Founded by Allen Bark and two of his friends, Inker Supply (formerly TreeO Dudes) has expanded from operating out of a condo to a warehouse in Downers Grove, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. Bark originally found success selling name-brand writing implements and office supplies on popular ecommerce marketplaces. As the company grew, it took the name Inker Supply, a tribute to comic book artists known as “inkers,” and the trio of owners created their own website to sell their products. This change allowed them to move away from the smaller purchases and profit margins happening on the marketplaces to selling higher-end items and offering their entire catalog of products, from bulk to luxury, directly to their customers. The lessons learned about structure and fulfillment from selling through the marketplaces, as well as the brand recognition gained, helped set the company up for success with their new website, Inkersupply.com.
While selling on a marketplace had allowed Inker Supply to reach customers quickly, it had not allowed them to emphasize the company’s commitment to creating quality writing implements. Bark knew discerning customers all have their preferred pen designs, and with that in mind, Inker Supply met with manufacturers in Germany to start designing the perfect pen. But then COVID-19 became a full-blown pandemic. Concerned about the future, Bark flew home to formulate a plan.
Facing their disrupted supply chain head-on, the company decided to table new product development and instead focus on their current stock. Bark also identified new types of items to sell, like thermometers, while they awaited a return to business as usual. This pivot allowed them to grow business and expand their customer base while riding out the worst of the pandemic.
The industry itself experienced a disruption as offices across the globe allowed employees to work from home. This initially generated a drop in demand for office supplies, until employees realized they may be working from home longer than a few weeks and would be in need of pens. As companies shifted to the new normal of remote work and as retail stores were affected by closures and social distancing, Inker Supply found that their online store could provide for the growing need.
Soon, Inker Supply was shipping more than ever. As orders became larger, the company needed more options than a USPS First Class padded envelope.
ShipStation’s UPS rates have helped Inker Supply save . “We reduced shipping costs 36.78% by being able to add UPS this year,” explains Bark. Accessing UPS’s discounted rates on the platform was simple—all Inker Supply had to do was log into their ShipStation account. Plus no minimum shipping volume was needed. Not only were their packages delivered reliably and with competitive rates, they also noticed they were paying fewer surcharges. UPS from ShipStation helps merchants avoid certain surcharges, including the residential surcharge on ground packages, when they ship through the platform.
In uncertain times, UPS allows Inker Supply to reach more customers more reliably and in more innovative ways. By October 2020, UPS will reach 90% of the U.S. population in three days, and 75% will have Saturday delivery. Demand for faster delivery is a growing trend, and UPS’s network enhancements and weekend services provide ShipStation’s merchants industry-leading choice, convenience, and speed to market.
“We reduced shipping costs 36.78% by being able to add UPS this year.”-Allen Bark
“It was an easy decision to go with UPS from ShipStation, as it provided affordable rates for ground packages,” Bark explains. “We were also able to offer next day air options that we could not before.” Inker Supply appreciates that they can focus on growing their business while UPS handles their shipping and logistical needs. No worries and no guesswork—just simple shipping delivered.
Bark estimates that ShipStation has saved his business about $45,000 annually because of the discounted UPS rates he receives. While saving on shipping costs is a major advantage, it is not the only one. ShipStation believes creating shipping labels should not be a manual process. By using its intricate and robust automation rules, Inker Supply has saved time and money. “Automation rules are the main thing I think people should know about ShipStation,” Bark says. And it is hard to argue with that. When merchants spend less time dealing with shipping, they can spend more time doing what they love—creating products for their customers and growing their business.
Bark also appreciates the parallel he sees between his business and ShipStation’s. Just as an “inker” is the artist who puts the finishing touches on the page of a comic book, filling in the spaces left by the writer and the penciler, ShipStation functions as the finishing touch to Inker Supply’s workflow, helping organize shipments and deliver the final product to the customer. Which for Inker Supply makes ShipStation a hero in their book.