How This Former Fashion Producer Is Revolutionizing New York City Shipping Logistics — digitalundivided

Joshe Ordonez worked in the fashion industry for years, solving the all-to-well known problem many producers, production assistants, and office staff solve daily — how to ship valuable equipment or products, often when you’re short on time and need to move even shorter distances.

The problem sounds solvable enough to those unfamiliar with these industries — rely on UPS or Uber, right? But as everyone in these kinds of sectors knows — things happen. You’re suddenly left wondering how to safely and quickly move five designer outfits to a new location uptown by noon or expedite a piece of expensive production equipment the team didn’t realize needed over to New Jersey ASAP. That’s where AirPals comes in.

AirPals is a New York City-based, B2B courier service, delivering both same-day and pre-scheduled deliveries around the New York City area. AirPals saves logistics leads hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars in the overhead management that goes into figuring out the often unpredictable — but entirely everyday — logistical needs of these creative industries. AirPals also serves to coordinate, streamline, and centralize everything when it comes to project-based shipping and logistics.

Image via Joshe Ordonez

digitalundivided: Administrative and project management roles aren’t the first thing you think of when it comes to technological innovation. What brought you into this space, and how did you pinpoint the AirPals solution?

Joshe Ordonez, AirPals: I spent a little over a decade of my professional career in fashion and other creative fields. That’s how I stumbled into logistics. I’ve always been a very operational person. I had a boss once who wanted to shoot in an airplane with our budget. So, how do you get a plane for a shoot, right? Do you need to send a sample of fabric from Asia or the Dominican Republic to New York to be approved? Logistics is an industry that is filled with problems. I mean, it’s endless, all of the issues that we can tackle.

During the pandemic, I was a producer and controlled the budget. So, instead of outsourcing some of the tasks to other companies, we would do it in-house. Through that process, I realized that this is a vast market. Many companies are throwing money at logistics problems, a huge opportunity. That’s how AirPals were born.

During these 2.5 years, I’ve realized the monster we’re tackling has many problems. You have issues that need to be fixed with technology on the driver and dispatcher sides, and so many things are going on the customer side. In this new building chapter, we are doubling down on the customer side instead of trying to solve all the problems simultaneously. We’re focusing on the customer journey and experience, then partnering with others to connect all the dots.

Image via Joshe Ordonez

digitalundivided: What’s the difference between a company like AirPals and an admin person or producer calling, for example, an Uber Delivery service?

Joshe Ordonez, AirPals: We’re obsessed with the user experience of administrators, producers, and those in logistical positions. That’s partly because we have the unique and unfair advantage of first-hand experience on the issues. I experienced myself getting into trouble because something didn’t arrive on time. The implications of that could be half a million dollars. Everything is dependent on things being done on time.

There’s a different culture for engineers and for job roles that can automate everything through Zapier and other automation tools. Conversely, many still struggle with manual tasks and keeping up with things. For me, that’s unfair, right? We aim to simplify work life for people in operational and clerical roles.

I’m glad that you brought up Uber or other shipping companies. We don’t want our customers to choose us because we’re the cheapest option, so we don’t compete on price. The value we offer our customers is peace of mind that things are getting done on very operational roles or projects. You care about that when your job is on the line, right? You don’t want to mess up the entire project, as there are a lot of dependencies — a budget people that you’re paying by the hour or by the day for. Nothing should or can be delayed. So, peace of mind is the first thing that we offer to our customers.

The next thing is increasing productivity. Why are people still spending time on public transportation? Let’s say a project manager is at 70k per year and spends two hours on public transport to pick up something for a project or a client to drop it off. Or is taking it with them to the office suitable? Instead, those two hours can be spent on stuff that can be more productive and related to the value they are providing their clients. These are the things we are offering to our customers, right? By being focused on the customer user experience, we can partner with the actual service providers. So, connecting the dots between the two bodies is very important.

Image via Joshe Ordonez

digitalundivided: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome as an entrepreneur?

Joshe Ordonez, AirPals: It’s about mitigating the risk and prioritizing the problems that must be solved. For me, all issues are critical. But, I have the mindset that instead of seeing problems as obstacles and challenges, these are opportunities to grow. There are things you can control. You can learn the psyche of how things work and how to get immersed in the ecosystem.

The hardest part for me is scaling the company. It’s one thing to start a company, open an LLC or a bank account, and get the courage to take that first step. But scaling a company is much, much more complicated. During the first year, growing the numbers in multiples is not hard. But when the numbers get bigger and bigger, doing 2x or 3x gets harder and harder each time.

The complexities are also in building a culture that can scale. If you’re focusing on more than one problem and making sure you’re laying out the right foundations for the company, then at some point, you find an issue that is a cultural problem that is very hard to fix. So, how can we keep showing performance and, at the same time, keep strengthening the company’s foundations?

digitalundivided: How did digitalundivided’s Breakthrough program support your growth as a founder?

Joshe Ordonez, AirPals: To participate in digitalundivided’s Breakthrough — a JP Morgan-sponsored event — builds credibility. In talking to investors or potential partners, that is very important. But there’s also the digitalundivided community aspect. You have a diverse community of founders from various industries. When you bring people from consumer products, fashion, and brick-and-mortar stores, you can learn from the challenges they have to go through and apply that to your journey and vice versa, right?

Another benefit that was very helpful for me was growing revenue. I was terrified of that. Seeing my cohort transferring a lot of money in their fields and having a lot of partnerships — even with governments and very well-known corporations — was such an inspiration and validation. We can be the blockers of our growth. Connecting and staying in touch with people from the community has been instrumental in this new phase.

digitalundivided: Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs reading this?

Joshe Ordonez, AirPals: Building a company is hard. Will the first thing that comes your way make you quit? That’s why it’s about something other than how fast you reach the milestone. It is staying in the game. I’ve seen so many companies popping up and closing across these two and a half years — companies that raise 10x times whatever we’ve grown. These founders have the best credentials and contracts and are completing within two years.

So, it’s about staying in the game. I’ve seen a banking crisis, a tech recession, and a pandemic — all challenging macroeconomic scenarios. I have had many instances where I was like, ‘Okay, this is it. This is too much.’ But what gets me going is how much I hate operational people being stuck in manual tasks. That’s the problem I want to solve.

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