The genesis of Brian Scheiber’s million dollar idea came about while he was flipping through a magazine on an airplane during a business trip in 1999. He saw a picture of a pack of grazing alpacas and thought, “wow, that looks really cool.” Tired with his job in the high tech field, Brian did some research, and next thing he knew, he’d bought some land on Vashon Island outside of Seattle and started a small alpaca farm and a small online shopping cart.
From a Passing Interest in Alpacas to a Wild and Woolly Online Business
Cut to 20 years later, and Brian and his wife now run two very successful e-commerce ventures in the alpaca industry: Purely Alpaca, a retailer of Alpaca gifts, and Choice Alpaca, a wholesaler of alpaca goods. He started the first business in 2002, back in the early days of online shopping, and added the wholesaler five years later. What started as a fascination with a cute looking animal turned out to be a solid business decision: demand for quality alpaca products was much higher than Brian and his wife anticipated, and they’ve experienced more than 100 percent growth per year since they’ve been in operation.
Herding Shipping to Shepherd Rapid Growth
While the high season for alpaca gifts is the holidays, considering wholesale makes up about 75% of their business, business stays brisk for most of the year. Brian is pleased to report the company did more than $1 million in sales last year, and he is working new ways to continue to expand. He and his wife have relocated to the desert mountains outside San Diego. While they are no longer farmers, (“the San Diego area can be a bit toasty for alpacas”), they do operate a 3,000 square foot warehouse from which they ship most of their orders.
Both Purely Alpaca and Choice Alpaca are built in Shopify and use Shippo for shipping, though Brian experimented with different platforms along his e-commerce journey. He says he discovered Shippo after having used an outdated competitor whose label printer is still gathering dust on an unused corner of his desk. His main requirement when he went looking for a new shipping solution a few years ago? Speed. Brian and his wife are sole proprietors, so there’s no time to waste.
“We like to get things labeled as fast as possible because we often have to ship up to 130 orders a day,” says Brian. “Shippo has taken the steps to make shipping streamlined, which is very helpful. With Shippo, we can get into a flow, which bangs out labels at very pleasing speeds!”
His favorite Shippo feature is definitely batch shipping—once again, it all comes down to speed. They use USPS for most of their retail orders, and UPS for wholesale orders and Shippo easily handles both.
He also appreciates the fact that Shippo integrates so well with Shopify across the board, and likes the ability to communicate with customers directly through the Shippo interface. “I don’t have people constantly calling me saying, where’s my product?” Brian says. “They get a nice email with the tracking number and it’s all clean and easy.”