Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Schlep & Fetch: Delivering Anything and Everything, On Demand
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Need something--anything--delivered in Los Angeles? On-demand, delivery startup Schlep and Fetch (www.schlepandfetch.com) wants to be the place you contact first to get practically anything delivered for you, whether that's a food order or something you forgot to pick up from home. We spoke with co-founder Bryson Strauss about the startup. Fetch and Schlep just raised a round of funding from the Pasadena Angels and the Tech Coast Angels.
How does Schlep and Fetch work?
Bryson Strauss: We are an on-demand delivery service. We're super fast--we kind of say same day isn't fast enough. That's what we're here to do. We're here to do everything you ranging from meal delivery for hundreds of restaurants, as a courier service, to pick up that credit card you accidentally left at the bar last night, to pick up extra diapers--you can call us for any of that. If you have a retail store and want to provide delivery of flowers to your customers, Schlep and Fetch is an on-demand, plug and play serviec for that. Our delivery service is really focused on the end user, the mass public.
What is your background, how did you get into this?
Bryson Strauss: I was a fine art curator and museum gallery curator for 25 years. I worked for several museums and nonprofits, and I ran a gallery in Beverly Hills, which I co-owned. I'm also an entertainment and music writer. I got into this, because there is so much demand for this. I have never run logistics, but I have done lots of logists-type stuff. It's something very clean to understand, conceptually. We pick it up, we get it over to you now, and you get to focus on other things you want to do. The style, the systems, the technology, the branding, the culture, and what kind of company we want to create is very simple at the core, everyone can get it, and everyone understand its. How to execute it is what is important. The idea came from a real need of my wife and I, right after our daughter was born. We kept wishing there was someone who could go get stuff for us, but no one was available. We wanted to try to fill that void, to be the company that every mom thinks about, that every businessperson thinks about--so when you need diapers, you think Schlep and Fetch, so we can go get them for you.
How far along is the business?
Bryson Strauss: We actually started this four years ago. My wife is an illustrator and graphic designer, and she built the brand. We started with just a flyer about Schlep and Fetch, and starting putting up flyers around our neighborhood with the baby in the stroller. In May of 2011, we finally got a delivery, after two months of doing that. We got lots of miles on that stroller. But, when it kicked off, it really kicked off. We started first by doing it ourselves, and there were lots of freaky, scary nights. As we grew it, it just kept on going, and we're now at over 100 drivers, and creeping up on 15,000 deliveries a month. We're now the largest delivery service in Los Angeles. We're just now releasing our app. We did this all on our own for the first three years, and just recently went to friends, relatives, and the Pasadena Angels, who really got excited, and syndicated us to the Tech Coast Angels. They were very excited, so they pushed it out to their chapters in San Diego and elsewhre, and they also came in. We had the Pasadena Angels and three chapters of the Tech Coast Angels in our first round, and we just did another round with them. We'll hit the four year mark on July 26th.
Our readers are very familiar with on-demand mobile apps--but it seems you were up and running even before you had an app. How did that work?
Bryson Strauss: Our first niche was as a solution for restaurants. Historically, restaurants are in need of a solution for delivery. They need something that is a variable cost, rather than an in-house, fixed cost. That's too expensive. At the time, we developed a collective buying scenario for restaurants, where everyone paid to have delivery service. Usually, when one restaurant is slow, another is busy, so they can switch between the restaurants. That's a really effective system, and that grew quickly. At the same time, our personal delivery service became to catch on, because no one else is doing it. Even today, say you forgot to bring your gym clothes to your workout, there is no other service you'd think who could go get them for you, or that would pop into your mind. Someone needs to be in that space. Everyone needs to know that Fetch and Schlep is there for you.
With the service, are you using the typical on-demand worker model, or is this different?
Bryson Strauss: We actually have employee drivers, in addition to contract drivers, who also might be working for other on-demand or ridesharing services. We think services ought to share workers, because that's more legitimate and healthy for everyone. It's more efficient for everyone to be using the same pool of drivers. Our drivers don't juts plug in when they want to, they tell us when they want to work, and we okay them for that time. That's how we make sure we have the right number of workers for the volume, and it also allows us to retain drivers better. That way, there's not an inundation of drivers when orders are low, and a dearth of drivers when demand is high. We manage all of that. It really makes the customer happier when you do that.
How does this compare with competition from the Uber and Lyfts of the world?
Bryson Strauss: The biggest difference is, we are not trying to do anything else. We're not trying to sell food, we're not trying to run a ridesharing business. Our goal, and one idea, is to get something delivered for you. It's one stop shopping. The thing is, Uber can do whatever they want to. They're valued at $40 billion, and if they want to open up a chain or restaurants, or become Fedex, they can do that. We're not about to compete with them on that, or on who can spent the most money to build technology. What we're doing, is we're building a deep layer of character, branding, and style, and connection with the customer and taking care of our drivers. If you're trying to compete in a space with such a large player, you really have to be super tight with your message and what yo do, and make sure you do it well, and make sure people connect with you, so that your customers and employees really relate in a deep and meaningful way. I recently went to drop my daughter off at school, and I was wearing a Schlep and Fetch t-shirt. Someone saw me with the shirt, and said--hey, I know those guys, I use those guys. They didn't know I was one of the founders, and she told me a very positive story of her experience with Fetch and Schlep. We want to be that company that always feels local, even if we're national.
What's your next big goal?
Bryson Strauss: The technology piece of this is really exciting for us. We're really evolving from what had been a mom-and-pop startup, and going pro. It's really exciting for us to have the first iteration of our technology, and we're going to immediately start on version one, two, and three. We're starting with our MVP, directed mostly at our drivers, and then we'll be looking at geographic expansion. We're starting regionally, and we just opened in Pasadena, having started in Los Angeles. Orange County is next week, and as we further develop our technology, we'll be expanding quickly to places like Denver, Austin, Atlanta, Tampa, and St. Petersburg. We expect ot build out our service in the next 18 months.