We last caught up with manufacturing engineering graduates, James Hyde and James Strachan, in 2011, when their fulfilment business was less than a year old. Today it’s one of the fastest-growing companies in Europe, with burgeoning operations in the US and Australasia.
“Our growth is something of a virtuous cycle. When online stores come to us, we improve their shipping speed and accuracy, and hence customer loyalty. We give them software tools, to help them understand their best and worst-selling products, and hence profitability. And we free up their time, letting them focus on marketing or new product development, rather than worrying about getting parcels out the door.James Hyde
“It’s strange to think back to where we were when we were last featured on this website,” begins James Hyde, now CEO of James and James Fulfilment. “We were renting the corner of someone else’s warehouse, using their old kitchen as our office, huddled around a two-bar fire.”
Contrast this with where the company is today and the difference is clear. Having outgrown their first rented space in Foxton, they rented another in nearby Sawston, before leaving the Cambridge area entirely.
In 2016, they moved to their own, much larger facility in Northampton – the heartland of the UK’s logistics industry – and added fulfilment centres in Columbus, Ohio and Auckland, New Zealand to their network.
The rapid expansion of physical space was prompted by a rapid expansion in clients and revenues.
Having developed a unique, cloud-based system to bridge the gap between modern eCommerce platforms, such as Amazon and Shopify, and traditional logistics warehouses, the two Jameses were inundated with business from rapidly expanding online retailers.
Hyde explains: “We set up the business when we were working for an eCommerce store. We realised that there were these third-party logistics companies who would store and despatch products on behalf of retailers. But none were doing a great job – everything was fax-based and disorganised.”
“James and I knew from our engineering degree – and the many just-in-time factories we visited – that there must be a better way. So we started applying the processes we’d learnt studying at Cambridge, thinking about eCommerce fulfilment centres as factories, which build and despatch thousands of small parcels a day, rather than traditional warehouses, which slowly move pallets around.”
The Jameses’ approach worked. Their combination of process-driven thinking and innovative software development meant that the company was quickly despatching eCommerce orders more efficiently and more accurately than the rest of the industry.
With angel investment from Cambridge-based entrepreneur, Peter Cowley, and a true bootstrapping mindset (their second office was assembled from reclaimed doors and windows, their third was a disused toilet), James and James Fulfilment quickly became profitable – and it has posted significant growth each year since.
“Our growth is something of a virtuous cycle,” explains Hyde. “When online stores come to us, we improve their shipping speed and accuracy, and hence customer loyalty. We give them software tools, to help them understand their best and worst-selling products, and hence profitability. And we free up their time, letting them focus on marketing or new product development, rather than worrying about getting parcels out the door.
“All of that helps retailers grow, which in turn helps us grow.”
This approach has led to a string of accolades for James and James – first, a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the field of Innovation, then rankings on a variety of league tables for high-growth companies – the Inc. 5000, the Fast Track 100 and the FT1000 (twice).
So, what’s next for James and James?
“We’re looking at investment opportunities, with a view to growing our team, continuing to develop our software platform and further expanding in the US and Europe,” concludes Hyde. “We have this repeatable process for adding new fulfilment centres to our network, doing what we’ve done in the UK in new countries. So scaling that globally is the natural step.”