Packing orders: Company doubles sales over year, expects steady growth

GRAWN – It's a big, big e-commerce world out there, and a northern Michigan company is playing a pretty important part in it. No, they are not selling goods through an electronic storefront, or several storefronts, as the case may be. Rather, they are the reason the product shows up in a box on your doorstep. Jordan Lindberg sees it this way.

"We're not exactly the prospectors out on the Alaskan range looking for the Mother Lode," said Lindberg, vice-president of sales and marketing for eFulfillment Service. "That is what traditional e-commerce retailers are trying to do. What we're doing is more like selling eggs and shovels to the prospectors. But opportunity comes in many guises."

EFulfillment Service is an "outsourced Internet order fulfillment" company headquartered in Grawn. To put it simply, the company stores, packages, and ships goods sold via the Internet to the buyer. It also handles return processing and inventory receiving and reporting. What makes the company click is its recently redesigned website, www.efulfillmentservice.com, and its custom-designed interactive software. Customers utilize the "Fulfillment Control Panel" to issue shipping orders, check the status of the receiving process, monitor inventory, and produce reports.

"It's the guts of our company," said Lindberg, noting that clients can interface with the panel through either a manual or automated process.

Last year was an exceptional year for the company as it doubled its sales from 2005, although no revenue figures are made public. Lindberg said the reason for the growth spike was two-fold. First, the company picked up a lot of new clients.

"We're the kind of company you find on the Internet," by Internet entrepreneurs who are online all the time. The company website was the the number one non-"pay per click" result of a recent organic search on Google of the term "efulfillment."

If you're a successsful Internet entrepreneur, how much packaging are you going to have to do before you're willing to pay somebody else to do it, Lindberg asked.

Second, many of its current clients are maturing and "seeing real successes in their own businesses, and, of course, we're along for the ride," added Lindberg. He doesn't anticipate a repeat sales performance in 2007.

"I think we've reached our tipping point and are on a steady strong growth curve," he said.

Unlike many local businesses that are currently struggling to stay afloat in a dismal state economy, eFulfillment Service is tied to the national and international economy much more than to the local economy.

Lindberg said he does have a few local clients, though the company does not release their names.

As part of its business model, eFulfillment pursues small accounts, Lindberg said, and currently has 280 "active clients," selling everything from toys to tools, health care products, kitchen products, electronics, and more.

Some 16 percent of its business is international, according to Lindberg, and is primarily Canadian with a few in Australia. The ability to ship to U.S. addresses from a U.S. address and less interaction with U.S. customs is a major draw for these foreign-owned businesses.

The company was founded by John Lindberg, Jordan's father, in 2000. The facility was actually built by Lindberg back in 1973 and housed numerous businesses since then.

"He wrapped up a business venture and found himself with a 35,000 square-foot empty warehouse" in a challenging real estate market, said Lindberg. "The business grew out of a very practical problem."

The elder Lindberg, president and CEO of eFulfillment, decided it was the perfect space to support a burgeoning e-commerce industry. The availability of relatively inexpensive commercial and industrial storage space in the area gives the company a competitive edge over similar companies in larger cities.

Five years later, a second (leased) facility in Traverse City was added on Aero Park Dr. in the old Burwood Products building and the company employs around 60 workers. The two facilities combine for a total of about 90,000 square feet of storage and fulfillment space.

"The truth is that what we're doing isn't the sexiest part of the world of e-commerce," said Lindberg, "but there is opportunity here." BN

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