I Built A $24M/Year Branding And Fulfillment Company [Based In China]

$2M
revenue/mo
1
Founders
28
Employees
product
Honest FulPhilment
from Xinxiang, Henan, China
started February 2019
$2,000,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
28
Employees
309K
alexa rank
145
subs
market size
$2.7B
avg revenue (monthly)
$3.79M
starting costs
$18.5K
gross margin
83%
time to build
12 months
growth channels
SEO
business model
E-Commerce
best tools
Slack, Google Suite, Zenefits
time investment
Side project
pros & cons
37 Pros & Cons
tips
7 Tips
Discover what tools Philip reccommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Philip reccommends to grow your business!
Start A Fulfillment Business

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

Helloooooooooooooo!!! I’m Philip Karageorgis and I’m the founder of Honest FulPhilment - a sourcing, branding, and fulfillment company based in China, managed in the UK!

If I had to choose, I’d say our flagship service is the combination of sourcing, branding, and fulfillment for our clients. We effortlessly transform their slow, dull and undistinguishable customer experience into a quick, exciting and instantly recognizable branded one.

We manage and handle every aspect so that it’s not daunting to our clients making the switch. Communication is clear, concise and they know exactly what’s involved, together with the cost. To top it off is located in China means we offer exceptional value even though our customer service standards are very high.

Our customers are drop shippers, eCommerce store owners, and even other miscellaneous sourcing companies who white label our services

We started with a team of only 4 in 2019, learning on the job, investing our own time and money to grow the business. Considering we didn’t run any marketing campaigns or concentrate on lead generation by other means, surprisingly, we saw consistent growth and demand for our services.

We’re lucky to see our revenue increase each quarter and look forward to when we can start actually running marketing campaigns on multiple platforms!

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

I’ve never been one who enjoys working set hours and being employed by others. I always saw it as a means to an end. In saying this, I certainly benefited from some of my 9-5s, the skills I acquired and learned the importance of processes, systems, and policies.

Taking the career path, climbing up ladders, kissing butt was never my forte. I can’t think of anything more depressing than working for the same organization for what feels like an eternity, with minuscule promotions or pay raises. Don’t get me wrong, some enjoy this path, after all, it’s stable, consistent, and brings security - as with everything, there are pros and cons.

From the age of 16 I tried many things, from selling car parts to reselling hydroponic equipment, I ultimately lost money in all ventures (all of which I was doing while working full time). Most of this came down to inexperience and just not doing things properly.

Fast forward many years and jobs later, my friend introduced me to affiliate marketing. After 6 months of studying and trying, I failed. The same friend then gave me a dropshipping course he paid for but didn’t yet have time to look into. Considering I failed with affiliate marketing (while he was still killing it), and giving up on rate race freedom wasn’t an option, I dove in head first!

Long story short, I saw very early success. This was the game-changer for me. Something was actually working, FINALLY! My mindset completely changed. I couldn't actually believe I was generating sales, let alone making money. Pumping more advertising spend resulted in even more revenue, things quickly changed and I soon handed in my notice at the day job to concentrate on e-commerce full time.

Shortly after resigning, I moved to China (I lived there for over the year 2007-2009, so it was an easy move knowing the language and culture) to be closer to the ground.

In doing this, I was able to test products and turn around campaigns much quicker. Wasn’t plain sailing though, shit hit the fan and my success died out. Many attempts to launch new products, stores and even manufacturing a few products didn’t see the same success I had before.

There were lots of ups and downs, but my saving grace came from networking and meetups.

One meetup I went to was in Singapore, where I met my now business partner at an eCommerce summit. We kept in touch, became good friends and I even began helping with his business and from this, Honest FulPhilment was spawned.

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I always wanted to do my own fulfillment, simply because I couldn’t find any company in China that ticked all the boxes. When I was heavy into dropshipping and eCommerce, almost everything was either Aliexpress or an agent, but almost all agents operated the same way and just didn’t understand the issues ecom store owners face. They also weren't exactly customer-centric and the communication was one of the most frustrating and worst aspects.

Networking is key, no matter how hard you have to work, go to summits, meetups, and promotions in your niche. Opportunities will present themselves without a doubt. The more you go, the harder you work, the luckier you become.

I wanted to offer a complete solution with high levels of service, always having the customer’s best interest at heart. As I knew the ins and outs of dropshipping and eCommerce, I could relate to our clients and assist and advise in almost every aspect. I knew such a service was highly sought after as there were countless posts in Facebook groups looking for decent and trusted fulfillment agents.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I finally convinced my partner that we should launch a fulfillment company, seeing as though we were sending our own store parcels anyway, fundamentally, we could do the same for others.

I started to get things ready, took photos, recorded some videos, and made a Facebook page to officially launch the business. At this point, we didn’t even have a website, but it at least was a start.

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From here, I was able to leverage the groups I was a part of, some of which I contributed to in the past, others not. Finding customers was actually pretty easy as there were quite a few asking for fulfillment services as mentioned previously.

We were accepting really anyone, and replying to 99% of posts asking for agents. It took a few months before we were able to get some decent, high-volume customers.
Shortly after creating the FB page, I designed and implemented a messenger bot as the main issue I had was time-wasters with very low or even zero orders inquiring and asking for quotes. The bot eliminated 99% of them which helped a great deal.

I then approached a funnel builder to create a landing page for us as we wanted to attract high-quality clients and begin running ads. This didn’t go too well and the funnel builder quit less than halfway through. I had to pick up the pieces and complete them, again, creating and compiling all the creatives and coming up with the copy.

Funnily enough, this is still live and I cringe each time I see it! We only ran ads for a month or so, but the results were not great. I ended up rejigging it a few times but it’s pretty much still the same ever since it was created.

Our proper website is due to be completed in around 2 weeks from now (July 2021) and it will be a relief to see that LP put to rest. It did us well though, and got quite a few leads from FB posts! Almost all traffic was coming from being active on social media and replying to comments etc.

As the fundamental business was in place from our e-commerce operations, it’s difficult to detail the costs involved to get started. In its infancy, we were operating very, very basically, with a free, third-party ERP to manage orders.

We didn’t have a massive warehouse or any particularly high overheads, just a very small office apartment. The main expense was paying for shipping and products, but even that was paid by clients in advance. We also had 30-60 day credit on account with China Post, which helped.

Looking back, we were fortunate in that respect, not having to fork out tens of thousands of dollars that are typically associated with starting a traditional business.

In the beginning, it was like this - my partner provides all the necessary resources and I manage everything. It was no easy feat by any means.

I remember starting, I was doing everything, start to finish.

Content marketing, scouting clients, searching for products, quoting, onboarding, raising invoices, hell, I even helped pack orders a few times when I was in China.

There were only 2 packers in the beginning and even then they were not full-time, so when orders increased, we all had to jump in. We only had 1 small “packing room” and everything was still in the very early stages.

I had to implement all the processes and procedures and make do with what we had.

Even though it seemed like a bootleg setup, our customer satisfaction was so high because we were able to offer really fast turnaround, shipping, and excellent customer service (I was doing all of the CS, working around the clock!)

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but the biggest lesson and takeaway from launching is to just do it! So much is learned on the job, but if you never start in the first place you won’t learn anything.

Not many words of wisdom here, other than just grind, don’t give up, keep going, and put the work in until the fruits of your labor show, it’s worth it.

i-built-a-24m-year-branding-and-fulfillment-company-based-in-china

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

As previously mentioned, being part of many communities in a very targeted niche helped a ton.

I was able to reply to posts often, immediately getting leads. Our messenger bot took it from there, filtering out those which didn’t mean MOQ.

It goes without saying, having an audience or an established social media presence will give you a head start. If you don’t have this, then you need to collaborate with as many influencers in your niche as possible. Preferably mutually beneficial, as opposed to paying an influencer to list you or your service on their platform.

We have tried both, and the ones that actually worked the best were those we didn’t pay for at all as it was a collaboration that was mutual, it resulted in referrals in both directions.

Paid for collabs can vary greatly. It really depends on the quality of their following, although from our experience, it just isn’t worth it for the short term, however, it’s good for long-term SEO and backlinks, etc.

One thing that boosted our following and presence considerably, believe it or not, was the COVID pandemic. I created a somewhat controversial post on our FB that received decent engagement, I even boosted it a little for extra oomph. At this point, we were inundated with requests and clients wanting to come on board. Not only because of this post but because the whole dropshipping community was suffering.

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China was in lockdown and there were hardly any fulfillment companies that could send out parcels. We capitalized on this by working part-time (when we should have been closed) and sending parcels via a service that was still operating. We didn’t care less about it and we're still very cautious, only allowing key staff to come in with full protective gear.

We had to stop onboarding a few times during this period as the demand was just way too much.

Constant updates on our FB page during the lockdown in China were truly appreciated by our followers as we were providing crucial information and advice on what the community should do and what they could expect in the next few days/weeks. In this case, serving the community selflessly prevailed. I wasn’t expecting much to come out of it if anything, just updating everyone and as a result, we were bombarded!

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

At the moment, we’re finalizing our website, creating clear services and pricing structures, upgrading our backend ERP and WMS, developing our customer-facing app to link to our backend system and so much more.

Once we’ve linked it all together, we’ll be able to work with lower MOQ clients as the onboarding, invoicing and many currently manual processes will be automated.

At that point, we’ll be running ads on most major platforms where we expect to be able to scale the business considerably.

Even though we’ve invested quite a bit in expansion both technically and physically, considering this, we’re still profitable and still using company profits to reinvest.

To date, we’ve not had to inject further cash from our own pockets into the business and hope to be able to continue this trend.

Right now, we’re still manually

  • Raising invoices
  • Receiving and allocating payments
  • Onboarding new clients
  • Upselling services such as branded packaging/products etc.
  • Processing certain customer service flows, such as returns, label creations, and other laborious, repetitive tasks

All of the above will be eradicated as we have set up all the flows and features in our customer-facing app.

Our short-term goal is to have 90% of the technical setup complete so we can concentrate on scaling and removing the unnecessary manual tasks.

The long term is to concentrate on market disruption. Creating proper solutions to our customers' problems and automating them. We don't want to be just another ‘fulfillment company’ but an all-in-one, one-stop-shop solution provider which helps our customers scale and evolve without hitting so many bumps on the road in their eCommerce journey.

One thing I used to hate when dropshipping was the research involved when an obstacle presented itself, no matter how big or small.

I want to compile and create resources within our app that address almost all issues faced in the space and offer services to solve them, preventing our clients have to do days of research and waste time and money in doing so.

In short, the end goal is to provide the best possible service in the sector, the solution to 99% of the issues faced (even if outside of logistics), and competitive pricing.

When eCommerce store owners are looking for a fulfillment company, we want to make that choice a no-brainer, not because of clever or good marketing campaigns, but for what we can offer.

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

There were many disagreements between me and my business partner. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as we both had the same interest at heart - the business to grow and prosper.

But it’s REALLY easy to get emotional, particularly when you’re frustrated and can’t get your point across, or they just don’t agree, even though you know what’s best.

In some ways, we are quite different and others very similar. But one thing that’s never changed is trust and loyalty. I believe having these two qualities in any relationship is the most important, even if you can’t come to a mutual understanding, it’s not as important.

There have been times where I am wrong and vice versa. One, in particular, was an opportunity I saw during the pandemic. There was a particular product which was selling like crazy and so difficult to get due to high demand. I twisted my partner's arm to purchase thousands of units at a discount so we can resell them at better profits.

He was against the idea, simply because he isn’t a risk-taker and didn’t see the potential. The risk vs reward wasn’t good enough.

In the end, we still have stock to this day! He was understandably upset, but he just said “as long as you’ve learned your lesson, it doesn’t matter”. If you’re wondering, yes, I did learn my lesson!

We very rarely have any disagreements now and as time goes on I realize we’re a perfect partnership. We’ve come a long way as there were a few times I was EXTREMELY close to giving up, but the trust and loyalty kept me on board, otherwise, I’d be long gone.

One of the biggest lessons we learned was down to expanding our shipping carrier partnerships. Before we were only working with China Post and one particular service worked extremely well for years.

This all went downhill in 2020 and to date, we still don’t know why. Their service suffered considerably and the average delivery time went from 7 days to 30+. We lost many clients, and although not our fault, we refunded quite a lot to help out, as it wasn’t fair for them either.

This was completely out of our control and there was no way of knowing this was going to happen.

Since then, we stopped using this service and now we have a selection of 20+ carriers. We learned from our lesson and in doing so, we're able to accept a wider range of clients due to other carriers being able to send prohibited items, whereas China Post couldn’t.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We rely a lot on our FB page and the ManyChat bot I built. It has a good flow and although not the most optimized, it serves its purpose well (mainly on filtering ideal/nonideal leads).

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

Honestly, and something which will be frowned upon…..nothing.

These days, apart from improving myself physically (for the obvious health benefits), I very rarely concentrate on ‘mind hacking’ or self-improvement. This may come across as naive, ignorant, possibly lazy even, but I don’t have the same drive and hunger as I had before.

Could be due to burnout or that my outlook on life has changed. As of right now, I’m content and happy with where I am in life, I just want to enjoy and take things easy. Spend time with family and friends and not stress me out. I feel I’ve done too much of that my whole life, now it’s time to relax.

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

Entrepreneurship is NOT for the faint of heart or those who have no drive and give up easily. Don’t even bother.

For many years, I would have been much better off financially and mentally going down the career path instead. It was only because I couldn’t bear the thought of the career model that I was determined to keep going. So, so many failures really take their toll, it just comes down to how bad you want it.

Has it all been worth it? For me, yes, for others, probably not. I’ve sacrificed a hell of a lot to get to where I am now, although I don’t really consider myself successful, I guess it comes down to what you compare it to. But I don’t have any more desires in life, I’m a minimalist and hardly need or want anything day today. That’s just me, others will be working towards making 10s of millions, but if that comes, it will come naturally and organically, not from me killing myself.

Working like a dog for what seems like a lifetime, usually brings about luck. I now have the luxury to not have to put 16 hour days in, 6-7 days a week, but before you can afford this luxury, you need to do the same if you’re going to allow yourself the chance to succeed.

Networking is key, no matter how hard you have to work, go to summits, meetups, and promotions in your niche. Opportunities will present themselves without a doubt. The more you go, the harder you work, the luckier you become.

Again, remember that If I didn’t go to an eCommerce summit years ago, I wouldn’t have been in my current position now, I may have given up entirely or still been miserable in a 9-5, putting those 16 hour days in still trying to find my freedom!

Last tip? Sometimes you have to fake it to make it if there’s no other way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to go out there and rip people off….the complete opposite in fact. If you have to ‘inflate’ your results or brand to get more clients, do so, as long as you can back it up when you get clients. Don’t go advertising you’re the best thing since sliced bread. If you aren’t able to deliver, you’ll just end up tainting your name and brand and go back to square one, or more likely, square 0!

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

As almost all of our staff are China-based, we do all the hiring over there. Rates are low, quality is usually high so value representation is high.

As we expand, we will be looking for in-house markers, but otherwise, most will be outsourced if not needed on the ground.

Currently looking for ManyChat bot building/marketers to revamp the bot and take advantage of our subscribers, otherwise, nothing else for the moment.

Where can we go to learn more?

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

-  
Philip Karageorgis,   Founder of Honest FulPhilment
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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