Imagine opening a fulfillment center in a vacant morgue. That’s exactly what Joe Spisak did before he started Fulfill.com.
These days, Joe helps connect third-party warehouses and eCommerce companies through Fulfill.com so they can both grow. But before he did that, he ran a warehouse himself and invented a couple of board games (Dicey and OK Boomer). Along the way, he learned a lot of lessons you can only learn the hard way / the best way.
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0:00 How Joe Spisak Opened A Warehouse In A Morgue
0:45 What is Fulfill.com?
4:19 Joe Spisak’s board games – Dicey & OK Boomer
5:48 The magic of starting chaotic, messy businesses
10:52 Building a social media following: then vs. now
15:55 From board games to order fulfillment
22:46 The growth of ShipDaddy
29:51 How Joe sold ShipDaddy
32:44 How Joe Spisak decides which business opportunities to pursue
40:03 Parting advice from Joe Spisak & where you can find him online
Joe Spisak: The, building was actually a, a vacant morgue. So they, they, they used to, they used to keep the bodies in this building, but I looked at it and, you know, all of that aside, I was like, this actually is a pretty good spot because where they would keep the dead bodies, um, was makeshift racking for us to keep product.
Brandon Rollins: My name is Brandon Rollins, and this is the Weird Marketing Tales Podcast. On this show, I interview small business owners, entrepreneurs, and creative professionals who are doing things that you probably didn’t know that you could do for a living. And so on today’s show, I’ve invited on Joe Spisak, who I know through Fulfill.com.
How’s it going, Joe?
Joe Spisak: Doing great. Thanks for having me, Brandon.
What is Fulfill.com?
Brandon Rollins: So usually when I start these things, I, I like to give a little bit of an intro on, um, exactly what it is that my guest does, but there’s actually so much to talk about that’s interesting that I just wanna let this stuff kind of naturally unfold, if that’s cool with you.
Joe Spisak: Yeah, let’s do it man.
Brandon Rollins: So, like I said a minute ago, I know you through Fulfill.com.
So can you tell folks a little bit about what that is?
Joe Spisak: Yeah, sure thing. So Fulfill.com is a marketing company for third party logistics companies. So 3PLs or warehouses that ship goods for other companies, they can come to us and we can take over their marketing, help them grow, help them find their ideal customer profiles to fill up their warehouses.
And then alternatively, we’re also a finding service for e-commerce brands or companies that are looking for the perfect shipping partner. Uh, so they can come to us, we can run full RFP for them. They can submit all of their information and then we can send that out to hundreds of different warehouses, 3PLs on our network and they can bid back and we can help them get, you know, a cheaper, faster and really overall better shipping partner in as little as seven days.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. And that’s a really cool service to have because when you start running an e-commerce store and you start getting, I’d say more than like a hundred orders a month, it becomes a real hassle to start shipping stuff on your own. And this is something I’ve learned with another, um, client of mine who I’ve been working with, they actually run a third party logistics company, so they ship for others as well. I, I’ve learned that it’s just, it’s an immense burden to handle that stuff on your own. But, of course, it’s also a real pain to try and find the right warehousing company because there’s just a lot of choices out there.
Joe Spisak: Yeah, you’re, you’re spot on. So I actually, uh, we’ve coined that couple hundred order a month mark as the graduation period where you either need to make the decision to double down and basically become your own commercial grade fulfillment operation or you need a 3PL to, to help you with the shipping portion of it.
And so many people, like you said, they, they find out that, you know, they, they don’t want to end up having to hire a warehouse team and figure out the warehouse and fulfillment technology. And even if they may save, you know, a couple percentage points or, or they may not, especially depending on where they’re located in the country with cost of rent and things of that nature.
It ultimately just makes sense for most people to just use a great 3PL. Easier to scale, less burden, they can focus on sales, marketing in, in growing their brand.
Brandon Rollins: Mm-hmm. And I can tell you from personal experience, I did a Kickstarter way back in ’16 and it was like a really small project I had like, oh, 130 rewards to ship out or something. It was called War Co. It was a card game. And it took an enormous amount of time to ship that out. I mean, I’m talking 130 orders of cards and I, it was different SKUs because I, I did this in such a silly way, but I was 22, 23 years old, so what you gonna do?
But, um, like all the card decks were different SKUs, so I had to pack ’em in different orders. So of course that’s pick and pack, that’s a big thing in the warehousing industry. And it took, I wanna say seven or eight hours to prep 130 orders to go out. And that’s not including the big run to the post office, as well, where he had to have those scanned in too.
There’s better ways to do it, mind you, but it was like, it was an incredibly time-consuming thing.
Joe Spisak’s board games – Dicey & OK Boomer
Joe Spisak: Exactly, and then you had to pay for retail shipping rates once you got over to the post office. And I, it’s hilarious because we actually come from similar backgrounds in the board gaming space. I’ve run two, uh, Kickstarters as well for different board gaming companies that I’ve started. And it was a super similar experience.
Like we did all of our fulfillment from home. You know, couple, couple hundred, different backers for each Kickstarter. And, uh, we, with the, the first Kickstarter that we did, we made the mistake of offering so many different items for the different rewards tiers. So we, we had like t-shirts and coolers and, like, all sorts of little knickknacks, so it took us, oh man.
I had like my whole family in there and it took us a couple days just to get everything good to go.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, it’s a ton of work. So like the, you did OK Boomer, right? That was the card game you did.
Joe Spisak: Correct. So our very first game, it was called Dicey, and Dicey was actually a party game, a drinking game. And so that’s, that’s where we started. And then I ended up learning a ton from creating Dicey over the course of a couple years. Uh, kind of graduated out of the drinking game phase and had a great time and learned a lot from that.
I was getting exhausted from guerilla marketing it, drinking like five times a week trying to sell this. Uh, so ended up pivoting in the other direction and created a, a game, uh, in the trivia space. That is an awesome family trivia game, generational trivia game called OK Boomer.
The magic of starting chaotic, messy businesses
Brandon Rollins: See that. That’s really cool. And, And now was Dicey the first business that you had built?
Joe Spisak: Yeah, so good question.
Brandon Rollins: was that?
Joe Spisak: Dicey was right after I graduated college in probably 2015 or 2016.
Brandon Rollins: Oh gosh.
Joe Spisak: Yeah. Yeah.
Brandon Rollins: That’s when I started Pangea Games back when that was a thing.
Joe Spisak: Yes, exactly, man. So I mean, it was an awesome, I’m sure you had like a similar experience, but it was an awesome experience for me. It took probably like over two years to get a product to market and I was working on it pretty dang hard, but, you know, you take all those learning lessons, then you fast forward to OK Boomer and we put together what I consider to be a much better product than what Dicey was.
And we probably did that in like six or seven months. So, you know, it’s just, once you actually know what you’re doing, you can cut down the time immensely.
Brandon Rollins: Mm-hmm, especially like, I, I would say there’s definitely a big difference between kind of mass market and family games and hobby games. And hobby games will take forever for the most part, although sometimes you’ll stumble into a design, uh, family stuff is a lot easier to crank out. So if, like, if somebody’s looking to make a lot of money on that, I would say go for, like, a family game, a trivia game, a party game, a drinking game. Put that on Amazon and you don’t even have to go with Kickstarter or anything.
Joe Spisak: Yeah. Yeah, I definitely concur with what you just said there. Um, and you know, even just to add on to that, you can kind of find a game design that has been similarly done in the past and kind of overlay your, you know, rules and design and experience on top of it. There’s no need to, like, recreate the wheel.
And then anytime you add in multiple game components, because correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the games from Pangea that you created, you had all sorts of, um, different game components, correct? Like, like with OK Boomer, it. It’s just cards, which makes the printing process much easier with Dicey, it is cards with a 12 sided die, very similar to like a, a Dungeons & Dragons die that’s also included in the game.
And just the nuance of having a little die like that added a completely different logistical hurdle that we were just, were not anticipating
Brandon Rollins: Yep. Yeah. For Tasty Humans, as an example, I mean, that was, that was multiple boards. That was tiles. That was a custom meeple was in there too. I mean, like, there’s uh, decks of cards, instructions. Of course a box itself is materials, and it’s like, that’s a simple game too, like, but a still quite a bit of goes into it as far as materials.
Joe Spisak: Yeah, I admire, I admire you putting together all of that, especially for one of the first entrepreneurial projects you did like that. That must have been crazy.
Brandon Rollins: Honestly, it was a little bit insane, but I, I’ll, I’ll tell you, I’m super glad that I did it the way that I did. As nuts as that sounds, I’ll say to anybody, like, if you wanna make a hobby game and you’ve got like the, the patience and the time and, and the investment needed to do that, it’s like, honestly, go for it.
Like, if that’s what you really, really wanna do, go for it. I gotta say that what it, what it taught me was like how you manufacture something, how you source materials, how you,, like, for, for games it’s play testing, how you, um, go back and forth on a product until you get it to be what your audience wants.
And, like, that is a better crash course and marketing than anything that I got in school. And school didn’t slouch on the lessons either,
so I don’t know. It was just so instructive.
Joe Spisak: You are like 100% on with that. Uh, I’d say the same thing to anybody that I mentor as well. It’s like the best way to learn is just to dive in and start…
Brandon Rollins: Make a freaking board game.
Joe Spisak: Make a board game, make a business, do something with, you know, minimal risks so you don’t have to, so you don’t have to try and start your first company that’s gonna take hundreds of thousands of dollars, uh, to bring something to market.
Um, but yeah, that’s just, I’m super thankful for dicey, even though things didn’t necessarily pan out exactly how we thought it were, we’re going to at the time. Um, the lessons I learned along the way helped with all of the businesses that came after that.
Brandon Rollins: And I feel like that’s kind of what you have to do to build a business. It’s like you just try something. Obviously be smart about it, plan it out. Don’t invest anything you can’t lose. Like there’s different things you can do based on your circumstances in life. But it’s like, just do whatever you can to give yourself as many tries as you can when you’re starting out, cuz you don’t know what’s gonna be the thing that’s gonna succeed.
Just give a lot of things a shot and give yourself the room for that.
Joe Spisak: Fail faster. That’s, that’s what I call it. That’s what you have to do early on in your entrepreneurial career. Like try a little bit of everything, fail as fast as you can, don’t get discouraged and keep going. And to add to that, one of the things that I wish I did, But I just never did for the first couple years I was doing this, was seek out a great entrepreneurial mentor, basically just a great mentor.
Someone who has done what you are trying to do in the past, you’d be absolutely shocked. How many awesome people are, you know, would be excited to kind of help coach you through, uh, what you’re trying to do.
Building a social media following: then vs. now
Joe Spisak: And that would just put you so, so far ahead. And it’s funny because, you just kind of alluded to this, but I think one of the reasons that, you know, I am having success in marketing like I am is because of the mistakes that I made with Dicey. I tried to do every single subset of marketing that you could to promote this product, when in reality I really just needed to pick one or two great social channels, great strategies, and kind of dive in on those instead of trying to, you know, take all of these different marketing genres and, and do every single one of them.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, and it’s like if you don’t know what to do with marketing, you can do a lot worse than trying a little of everything. Again, as long as you don’t go over the amount of money that you truly cannot afford to spend, but like you can do a lot worse than trying everything. But at some point, at some point, you’ve gotta narrow it down and focus on the things that are actually getting ROI.
Joe Spisak: Exactly. And if you’re on social, and your audience lives in, you know, uh, primarily on certain channels, you may want to start there, but it’s always great to focus on one social channel and build a big following, and then use that big following to leverage growth on other social channels is what we’ve noticed.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, and one thing I did actually, that’s on a small scale, I think just about anybody could do this if they wanted to. When I was building up an audience around game development and the games that I was working on, I got on Twitter and Instagram, and at the time the strategy was just to follow a ton of people.
Okay. That’s not necessarily the best strategy anymore. That’s not my point here. Point is, I got as many people to follow me as I could using the strategy that made sense at the time. And then I set up a chat room on Discord because that’s where the gamers were hanging out in ’17, ’18. And I started direct messaging everybody by hand.
And I ended up messaging probably 10,000 people over a bunch of different networks over a lot of time and invited them to the room. And in doing so, just by, like, messaging as many people as I could, trying to get ’em in the circle, I found mentors. I found people who I could give work to, you know, people who I could contract and hire.
I found friends, I found a community and it’s, like, that’s really, really critical I think is try and build up that community as early as you can.
Joe Spisak: Oh my gosh, 100%. And especially whenever you have minimal spending money in the positions that both of us were in the, the guerilla marketing is how you’re gonna actually be able to drive the needle. And we did something very, very similar. You know, I was DMing people left and right and ended up building out like a pretty complex bot network off of something called Jarvi because I wanted to automate those processes more and more, and, and years and years and years ago, like the follow and unfollow method was, was really big in order to get people, um…
it, I know, I know. It was ridiculous. Like marketing has changed so much.
Brandon Rollins: thank God it
Joe Spisak: year year, thank God, right. Seriously. Yeah. I don’t miss those days one bit.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. No, not at all. There was actually a stretch in my life where I was working for an insurance company and I would just, whenever I took a break, I’d just like follow a hundred people on Insta. It was awful. Like, I’m so glad that’s not a thing anymore.
Joe Spisak: Yeah. I don’t even want to know what my phone screen time was during those days. I pretty much just lived, lived on the different social media channels and was just copy and pasting messages and, and following. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But nope.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, it, it’s like, yeah, goodness, I don’t miss that. I was just thinking, um, so after you were doing games, you, and you did this for a few years, I think OK Boomer, you can actually still buy that, is that right?
Joe Spisak: Yeah, you can actually still buy both games, it’s just we have haven’t been pushing, um, dicey, uh, as we haven’t been pushing it as all at all. It’s basically just… It, it is, We still have kind of like a small emphasis on small cult following of people that still like to play. It is a great game. It’s just we’re not pushing it from a marketing perspective anymore.
So I have a couple thousand units left, and you know, we’ll just keep it up until hopefully those sell out one day. But we are still actively marketing OK Boomer. It’s doing very well. We have like over 3,500 5-star reviews between Amazon and our website, over a thousand on Amazon. We’re actually getting ready to come out with our third SKU um, so second expansion pack here within the next few months.
Brandon Rollins: All those links are down there, by the way, in the show notes, in the transcript, if you wanna buy a copy for yourself.
Joe Spisak: Yeah, definitely check it out. Would love, would love for uh, everyone on the show to check it out? Uh, let me know your thoughts too.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. Uh, yeah. Leave thoughts in the um, I’m actually thinking about where, where are we gonna have people do comments? Uh, pretty much any social media you find this on, how about that?
Joe Spisak: Yes. Shoot us a DM just like we were doing back in the day.
From board games to order fulfillment
Brandon Rollins: Uh, send us a telegram, carrier pigeon. I’ll to just about anything. But anyway, where I was going with that, was that after you started with the games, you actually ended up creating your own warehousing company? I think it was in ’19.
Joe Spisak: Yeah, it was right around that time period, and you’re absolutely right. So the games were taking off and doing really well to, you know, we got to that graduation period that we talked about earlier, and we ended up going through three different, 3PL partners over the course of a year and a half.
And, you know, it was just one thing after the other, like, I was super disappointed in like the lack of pricing transparency. The customer support was, was really, really impressively bad. You know, we would send an email out to the support line or the account executive we were working with. We’d wait three or four days to hear back and pray to God that’ll get triaged to the right person in the company that could actually, you know, help us solve our problems.
So, you know, like, like every great business starts by solving a, a big problem that exists in the market that other people are looking to get solved as well. So I ended up starting a, a 3PL basically out of my parents’ house.
Called that 3PL, ShipDaddy and ended up bringing the games in-house, found a couple other customers that were having the same problems and created a flexible fulfillment organization that focused on being an extension of these e-commerce brands and a true partner instead of, you know, just another warehouse where you’d ship your stuff to and say a prayer that they’d be able to deliver good customer service for you.
Brandon Rollins: Mm-hmm. Any 3PL that will actually answer their emails and phone calls in the same day is pretty much a gift. If you’re running a business and you depend on them, Cuz it’s, it’s actually relatively uncommon to find that. And if you can get the same person every time, even better.
Joe Spisak: Exactly, and you could see why something like that would may happen for these big 3PLs is because their support team is, there’s a high likelihood that they’re not actually on the floor in the warehouse where their orders are being picked and packed. So there is, you know, there’s a delay, there’s a lag time in the communication there whenever you’re not able to communicate directly with the people that are picking and packing your product.
Brandon Rollins: Mm-hmm. Yeah, absolutely. And I feel like one of the good things about warehouses is it’s actually a relatively, well, it’s a simple enough business model, like a small business can actually run a 3PL and not have too hard of a time of it. Like you do still need substantial, you need a building, you need some staff, you need a lot, you need some equipment to some degree.
But it’s, like, it’s not a totally far off thing, like creating the next social media network or something. Like you don’t, you don’t need an auto making factory or something. It’s relatively straightforward to do, which, as a result, means there’s actually a lot of folks that you can contact who would do a pretty good job of shipping out your orders.
You just have to know where to look for ’em.
Joe Spisak: 100% correct. So we’ve noticed in our experience that working with what I call boutique level 3PLs, so you know, 3PLs and their owners that are much smaller than the big guys on the market. Uh, they’ve been able to deliver better pricing and a better overall customer experience like almost every time.
But like you said, the actual nature of the business, taking something off a shelf, you know, putting it in a box, printing a shipping label, slapping it on that box and, and shipping it out through you know, an existing carrier network like a UPS or USPS, you know, that’s not something that’s technologically super advanced, but you know, you need to have good technology that you’re able to link into the e-commerce stores.
The Amazons, Walmart.com, Shopifys to be able to ingest that order data and then print the shipping labels effectively, manage the inventory effectively. And within the last, you know, several years, I got lucky and was kind of starting my 3PL around the time where this cloud-based warehouse management system technology started to become commercialized.
So we, we didn’t have to hire a team of software engineers and create our own proprietary tech. That would’ve been an a nightmare, and it would’ve cost hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars to get right. But, we were able to, you know, uh, use one of these cloud-based technology programs and offer high level service, you know, right away.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. See that’s very cool and I, I think also because you started it in ’19, you also kind of had, in a very sick way, good luck because e-commerce started doing really well in ’20, too, which I’m sure that probably helped order volume.
Joe Spisak: Yeah, it was so strange because, so the town that we’re from in central Pennsylvania, I’m from like a more rural part of Pennsylvania. You’re watching, this is like primetime COVID time, whenever we were building up ShipDaddy and you’re watching, like, these small mom and pop stores, these restaurants, other small business owners all around you.
You know, this was like the nail in a coffin for a lot of different businesses around us. And it was really tough to see. And then alternatively, we somehow stumbled into this industry that is like 10X-ing e-commerce growth around the globe, uh, over the course of that time period. So it definitely didn’t hurt us.
I’ll tell you that.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, and that’s a twisted thing is, I’ve actually talked to a lot of people who their business model took off because of the pandemic. And honestly, I started doing better because of the pandemic too, because like people needed more marketing online. And because I was working with people adjacent to e-commerce, I started to do a little bit better as well.
I found that a lot of people feel kind of bad for that good luck. I, I just kind to me, I see the pandemic as a sort of, well, I mean actually it is a literal force of nature – I mean it was really, really, really, really, really awful. Um, there are these little silver linings if you’re able to look for them.
Joe Spisak: Yeah, no, I totally understand what you’re saying. And yeah, I definitely, uh, I don’t, I don’t feel bad about it it because nobody could have predicted it. It, it, um, ultimately ended up helping our business. But at the same time, you know, there will be stuff like that that happens that will inevitably hurt our business in the future too.
So, you know, it’s kind of just the, the ebbs and flows and you have to be able to adapt in a super quick manner and you know, it’s crazy seeing like some companies out there that are so large and growing so fast that you look at them and you think like, “Oh, these guys are going to last forever. They’re gonna keep growing to infinity.”
But in reality, if you can’t continue to innovate and be able to not get stuck in the status quo, sometimes your company will inevitably start shrinking or die one day. So yeah, I mean, I think that’s just part of the game. It’s the ebbs and flows of being an entrepreneur and trying to grow.
The growth of ShipDaddy
Brandon Rollins: Absolutely. Now, speaking of growth, I figure that ShipDaddy probably still isn’t in your parents’ house, right?
Joe Spisak: No, no, no. We ended up getting kicked out of there pretty quickly. The, the landlords, my mom and dad didn’t want us putting too many pallets in the basement. So…
Brandon Rollins: yeah. I don’t blame
Joe Spisak: Yeah, so this is actually a good story that I think you’ll like. So I was doing some web work on the side while I was growing ShipDaddy and uh, one of my dad’s friends from college owned a real estate company in the area and he was looking for an update on his website and some strategy on, filling his, his properties in, in our community. So I volunteered to help do some web work for him in exchange for using a, a vacant building that they had to upgrade from my parents’ house. So we did this web work for him and we ended up upgrading to the building and we got in there.
We didn’t have a truck dock. The, building was actually a, a vacant morgue. So they, they, they used to, they used to keep the bodies in this building, but I looked at it and, you know, all of that aside, I was like, this actually is a pretty good spot because where they would keep the dead bodies was makeshift racking for us to keep product.
So we were able to slide pallets in to where this racking was at this facility. We didn’t have air conditioning. We didn’t have heat. We didn’t have a bathroom there, so we were driving down the road to go to the bathroom at a local gas station. And um, and I told you there’s no truck dock. So whenever people, whenever these 53 foot trucks would come to drop stuff off at our warehouse, you could barely even call it a warehouse.
But they would just be in awe like, What are you guys doing? Like, where do you want us to drop all this stuff off at? So it worked for us great for like about six months. We ended up filling that up and then, at that point, we had enough cash flow to move into, like, a more commercial grade building.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. That’s just totally crazy to even think about operating a 3PL out of an old morgue. But it’s like, yeah, it, it actually, if you can get past the sort of ickiness of it, it’s like it’s actually not a terrible building for it in terms of like where things are stored and that kind of thing. It’s obviously terrible to not have a liftgate and to not have a restroom of all things, but…
Joe Spisak: Yeah, exactly.
Brandon Rollins: It works better than you’d think it would.
Joe Spisak: From a compliance perspective, we weren’t quite up to the exact standards we needed to. We didn’t even have a bathroom or anything like that. But then again, it was just me, some people from my family and like two of my best buds since childhood. So we really weren’t that picky. And at the end of the day, it’s like you couldn’t beat free, right?
So we had, we had a free place to expand into that in exchange for doing some web work. So wouldn’t, wouldn’t have traded that for the world.
Brandon Rollins: And then it was just jumping into a bigger building after that sign, a lease on a larger property?
Joe Spisak: that that’s correct.
Brandon Rollins: Actual commercial real estate? ,
Joe Spisak: Yeah, that’s correct. So we ended up moving into 6,000, like right around that. It was like 6,000, 6,500 square feet. Which at the time I was walking through that and I was like, “Wow. Like I’ve made it. This is, this is amazing, man. I can’t believe this is happening.” It was nice because I didn’t get locked into like a year or two years or five years, like some of these big industrial real estate buildings.
You’ve got a five year lease, 10 year lease. So I basically worked out something where they were kind of desperate for people to move in. Uh, again, not like the Rolls Royce of, of facilities where we’re moving into here, but it was enough where we had one truck dock and 6,500 square feet that we could move into.
So I ended up signing for a month to month lease there and kind of set out to, to fill that up.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. And then did you end up moving to a larger building after that too?
Joe Spisak: Yeah, so we, we filled that up over the course of, oh, I don’t know, probably about a year. And we ended up, and during that time I knew we were getting full, getting full, and this is, I was on the hunt for like a more permanent location. Something that we weren’t gonna have to keep moving here every year.
So I ended up, um, purchasing 140,000, quite, quite a big jump from where we were at, actual warehouse facility, in a town about 15 minutes from where we were at, called Newville. And it probably took me, I don’t even know, like five or six months. Buying, buying commercial real estate is, there’s a lot of things that I never expected we were going to have to do.
It was just a very long process, but it, it ended up working out really well. Got a good deal on the building. Seller financed it. So, so we were able to work out a, a good agreement with the seller that worked for both parties. And then ended up moving into that building and started filling that guy up.
Brandon Rollins: Man, that’s, that’s nuts. I gotta imagine that moving the warehouse multiple times is like, kind of into ordeal. Cause you’ve got all those people’s inventory, you gotta move.
Joe Spisak: Oh my gosh. Yeah. It’s beyond an ordeal. So…
Brandon Rollins: Like, is, is there a process for this or did you just do the best that you could with it?
Joe Spisak: Yeah, well we tried to make a process, but it’s, it’s, it’s a lot of sweat equity, um, as you can imagine in in organizational components as well. So, packing up all of these customers and all of their product and moving it from one facility to another. We ended up purchasing a truck to do that. Because just we looked at the economics between renting at U-Haul, estimating the amount of hours this was gonna take us, and we ended up purchasing a truck.
The thing is, nobody at our facility actually really knew how to drive a truck too well. So the very first day I dropped probably 40 or 50K on buying this, this truck, ended up running it into a tree and ripping the top off of the truck. So I ended up having to… yeah. So I ended up having to go the U-Haul route as well and not being, while having to still pay off this dang truck.
So, you know, again, learning experiences, something I can laugh about looking back, but at the time, oh my gosh, I was, I was not happy and we, we were in a tight spot for sure.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, that sounds absolutely miserable when that happens cuz like man, wrecking a vehicle, especially when you’ve just bought a new building. It’s like that’s gotta be terrifying.
Joe Spisak: Oh my gosh. Absolutely. And we like just got the insurance for it and it was all, it was a whole thing. So we ended up taking care of it. But basically how we ended up transitioning everything we would get in early every day. We’d print the labels for all of our customers. We’d pick and pack everything, and one person would stay there for the carriers to come, um, to come pick all the product up.
And then everybody else would just load as much as we could in our U-Haul truck and would just run all the pallets there, come back, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And then we had a, a smaller team at the new spot, setting up the pick and pack location, setting up all the new racking. So there was a lot of moving parts.
It took us a couple months, but, you know, then, then we weren’t gonna have to do it again.
How Joe sold ShipDaddy
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, exactly. I mean, that’s the beauty of moving into a much bigger warehouse. And so now, now I understand you do Fulfill.com, like that’s your full time gig, right?
Joe Spisak: Yeah, that’s correct. So…
Brandon Rollins: Someone else is running ShipDaddy right now?
Joe Spisak: Yeah, that’s correct. So I realized over the course of building Ship Daddy for several years that, you know, I loved my time there, especially getting to work with my best friends and being so close to my family, but that my expertise and what I really love to do is in the sales and marketing portion of everything and, you know, having a lot of success with filling up ShipDaddy and being able to grow that , I basically created a business thesis for how I could replicate my marketing strategies and do this for other boutique level 3PLs, across the country. I was doing the sales and marketing and then my buddies were really handling a bulk of the operations.
Although whenever you’re a growing company like that, you pretty much wear all the hats. Like, I’ve packed tens and tens of thousands of items, you know in the warehouse as well, so I basically got them to the point where they felt comfortable running the show there and ended up selling, back to them and having them take over full time so I could start Fulfill.com.
And help other 3PLs with their marketing and help other e-commerce brands like the OK Boomers of the world and, and the, the games that you created at Pangea find 3PLs, um, that would be the best fit for them.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. So is, is it a total exit at this point, or are you still kind of like owner and someone else’s manager?
Joe Spisak: No, it’s, it’s a, it’s a total exit at this point. They run everything and I get to hang out with them during Thanksgiving and Christmas whenever I’m home and catch up on the business. But they’re all doing very well and I’m definitely cheerleading for them from the side.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, that’s really cool. I’ve actually, I’ve never exited a company, not like exit-exit where you sell it off to somebody else. So that’s like, that’s still kind of mysterious to me. I, I just, I don’t really know how that works.
Joe Spisak: Yeah. A lot of paperwork, a lot of lawyers.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, I
Joe Spisak: Not a, not a super fun process but once you get it to the finish line and everybody, you know, everybody is comfortable with, with what the deal is, then you know, it, it, it ends up working out for everybody. But yeah, it’s, it’s, I equate it to like, trying to close on the commercial real estate stuff.
Like you’re gonna spend a lot of money with lawyers because that’s not something that you wanna skimp on. Uh, is, is setting stuff like that up incorrectly.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. There’s a handful of things in this world that you don’t want to go cheap on. Lawyers is one of ’em.
Definitely, I would say most seafood probably qualifies to, I mean, there’s just a handful of things you don’t wanna cheap out on.
Joe Spisak: Yes, exactly. Good lawyers and sketchy street meet. So that would, uh, those, those both are in the same category for sure.
How Joe Spisak decides which business opportunities to pursue
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. So I, I was just thinking, you, you’ve done quite a, an eclectic bunch of businesses at this point because Fulfill.com is, it’s kind of marketing agency. You’re at least it’s got agency roots, although I guess really it’s better to say software as a service. But when you look at your resume and you, and you think about it, it’s like board game, board game, 3PL, software as a service.
So how do you know what to start? What? What gives you the inspiration to pursue these opportunities?
Joe Spisak: Yeah, great question. And you’re right, like whenever you kind of look at my background at face value, it is super eclectic and looks to be all over the place. But then if you take kind of a deeper look at it, you can see the strategy, and, and how the trajectory kind of happens. So started with the board games.
Realized that there was a problem in the fulfillment industry from starting these board games, kind of dove one layer deeper into, uh, start, you know, starting the fulfillment company, started the fulfillment company and realized that there was a big problem in 3PLs is not being able to grow effectively.
And realized that I was really great at that. So, kind of dove, dove a layer deeper in to that sub niche. So that’s like, you know, kind of my entrepreneurial advice, in a nutshell, is to find a place to start, right? Minimal barrier of entry for you where you don’t have to drop a super high amount of cash, something you are highly interested and passionate about, and something that your, your skill set can aid in, right? Something that you, you’re gonna have to teach yourself a lot, but something that you are, are pretty confident in your ability in as well.
And then go for it, right? And then as you’re going for it and you start to build a product, a company, et cetera, uh, you always keep your eye out for a potential pivot or something else that you could start and dive a layer deeper into. And that has seemed to work really well for me on my journey. And I’ve seen a lot of other entrepreneurs that have followed, you know, a similar, what seems to be unconventional progression, but in reality they’re just realizing more problems along the way as they gain more expertise and as they learn more about themselves and what they want for their future, then they can, they can kind of start to pivot into other areas.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, and that’s kind of the assumption this podcast is based on. It’s like, I know that if I get small business owners and entrepreneurs and creative professionals on here, whoever I talk to is going to have gotten into whatever they’ve gotten into by some unusual path. It is inevitable. I mean, like sometimes you’ll hear somebody like inheriting a business or something, but it’s like for the most part, people just have to try different things until they get to what really clicks.
I would say also if anybody’s listening to this and you’re like, you really do have no capital to invest at all, yeah, it’s definitely tough to, to build a business without any capital. But I will say, probably the surest way to get on the path to starting to build businesses and like do really, really, really big things like what you may want to do, very ambitiously like…
if you can build one sellable service, if you can just come up with one sellable skill, it’s like that gets you on the pipeline right there, because skills, um, or at least some skills, you don’t actually require investment to learn. There’s a handful of ’em out there. There are very much in demand.
Joe Spisak: Absolutely. That’s a great approach is starting a service based business where, you know, companies are out contracting out to you on an agency level where you can help them with a certain subset of their business and you can, you can, you know, learn from that and kind of still be in the startup environment and, and, and kind of grow with them there.
And then also, you know, the path that I, I took was I had a full-time corporate job that was completely work from home that allowed me to work on my side hustles, my businesses, on the side, and there’s never been a better time in. The history of the world to start companies than I think now because there’s just so much opportunity out there with a switch to this work from home environment, you know, there’s so many people that are starting their own side hustle side. Hobbies, it’s, it’s, it’s easier to monetize a business, nowadays because of the internet than, than any, any other time.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, I think so too. And it didn’t even feel particularly like a particularly hostile environment in 2015, 2016, ’16, cuz it’s like we’ve got the internet, we’ve got social media, we’ve got all these new things, e-commerce and so on and so on. But now it’s like, because work from home positions are, if not dominant, at least common enough to not be unusual.
Like that guy you hear about who works from home all the time, because it’s relatively common now, it’s actually somewhat easier to be able to do that if nothing else because you get your commute time back.
Joe Spisak: Yeah, 100%. And, and like, I just thought of this too, like adding onto your point of service level work, contract work. So I told you, you know, I used to do web work online. Upwork, you know, you can sign up as a contractor on Upwork or Fiverr, and, you know, build a profile for yourself and seek out jobs and have other people seek you out.
And not only can you learn about what you may want to do in the future, more long term, you can, you can, you can make money and work on lots of different projects, in lots of different areas, uh, of business. So.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, my, my absolute favorite for like scrappy, bizarre ways to start a service based business is, and this is one of the episodes I’ll link to in the transcript. Check out the Kenny Goodman podcast. He makes digital versions of board games for money these days, and it’s enough to pay his bills. And it’s like, he just makes demos of board games on a Steam app called Tabletop Simulator.
It’s a $20 game. Nobody said like, “This is the way, you know this is a profit, profitable business.” You just noticed that like publishers needed to make online demos, especially for COVID, and he started doing it and people started paying. So it’s like, it’s actually, there are more possibilities in this world to make money in fun ways than are immediately obvious.
Joe Spisak: Exactly, and, and that comes back to our previous points of like meshing out hard in a, a, a sort in a certain category, right? He is literally creating digital demos for board gaming companies,
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, he’s, he’s literally the guy for it.
Joe Spisak: Exactly. So whenever you’re in a niche that is that specific and there’s, there’s a need for it.
Oh, man, like, can you grow fast. If you can just take over an entire category and be the person of that category?
Brandon Rollins: Absolutely. So I’ll say this because we are actually coming up on a pretty healthy length podcast. I have just one more question for you.
Joe Spisak: Let’s hear
Brandon Rollins: which I’ve gotten in the habit of asking everybody. So if you could just give yourself advice, give your past self advice, what would you say?
Parting advice from Joe Spisak & where you can find him online
Joe Spisak: Hmm, great question. I think I would tell myself to just keep going.
Just keep going. You know, my, my philosophy that I’ve really championed since I’ve been an entrepreneur has been fail faster. And once you get over the fear of failure or the fear of being judged by other people, you know, it’s actually a beautiful thing to be the person in the arena that’s actually battling it out through all the trials and tribulations, all the failures.
Whenever you can wear that as a badge of honor. Instead of a, a mark of discouragement, it just really frees you up to go and create and have fun and you follow, follow your dreams. So I would tell myself just to keep going, pushing.
Brandon Rollins: Honestly, I think that’s good advice to end on. So with that in mind, where can people find you online?
Joe Spisak: LinkedIn, Joe Spisak. You can add me on there. Twitter, @JoeSpeezy, that’s probably the platform I’m most active on. Yeah, please add me on Twitter, reach out, like give me some advice on, on how we did today on the podcast. My dms are always open, for anybody, you know, that is striving to create the, create a business, grow as an entrepreneur, someone who’s deep into the game, whatever.
Brandon Rollins: All right. Well, thank you very much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it, and thank you to everybody who’s listened to this whole show. I really appreciate that as well.
If you’re looking to find us online, you can go to weirdmarketingtales.com. You can also find us on social media. Pretty much every one of ’em known to man, it’s either @WeirdMarketers or @WeirdMarketing. All the links are in the transcript and the show notes, so you can just click on those. If you happen to be listening to us on Apple Podcasts, please leave a five star review.
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