[caption id="attachment_228089" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] USA Fulfillment President BJ Collier, left, and Dawn Jones, vice president of operations, are continuing the culture set forth by the company's founder, Shirley Moore. | PHOTO COURTESY OF USA FULFILLMENT[/caption]
DOVER — More than 40 years ago, Shirley Moore quit her job so she could be home when her children got home from school. At the time, her former employer asked if she would be interested in running a business from home: a fulfillment service for picnic baskets.The first order brought 2,000 picnic baskets to her home on Kent Island, Md., filling her home floor to ceiling. She didn’t know it then, but that was the first step to creating her own fulfillment company, USA Fulfillment, now in Delaware’s Kent County. The company ships products for several clients, including gold-dipped roses for Steven Singer Jewelers, TikTok sensation Lifestraw and more.“Shirley always had strong morals, and if she felt that the end customers weren’t being treated right, it didn’t sit right with her,” USA Fulfillment Vice President of Operations Dawn Jones said. “I think that belief and knowing she could do better led her to build her own company. And that is the cornerstone of how we run this company today.”USA Fulfillment launched in 1983 out of a facility on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and today is run by its President BJ Collier and Jones, two longtime employees who have been with the company since its early years. Moore retired and her son Brett took over. In 2015, he stepped aside, and Collier — who started as a customer service representative in 1985 — was named president. Jones, who started at USA Fulfillment as a telemarketer while she was working on her computer programming degree in 1989, worked her way to the director of IT to her role today. Both women credit Moore’s hands-on leadership and empathetic nature for creating a culture that boasts longevity among its staff. Despite the layoffs that came earlier this year, USA Fulfillment has some staff members that have been with the company for at least a decade.While warehouse work isn’t typically something associated with women in business, especially in the 1980s, Collier noted that Moore created a culture of growth that gave employees the opportunities to rise through the ranks. Collier herself transitioned to operations, and eventually headed the department for years before becoming president. USA Fulfillment is also an employee-owned company and has offered staff the opportunity to buy into the business first in 2007.“Shirley definitely saw things within people, and she saw something in me that I definitely didn’t see,” Collier said.”Going from customer service to operations was terrifying. You’re overseeing multiple clients, jobs, people. But she saw a different side to everyone, and knew it’d be fine. And that’s what I loved about her.”Flexibility, within reason, is also a key part of running the business, they added. While filling orders and moving stock can sometimes be dependent on time, staff can work out an alternate schedule for the day if they have child care issues or a medical appointment.“For me, it’s the empathy [that sets a women-owned business apart]. There’s an attitude that we all have been there and gone through it. There’s deadlines and business has to get done, but we also have other priorities in our lives,” Jones said. “We all have challenges that we have to deal with, but how we can work with our employees is what sets the business apart.”“I think there’s a little more patience and willingness to see both sides of a situation,” Collier added. “Flexibility is huge, and it’s something that started when we were here — and we’re continuing today.”The work of fulfillment has evolved since 1985. In the early years, USA Fulfillment started with UPC (universal product code) giveaways, where customers would cut out barcodes and mail them in to get a free item. These days, the business is primarily geared to e-commerce — and USA Fulfillment focuses on heightening the unboxing experience, so each item has a unique event. Clients sometimes want tissue paper or different colors on the package.But at the end of the day, it’s always about how quickly and efficiently the product gets out the door. That’s where machinery comes into play.“If we shave seconds off getting one product done, that can add up to hours for several more, and that cuts costs,” Collier said. “It’s always about fences, even when it comes to storing products or how many steps it takes to get from point A to point B.”USA Fulfillment closed its Chestertown operations earlier this year and consolidated all services in Cheswold. Jones said the company is regrouping after losing a large client, but others have signed on like organic granola brand Purely Elizabeth. Existing partnerships with nutritional product company Adaptive Health are looking to grow as well.Throughout the ups and downs, Collier and Jones said they still hold true to the ideals Moore laid out when she founded the company.“She dedicated this company to God, and throughout it all, that belief has got us to where we are today,” Collier said. “We have a lot of team members dedicated to helping out, and we’re always there working with them.”“There’s a feeling that everyone is pulling together and committed to making this company a success,” Jones added. “If there’s a major deadline coming up, even the office staff is going to roll up their sleeves and make it work.”
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