Hi I'm Dilhan, cofounder of Urban Plant Growers, today I’m going to take you beneath the leaf and give you a glimpse at what it’s like bootstrapping a start-up.
We were thrilled when Costco approached us to stock our products. However, we had no idea what we were getting into…
For context, the scale of Costco is huge, they order by the pallet (or even container) and have stringent standards. At the end of 2021 we were already dealing with logistical problems from lockdowns and material shortages, so while the partnership was an amazing opportunity it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
We had two forty-foot (picture for scale) shipping containers coming in, and our tiny warehouse could only fit one 😬 To make matters worse (and admittedly entirely our own fault haha) we had packed half the products we needed for Costco in each container.
Our stock was already delayed due to international freight issues, and we were on track to miss Christmas in Costco unless we could ‘unscrew’ this situation in just a week. Christmas is a massive sales period, so missing it would be a big deal as we’d disappoint our huge new client and be unlikely to get more business from them anytime soon.
In the first week of November the first of two massive 40ft steel containers turned up to our tiny Marrickville warehouse. There wasn’t even a driveway for the truck to use, so it just sat in the middle of the road (sorry neighbours). Peter and I were so scared we’d miss the 7am delivery, we slept overnight in the warehouse, crashing on thin camping mattresses. If we missed our drop-off window, they’d take the shipping containers back and we’d definitely miss Christmas.
The realisation we had bitten off more than we could chew dawned on us. We’d unloaded plenty of 20ft containers, but this was our first 40ft, and to make matters worse we had two.
40ft’s aren’t twice the volume of a 20ft, but triple the volume (because they're also taller). These two shipping containers were 600% more then we’d ever dealt with. We hadn't considered that because they were so long, it took way more time to carry the boxes from the back of the container to the front, significantly slowing down unloading.
Once we realised what we were in for we frantically called everyone we knew. Friends, family, acquittances, childhood friends, past roommates, old girlfriends… everyone! Fortunately they came through for us, and with our small group we managed to get the job done…
For the first shipping container.
The second one wouldn’t fit no matter how high we piled stock. Our lives were complicated further because Costco only accepts deliveries that are loaded and unloaded from the rear of a truck. You either need a warehouse with “docks,” or a really long ramp that forklifts can drive up. We have neither.
We had been biting our nails, stressed about what to do, but that’s when a stroke of luck hit. Our warehouse manager, Tamara, happened to bump into a friend who turned out actually worked in warehousing and logistics.
They came through for us massively.
Their company “bDynamic Logistics” (shoutout to them) had a 15,000 sq. meter facility that could fit a whopping 20,000 pallets. Compared to our humble operation they were a sight to behold. The warehouse hummed with activity as staff expertly zoomed around on forklifts, moving in perfect coordination.
They said they’d help us; in fact, they didn’t even want any money. They did it as a favour. Amazing guys.
With our friends and family, we worked through the night and into the early morning to get all the products ready. Seeds and nutrients needed to be added into all the boxes. We then had to put everything back onto pallets and shrink wrap them to meet Costco standards.
After one of the most gruelling weeks of our lives we had finally unpacked the containers, found a warehouse to store it all, repacked all our orders, and at last got them delivered.
So that’s the story behind why you can now find Urban Plant Grower’s products in Costco’s all-around Australia. With a bit of luck, and lots of help from some incredible people we got it done.
Learning from your mistakes is essential to any successful start-up because you’re bound to make many. We certainly have. While not always fun to live through, start-up life does makes for great memories. Wouldn’t trade it for the world!
Thanks for reading, if you’re interested in investing in Urban Plant Growers head to our offer page and check it out. Join our adventure for as little as $250.
All the best, Dilhan Wickremanayake UPG Co-Founder