I’m Michael Manzione the president and CEO of Rakuten Super Logistics (RSL). RSL is an eCommerce order fulfillment company that started 20 years ago as Webgistix. Our founding entrepreneurs started as a small team picking, packing, and shipping orders in the early days of the eCommerce era. In 2013, the business was acquired by Rakuten, and with their support, we’ve grown into a team of over 300 full-time employees in 15 locations.
We work with online retailers at every stage of growth, helping them scale their operations to compete with the Amazons of the world. In the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, we’ve seen an even greater need for supporting small and mid-sized businesses with the resources and support necessary to meet customer demand. We strive to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive.
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
My father taught me a valuable lesson as a teenager. I got my first part-time job helping close down a restaurant at night. When my father asked me what my job was at the restaurant, I told him I was cleaning tables, chairs, dining areas, bathrooms, and mopping floors. His only comment was, “If you’re mopping the floor– make sure it’s so clean, that they know you did it!” My father passed away a few years later, too early in life, but I’ve carried this lesson with me, and I truly believe it’s made all the difference throughout my journey. You see, all jobs have meaning, no matter the title or task at hand, and you must take pride in the work that you do.
Shortly after, I went to college on a soccer scholarship. Unfortunately, my sports career was cut short the first year after an injury. With no means of supporting myself, I wouldn’t be able to return for my sophomore year. I’ve always been a firm believer that you can overcome anything that gets thrown your way if you embrace the challenge, adapt, and explore new possibilities. So I took a year off from school to work and find a way to support myself and return to my studies.
I was working for a great family-owned business when an opportunity presented itself— The company was unhappy with the janitorial services they were receiving in their warehouse and office space, and I realized this was my chance to make a move. I remembered my father and was brought back to that lesson he taught me, mopping floors. I presented a plan to the owner that I would assume those responsibilities by working nights and weekends, and do it better than anything he’s seen so that I could return to school. My first business, M&M Janitorial Services, taught me that obstacles in life are temporary and that we can find the solutions by creating new paths. At every turn, we are presented with obstacles that we must navigate—most we fail, which allows us to appreciate our successes even more.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
I graduated from college and started working for a subsidiary of Manufacturers Hanover Bank. It was a great job, but I wasn’t enjoying the work and knew it wasn’t for me. I decided to move to Clearwater, Florida to help my sister open her restaurant and this opened a new realm of possibilities for me. I became interested in the food industry and the idea of being my own boss, but the single restaurant concept didn’t fully challenge me. I decided to join Wendy’s International to apply my management skills to the restaurant industry. I spent fourteen years in operations, training, and management and learned a lot in that time. I then had the opportunity to become a franchisee and follow my dream of being an entrepreneur. After thirteen years of running multiple concepts, it was time for a new challenge, so I sold the restaurants to try my luck in a new industry.
Taking pride in every job you do and turning obstacles into opportunities have really shaped my career and the person I am today.
In 2008, I was volunteering in a youth soccer program and met a parent who mentioned their brother needed help turning around a 3PL in Denver, Colorado. I spent four years helping to streamline their operations, which led to a successful turn-around and the company was sold to a much larger entity. I really enjoyed the eCommerce fulfillment space and continued on that path in Atlanta with a few other companies, before joining Rakuten in 2014.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today RSL operates a network of 15 fulfillment centers nationwide, all located near major metropolitan areas, and we hope to expand our footprint in the coming years. We recently acquired a company called FirstMile in 2018, a leading eCommerce parcel carrier company.
FirstMile provides a wide network of United States Post Office workshare partners that helps eCommerce retailers save on shipping costs. This addition has allowed us to continue expanding our transportation and carrier capabilities, giving clients even more options efficiently and economically. This combined entity positions RSL as a one-stop-shop for clients’ fulfillment and logistics needs.
Our goal is to provide every online seller with the opportunity to infinitely scale their business, with a fast, affordable, and reliable shipping network, as well as a supportive and dedicated team of experts by their side. To support our goal as eCommerce evolves, so do we. We are focused on investing in our people and recruiting new top-tier talent, to ensure our clients have a seamless and exceptional experience.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The lessons that I learned early on in life—taking pride in every job you do and turning obstacles into opportunities, have really shaped my career and the person I am today. They are part of the foundation that brought me to Rakuten, a Japanese company that is marking its footprint in the U.S. and aligns with our American values of hard work, innovative thinking, and entrepreneurship.
I’ve also learned that no matter the size of your company, it’s critical to stay true to your “small business” roots and value every client and transaction that you’re fortunate enough to take on. As we’ve grown RSL throughout the years, we’ve managed to keep the “small business” touch that is reflected through the partnerships we develop with our clients. I love the spirit of the entrepreneurs we support; they each have a unique story and a passion that inspires us to work hard to support them. Unlike Amazon, we want to empower our merchants—not compete with them.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our native fulfillment management platform, SmartFill, allows our clients to easily track and manage their order fulfillment and shipping operations. SmartFill offers “plug-in” integrations with Shopify, Amazon, eBay, and Walmart Marketplace, as well as several popular order management platforms.
Currently, we are transitioning from our own warehouse management software to Manhattan’s Scale product. This shift will enhance our capabilities as a global logistics company, as well as the overall experience for our clients. We look forward to completing the transition and being able to provide additional resources and products to existing and future clients.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
My favorite is Jim Collins’ book Good to Great which has guided me in my business career. However, I also got to know and respect Dave Thomas, and his book Dave’s Way aligned with the basic ethics of hard work and dedication that my father taught. Probably to round out my top five, I would include; “Think & Grow Rich”, “First Break All the Rules” and “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
- Start with an idea or concept that you’re passionate about.
- Work harder than your competitor.
- Embrace failure as a positive experience to grow from.
- Never be afraid to ask for help.
Where can we go to learn more?
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