Case Study

How Persepolis took their corner shop online & still kept their nights and weekends

Photo: Evening Standard

It’s been more than two decades now since Sally Butcher fell in love with her Iranian husband, Jamshid. And soon after, she unavoidably fell in love with the heritage he brought into their lives, with Persia and everything about its culture. So much so that they had to open a shop, Persepolis.

A well-known establishment, Snackistan, how they fondly refer to themselves, soon added a café-restaurant dedicated to Persia’s fascinating and tasty cuisine – a small and flavoursome West Asian enclave in Peckham that all Londoners could enjoy and a welcomed authentic break from the more tourist-targeted competition clustered around North-West London. The shop continued to grow in popularity, selling everything from Persian nibbles or gift hampers to handicrafts, homeware and cookware to match, and even self-edited recipe books, to the delight of patrons who came in to dine but just couldn’t leave without taking some of that extraordinary experience with them]

With “nine and a half tables”, they’re the original lean startup. But short of ‘extending into the basement/garage/Job Centre next door’ and along with the shop growing more and more popular – they naturally expanded online.

They built a website and added a shop platform, trying to make their unique offer available not just to Londoners but to everyone around the world.

When you’re passionate about something, things seem to come easy, right? Except that when things come easy, trouble sometimes follows.

They had just a few orders initially, testing the waters. If you’re a merchant, you might be familiar with that anxiety around when you get discovered, have your shop’s breakthrough. It’s a short-lived excitement, usually, when this comes, it’s swiftly succeeded by running around in despair, trying to keep everything together. With a desirable offer for people fascinated with the Persian culture, one order became ten, ten orders became 100 a month and barely managing to keep everyone happy with orders on time and intact, the breakthrough became painful and hard to bear.

Sally and Jamshid already had limited space in the breakfast café turned lunch & dinner restaurant turned non-stop online shop. Having to stock packaging materials for her online orders didn’t make things any better.

Paper cuts became the norm in their hair-pulling packing efforts for fragile items that sold online, all while watching over the samovar, so things don’t figuratively and sometimes literally boil over.

But worst of it all: organising shipments turned into a (second) full-time job. For almost 5 years.

Once packing was done – often just hours before the morning breakfast rush – the parcels needed to be dropped off at the Post Office. Busy with the café and sometimes understaffed, they couldn’t close shop (and restaurant, did we mention that?) to make sure their order fulfilment runs smoothly. It was either Sally, Jamshid or one of her two employees who needed to waste valuable time waiting in line, handling delivery runs and rushing back.

Sometimes, their customer satisfaction got sacrificed with late deliveries, not-ideal packing or even breakages. In which case, the carriers weren’t much help. Persepolis is a family owned & run business with a strong community where everything is about sharing, from a delicious meze, to the love for a revived culture. But your modern shipping carrier has bigger falafel to fry and when it comes to picking up the slack… no one but Sally and her staff get to share that.

It became exhausting to fulfil orders but demand kept growing. Is there life beyond success?

Thankfully, the Persian gods of logistics smiled on Persepolis and sent Weengs

Running a specialty café & restaurant and expanding into retail to complement it usually means passion is the driver. Which justifiably implies that unique businesses like Persepolis may lack the know-how, experience, and resource for the more technical aspects of managing their quick growth. Usually, logistics becomes an impediment, instead of the enabler.

Weengs is a third party logistics service that helps small independent merchants like Persepolis who make their break online, cope with order fulfilment.

 

From the collection of unpackaged goods to packing them professionally and negotiating better rates from shipping carriers, Weengs throws in packaging materials and dealing with carriers on behalf of the merchants. There’s also options for insurance in case of breakages or loss, plus now Sally and her staff don’t have to get their heads around what the best options are for shipping domestic, worldwide, next day or economy and definitely don’t ever have to take time out of their days to walk to the Post Office and just stand around. Weengs handles everything for them.

Persepolis gets to hold on to the items they have on sale, partly because it’s easier to control stock if you’re a small seller and can’t duplicate it so you can pay for it to be put up on a shelf somewhere where you’ll never see it again, and partly because Sally likes to be surrounded by her Persian bits and bobs until they find a loving new home.

I am an absolutely huge fan of Weengs, they are helping me sleep at night!

– Sally Butcher, savvy entrepreneur, always on top of things, rarely trusts anyone to delegate; also warm host at the  Persepolis restaurant if you behave

Sally, her husband, and their staff save up to a combined 90 hard-working hours a week and leave packing to trained packers at Weengs, who focus on each item separately, pick the best materials and pack everything neatly and safely. She uses the freed up time to make her café & restaurant cosier. They recently installed loos AND air-con – not even kidding – making them the most high-tech Persian venue in all of Peckham if not the whole South of London.

Sally syncs her e-shop to her Weengs dashboard so Weengs just gets notified when she sells stuff. Drivers come by Persepolis’ shop in Peckham. Unpackaged sold items are picked up and taken to Weengs’ warehouse for packing and shipping. Out of shop, out of mind for Sally, who can put together another hefty mouthwatering (and, we’re told, excellent value for money) meze platter and charm customers instead.

Sally and her shop will never be as big as the retail chains (nor does she want to, really). But she’ll still need some form of working, AFFORDABLE please, logistics. Weengs helps her and other happily-small or medium businesses like hers to benefit from large-scale order fulfilment to suit their… comfortable scale.

It’s a customizable pay-as-you-send service, so Sally only spends Persepolis Shop’s hard earned cash only when she sends orders out.

Persepolis used Weengs to

  • Save 90 hours worth of unnecessary work per week, the equivalent of having to hire two extra pairs of hands on deck
  • Access affordable, functioning logistics to suit their size that they prefer to never outgrow
  • Focus their efforts back on what they love doing – managing the cafe, instead of dreading order fulfilment for her online shop
  • Make their online customers looking for Persian cookware, handicraft, books and snack baskets as happy as the customers who enjoy sharing a meze in the restaurant

Want to learn more about how to sort out your online shop’s logistics and still have a life?

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