerisation (which involves analysing all items on the order and automatically selecting the most appropriate packaging size and type), and system directed automatic freight carrier selection (based on factors such as least cost routing and speed of delivery).
By outsourcing the logistics function, our clients are able to focus on what they do best, and at the same time realise lower costs and smoother operations than running in-house.
What were the main challenges when starting out?
The biggest challenge that I had when starting out was convincing prospective clients to use eStore Logistics services. At the time I was 26, however, people often said that I looked a few years younger. I would often go to meetings with prospective clients and hand over my managing director business card, and this would turn them off as they perceived risk in giving a young business owner the responsibility to look after millions of dollars of stock.
Just based on my age they didn’t have the comfort that my business could protect stock from damage and theft, and ensure that it got to the right place at the right time. I knew we had tremendous systems and processes that were years ahead of anyone in the industry, but this was definitely a challenge in the early days.
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