These Brothers Are Redefining The Import/Export Industry And Grew Their Business To $12M/Year
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi I'm Nicolas Rahmé, the co-founder and CEO of DocShipper. This is a startup that I built with my brother Pierre Rahmé in 2018, 1 year before Covid-19! The company has a one-of-a-kind business model that allows it to help companies and e-commerce business owners throughout the supply chain.
This is characterized by three services: sourcing, international transport, and distribution. For sourcing, our customers call on us to find them the right supplier to meet their needs. It is especially important for them to use a sourcing agent like DocShipper that has a database of reliable and verified professionals because our customers usually expect to place large orders.
They don't want to risk getting ripped off and losing their money! Once the order is ready, we organize the transportation of the goods to the destination desired by the customer (sea, air, rail, road, multimodal). And thanks to our distribution center in Camporosso in northern Italy, DocShipper manages the inventory, order fulfillment, and last-mile delivery.
International logistics is stressful and time-consuming, as all importers and exporters feel. This is caused by large players who have long monopolized the industry, don't care about the customer experience, and only think about lining their pockets. There are also many players involved throughout the supply chain, and you have to explain your needs to the professional at each step. And on top of that, you can never find the information you are looking for.
We want to change that with DocShipper, using digitalization as a driving force, we put the customer back at the heart of our concerns by offering him very reactive customer service and support from A to Z.
Our multilingual team takes care of all the interactions with the different stakeholders (suppliers, inspection agents, customs, shipping line...) so that the customer does not have to stress or do anything.
This door-to-door service is one of the reasons why we are growing so fast today. When we started our operations, we were 5 colleagues, the digital marketing manager, the sourcing department manager & co-founder, the CFO & partner, and the CEO.
The first year was a bit difficult, but we were still able to generate a turnover of $220,000. The next year we achieved a 50% growth (330k USD). In 2020 when our digital marketing strategy started to take effect, we achieved 100% growth (630k), then over 700% in 2021 with a turnover of 4.9M.
In mid-2020, we opened an office in Tunis, because it is a French-speaking country and in the same time zone as France. And recently, we opened a new office in Beirut, Lebanon, to support our strong growth in the MENA region. Today, we are a team of 49 people spread over 5 countries in the world.
In 2022, we expect growth between 2x or 3x, around 15 million USD, and continue to do the same in the coming years. We are on our way to disrupting a multi-billion dollar industry, and we’re going very fast!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
We are on our way to disrupting a multi-billion dollar industry, and we’re going very fast!
I have always been passionate about new technologies, and the world of startups, but also much more concrete sciences like geopolitics, finance, and economics. During my end-of-study internship, at the end of 2015, my internship supervisor and I decided that there was something to do with freight forwarding or international logistics.
At first, I didn't have the ambition to be an entrepreneur, but if I couldn't find what I wanted, I thought I should create it.
This is why I have embarked on an entrepreneurial journey in the import-export world through Siam Shipping, a company I have worked for for many years.
Originally, it was a digital freight forwarder based in Thailand. But very quickly, the project was very successful and went beyond the frontiers of this country to expand throughout ASEAN and China via different brands (FNM Vietnam, FNM Malaysia, FNM Group).
Then 3 years later, we built DocShipper with my brother Pierre and made all the other brands the subsidiaries of the Group.
With DocShipper, I wanted to kick-start the industry and raise the bar! Because, today, the industry is stifled by a few players calling the shots… They’ve taken advantage of their monopoly to neglect the customer experience completely.
Traditional freight forwarding and sourcing companies typically focus their efforts on larger organizations. This often leaves SMEs and individual traders in the business lurch, struggling to receive a prompt reply from their agents regarding their importations.
We found an opportunity in the market to connect with individuals, SMEs, and Key Accounts on a global scale. DocShipper’s business model is based on three pillars designed to integrate the trading process for companies across the world.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We started with my former internship master, he was on the technical side and I had the digital native side. First, we had to understand how the market works, how to find customers, how a network works, and how to be profitable in general.
At the end of 2016, we signed our first clients who gave us feedback. In the beginning, we were based in Thailand, we were only doing international logistics. The conclusion was the following: we are in a fragmented industry with many players. All the players are specialists in a particular field. We took the opposite approach: we are not operators, our job is to build a network of operators.
We wanted to focus on what we know how to do: digital marketing to get customers and sales. We have a way of selling that breaks the codes of the industry. We will try to be extremely flexible in how we proceed to satisfy the customer's needs.
In 2018, we are replicating the same thing in China. It took almost a year. Then Vietnam and Malaysia. Everything is online. No one is on site. We only meet with customers via video conferencing, calls, or emails. Covid-19 didn't affect us much, unlike others, because we were already fully remote.
After 6 years of building the business model, more than 3 different legal structures and brands, and 2 former partners, DocShipper was born at the end of 2018 with a pretty clear vision: to become a leading import/export player.
Do not strive for perfection. Following through and finishing projects is one of the most important things you can learn as an entrepreneur.
Charley Hochet joined the adventure as CFO and Partner to support me. We needed to structure the company around a core group to move from a startup-type structure to the multinational we aspire to become.
Since our beginnings, we have been self-financed, and the financial health of our company is quite strong. This is currently appreciated by investors because it is no longer the good old days of easy fundraising 5/10 years ago, we chose to do the opposite and master the industry codes, before scaling the business.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
DocShipper's main acquisition source is a digital marketing and more specifically inbound marketing. We have more than 22 websites in English and French today, where we publish resources and blog posts to answer questions that our audience is asking.
Our mantra is to give more value than we take. To drive these content-intensive sites, we recruit a lot of writers and interns, who are managed by two SEO & Content Managers and under the leadership of the Digital Marketing Manager.
Lately, we have started to launch PR campaigns which is a powerful marketing strategy used to manage and grow the reputation and awareness of your brand through independent, unbiased publications. We’re still testing it out, but these are the thing we’re working on right now:
- Creating a Press Page on our main websites
- Building relationships with online journalists and bloggers to generate online press coverage
- Preparing online press releases and sharing them with relevant publications
- Organizing online interviews (like this one!)
- Writing high-quality industry-specific content and pitching them to journalists
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We have a very ambitious vision, because there is no real limit to our model, and international deployment can be achieved quickly and economically.
The first phase was done in a short period of time, and more importantly, in bootstrapping, which reinforces our belief in the sustainability of the model on a large scale.
Today, from a strategic point of view, we are setting up our office in Tunisia, and we will set up a physical office in Asia, probably in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, to raise funds by the end of 2023 and show investors that our business is viable and that we can replicate it in North America and Latin America.
In 95% of the cases, we don't meet the customers. Our DNA is assistance, which goes hand in hand with human relationships. It's always more pleasant in person.
We put a lot of energy into optimizing our processes. We spend a lot of money on the recruitment of top managers and the implementation of a CRM (customer relationship management).
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Websites : Wordpress
- Marketing: Semrush, Screaming Frog, Canva, Hootsuite
- CRM: Zoho
- Email Marketing : GetResponse
- Customer Service: Cloud Talk
- Internal communications: WhatsApp, Discord and Gmail
I run the majority of my businesses on WhatsApp, managing 40+ people directly and indirectly while traveling all over the world. I have yet to find a better and smoother product than WhatsApp. I have groups for all different projects and teams. It loads fast and is secure.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Do not strive for perfection. Many business owners will start endeavors but rarely finish them. They lose interest, become sidetracked, or get dejected because it isn’t “perfect” and give up. Following through and finishing projects is one of the most important things you can learn as an entrepreneur.
I believe you should always strive for the highest quality you can, but you have to finish. Some business owners in this situation don’t realize how good their product or service is. I think if you follow through on projects and just put the tiniest little effort into promoting yourself and have the tiniest bit of self-confidence, you can be successful.
“Done is better than perfect” Don’t build a business plan and don’t forecast anything; just go and see where the adventure will take you. And don’t forget this quote for every early-stage entrepreneur: “Fake it till you make it.”
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes, we’re looking for a Digital Marketing Interns to join our Marketing Department in Tunisia! Please send us your CV at [email protected] we’re looking forward to meeting you!
You will be integrated into the heart of our marketing department & support them in organizing various projects. The missions will be among others:
Undertake the daily creation of blog posts
Assist in the moderation of the company's websites, acquisition channels & social media accounts
Write marketing literature (brochures, press collaboration, emailing strategy, etc.) to boost the company's presence in the marketplace
Learn and master a wide range of marketing tools
DocShipper promotes the flexibility and development of its trainees, the missions' assignment will be according to the profiles.
WHAT'S ON OFFER:
Logistics & Digital Marketing training
Training and use of digital marketing premium tools
Industry-leading international business environment
Friendly and young team, start-up culture. Team Building for the in-house presence
Possibility to extend the missions of the internship to other departments
Unpaid, but there is a possibility of recruitment following the internship
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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