Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, Entrepreneurs! My name is Joe Spisak, and I am the founder of ShipDaddy.
ShipDaddy is an eCommerce warehousing and fulfillment company for customers who can no longer keep up with the volume of their online sales portals. Our services include shipping, fulfillment, warehousing, freight, and wholesale delivery, retail delivery, Kickstarter/Indiegogo fulfillment, inventory tracking, marketing, web design, product development, consulting, re-palletizing product, and all with an emphasis on communication and client relations.
We pride ourselves in delivering excellence for our partners and believe instant communication and extreme flexibility gives us an edge no other fulfillment provider can offer. If you are a company in need of a no bullsh*t shipping and fulfillment partnership, ShipDaddy is an efficient, transparent, and highly flexible solution where you can always talk to the people boxing your product.
We’ve grown from a morgue-esque garage space (more on that later) to a location in one of the largest shopping center complexes in Carlisle, PA in less than a year! A sincere dedication to quality and communication has helped us to gain more customers through word-of-mouth than our ad spend. Because of this, we’re on pace to cross $5 million thresholds in revenue this year.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I created ShipDaddy after having nightmare experiences fulfilling products for my first collaboratively-developed company, Dicey. As we managed the fulfillment of Dicey orders, using three different 3PL (third party logistics) companies, I would frequently experience ridiculous pricing and incorrect billing, lost inventory, products that wouldn’t ship, orders that didn’t contain everything in the box, frustration when I couldn’t get ahold of anyone in charge, large amounts of damaged goods, international customs issues, general sloppiness handling our product, and worst of all, not being flexible enough to help out with the inevitable ‘one-offs’ that occur as a result of being a growing company.
After being completely fed up, I asked my best friend and Marine Veteran, Brady Farrell, to help fulfill and ship the Dicey units for us. Brady did a fantastic job and really enjoyed the work as it aligns perfectly with his current degree path in logistics. I decided to sign on a few more customers with whom I had worked with in the past who were having similar issues, and things really took off from there!
We’ve made mistakes, we’re human. We’ve sent out bad orders, we’ve had a ceiling leak damage a small bit of product, we poked a hole in a wall with our forklift while stacking pallets. There was only one remedy - immediately owning up to our mistakes and making them right.
The business grew out of a basement and into an oversized garage space which doubled as a storage area for a funeral home. I know this sounds crazy, but the space location was given to us at no cost in exchange for some web development work I did for the owner. We had client products stacked from the floor to the ceiling, with shipping boxes organized into the structure that priorly may have held coffins. We persevered through dim lighting, had no heating, and had to drive down the street to use the bathroom at a gas station, but using the large space at no cost gave us the opportunity to maximize our revenue and land some spectacular clients.
At this point, I had hired all of my best friends, with family members coming in on weekends and after work to keep up with demand. My friends brought high energy, multiple talents, and a winner’s mindset to the equation. Before I knew it, in a few short months, we had already outgrown the oversized garage space.
Trent, myself, and Brady AKA the ShipDaddy at the back alley storage space in Fall 2019
Me on the left and on the right our Dicey units stacked where funeral home inventory was once stored!
Our company is now located in the largest shopping center in the middle of my hometown, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. One of our freight loading docks has a 10x10 foot ShipDaddy decal giving us awesome visibility from Highway 81, commonly dubbed the " Miracle Mile" as it is much like a crowded alley that contains 16 motels, three truck terminals, and three truck stops, and is located directly behind our business. My favorite part is the ShipDaddy logo which is designed from the legendary beard and character of Brady Farrell himself.
Brady Farrell - Co-Owner of ShipDaddy and the ShipDaddy logo modeled after Brady
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Starting a business is difficult! I knew that for us to be successful we had to establish strong core values from the beginning. We decided to rally our company around the heart and soul of our team, a United States Marine Corps veteran, the ShipDaddy logo himself, Brady Farrell. Brady is a man who embodies the incredible character, determination, and loyalty. His grit and sacrifice are the foundation of our company. This is the man who was packing boxes in an oversized garage with no heat in the middle of winter, teeth chattering, frozen wind clogging up the thermal printer. Brady makes ShipDaddy what it is, and because we believe in his character so much, we made him our logo.
In this sense, since world-class service is our product, the design of our “product” was establishing faith in our brand, trust in our services, and loyalty in our business partners. Our business partners entrust us with the most critical element of their operation, getting the product into the hands of customers, and that is a responsibility we all take seriously. With Brady’s face as the ShipDaddy logo, customers feel secure knowing they can always get him on the phone. Their product is in great hands, Daddy’s hands!
The design of the logo itself had to reflect the values we hoped to portray. We use our favorite design team in Ukraine, Tubik Studios. We have worked with them on many projects, and they can seriously do it all! We sent them a description of the business much like the one included in this piece, knowing they could transform the legendary figure of Brady into the ShipDaddy forevermore. They chose to go with powerful primary colors, strong American Flag red, white, and blue, an obvious hint at the service we provide. They knocked it out of the park on their first try!
We believe a large part of our word of mouth success comes from how passionately people express their satisfaction with our services. They talk about the business, mention the story of ShipDaddy, see the logo, and they enter our warehouse the next day. Our logo embodies our highest values; family, friendship, service - all wrapped up in an American hero. What more could we ask you to believe in?
Pictured left: Team ShipDaddy growing fast! Pictured right: The ShipDaddy logo on one of our truck docks
Describe the process of launching the business.
Launching the business was born more out of necessity than a desire. We had a real problem - we had horrible experiences with 3 different eCommerce fulfillment companies over the course of a year, companies considered to be some of the best in the industry, and it was seriously impacting our business in a negative way. Once we began fulfilling Dicey with Brady and best friend Trent doing the in-the-trenches work, our online sales were able to explode with growth. We cut our time spent doing customer service by 90% and were able to increase and optimize our ad spend because we no longer had to spend money on returns for botched orders.
When we began actively headhunting new customers for ShipDaddy, we realized how dire the situation was for so many other companies, too. Businesses we worked with in the past through Dicey seemed to all have a similar experience with their fulfillment, and they were desperately looking for a solution.
Each and every employee, including warehouse workers, posts lead in our Google Sheets database.
In the coming months we gained so many clients I found myself at a decision point. I could either continue to work my excellent job with fantastic benefits, strong salary, and a lifetime of security or quit and commit my life to building a business empire in the eCommerce industry with my best friends. I didn’t have to think long before I made the leap of faith, and I couldn’t be happier with my choice.
The biggest lesson in starting this business has been to focus on the TEAM. I cannot stress enough how fantastic our guys and gals are. Putting together a strong team that works well together is a delicate science, and there is no substitute for it. If your business is service, your trade is teamwork. Our I.T. team, design team, sales team, and most importantly our warehouse workers themselves, all contribute to the fortitude of our identity as a company. Be ruthless in your quest to assemble a great team. In business, it is the difference between life and death. Fire quickly and hire slowly.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since launch, we have been on an absolute tear, onboarding customers and filling orders as quickly as they come in. Word of mouth has been our strongest resource. The seemingly huge world of entrepreneurs in the digital age is microscopic. We all seem to be the type to frequent forums, share tips and best practices, network with one another, and build relationships. To take that a step further, in our industry every one of our clients has some form of mastery of digital technology through which their reach is amplified with a global client base and fully interwoven with social media. One strong recommendation can lead to 10 or more new clients.
Beyond all that, we have a sales team who is on the phone every day. We use HubSpot for our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. Each and every employee, including warehouse workers, posts lead in our Google Sheets database. Our offer extends to everyone, if we close a lead that you found, you get compensated. This keeps everyone engaged, our sales funnel overflowing, and a lighthearted competitive spirit roaring through our doorways.
We run Facebook ads that hyper-target people who “liked” the Shopify page. Each of our ads has some form of copy where our brand is being humanized with Brady’s face and our logo. When people know they can get him on the phone and talk about their product and needs, they are already sold.
We haven’t lost a single customer since we’ve opened our doors. That is pretty incredible. I’ve said it 100 times already, but it’s worth saying again: Our team consists of rockstars exclusively. They are the reason people refuse to leave us. Customer retention has meant a vicious dedication to the team communicating with and satisfying the needs of our partners.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We didn’t have overhead until we moved out of the initial “free space.” Providing a service rather than a product kept us profitable for nearly the entire existence of our business. No debt, no investors (with the exception of another best friend lending us $7,000 for a few months), and no Kickstarter.
We’ve purchased some large equipment since our formation. Most notably, the forklift from Lift Inc.. We spent the early days of our operation being ravaged by rental fees on forklift equipment. We would try to only rent a forklift when we had 30 pallets of shipment headed our way and then return it after we accepted the shipment. Unfortunately, we found ourselves being burned with forklift pickup and delivery fees on top of the rental fees.
After some time, we realized we could have purchased a forklift in cash for the total price of all our rentals. This still frustrates us looking back on it, but we’ll take it as a lesson to invest in the best equipment upfront in the future. Lift Inc. is great because they have top-of-the-line machinery, can help with repairs if something breaks down, and are an employee-owned and operated company like us. If you are in Central, PA you should check them out for sure.
As we grow into the future, we plan on opening our next warehouse location on the west coast. This will allow us to get better pricing on shipments as we divide our customer inventory accordingly and ship from the warehouse closest to the end destination. Faster delivery times and less expensive shipping will be a win-win as we continue to grow.
For the same reasons, we will be looking at opening an international facility as phase three. Upon its opening, we will be competitive in every arena, domestic and international shipments, and we’ll be fighting for market share with every shipping provider globally.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
We’ve made mistakes, we’re human. We’ve sent out bad orders, we’ve had a ceiling leak damage a small bit of product, we poked a hole in a wall with our forklift while stacking pallets. In each instance, there was only one remedy - immediately owning up to our mistakes and making them right with our customers (and landlord). In the case of the customers, we take responsibility for our (infrequent) missteps and work out a way to make things right.
We’ve been pleased, and lucky, that each time we quickly fix a mistake, our customers seem to gain respect for us rather than being upset. Never letting missteps linger has strengthened our business rather than having diminished it and has made me proud of every single relationship we’re part of.
Our new location with highway visibility is very large and terrifyingly expensive. This brought with it the obvious challenge, it was time to sink or swim across the proverbial business ocean. The feeling of having our backs pinned against the wall as we were forced to grow or die transformed our team from a group of hard workers to a scrappy startup team, viciously attacking the work before us.
Our team had months of 12-16 hour workdays at the new spot. It wasn’t pretty, but it became the reason we were able to keep the lights on and hire a larger team. Our hours have become much more reasonable since then, but I wake up with a smile on my face every day knowing I work with a team who is willing to do whatever it takes for our dreams to succeed.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
HubSpot, our CRM software is a digital weapon of mass construction for a number of reasons. First, HubSpot is the location where we collect all of our contacts, leads, phone numbers, and more all in one portal. This portal can be seen by our sales team and gives us a bird’s eye view of our business operations. This is one area of business in which we can’t afford to become disorganized, and HubSpot keeps us organized like nothing else we’ve found. Secondly, HubSpot offers world-class analytics and email tools. We can see who is reaching out to clients, who have the best close rate, who is sleeping on the job, and if we’re getting the bang for our buck we hope for when we cut our paychecks. Lastly, the email sequencing tools, read/open receipts, and professional signatures have brought our cold email outreach from a 1% response rate to nearly 20%. Fantastic!
We use Aircall for our phone service. This gives us a web number that rings through to all of our team. Call the number, and it will keep ringing through to all of our cell phones until one of us picks up the phone (which is never very long). This gives our medium-sized business the appearance of an organization with a fully staffed call center, and we love it! It also gives our business partners the security in knowing they will always be able to get in touch with us for quick answers about their products. Aircall also integrates really well with our Hubspot CRM. As we grow, we will remember the value of this live-voice service and are dedicated to preserving the service for our customers.
We use Sakari for text messaging so customers can call or text our single business line at 717-276-8835 (feel free to call or text us anytime if you want to talk with us).
We use Zapier to automate processes across different systems that may normally have trouble talking. Zapier is an awesome way to push data from one system to another.
We use Signs By Tomorrow - Harrisburg for all of our digital signage, stickers, and trade show booth design and display. SBT is owned by my Aunt Pam and Uncle Jared and not only do they do the best quality work in Pennsylvania they are some of the most down-to-earth people you will ever meet. Check them out and let them know I sent you and they will hook you up!
We encourage our eCommerce customers to use Live Recover if they need help with abandoned cart recovery. They have dedicated account reps whose sole responsibility is to text abandoned cart contacts to try and get them to come back to your store to finish buying your product. This is great for both us and our customers because they get more sales and we get to ship more of their packages!
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl is a book I find myself thinking about quite often. It’s not a business book per se, but its lessons strike at the core of what it means to be human, why we exist, and what we can do to maximize our work despite any horrors we may encounter (Viktor experienced the worst in concentration camps in Nazi Germany). A clear, self-described meaning is what Viktor recommends one develop to overcome life’s most difficult obstacles. In this sense, I believe finding the meaning, or the “Why” of your business can be the most critical, intangible tool for any business to cultivate.
The internet is rich with business resources and nuggets of inspiration. For these, I often turn to Ray Dalio and Naval Ravikant. Both have a knack for uplifting me or challenging me to think differently. In the case of Naval, his sage-like wisdom and peacefulness are welcome on my most stressful days. Both gentlemen are thoughtful in the way they structure their point of view. I only wish I could converse with them directly to hear what they have to say about our industry!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
You can solve almost every business formation problem by answering, “Why.” Why do you believe in this business, service, or product? Why will your customers believe in it? Why are you uniquely positioned to deliver where others have struggled? By clearly defining and thinking through the various “why’s,” you’ll begin to create a scaffolding for WHY your business exists. Turning these answers into the ethos of your business will enshrine yourself, your employees, and your unique brand with an identity and reputation that becomes a force of its own.
When your business scales to a large enough size, the “why” may cause you to lose a bit of control as its forces take over. If this isn’t clearly defined, your business will slip aimlessly into the future as your core principles and market advantages crumble away.
A wrestling coach once told me “Imagine yourself getting your hand raised (winning the match) before the match even starts.” I’ve taken this advice and applied it to many different facets of life.
It seems so many people get caught up in the day to day activities of their business that they lose the bigger picture. What does success in your business look like 3 years from now? Working backward from that point means considering what must be done annually, monthly, weekly, daily, and hourly to get there? Rewinding the future in this fashion has helped to focus our efforts and allocate resources appropriately to achieve each and every one of our long term goals. Vision and mission are the epicenters of our identity and success.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We have internships opening up this summer through Shippensburg University. We’re growing so quickly that we always need more help! If our industry sounds exciting to you, if you want to be part of an elite team of incredibly driven individuals, if you enjoy the startup and entrepreneur lifestyle, and if you are ready to dedicate your life to building an empire, please send us your phone number so we can hop on a call. We have a dynamic and difficult phone interview. If you are successful in the first phase of the process, we’ll check out your resume and hire you on the spot! We’re hiring for just about every position one can imagine. Wow, us and join the team today!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Want to start your own business?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help you get started.
Interested in starting your own business? Join our community of founders!
Are you ready to boost your revenue?
Using Klaviyo will open up a massive, untapped sales channel and bring you closer to your customers!
Level up your email marketing with Klaviyo!