By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A Bahamian freight forwarding start-up is aiming to differentiate itself from a crowded market by offering value-added services and prices it says are almost one-third below the industry average.
Jurelle Nairn, managing director of MrShipIt.com, which opens its doors today on Palmdale’s Rosetta Street, said the inspiration for the business came from her five-year personal experience in trying to ship goods from the US to the Bahamas.
Frustrated by the cost and difficulties encountered with setting up her annual Ballin’ by the Beach summer basketball camp for girls, Ms Nairn said her research established there was a market for MrShipIt.com by discovering that many other persons had encountered similar problems.
“It’s been an idea of mine for a while,” she told Tribune Business. “I was always faced with challenges in getting my goods from the US to here.
“When I purchased things in the US, I had a problem bringing them back here. I used a freight forwarder here, or got someone to fly over and bring them back through Customs. After doing that for five years, I said: ‘You know what? I’m sure other people have had the same frustrations’.”
After her own market research confirmed this intuition, Ms Nairn said she “really got the ball rolling” in establishing MrShipIt.com in May.
“It was not as swiftly as I’d like; it took time,” she added. The company currently has one employee, and is aiming to hire between three-four once business volumes warrant it.
Ms Nairn told Tribune Business she has invested $15,000 of her own personal savings into the business, with a further “considerable” sum coming from close friends and family.
“We’re just looking to do the best we can in the upcoming months, and attract as many customers as we can,” she added. “We want to be the best freight forwarding company in the Bahamas, keep costs low and also make a tremendous impact in the community
“We’ve done research, put a lot of work into this, done careful planning and feel we’re really able to do something.”
To separate itself from the competition, in what is increasingly becoming a saturated freight forwarding market in the Bahamas, Ms Nairn said MrShipIt.com would offer “one of the lowest rates in the industry”.
She said the company would ship at a $1,30 per pound, a rate some 31.6 per cent below what MrShipIt.com says is the $1.90 per pound industry average.
Telling Tribune Business that the $1.30 per pound rate was sustainable, Ms Nairn said MrShipIt.com was also offering a Family Island Forwarding programme. Once goods shipments arrived at the company’s Nassau warehouse facilities, free transportation to the mailboat for onward travel to the Family Islands would be provided.
Consolidated shipping, allowing goods to be shipped together at a lower rate, will also be offered. And MrShipIt.com clients will also be given a free US postal address, with charges only levied when goods are bought or shipped.
Mr ShipIt.com’s final value-added service is its Super Gift Registry, which will allow clients with upcoming birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions to order from a single, consolidated registry rather than multiple gift brochures.
Ms Nairn said invitees could come in and pay for chosen gifts at the company, which could then deliver the items direct to the event.
She told Tribune Business that her “main challenge” in starting MrShipIt.com had been the bureaucratic, paper-dominated process for starting a business in the Bahamas.
This, as all entrepreneurs and businessmen know, involves multiple agencies and visits, costing time and money. Ms Nairn compared this to the US, where starting a business was “a lot less methodical”, as most of the processes could be completed online.
Other obstacles successfully overcome have been meeting deadlines and dealing with contractors. “It’s definitely been a fun and learning process,” Ms Nairn added.