Cordell Yee is a partner at Superculture, a creative studio and fashion house that assists with launching high-growth fashion brands. As a company with many sub-brands, they needed a trusted partner that could centralize their fulfillment and scale with them.
Here's his story.
When our team developed the idea for Superculture, we knew how to do everything but operations. We’re all designers by trade, and since outsourcing fulfillment was an entirely unknown process to us, we decided to partner with the mom-and-pop warehouses that had existing relationships with our manufacturer. The learning curve was steep, and it quickly became a gruesome process to manage everything.
From day one, we felt like we weren’t treated seriously. Despite working with several different warehouses, none of them were transparent with us about their day-to-day operations, and we never felt like a priority. We had no insight into our orders, inventory statuses, or tracking numbers, so recordkeeping became difficult. I spent up to 15 hours a week on warehouse management, often emailing the warehouse team long lists of orders that didn’t have tracking, but they wouldn’t get back to me for days. We technically had an assigned point of contact, but they would often delegate issues to someone else. It wasn’t because of productivity, but rather, that they were dodging our questions. We were losing money on orders left and right and it was incredibly frustrating.
In addition to communication issues, they also didn’t seem to care about keeping our business. SLAs weren't met and there was no sense of urgency to solve problems. When I escalated issues, answers were vague and no one took accountability. Orders weren’t processed for several days, and all we could do was worry.
In order to grow, we needed a reliable fulfillment partner, but these small shops felt like they were hitting a ceiling just doing a few hundred orders a week. Shipping was inconsistent, and I couldn’t imagine doing thousands of orders with them. Our lack of trust in their ability to grow with us made me realize we had to find another solution.
I felt like I had gone through a logistics bootcamp with those warehouses, and I began searching for better systems quickly. We looked at a few other popular 3PLs that connected directly with Shopify, but we liked Airhouse because the platform felt so approachable. Other companies felt intimidating because the setup process was very long and involved. With Airhouse it only took us a few emails to get started and get access to the warehouse.
“Before Airhouse, I spent up to 15 hours a week on warehouse management. I’d email the warehouse team long lists of problem orders, but they wouldn’t get back to me for days.”
Airhouse has helped us in tremendous ways since we onboarded, and I spend virtually no time supervising fulfillment, because everything is so automated. We don’t need to worry about monitoring the warehouse, flagging someone down, or scheduling calls to troubleshoot issues.
First, Airhouse placed us in a local warehouse, whereas other providers didn’t have capacity. We wanted to be in LA, and the team told us, “we’ll make it happen for you.” How much better the Airhouse team was compared to what we had before was clear as early as the onboarding process. Airhouse’s Account Managers were really hands on, kind, and caring. They were great at guiding us and giving us information we needed every step of the way. It may seem like a simple request, but we didn’t find that level of care until Airhouse. There’s a difference between having any Account Manager vs. having a good one. It was refreshing to finally be treated well and prioritized.
It’s been smooth sailing ever since. Airhouse’s dashboard is super easy to understand because we’re familiar with the Shopify ecosystem. It’s similar but more robust with very valuable information. Anyone from our team can easily navigate the data without any extra training. The first time we opened Airhouse, it was populated with our inventory and order data. We saw order statuses updating in real time and it took away any concern about transparency. With our previous solution there was no dashboard, our orders just got sent to someone in the warehouse and they’d tell us if the order went out, often a few weeks later. Hunting things down was painful.
Airhouse conveniently lets you sync multiple stores to one account and manage fulfillment centrally. Because we operate as a house of brands with several embedded sub-brands, we’re a power user of the multiple store feature. Setting up a second store is easy and having all stores, inventory and orders in one central system is a big win for us, and we can filter by store. Since adding Shopify stores is simple, this helps us get up new brands essentially overnight, making the fulfillment operations half of it basically turnkey. We have three more brands launching this year and it’s all enabled by Airhouse.
Our model is hype streetwear drops, so we sell out quickly, often before even production is wrapped up. Because we do presales, every day matters—customers have already been waiting for their product for so long. With COVID over the past two years, we’ve seen lots of streetwear apparel brands slow down, or completely drop the ball. It was hard for them to keep their consistent shipping. We’re really proud that with Airhouse we haven’t had to deal with 1+ month of order delays, and turnaround is fast. Airhouse has helped us survive these tricky past few years, and fulfillment times are faster than ever.
On a macro level, with Airhouse we also haven’t needed to spend time worrying about finding our next 3PL or scaling our own warehouse system. It was an active concern at past warehouses. It felt like daily we’d ask ourselves, “I don’t feel ok about this warehouse, where do we find the next one? How do we combine and use these two different warehouses?”
Overall, reminiscing on my earlier days in junior positions in apparel, I remember seeing how hard it was to hire a team and manage a fulfillment operation to ship orders in house. I know now that outsourcing can be equally difficult with the wrong partner, too. Looking at where I’m at now and how Superculture has grown, I’m grateful for Airhouse.
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