Third-Party Logistics: How to Scale Your Handcrafted Biz

You’ve poured your heart and soul into growing your handmade business. Your creations have taken off on Etsy and demand is going gangbusters. But between sourcing materials, fulfilling orders, and managing inventory, you’re running yourself ragged. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to handle it all yourself anymore. It’s time to start thinking about collaborating with a third-party logistics provider. But how do you maintain your artisanal quality while scaling up? In this article, we’ll explore how small ecomm businesses like yours can leverage 3PL to increase capacity without compromising on craftsmanship. We’ll look at solutions to common scaling challenges, from warehousing to shipping. And we’ll review criteria for selecting the right 3PL partner to support your continued growth. So grab a cup of your favorite artisanal coffee and let’s dive in.

The Challenges of Scaling an Artisanal Business

Scaling an artisanal business brings unique challenges. When you're handcrafting products with care and intention, it can be tough to maintain quality and consistency as you grow. Let's talk through some of the common scaling hurdles for small businesses like yours:

  • Meeting demand. When those orders start rolling in, it can be hard to keep up production. You may need to hire staff, streamline processes, or collaborate with other artisans.

  • Logistics and fulfillment. With growth comes more shipments to pack and send out. Fulfillment and shipping can eat up time and money. This is where working with a 3PL like us can help.

  • Maintaining company culture. As you add staff and systems, you'll want to nurture the heart of your business. Find ways to share your passion and connect your team to the products.

  • Financial resources. Scaling requires investment in staff, systems, production capacity and inventory. Be strategic with finances and keep costs affordable.

  • Legal and regulatory hurdles. Read up on business licenses, permits, labeling laws and other requirements to stay compliant.

The key is scaling thoughtfully, not compromising on quality, and collaborating with reliable partners like us. We get the care you put into your products and will help you grow the right way. Let's talk more about how we can support you!

Why You Need 3PL for Your Handcrafted Products

Running a handcrafted business is no small feat. You likely started out making everything yourself. But now, demand is growing and it's getting hard to keep up.

You know scaling production and fulfillment is the next step, but how? This is where partnering with a 3PL can help.

  • A 3PL, or third-party logistics provider, handles the storage, packing, and shipping of your orders so you can focus on your craft. No more packing orders late into the night or making multiple post office runs.

  • 3PL services are designed for e-commerce  businesses just like yours. They have the warehouse space, staff, and systems to quickly and accurately fulfill online orders.

  • Going with a 3PL means your customers get quick, reliable delivery. Orders ship out fast and arrive on time, leading to happy repeat buyers.

  • Working with a 3PL like us also gives you access to better shipping rates than you could get on your own. We have negotiated contracts with major carriers that help keep fulfillment costs low.

  • Our team becomes an extension of your business. We get to know your products inside and out to provide exceptional service to your customers.

Scaling up is a big step, but you don't have to do it alone. Partnering with the right 3PL provides the fulfillment support you need as your handcrafted business continues to grow and thrive.

How to Choose the Right Third-Party  Logistics Partner

When it comes to picking a 3PL (third-party logistics) partner to help scale your handmade business, you'll want to find one that truly understands your needs and can provide customized solutions. Here are some tips on what to look for:

  • Specialization in e-commerce  fulfillment - Make sure they have experience specifically with e-commerce  order processing versus just regular warehousing. You need someone familiar with the unique demands of online retail.

  • Experience with small businesses - Big 3PLs cater more to huge corporations. Look for a provider focused on artisans, makers, and small e-commerce  shops like yours. They'll "get" you more.

  • Flexible contracts - Avoid getting locked into long contracts in case you want to switch later. Go month-to-month or just commit to a minimum term like 3-6 months.

  • Order processing capabilities - Ensure they can handle your current sales volume and have ability to scale up as your business grows.

  • Integration with your platforms - Ask about integrating their systems with your e-commerce  platform, accounting software, etc for smoother data transfer.

  • Customer service - Do they provide phone, email, and chat support? Make sure they have good response times and problem resolution.

  • Competitive pricing - Get quotes from a few providers and compare. Beware of hidden fees. Negotiate for the best rate.

  • Visit their facility - If possible, tour their warehouse to check cleanliness, organization, security, etc. Get a feel for their operations.

Taking the time to thoroughly vet potential partners will ensure you choose one that can truly take your handmade business to the next level.

Integrating 3PL Into Your Supply Chain Operations

When it's time to scale up your handcrafted business, partnering with a third-party logistics provider (3PL) can take your e-commerce  operations to the next level. Here are some tips for making the most of 3PL collaboration:

  • Evaluate your pain points. Where are the gaps or bottlenecks in your current fulfillment process? Pinpointing needs like supplementing labor, adding warehouse space, or improving shipping accuracy can clarify the value 3PL can provide.

  • Research 3PLs that specialize in small businesses. Look for responsive customer service, flexibility, and scalable solutions that grow with you. Ask about their experience with handmade, specialty, or high-value products.

  • Start small if needed. You may not need nationwide fulfillment yet. Consider easing in with regional warehousing or outsourcing a single task like pick/pack. Scale up services over time.

  • Integrate systems for efficiency. A 3PL with API integration makes information flow seamlessly. Automated order data transfer reduces double data entry and errors.

  • Communicate expectations clearly. Share specifics about your products, processes, systems, and workflow. Ask 3PLs how they can adapt services to your unique business needs.

  • Review performance metrics regularly. Are you seeing improvements in accuracy, speed, costs? Connect with your 3PL account manager monthly to align on goals and discuss optimization.

With an experienced 3PL tailored to small business, you can focus on growing your thriving handmade brand while they flexibly scale fulfillment to meet your e-commerce  needs.

Third-Party Logistics FAQs: Getting Your Most Pressing Questions Answered

Getting your handmade business off the ground takes blood, sweat, tears...and lots of logistics. Here are answers to some of the most common questions artisanal brands have about 3PL services:

  • What are the main benefits of 3PL?

Outsource shipping, warehousing, and order fulfillment so you can focus on your craft and customers. 3PLs offer scale, reliability, and cost savings.

  • How much does 3PL cost?

Prices vary, but expect to pay a base monthly fee plus fees per order, storage space used, etc. Costs are competitive with doing it yourself at higher volumes.

  • Can you integrate my sales channels?

Yes, top 3PLs integrate with all major e-commerce  platforms and marketplaces seamlessly.

  • How fast is shipping?

We leverage our volumes for discount rates with top carriers like USPS, UPS, and FedEx. Transit times are comparable to shipping directly.

  • Are there minimums?

Often monthly minimum fees apply. However, reputable 3PLs work with businesses of all sizes. Ask potential partners.

  • Can you handle refrigerated or hazardous items?

Check on specialized capabilities if shipping perishable or restricted items. Many 3PLs accommodate diverse products.

  • How do I get started?

Talk to one of our logistics experts for a free assessment of your business needs. We'll provide solutions tailored specifically for your handcrafted products.

The bottom line? 3PL can cost-effectively scale your distribution so you can focus on the craft that built your brand - and keep delighting customers.

You Can Scale Your Craft Business

So there you have it. Partnering with a third-party logistics provider can take a huge operations burden off your shoulders. You’ll gain access to advanced tech, infrastructure, and expertise to scale up your handcrafted business the smart way. The key is finding the right 3PL that aligns with your values and vision. Do your research to find a provider that “gets” your products and customers. With the right collaboration in place, you’re freed up to focus on your craft while reaching more people. The world needs more of your beautiful, handmade creations. A strategic 3PL partnership can help you spread joy while staying true to your artisan roots.

Have a question about our pricing? We offer cost-effective and transparent pricing.

Call: 1-905-831-0006