Founded by Jack Fitzgerald and Michael Teasdale, Ship 2 Anywhere claimed not one but two titles at the 2012 StartupSmart Awards last week.
In addition to winning the award for best online strategy, 25-year-old Fitzgerald was named best young entrepreneur.
Based in Melbourne, Ship 2 Anywhere started as a full-time operation in November 2010. Fitzgerald talks to StartupSmart about winning over customers and being young in business.
What inspired the idea for Ship 2 Anywhere? What niche did you identify?
Ship 2 Anywhere grew out of a chance meeting between Michael and myself.
During this encounter, we discovered that we had a lot in common, including a passion for logistics and a determination to create something innovative.
Before Ship 2 Anywhere came on the scene, the only alternative to booking shipping was to phone a courier company directly.
This sounds simple enough, but more often than not calling any large company means being put on hold for an interminable amount of time.
Then, if the company gets the delivery wrong, it suddenly becomes impossible to reach them.
We wanted to challenge the existing structures by offering our customers a full range of online shipping services that they wouldn’t find elsewhere.
But what has always set us apart even more is our ability to back up our claims with excellent customer service.
When we conceptualised Ship 2 Anywhere, we wanted to make it a personable business that strove to put the customer first in terms of attentiveness, response times and feedback.
So, with these things in mind, and drawing on my web and SEO skills, and Michael’s logistics sales experience, we founded Ship 2 Anywhere – an online site that places an emphasis on usability, price and customer service.
We then created USA Parcel Forwarding, which makes incoming deliveries from the US possible and much more affordable.
Until the service was founded, Australian customers faced the problem of trying to buy goods from US stores, which would not ship to addresses overseas or had shipping costs that were simply too expensive to be practical.
How did you fund the business?
Because the initial start-up costs were low – only $10,000 – we were able to fund the business ourselves. We did, of course, have a little bit of help from friends and family.
How do you promote the business?
Along with public relations, strategic partnerships and sponsorship, we focus on SEO. Being an online business, we rely on a lot of online methods to promote ourselves.
If a potential customer searches for an international courier or international parcel, Ship 2 Anywhere will rank highly in the online search engines.
We are very excited about a new arrangement between Ship 2 Anywhere and Online Shopping USA. This popular blog will be promoting USA Parcel Forwarding.
It’s a match made in heaven because the site has a large audience of Australian shoppers who often have trouble purchasing goods from US online stores without a US address, and then getting the goods home.
We are constantly seeking out exciting and mutually beneficial opportunities like this one.
We also attend tradeshows and exhibitions wherever possible. For example, we recently attended the PeSA and eBay expo, where we made many useful contacts.
How has the service been received by customers? How many customers do you have now?
In particular, we get great feedback regarding our shipping rates, the usability of the online system and our customer service standards.
By addressing the needs of everyday Australians and businesses, we have seen our customer base increase, month after month.
Every month, we receive thousands of visitors to our two websites. Many of these customers are so happy with the prices we offer, and the service they receive, that they become regular customers, which leads to regular bookings each month.
How many staff do you have?
We currently have four full-time staff and two contractors.
What are your revenue projections for 2011/12?
We are on track to do $1.3 million this year, as opposed to just over $250,000 last financial year.
What are your points of difference?
Nowhere else can people find such a customer-centric and economical shipping service, and our innovation means that Australians can now do the previously impossible, like purchase cheap goods from the US without having a US address, or supply US retailers with goods.
We are quickly developing a reputation for being truly unique in the savings we can offer because we are constantly thinking outside the square.
In short, we take the pain and frustration out of shipping. We do this by using an online system that makes the process as simple as possible.
What’s the biggest risk you face?
We are reliant on carriers to provide goods services to our customers. Without these third-party suppliers, we don’t have a business model.
We are lucky because we have some solid agreements in place so this isn’t an issue for us.
What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
We both threw in our jobs and income when we started Ship 2 Anywhere.
For the first few months, we had to work really hard because we’d chosen not to take on investors, and we weren’t able to pay ourselves anything.
Working that hard without a cent coming in was a big adjustment, and we had to make a lot of sacrifices.
What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs such as yourselves?
I think the most important thing that a person needs to start up a business is a real passion to want to shake things up.
You can’t just plan to set up a business that’s the same as another business – you have to want it to be different and better.
When Ship 2 Anywhere was born, it quickly became our lives. Building a business from scratch means a lot of long hours, sacrifice, motivation and drive. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted.
We both know that we couldn’t have done it by ourselves. A great business can never be reduced to one man – it takes a small army to get things under way.
Finally, Ship 2 Anywhere has grown by being consistent in its service and being true to the purpose of our business.
This makes our business more attractive to customers, suppliers and referrers. A plan and a purposeful, painstakingly-detailed strategy are vital too.