Tips for At-Home Shipping from Three Brands That Have Perfected It

So you’ve actually started selling that thing that you’ve been thinking about making, and slowly your living room is turning into a makeshift fulfillment center. Weekly runs to the office supply store are becoming more frequent, and your mail person is becoming your best friend. As sales go up, it’s hard to grow your brand if your fulfillment process is disorganized. We talked to three business owners who are shipping from their homes to see what tools, supplies, and strategies you absolutely need to ship efficiently from your house, apartment, garage, or studio. (But if no amount of organization can save your space, it may be time to outsource your fulfillment.)

Handmade Sam Made

Samantha Leung makes geometric mobiles for air plants and sells them from Etsy and her online shop, Handmade Sam Made. She ships an average of 25 orders per week and makes runs to post office 1-3 times per week.

The Handmade Sam Made fulfillment center is in Sam's apartment studio. Her shipping station holds boxes, and drawers underneath to keep her supplies in order for easy access. She makes each product to order, not only because of tax implications, but so that she can monitor quality control as she makes each item, right before it's ready to ship.

 Tips for At-Home Shipping from Three Brands That Have Perfected It  Tips for At-Home Shipping from Three Brands That Have Perfected It

What is your approach fulfillment?

When I first started my business, my husband and I were living in a one bedroom apartment, and I would line our dining room table and kitchen table with boxes as I worked on the orders. Finding a clear surface during mealtime was always a struggle. Now we have a shipping station where all of the orders are lined up in the order of which they are received, it’s so much easier to keep track of everything, and meals are now enjoyed, sans boxes on our very clear dining room table.

I make an assembly line out of fulfilling orders. The act of packing up a single order from start to finish is incredibly time consuming. Instead, I weigh packages as a group, taping them shut as a group, and stamp them with the stamp that says “FRAGILE” all at the same time for each batch of orders that I work on. It’s an incredible time-saving method.

My husband, Andy, is incredibly helpful when it comes to weighing and printing labels. We have this rhythm when it comes to order fulfillment. We can get 30 orders packed up, weighed, stickers applied, and the packages stamped and out the door in 15 minutes. Of course, that doesn’t include the time it takes to hand make each item, wrap it up, write a handwritten note and personalize each order, but as soon as that portion is done, the orders are out the door in a flash, and on their way to their new homes.

What apps and services do you use?

I use Shipstation for all of my shipping labels. Not only is it cheaper than going directly through USPS, FedEx, or UPS, but it’s also really helpful when I’m working on a group of orders. You have to make sure that you are shipping enough to make it worthwhile though, because even their basic plan is $25/month.

What supplies and packing materials do you use?

  • Heavy duty boxes, 200lb Edge Crush Test (ECT) 
  • Packing tape
  • Tissue paper
  • 4" x 6" shipping labels 
  • Custom "FRAGILE" stamp
  • Ergonomic tape gun
  • DYMO postal scale a label printer: When I first started out, for the first year or two, I used to weigh my packages on a kitchen scale, print my shipping labels on pieces of plain paper, and tape them to the boxes. It worked, and I got really really good at taping so there aren’t any bubbles. Now I have a DYMO postal scale and label printer. It was an expensive investment at the time, but now I can not imagine shipping without it.

Whiskey & Honey

Ariel Tustin and Justin Godfrey find, fix and curate a line of vintage fashion and housewares called Whiskey and Honey. They have an online shop, but most of their sales are done through a unique Instagram model. They ship from their studio / shop in Seattle, and occasionally from their kitchen table at home. 

Justin told us that before they moved to Seattle, they were packing up orders in USPS flat rate boxes on their living room floor in Austin. Now they have custom supplies and a packaging aesthetic to match their brand. They ship 25-30 items each week, making runs to the post office on Tuesday, Wednesday and Fridays. Weekends are for family time and Mondays are for order prep.

 Tips for At-Home Shipping from Three Brands That Have Perfected It  Tips for At-Home Shipping from Three Brands That Have Perfected It

What is your approach fulfillment?

We organize based on type of garment, home goods, and textiles. Everything that can be folded is stored on steel wire shelving units. For anything that must remain hanging, we constructed a custom rolling rack made from black galvanized pipe and reclaimed wood. 

We generally sell in lumps, because we host weekly sales on Instagram. Once a sale is completed, we generally print labels the next morning and arrange them chronologically. We then go through each item and check for quality. If anything needs to be altered, fixed, or cleaned, we mark the invoice and file it into the corresponding section of our accordion filing binder.

We clean and fix what we can ourselves. Anything we don’t feel comfortable attempting goes to an incredible dry cleaner down the street, and any alteration or repair goes to a kindly lady in a neighboring city who is unbelievably talented. These relationships are huge for any vintage business.

Generally, we try to ship within 3 days of purchase. We aren’t always perfect at this, as it we are just a husband and wife team and we have two kids. We are striving to be better! The happiness of our customer is the most important thing to us so we do all we can to make the experience from shopping to receiving an easy and beautiful one. I’ve been in retail a very long time, and I’ve never had a community be so consistently understanding and supportive. 

What apps and services do you use?

Most of our purchases are done through our Instagram sales, which means we use PayPal for nearly everything from payments to inventory to shipping. PayPal has always been amazing to us. We don’t plan on switching anytime soon.

What supplies and packing materials do you use?

  • Rubber stamp for branding our shipping supplies and kraft Thank You cards
  • Vintage Hermes baby typewriter for all shipping correspondence like notes and Thank Yous. (I adore this thing.)
  • Black tissue paper for wrapping 
  • Vopper foil tape to secure the wrapping
  • Boxes
  • Kraft mailers
  • Tape
  • Tape gun

Urb Apothecary

Leyna Allred sells handmade, natural beauty products on Etsy and in her online shop, Urb Apothecary. On average, she ships 18 orders per week and makes daily drop offs at the post office.

Her fulfillment center is in her one-car garage that she's converted to a studio. She stores inventory on shelves so she can fulfill quickly and separates larger wholesale orders into plastic tubs so that they're easy to move around and don't take up excess space.

 Tips for At-Home Shipping from Three Brands That Have Perfected It  Tips for At-Home Shipping from Three Brands That Have Perfected It

What is your approach to fulfillment?

I have found that is easiest to take my laptop into the studio and fulfill orders directly from Shipstation or Etsy, pack and mark with buyers name, and then print labels. Since space is a bit limited, I try really hard to keep a sizeable space free on the table (really hard to do when table space is scarce). I keep the shipping boxes on a shelf directly above the shipping area. I do everything myself. Literally, everything. I think someday (soon?) that will change.

What apps and services do you use?

I use Shipstation and Etsy.

What supplies and packing materials do you use?

  • Packing tape 
  • Cardboard boxes 
  • Tissue paper 
  • Black kraft paper
  • Branded stickers
  • 100 lb scale
  • Tape gun
  • DYMO label printer

Whether you're shipping five orders a week or 50, every package is your chance for a happy customer. And you can do it for less than $2 per package.

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