First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jan Bednar: Thanks for asking — my family and I are all safe and well. We’re still adapting to and overcoming challenges that have come to life during the pandemic, but we’re taking things day-by-day and adjusting to the new norm. I’ve come to realize that the mental health of my family, myself, and my employees are vital to growth, and I can see all of us surfacing from the pandemic stronger and better than when we entered it.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded ShipMonk.
Jan Bednar: I am the founder and CEO of ShipMonk, a technology-driven order fulfillment center. Our solutions enable fast-growing eCommerce companies to focus on their business achieving next-level growth. By providing multi-channel order fulfillment services and eCommerce management software, ShipMonk helps eCommerce companies “stress less, grow more.”
I was born in the Czech Republic and immigrated to the United States at age seventeen to pursue the American dream. ShipMonk was my college brainchild, except it actually started out as a package forwarding company called BedaBox.
While operating BedaBox out of my dorm room, I won first place in two business plan competitions. I was then invited to join my college’s accelerator program, FAU Tech Runway, which provided services to young startups. These experiences gave me the resources — like financial backing and warehouse space — I needed to grow my budding business.
After about a year of package forwarding, I realized that there were bigger opportunities to be had in eCommerce order fulfillment, which prompted BedaBox to be officially rebranded to ShipMonk. My goal was to revolutionize the logistics industry by coupling superior fulfillment services with first-class customer service and modern technology.
Since the company’s inception, we’ve grown tremendously — scaling in revenue from $130,000 in 2014 to over $65 million in 2019. Headquartered out of Fort Lauderdale, FL, we have facilities in Pennsylvania and California, as well as an office in the Czech Republic, and we have plans for further expansion.
I’m honored to be on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List in 2018, and more importantly, ShipMonk has been recognized for several prestigious awards, such as Entrepreneur Magazine’s 360 List of Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America, Deloitte Technology Fast 500, and for three years in a row, Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 5000 List of Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America.
How does ShipMonk innovate?
Jan Bednar: ShipMonk was built on innovation. We’re not the first order fulfillment company to help business owners save time and money, but we are the first to bring modern technology to the fulfillment industry.
Our proprietary software is an industry leader and total game-changer for us and our merchants. With just a few simple clicks, eCommerce business owners can seamlessly navigate order, inventory, and warehouse management. What really makes our software stand out is that it packs a major punch while still being completely user-friendly.
Of course, our warehousing technology is a foundational bedrock of our business and something we invest heavily in. Most notably, we’ve partnered with two companies — Kardex and Locus Robotics — to bring automation to life in our facilities through vertical storage solutions and warehouse robots. All of our facilities are optimized for maximum efficiency and productivity, which is how we’re able to hit some very important metrics, such as an order accuracy rate of over 99.85%.
Lastly, we innovate through the workspace. Aside from comprehensive health insurance and a 401(k) plan, ShipMonk employees get to enjoy exciting perks such as a dog-friendly office, a decked out refreshment and snack bar, a gaming station, a meditation room, weekly exercise classes at our in-house gym, and opportunities to participate in fun social outings like seasonal parties and warehouse inaugurations. We’re very much a “work hard, play hard” kind of company.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jan Bednar: We’ve been very fortunate in that, as essential business, ShipMonk has remained fully operational throughout the pandemic. That being said, the health, safety, and wellbeing of our employees, merchants, and communities is our top priority. With ongoing guidance from the CDC, we have implemented a number of policies and procedures to reduce our employee’s risk of exposure at all of our locations, including daily sanitation measures in our warehouses.
One real challenge we’ve encountered since the start of the pandemic has been meeting the demands of an increasingly dominant and competitive eCommerce market. Obviously, this is a good problem to have, but nonetheless still one we do not take lightly. We can’t complain about the increase in orders, but it has posed a challenge. We pride ourselves in providing superior customer service, and we have to adjust accordingly when we’re experiencing peak numbers to keep our high internal standards intact. In order to adapt to the recent surge in online sales, we’ve doubled down on hiring employees, which, in return, has optimized warehouse efficiency and productivity.
In the age of COVID, adaptability is the name of the game, and we’ll continue to do just that.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jan Bednar: Definitely! As a business owner, making difficult choices is inevitable. In fact, something as simple as taking on a new team member can leave me tossing at night. I’m confident with most of the choices I’ve made, but there have been times when making the wrong choice has led to some valuable life lessons.
An example would be a few years ago when I was looking for someone to take on a leadership position at ShipMonk. They would’ve been responsible for overseeing important aspects of the customer service department, so finding the perfect person was absolutely essential.
Unfortunately, I was swayed by a résumé that seemed too good to be true. After a few months, I came to the realization that, while the skill set was there, the candidate I picked was simply not a good cultural fit for the company. That experience taught me a lot, and, since then, I am more selective and thorough with hiring.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and ShipMonk in the future?
Jan Bednar: Stress and anxiety happen to the best of us. If I want to get out of a mental rut, I’ve found that taking a break to do things I love helps me reset. I enjoy playing ping-pong, lifting weights and partaking in pretty much any water sport in my spare time. I make it a point to spend time with my amazing wife and our dog, and other family and friends. It’s all about finding balance and replenishing your mental (and physical!) fuel when you need to.
The future definitely looks bright for ShipMonk — and, by extension, for me as well! I expect the company to continue scaling and gaining ground as the fulfillment center to watch. In a couple of years, I want ShipMonk to be synonymous with words like eCommerce and shipping. It’s a lofty goal, but I think we’re well on our way.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Jan Bednar: We’re more concerned with innovation and automation than our competitors. You can’t see what’s ahead of you if you’re looking in the rearview mirror.
ShipMonk’s success simply wouldn’t be possible if we weren’t on the right track, so the plan is to continue pioneering and carving the path forward. Ultimately, that means more warehouse facilities, more software features, and more investments in automation and technology.
Your final thoughts?
Jan Bednar: It’s vital to support your employees while not sugar-coating the reality we face every day. Checking in on your employees, clients, and people important to you is critical to move forward in today’s climate. Our motto, “Stress Less, Grow More,” cannot be more relevant and has possibly taken on a different meaning when considering the state of the world. At ShipMonk, we’re here to help our clients and their customers in any way possible, and we’re 100% committed to it.