VISTA – Founded in 2017 by three local entrepreneurs looking for better delivery service for their own products, Vista-based ShipLab is doing so well filling needs in eCommerce that the company opened a second site in Carlsbad last year and is already eyeing a need for more room moving forward.
With 300% growth marked for the company in 2022-23, ShipLab co-founders Jake Brenner and Alan Silberstein have grown their business to 20 employees who work with nearly 50 brands, including La Jolla-based Everyday California and GOODONYA Organic Eatery in Encinitas. The company averages about 3,000 direct-to-customer 3,000 items per day on average.
Originally based in an 800-square foot warehouse, in just six years’ time, ShipLab has expanded to 160,000 square feet, including 40,000 square feet that they say is currently open for new partners.
“Our goal at the very beginning was to simply change and improve the expectations of fulfillment along with providing ourselves with the service we were needing,” Silberstein said.
Brenner and Silberstein started their eCommerce business building what they call “the perfect center” based on the needs and wants they had as customers themselves. Years ago, the two were both running small and medium-sized eCommerce businesses, and found they were spending too much time fulfilling and shipping orders.
Among the past endeavors of Silberstein was founding the electric bicycle company that eventually became Cyclo Electric Bike. Brenner previously kickstarted a passion for entrepreneurship by founding the startup Boomstickz, which made pole mounts for GoPros. He later co-founded the company Boo Diapers, baby diapers made of biodegradable bamboo.
“[Shipping] was also costing us way too much,” Silberstein said. “Unbeknownst to each other, we both started looking into fulfillment centers on our own and were very underwhelmed. We found that every center we looked at lacked a key understanding of the ‘non-fulfillment’ side, like great customer service, accurate inventory management and simply doing what they said they would do.”
Both said they “needed a place that knew eCommerce, not just pallets in/out,” and one able to handle high stock keeping unit counts, order changes and integrations.
“We knew from our experience that we couldn’t work with a company that didn’t have these things mastered,” he said.
The two had a mutual friend who was having similar challenges and he connected them, and soon thereafter ShipLab was born.
Brenner said the company’s services, which are U.S. Food and Drug Administration registered and California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Type 14 licensed, include eCommerce “pick and pack;” LTL (less than truckload) warehousing and fulfillment (third party logistics); fulfillment by Amazon and Amazon fulfillment by merchant; project-based fulfillment; kitting (grouping, packaging and shipping related products) and special projects.
“Rather than brands having to deal with their own warehouses and shipping, we handle all of it for them,” he said. Our team will pick, pack and ship the order out to them. We really become an extension of their team. As such, we pride ourselves on our accountability. We also maintain a shipment and inventory accuracy of over 99% by using the latest software and technology. Most importantly, we do what we say we’re going to do, and if we do make a mistake — we’re all human — we immediately make it right.”
Silberstein said that with ShipLab’s expansion into a second warehouse, largely opened to fill the needs of one of the nation’s fastest-selling beverage companies, there is now adequate space for any and all brands.
Silberstein said that a major difference between ShipLab and other fulfillment centers is the company’s care and attention to detail. He shared an example of one “huge moment” when one of its partner brands was running a promotion during which ShipLab oversaw more than 35,000 orders in one week. The orders needed to ship via USPS First Class.
“Our warehouse team saw a few labels that didn’t look right,” he said. “When investigating further, we discovered that one of our client’s team members had accidentally changed a setting on their website so it was telling our system to ship it via an expedited service which costs about five times the price. Our team caught this almost immediately and alerted our partner brand. We then helped them get everything corrected in their Shopify store. Most other warehouses would have just printed the label, not said a word, and shipped out thousands of orders at the higher rate, which would have then cost the brand over $100,000 extra dollars, and it would have been 100% the brand’s fault.”
Self-funded, ShipLab started small and grew strategically and organically, allowing it to sustain its own growth.
“In an age where you’re celebrated by how much money you’ve raised, we really focused on creating a sound, profitable foundation to allow us to self-fund,” Brenner said. “More recently we have taken on some debt to help finance the large expansion we just made.”
Being self-funded also poses challenges, Silberstein said, during busy times that require capital for postage costs, additional labor and equipment. The growth, while welcomed and continuing has been a learning experience, with modifications in processes.
“We’ve had to take things one day at a time and really put a lot of thought into our business plan,” Silberstein said.
Brenner said: “A lot of overcoming setbacks and challenges have just been trial and error. There are a lot of storms on the entrepreneurial ocean and we hit more than our fair share early on. More recently, we have really found our stride, which has been super exciting.”
The company was one of a handful that fared well during the COVID-19 pandemic, fulfilling needs for essential products, including diapers and gloves.
With eCommerce needs growing annually, Brenner said the company plans to continue expanding.
“We hope to open another facility on the East Coast at some point, but we have been growing so quickly (in San Diego County) that we want to ensure our level of service isn’t ever put at risk due to chasing growth,” he said.
FOUNDED: November 2017
CO-FOUNDER AND CEO: Jake Brenner
CO-FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF SALES: Alan Silberstein
BUSINESS: eCommerce Fulfillment