Founder of Missoula e-commerce site expands into warehouse shipping
Seven years after graduating from the University of Montana, Patrick Claytor went to work on his own business geared toward the quilting industry. But what started out as an e-commerce site soon evolved into a larger venture aimed at filling orders on behalf of other companies like his.
Claytor, a 2008 computer science graduate, is the founder and CEO of Big Sky Fulfillment. Launched in 2015, the firm packs and sends orders to customers on behalf of the five companies he currently represents.
It continues to grow by shipments and ambition.
“I had contacts with several other e-commerce brands while running Quilty Box,” Claytor said. “We started opening our warehouse to other brands. It grew out of there and it’s going great.”
Now housed in a 6,000-square-foot warehouse on Expressway, Big Sky Fulfillment ships roughly 10,000 packages a month on behalf of several companies, including Nooky Box, and helps with national flash sales for Vim&VIGR and Chilton Skis, all based in Missoula.
Two of the company’s clients are also based outside the state.
“Two of our clients are from California, so we’re bringing money and business into the state,” Claytor said. “We only sell online and we want to keep all the fulfillment in Montana.”
Claytor initially purchased the Quilty Box brand in 2015 and experienced first-hand the challenges of filling orders. Other e-commerce sites faced similar challenges, including Nooky Box, which saw its own adult novelty packages grow in national popularity.
But filling those orders as a small business proved to be a time-consuming task that often took away from other needs, including product development, sales and marketing.
“I quickly realized I wasn’t the only company right here in Missoula that had a real need for warehouse space and the ability to efficiently pack and ship orders reliably to customers,” Claytor said. “For Quitly Box, we started in our spare bedroom. Now that we have a warehouse, it’s clean and organized and we can track inventory better.”
When customers order online, Claytor said, they expect their order to be accurately filled, and that it arrives safely and on time. While it may seem like a simple task, he said, a single e-commerce site can offer thousands of products.
Multiplied by several sites and organization can quickly become challenging. It’s also something most e-commerce sites don’t want to spend time doing.
“There’s a certain grit to starting your own business and feeling it grow in a garage or small warehouse,” Claytor said. “But eventually, in-house fulfillment becomes more of a hindrance that prevents the business from reaching its full potential. We take those processes off their hands so they can focus on sales.”
While Big Sky Fulfillment currently employs three people, Claytor sees that expanding toward the end of the year as the holiday rush begins. He also sees promise in Missoula, where homegrown e-commerce sites are growing in popularity.
With his eyes on the future, Claytor looks to outgrow the company’s warehouse space and expand its list of national clients. Keeping it local also holds down expenses, allowing Big Sky Fulfillment to pass its reduced shipping costs on to clients.
“We’re a small team right now with really big capabilities,” he said. “We have the capacity to take on large-scale fulfillment and are excited to bring that business right here to Montana.”