Where are your sheets made? How about your blankets? Can you answer those questions without heading to your bedroom to check the tags?
Authenticity50 is a premiere home goods company whose mission is to make those questions oh so easy to answer. Every single product it makes and sells is 100% “seed-to-stitch” made in the USA.
Being able to purchase locally made goods in this category is the driving force that motivates founders Jimmy and Steph MacDonald. They wanted to support their community and economy while offering buyers a high-quality, environmentally friendly option for bedding.
It turns out a lot of people were looking for exactly that. After launching in 2016, Authenticity50 quickly built a loyal fan base. Knowing they couldn’t (and didn’t want to) manage pallets of inventory or hundreds of orders out of their Los Angeles apartment, the MacDonalds outsourced their fulfillment to a third-party logistics (3PL) company right from the get-go.
Six years later, Authenticity50 now uses Shopify Fulfillment Network to store its inventory and pick, pack, and ship orders. This decision paid off big time when a media feature sent its traffic and orders skyrocketing on Cyber Monday—and each and every one of those buyers had a positive experience.
Building a business your children can be proud of
In 2011, the newly married MacDonalds were trying to outfit their apartment. They wanted to buy local and support some of the industries still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis. But, surprisingly, they struggled to find high-quality, American-made bedding at any price point.
Fast-forward to 2016. After building successful careers in finance and entertainment, the MacDonalds decided they wanted to build a company—specifically one that made a positive impact.
“We wanted to build a business that we really felt was doing right by the customers, right by the manufacturers, and right by the environment. Something our children or our grandparents would be proud of.”
With that purpose in mind, they honed in on their experience trying and failing to find Made in USA bedding, and an idea was born. The United States used to be a powerhouse in textiles, and the MacDonalds thought that the rapidly growing online direct-to-consumer model could support a locally made bedding product.
So, they started talking to American cotton farmers, yarn spinners, weavers, finishers, and cut-and-sew manufacturers. It quickly became clear what their biggest challenge would be.
“We have to manage the supply chain and all the headaches and fun that comes along with that,” Jimmy explains. “Buying yarn, getting it sent to our weavers so that they can weave fabric, making sure we have time on their looms, having that fabric sent to finishers where they sanforize it, pre-shrink it, dye it, and then sending it to a cut-and-sew shop that does all the final cutting, sewing, and packaging.”
While other brands could jump between overseas suppliers, adding their label to an existing suite of products, the MacDonalds needed to build strong, long-term relationships with American companies at every stage of the supply chain for Authenticity50 to succeed.
Finding trusted partners
When you’re looking for trusted partners, having married founders is a great start. But the MacDonalds needed that trust to extend to all of the other businesses behind the curtain of Authenticity50.
Since it was so core to their business, the MacDonalds focused heavily on the supplier side of their supply chain. “We spent a lot of time on the road visiting our manufacturers,” Jimmy says.
While that legwork has paid off big (especially with COVID-related supply chain disruptions hurting so many companies in the past two years), it also ate up most of their time and resources.
So while the Authenticity50 team knew they wanted to outsource fulfillment, they weren’t able to give it the same share of attention. This made choosing the right third-party logistics company a challenge.
“It was all new territory. I had no idea how it all worked,” Jimmy says. “I didn’t know where to find a good 3PL. I didn’t know what the rates should be or what they shouldn’t be. Once our product was at the 3PL, we’re not there on site and it’s hard for us to verify what exactly is going on. Are they charging us the right amount for different things? Is everything above board in the pricing and how everything’s being executed?”
With no easy answers to those questions, the MacDonalds did the best they could with online research, took a few calls, and then put their faith in a 3PL.
Unfortunately, their first 3PL didn’t work out. And neither did the second. So when it came down to choosing a third fulfillment partner, they tried to embrace the same mindset they took with manufacturers: think for the long term.
“There’s a lot of trust in that relationship. You’re kind of entrusting them with your baby, so to speak.”
“You hope that they’re treating your product well. You hope that they’re going to pick, pack, and ship properly. And you hope that they’re going to get your product out the door in a timely manner without damaging anything,” Jimmy says.
It was this need for trust that pushed them in the direction of Shopify Fulfillment Network. Authenticity50’s ecommerce store was already built on the Shopify platform, and they’d always had a great experience with the product and team. Plus Jimmy felt that Shopify had more of a stake in supporting their success.
“I believed that Shopify, as a company, was going to take care of their fulfillment business and take care of their clientele,” he says. “I already knew how Shopify thinks and behaves with their customers. That gave me a lot of comfort going into working with Shopify Fulfillment Network. I feel like our interests are just better aligned.”
So after a quick due diligence period, Authenticity50 entrusted its fulfillment to Shopify in 2020 in the hopes that the partnership would be a lasting one.
Beating the rush
In the two years since joining Shopify Fulfillment Network, they haven’t second-guessed that decision.
“We’ve had the most consistent pick, pack, and ship experience in terms of getting the product out the door the same day or the next business day. Pretty much zero problems there, which has been great,” Jimmy says.
But the partnership really proved its value on Cyber Monday 2021. After working through Thanksgiving and a busy weekend ensuring their store was running smoothly, Jimmy decided to take their son for a bike ride. At just after 2 p.m., his phone started blowing up with the beautiful sound of Shopify sales. Then his wife called and said they had 12,000 people on their site, instead of the usual 50 or so.
After speeding home as fast as a toddler’s legs could pedal, the MacDonalds worked to figure out what was happening. They realized that they had been featured on ABC’s World News Tonight in a segment on made in America products. Their business mission had earned them a great press mention, and now they were reaping the rewards to the tune of incredible traffic and 16 times their normal one-day volume for sales.
For entrepreneurs, the joy in seeing that kind of a rush also tends to be paired with anxiety and stress. Can our online store handle the traffic? Will we be able to fulfill all these orders?
Authenticity50, with the help of Shopify Fulfillment Network, had everything under control.
“We were getting emails two days later that customers had already received their packages, which is great, because many of them had never heard of our brand before seeing it on TV.” Jimmy says. “They go from hearing about us to having our product on their doorstep two days later. That’s a very powerful experience and one that engenders a lot of trust in the brand.”
That trust is really important to the MacDonalds, who say that one of the main reasons they’ll never sell through big-box chains is that they want that direct relationship with customers. “Some of them feel like they know us,” Jimmy says. “We’re able to email them directly, and follow up with them, and really tell the story of the product in a personal way.”
The business of a lifetime
While the Cyber Monday surge is a day the MacDonalds won’t soon forget, ultimately they’re building a business for the long term. And they view Shopify Fulfillment Network as a part of that long-term vision.
Specifically, Jimmy sees the network’s two-day delivery coverage, inventory distribution, and the newly released Shop Promise feature—which displays alongside delivery times on their site and at checkout—as keys to their brand’s future success.
“With Shopify Fulfillment Network, we don’t have to worry about our pick, pack, and ship anymore,” Jimmy says. “It’s taken care of. That allows us to focus on our supply chain and focus on our marketing, because that’s where we add value.”
Having a partner they can trust in Shopify Fulfillment Network lets the Authenticity50 team stay focused on creating locally made, environmentally friendly products—a mission they know will make their kids proud.