Brisbane-based startup The Van That Can has fast become the key logistics answer to local business transportation needs, surpassing 10,000 deliveries since its inception in 2012. The idea for The Van That Can – a delivery service that operates in a similar fashion to Uber, allowing businesses and individuals to connect with drivers through a website and have furniture delivered in a time frame that suits them – spawned from frustration, when Tara-Jay Rimmer was left alone with a box containing a Stand Up Paddle Board. Delivery drivers refused to help take it up to her house; and in the time it took for Lee Hovey, husband and co-founder, to return home, The Van That Can was created.
Gut instinct and further research told the co-founders that this wasn’t a one-off inconvenience, but a problem faced by others in Brisbane. And the lack of assistance with furniture deliveries couldn’t have been a positive reflection of the company distributing the products. The logical next step was for someone to come up with a solution, and execute it.
According to Ibisworld Australia, the market for courier pick-up and delivery services is worth $7 billion and growing. This is because more and more businesses use transportation intermediaries in an effort to supply a service to the customer as an extension of their brand. Using a courier service eliminates the need for businesses to hire extra staff and is a convenience for customers, as they don’t have to organise deliveries.
The Van That Can’s transaction mechanics are fairly simple, according to Rimmer. The company collects data from potential clients and contacts the customer (the one that purchased the furniture) directly. This allows the customer to specify a time frame that is suitable for them. They are then notified via SMS or phone call when the driver is 30 minutes away.
After two and a half years in operation, The Van That Can has completed more than 10,000 deliveries throughout Brisbane and South East Queensland. Deliveries have ranged from red carpet for State Of Origin, fridges and office chairs to church pews for a wedding.
Currently, 80 percent of their clients are businesses that pay monthly with the other 20 percent being customers that call directly. There are over 300 businesses employing the system – including reputable brands like Coco Republic, Freedom Furniture, Jimmy Possum and Natuzzi.
Rimmer says The Van That Can has grown over 500 percent in the last two and a half years and is projecting a turnover of $1 million in the current financial year.
To date, the startup has relied on great customer service driving word-of-mouth referrals, as well as social media engagement.
“We are still looking for a really great growth hacking strategy but currently rely solely on providing a great service. This encourages our company and our drivers to be the best at what they do and always look internally at our systems and procedures. The business was started on a shoestring budget so there has never been cash for advertising,” says Rimmer.
The Van That Can was originally a simple courier service, but Rimmer and Hovey recognised a need to pivot. After learning that customers want more than flexible delivery times, Rimmer and Hovey decided to extend their services to include furniture assembly, placement and rubbish removal.
“In the last two years we have refined our service for the consumer and had to pivot our model to become focused on the customer service aspect which includes the assembly of furniture,” says Rimmer.
“We have also leveraged off technology by allowing our customers to book directly and receive their product within two hours.”
Although it looks like blue skies ahead for The Van That Can, Rimmer admits there’s been challenges. Her biggest frustration has been keeping her energy levels high.
“[A]s an entrepreneur in a startup, the highs are so high but this means that sometimes the lows can be soul destroying,” she says.
“There have been many sleepless nights, particularly when you are responsible for 15 salaries, but you have to keep going and believing in what you do. We are part of a business group that allows us to bounce ideas off each other has been really useful as although I employ 15 staff, sometimes you can feel lonely.”
Despite the challenges, Rimmer says she is very proud of her team and is great for their contribution: “They really do represent the brand and the vision of the company and have been major contributors for our growth.”
So what lies ahead for The Van That Can? Rimmer says their five-year plan is to expand their business to include 300 drivers across seven major cities in Australia. For the remainder of this year though, they will continue to grow and live the entrepreneurial dream – and hopefully will be able to squeeze in a holiday for the first time since the business launched.
There is also an app in development to further assist with the communication options available and to help take this local Brisbane business to a national level. More information is available via www.thevanthatcan.com.au.