How I Started A $20K/Month Software To Create Custom USPS Shipping Labels

$20,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
4
Employees
product
Ladels
from Harrisburg, PA, USA
started December 2020
$20,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
4
Employees
116
followers
market size
$14T
avg revenue (monthly)
$1.26M
starting costs
$201K
gross margin
85%
time to build
6 months
average product price
$12
growth channels
Word of mouth
business model
E-Commerce
best tools
Instagram, Twitter, Quickbooks
time investment
Side project
pros & cons
35 Pros & Cons
tips
3 Tips
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platform
shipping
customer service
accounting
productivity
payments
analytics
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Start A Shipping Services Business

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello, my name is Muamer Avdic and I am the Founder and CEO of Ladels.com. Ladels is a digital platform for online sellers to manage and ship their orders from wherever they sell online and with different carriers, all on one dashboard. Ladels provides shipping and advertising solutions for businesses of any size with features and pricing suited for small online sellers to big box stores. The name “Ladels” stands for ads on labels, or advertisements/promotions on shipping labels.

We partner with carriers such as USPS, FedEx, and UPS to bring the best prices on shipping labels for users, as well as eCommerce platforms such as eBay, Etsy, Mercari, and more, allowing users to sync their orders from different sales channels they use.

Our flagship product is our one-of-a-kind custom shipping label where users can advertise their business directly on their shipping labels and print from their home, for a low cost. Users can fully customize the space around their shipping label with different themes, colors, text, coupons, and QR codes.

how-i-started-a-10k-month-software-to-create-custom-mailing-and-shipping-labels

We launched the live version of Ladels.com and began onboarding users on December 25, 2020. Since then, we’ve been bringing in $10,000/month in revenue and are ramping up with users very quickly. Our unique custom shipping label allows users to stand out and communicate directly to their customers like never before.

how-i-started-a-10k-month-software-to-create-custom-mailing-and-shipping-labels

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I started my first online store on eBay when I was 15 years old and that led me to become continuously interested in the world of eCommerce. I was a reseller on eBay that grew my small online business to a full-time job that brought me a decent income as a college student.

As my small online store grew organically, my interest in shipping grew too, but I struggled to grow as one small online seller in the mix of millions of other eBay sellers. I felt that affordable access to shipping and advertising was missing for small businesses, so I came up with Ladels.

I was printing a lot of blank labels on blank boxes and felt like this was the perfect opportunity to be able to advertise to my customers as a small business. Online sellers are marketing by purchasing poly mailers/boxes with designs on them, stickers, or even writing on their boxes with markers. This is where I realized the need and opportunity for businesses to stand out and communicate with their customers for an affordable price and without having to purchase extra materials.

how-i-started-a-10k-month-software-to-create-custom-mailing-and-shipping-labels

In 2016, I began to pursue Ladels full-time. When I realized that I would need a lot of money to build out a shipping software and advertising platform in one, I started another company to help me get access to what I really wanted to do.

I decided to start a logistics company that specialized in expedited shipping. I didn’t have any prior experience with freight/logistics but living in central Pennsylvania where distribution and logistics is a huge part of the economics and job opportunities, I knew I was in the right place to get into this industry. Without any prior experience in the logistics/freight industry, we had 10 employees, 60 contractors, 500 customers, and over 1 million in revenue in the first year.

That company was acquired in 2019 and I returned to working on both of my passions again - eCommerce and shipping. I’m currently committing all of my time to focus on Ladels and don’t have any other projects at the time.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Without a background in computer software/development, I relied on outsourcing a team to build out Ladels.com for me. After a lot of trial, error, and investment, we’re at a point where we’ve built a great team that we trust. Since my business is entirely online, I relied heavily on communication and project management tools available to me online. I’ve worked with people all over the world who speak different languages and come from different cultures. This can be a challenge in itself when starting a business; communication and time management is a skill you must be good at or become good at if you’re starting a business.

The biggest startup cost for me was software since my entire business is made up of that. We don’t sell any physical products, so a lot of our prototypes were versions of software that changed and improved to function better over time. There were many versions of Ladels before the current one and we will continue to change even more in the future. One thing about starting a business is that the product/service you begin with will likely be different in many ways when you launch and as you grow.

We launched with one eCommerce integration and one carrier: eBay and USPS. At its best, Ladels will allow users to integrate their orders from wherever they sell online and compare prices, and ship with different carriers all on one platform, but we couldn’t start there. We also focused on functionality first, and then design. I wanted a working software that actually shipped labels successfully before anything else. After we got that down, we began implementing design changes to the front-end and back-end. This is something that continues to change and improve as we gather more data and feedback from users.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Like most software companies, we launched a beta version first. We reached out to people organically to recruit them as beta users and asked for feedback. For any kind of business, I think this is a great way to scale and test if there is a product-market fit. Ask people you know - friends, family, neighbors - that are in that industry or might be interested. A lot more people will help you out than you think.

You don’t have to know everything to run a business. You have to have the right people in place and around you. Having a good team at the beginning is crucial if you’re unable to launch the business on your own.

I validated the idea of Ladels and knew it would work when I felt like I found a gap in the market. I began by reaching out to online sellers through social media to figure out if this was something online sellers would want to use. I still communicate often with users through social media; I believe this is a great tool for anyone trying to start a company or grow organically with little to no advertising dollars.

As I mentioned previously, there are many versions of a product/service before the launch of the final product. Check out Ladels before and after I was able to implement design changes:

Before:

how-i-started-a-10k-month-software-to-create-custom-mailing-and-shipping-labels

After:

how-i-started-a-10k-month-software-to-create-custom-mailing-and-shipping-labels

Since I was financing the business fully on my own, I knew I had to take it slow and prioritize what I really wanted on the website at launch and what could come after. Most of the funding for the software came from my prior jobs/companies. The sale of my previous company allowed me to invest more into Ladels and helped me get to launch when I did. I also raised friends and family around before launch. I’m currently pursuing seed funding from larger investors to launch the rest of the features on the website.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from launch is that you have to be ready to change and pivot quickly. You might even lose money before launching from mistakes, unexpected circumstances, or changes in the market. We originally built Ladels with one type of USPS software and then had to rebuild that part of the software completely when we landed a partnership with the company we use now. This was a cost for me initially, but it ended up being a better business decision for the future.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Since we launched our first version about a month ago, we are in the process of testing what works for us and what doesn’t. Like many startups, we’ve been relying on digital marketing tools like social media and emailing to gain users. However, one of the turning points for us was landing a partnership with a large software company that provided us with shipping API and other tools. We’re able to leverage this partnership with marketing opportunities and assistance from pros in the industry.

We have begun implementing low-cost Instagram ads, and this is working well for us. This is a great way to build some brand awareness and get in front of a lot of people for a relatively low cost. For our first Instagram ad, we spent $40 and reached just under 10,000 people. For a new business looking to get in front of people, these are great tools to test out and see if they work for you. You set a budget for these ads, so you can stick to a cost you’re comfortable with.

We also utilize email marketing tools to communicate with our users. We have a newsletter that we send out informing our users of new updates to the website and maintaining that contact so users/potential users don’t forget about us. There are many free or low-cost tools out there to create great emails and social media content. One of my favorites is Canva. It’s easy to use and provides an abundance of templates you can customize.

We’ve also been working on boosting our SEO with blogs and backlinks. We’re in the process of adding a blog to our website with how-tos, industry news, shipping hacks, customer stories, and more useful information for businesses. This is a great space to talk about your product/service as much as you want and add content/links back to your website. I highly recommend adding a blog to your website and posting as much as you can on there - just make sure it is relevant and useful information for readers.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Ladels is in the early stages of growing and finding product-market fit. We are doing about $10,000/month in revenue. We’ve been utilizing social media tools to attract and retain our early users, so our ad spend is very low right now.

We’re also keeping track and gathering data from Google Analytics. We currently have about 100 people a day visiting Ladels and browning the website or signing up. Since our business is entirely online, our source of revenue comes from monthly memberships and shipments.

We’re focusing on small businesses right now, including online sellers and those with both brick & mortar and online stores. However, Ladels provides shipping solutions for a wide range of needs including individuals shipping orders to large businesses shipping hundreds of labels a day. In fact, Ladels is the only shipping software out there that offers PB Standard to its users.

PB Standard is a shipping service for businesses that ship 200+ orders a day with tons of features for them like free pickup/drop off of the packages, a 3-day guarantee for claim processing, return services, and discounted shipping rates. This is a sector of the business that we plan to grow and focus on shortly.

Our main focus right now, apart from getting users, is continuing to develop full label customization and integrations with eCommerce marketplaces such as Etsy and Shopify, and carriers such as UPS and FedEx.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I’ve learned a lot before launching my business and continue to learn every day. An important thing I learned is that good thing take time. Invest in good talent for things you can’t do. For example, if you’re manufacturing a product, invest in a good manufacturer/distributor if you can. In my case, my entire business is software, and finding good people to build it out took a lot of trial and error. It was challenging to find qualified developers that we're able to build out what I needed.

Even if you don’t feel 100% ready, go out there and launch your version 1.0. You will grow and adapt, but you must begin somewhere.

On that same note, I learned that you don’t have to know everything to run a business. You have to have the right people in place and around you. Having a good team at the beginning is crucial if you’re unable to launch the business on your own. You will more than likely need other people throughout the process and finding the right people is a challenge, but a huge advantage if you develop that early on.

In terms of getting users and scaling early on, social media is a great tool but focus on 1-2 social media platforms that your business can best utilize and work on growing those instead of having every single platform without much engagement/traction.

Because our custom labels are visually appealing and exciting, we decided to leverage Instagram to gain a lot of our initial users. This has been working out really well for us as users love to see what they can do on Ladels and since it is the only custom label out there, we can show more through images than just words. We gained 1,000 followers on Instagram in about a month from organic interaction with people in the shipping space.

Additionally, try to get as much customer feedback as you can by communicating with them directly if possible. Follow up on social media, email, or however you do business to continue interest and communication. Many people wait to have a great product first and then begin advertising, but you can pique interest in people and build up to a launch, so you already have potential users at launch.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

There are a lot of great, free tools out there that entrepreneurs can utilize when starting up and even as they grow. One of the tools that we’ve used for a while now and love is Trello for project management. This is a great tool if you’re mapping out the development/launch of a product or service. It’s especially useful if you’re working with individuals that aren’t located in the same area as you.

Additionally, Google provides great tools such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and more to track website usage and data. We rely on tools like these to make data-driven decisions about changes to the software.

Tawk.to is an awesome free service to embed a live chat for customer support on your website. It has a ton of great widgets you can set up to personalize it, and it is straightforward to use.

A few more that we recommend:

Tools like Slack or Skype are necessary for communicating with your team.

Braintree and QuickBooks for payment and accounting services.

Amazon Web Services for hosting, emailing, and more.

Upwork and Fiverr are great for hiring on-demand talent/freelancers. If you’re starting a new business, you will probably need one of these.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I have found forums such as Reddit and Quora to be a great tool with an abundance of information. I also enjoy reading blogs and articles about startups/tech such as TechCrunch. These have been great tools for me when I needed guidance on the business. I felt like there were a lot of people that could relate to me and offer useful tips and resources on starting a business.

When public events were a norm, I attended meetups/events/networking groups that were relevant to me and my business. Things like accelerator programs are great ways to get your idea to a physical product and could help with funding your business. Look for accelerator programs or coworking spaces in your area to get out there and network.

Additionally, with the digital shift and teleworking accelerating in 2020, a lot of in-person conferences and events have gone digital and events that were often ticketed and in different locations you’d have to travel to are now free. Research some events and conferences in your industry and you’ll find that a lot of them have gone digital and are free to attend.

Lastly, I participated in Y Combinator’s Startup School. This was a great resource for networking and assistance from tech experts.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

One of my biggest pieces of advice for entrepreneurs starting is if you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never be ready. Even if you don’t feel 100% ready, go out there and launch your version 1.0. You will grow and adapt, but you must begin somewhere.

In addition to that, be prepared for change, pivoting, and thinking quickly on your feet. I touched on this previously in this interview as well, but the number of changes and versions of your product can come as a surprise to many. Many things need to adapt from forces beyond your control, such as trends, changes in the market, and data you gather from users.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Ladels is currently looking to expand our team and hiring those that are a good fit. We’re looking for web developers, UI/UX designers, graphic designers, and digital marketing professionals. All positions can be remote. To apply, submit an intro and your resume through our contact us form.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can learn more about Ladels by visiting our website. There is an abundance of information on our website about the service, how it works, pricing, etc. You can also follow along on social media where we feature a lot of custom label designs and cool ways our users are using Ladels.

Contact us through the website, and sign up for our email newsletter to stay up to date on new releases and updates.

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Muamer Avdic,   Founder of Ladels

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