UpaknShip is an online manufacturer specializing in customized and branded packaging, like poly mailer designs, colorful shipping supplies, and bubble mailers. Find them on eBay, Amazon, or their online store for all your shipping supplies, from plain to floral print and everything inbetween.
Solution Partners: ShipStation, Magento, eBay, Amazon
Cori O’ Steen didn’t mean to start a business. She was shopping online for kids’ clothes and found what she was looking for on eBay. Since her kids had outgrown their clothes, she decided to take this online marketplace thing for a spin and began selling their clothes on eBay. There was only one problem: she couldn’t find appropriate packaging to sell the clothes. This was in 2003.
Luckily, her dad was in the packaging business. He gave her mailers to use and she used the leftovers to sell online. She had such a good response from customers about the quality of the mailers that she decided to make and design a bigger variety of shipping supplies. From 2003-2008, O’Steen ran UpaknShip from her home before moving into a warehouse in 2008. Now, as the founder and CFO, she has two warehouses, one in California and one in South Carolina with 18 employees.
UpaknShip started small. They relied on manual cycle counts to check the amount of inventory in stock at any given time. This, of course, is time consuming and leaves room for human error. “Even with a much smaller inventory, it feels like hours at two different locations,” O’Steen says. “So, if they were busy or we were short handed, it didn't get done.” Their product selection was basic, but eBay was competitive, so they had no choice but to compete.
“In an effort to try to offer new products that were not out there, we started out doing color poly mailers,” she says. “So we were the first ones to actually, I mean it seems ridiculous, but we were the first ones to actually sell a pink poly mailer.” A few new colors quickly evolved into more and more customized goods. This meant they needed a system that could keep up with a growing inventory and growing listings on marketplaces.
To this day, O’Steen says her company faces challenges in preparation for peak season. Because she imports her goods, it can take awhile to get them in stock. “My biggest challenge going to peak season is making sure I have the inventory for sale when it needs to be for sale,” she says. “I come into the slowest season of the year with too much inventory. So then I try to figure it out throughout the summer months, which are terrible, but it's hard to know when to start ramping it up and predicting what I'm gonna need. “
UpaknShip needed a better way to count their inventory and predict quantities, and they needed it fast. After consistently growing 25% year over year, an inventory and warehouse management system was essential. In 2015, she found SkuVault. “I can tell you right now, I couldn't have done what I'm doing without SkuVault,” O’Steen says. “We had a much, much smaller inventory. Basically, for us to grow, we had to have SkuVault.”
“I can tell you right now, I couldn't have done what I'm doing without SkuVault. We had a much, much smaller inventory. Basically, for us to grow, we had to have SkuVault.”
Because she runs her business in two locations, the ability to track her inventory at any time was invaluable. Before SkuVault, she “had no idea” what the cash value was for her inventory at any given time. This feature, coupled with our cloud-based technology, allowed her to view her inventory anywhere, any time.
A big part of her business is the use of kits for her shipping products. Everything she sells is in kits, and SkuVault was the first solution she found to fit that need. “That was something that I think, for me, to my knowledge, was unheard of,” she says. “To be able take a product that comes in one box and turn it into something else is what made SkuVault legit.”
With the tools to track inventory in two locations, O’Steen says she plans to create more and more customized goods for her customers. “We want to have every type of shipping supply where it's special or customized, which is worthwhile doing,” she says. “And then we just want to keep growing.” Today, UpaknShip is sending out 12,000 shipments a month. They’re on the cusp of a new product line and recently registered their trademark *#SmileMail.
For anyone who is thinking about selling on eBay or Amazon, O’Steen has a few words of advice. “Whatever it is that you're interested in doing, find a way to stand out,” she says. “Everything is not about trying to be the lowest price or acting exactly like somebody else. What really matters is setting yourself apart.”
And despite her struggles during peak season, she advises sellers to take advantage of the slow period before to think ahead. “No matter what, I think every year when you get to your slow period, you need to start innovating. Try to figure out what you can do that is going to put you two steps ahead of your competition."
To learn more about UpaknShip and to purchase their products, check them out here: