Chris Myers is the director of Flying Cloud Fulfillment, a fulfillment and e- commerce shipping company based out of Hunt Valley. The business was founded in March 2018 and today has six full-time and six part-time employees.
How did you get into the business?
For the last 15 years I’ve always been in positions that deal with fulfillment, operations and shipping. A few years ago I had an idea to open my own fulfillment center and the parent company for which I worked [Agora Financial] was nice enough to support that idea. They let me start Flying Cloud Fulfillment, let me run the shop and supported me however they could. My first few clients were built-in through them.
They still own our company… while I run the day-to-day operations here, they still support us with a centralized HR team and accounting team and legal team, and all the stuff that we don’t have to necessarily worry about in-house.
Why did you want to start the company?
In my position previously, I always acted as a middleman between whoever was filling products and then whatever third-party logistics or warehouse company that was shipping out these orders. At a certain point I realized it would be a much more efficient and cheaper process if, rather than acting as a middleman, I took over as the end-all be-all.
Your company provided free shipping for Made in Baltimore’s Online Holiday Pop-Up shop this year. Why did you want to offer that?
Early on in the pandemic, I saw the writing on the wall that we were going to be fortunate enough to stay in business, but I knew that other businesses — especially small businesses — would be affected more than us. I thought of the low-hanging fruit that we could offer to support local businesses, so I reached out to Andy [Cook, executive director] at Made in Baltimore at that point to see if any of his vendors needed fulfillment support. We are operating regardless, and what’s a few more orders in a given day? If you get the inventory to us and get the customer information to us, it’s really no skin off our back to ship a few more things out. He had a couple clients take us up on that offer to help them out pro bono.
I think when reality set in for Andy that Made in Balitmore wasn’t going to be able to do their pop-up shop, that’s when he reached out to see if he could work something out, and it made sense to extend the same offer since nothing has really changed. We’re still operating, businesses are still struggling, I didn’t really see a downside to helping out where we could.
It’s oftentimes the smaller clients we particularly enjoy helping out. And then when you bring in a local brand that needs help, we’re all chomping at the bit to help out, even if it’s just selfishly something new and interesting to look at while I pack it up. There’s certainly a shiny new object syndrome around here.
What do you want people to know about the fulfillment industry?
It’s not just Amazon. There’s smaller fulfillment companies out there that are more than interested in helping small businesses out. If the idea of a fulfillment center or outsourcing anything to someone else seems too complicated, or you feel like you don’t qualify for it, or you need a minimum order amount to even get us to roll out of bed — that’s not the case. We in particular are here to help small businesses, and as I mentioned before, our favorite clients are the ones just starting off, who can’t do it from their garage or basement anymore, and all it takes is a tiny leap of faith to reach out and we will help you take it from there.
Have your company operations changed since the pandemic began?
We had just moved into a larger warehouse in November, so we had just more or less gotten settled in when the pandemic hit. We had to do everything we could to stay open and stay operating because while a lot of our clients and support staff could easily work from home, that’s not a solution when we’re responsible for packing up boxes and sending out anywhere from 500 to 2,000 orders a day.
Something that was never really on our radar before was this idea of social distancing and taking our cleaning to the next level and trying to stay away from each other. Whereas before we were more of a team-oriented company, now we are a bunch of individuals on our own little island who scream at each other from across the warehouse… We developed a staggered schedule where there was no more than two of us here at a time, and it’s a 23,000-square-foot facility so there’s plenty of elbow room for those two employees to stay away from each other.
We have been very fortunate to have a steady flow of business and that we have not had any significant scares or any need to shut down. We also did not need [Paycheck Protection Program] loans or to do layoffs or anything.
What types of products are you usually shipping?
Our parent company is Agora Publishing so we deal with a bunch of books and literature on that side of things, and we have an outdoor brand, so flashlights and stuff like that. We do a lot of Kickstarters and board games and other role-playing games and related books and stuff like that. Car parts as well.
Baltimore Business Journal