Distro launches software to help small businesses make, pack, and ship products from anywhere
Distro (Distro MFG, Inc.) recently launched its software, which enables small businesses to make, pack, and ship products from anywhere in the US by working with skilled makers to fulfill their orders, regardless of location. Scaling production is expensive, so being able to scale without investing in commercial space, inventory, or new equipment is a game changer for small businesses. Jarek Ostrowski, CEO of Distro, developed the software to use for his own handmade products business, Lone Birch. At a certain point, he needed to scale production, but he couldn’t justify what it was going to cost.
“I was floored when I looked at a small commercial space and the landlord wanted a 5 year commitment. I was in it for the long haul, but I just started the business. Outsourcing was out of the question - I make handmade products and I’d lose that if they came out of a factory. And regardless of how I did it, nothing solved my issue of high shipping costs. My products are expensive to ship since they’re made of solid wood and on the larger size. For a while, I was actually losing money on my west coast orders since I had to offer free shipping - I couldn’t justify my prices otherwise.”
Ostrowski, who came from software company GitLab as a designer/developer, looked at his experience working at an all-remote company and knew the same principles could be applied to scale a business that made physical products. “I knew there were thousands of skilled people out there with the same equipment who could easily make my products. I just needed to find them and use software to make it seamless. So I wrote a bunch of product documentation, created the first version of Distro with my co-founder, and I invited makers from the west and east coast to make samples for me. It worked better than I expected, way better.”
Jarek eventually found a handful of makers from Washington to Vegas to Virginia and to his home state of New Hampshire to help make and ship his products from their home shops. Using Distro, he assigns them orders based on proximity to the customer, and once they’re ready to ship, makers print a label, request pickup, and even get paid every time an order’s sent out.
“I wanted to completely automate the process. From printing labels, to requesting pickup, and even getting paid. I know how heavy the packages are, the size of the boxes… So with that information, once the products are made, all they have to do is click a couple buttons to fulfill orders and have them picked up. After I saw it working on a regular basis, I knew other small businesses could benefit from this too.”
Using Distro, Lone Birch now saves 60% on shipping to the west coast, sometimes more. “At this point I can focus on marketing and actually growing the business. If I need to scale production, I can onboard someone in less than a month and I can find someone in a location where customers are buying. My favorite part is checking the difference in shipping. An order to Washington would cost me $55, but by making and shipping it directly from my maker in Washington, it only costs me $15. It’s the difference between making money and losing it.”
Ostrowski mentions that while the savings on shipping has a huge impact on the bottom line, he’s more proud that he’s building a sustainable business. “I love the idea of making a product for someone down the street, even though they’re 1,000 miles away. We’ve actually had a few orders like that - products made for a customer in the same town. Those orders really remind me of what we’re building, something more than just an e-commerce platform. We’re enabling locally made, at scale. Something I didn't think was possible until now.”
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CEO & Co-founder of Distro
Distro enables small businesses to make products anywhere by hiring skilled makers to make, pack, and ship products directly to customers. Save up to 60% on shipping and cut your delivery times in half, all without investing a dime in inventory, commercial space, or additional equipment.