The pandemic caused disruptions in every known business; however, it essentially hit the supply chain industry waves after waves forcing companies to level up their market operations with innovative strategies and adaptation. To keep up with these rapid changes, leaders in the supply chain had to utilize their resourcefulness to fill the gaps created by the pandemic. One leader who adapted to these transformative shifts, defeated the odds and always managed to stay at the top is Esther Kestenbaum Prozan.
As the President of Ruby Has Fulfillment, Esther has proven herself with her extensive experience in various aspects of the supply chain business. Her expertise includes B2B Business Development, Retail, Ecommerce, AdTech, Mobile, Consumer and Industrial IoT, Data Analytics, IP Licensing (out-licensing of technology). Apart from being the president, she is also an advisor to multiple companies related to core areas of expertise and board experience.
Ruby Has Fulfillment is one of the fastest-growing ecommerce fulfillment and logistics providers for direct-to-consumer brands and retailers. With a strategically located international footprint of distribution centers in the United States, Canada, and the UK, Ruby Has Fulfillment is a company in hyper-growth mode.
Below are the highlights of the interview.
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at Ruby Has Fulfillment. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?
I graduated from Barnard College at Columbia University, an all-women college. That experience strengthened my sense that women should naturally always be at the table. That said, I got a late start in business because I had four kids as a young mom. I was considering business school when I was offered a job as head of business development for a startup in New York. That gave me insight into the world of startups, fundraising, and corporate boardrooms that I could never have gotten in graduate school. Later I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where I held SVP and VP roles with various retail marketing technology companies. After holding CEO roles at two other ecommerce companies, I took the position of president of Ruby Has Fulfillment.
Tell us something more about your company and its mission and vision.
Our mission at Ruby Has is to enable ecommerce brands to scale. It started with our founder, Rafael Zakinov, who ran his own ecommerce business out of a dorm room at college, then turned his focus to fulfillment when he couldn’t find a solution that worked for him. Every step we’ve taken since then has been with that question in mind, “will this help our clients grow?” Something unique about Ruby Has is that it was almost completely bootstrapped.
Enlighten us on how you have impacted the Logistics & Supply Chain niche through your expertise in the market?
My years of experience working with ecommerce startups taught me to recognize growth opportunities. The Covid pandemic is something no one wished for and no one could have predicted, but once we were in it, we had no choice. We could not fail. If we failed, so would all of the clients we served. Our executive team made a decision to do everything in our power to stay up and running. That meant, first and foremost, protecting our employees and giving them the support they needed to protect their families. It meant focusing on strategic automation and robotics to help us through labor shortages and peaks in order volume. During my tenure at Ruby Has, the company has grown nearly 10x in revenue.
Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives your organization.
People first is the motto of Ruby Has, and it applies to both our clients and our staff. For example, we are a very diverse company, from the executive team to our warehouse teams. It’s not just lip service. Our diversity creates better ideas and makes us a better company. We believe in hiring good people and treating them well. Around 90 percent of our employees are full-time vs. temps, which is unusual in this business and really drives quality and consistency across our organization.
Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?
Since Ruby Has was founded, it has always been a priority to invest in new technologies and stay at the forefront of advancements in automation and robotics. The pandemic made it even more of a necessity. We saw early on that automation could help protect our employees by keeping them socially distanced while saving them steps. In addition, it allowed us to ramp up operations using the same dedicated, full-time employees to withstand surges in order volume, rather than having to depend on temporary help. Meanwhile, we have nurtured strategic partnerships with other technology providers in the industry to offer our clients fully integrated, end-to-end solutions.
If given a chance, what change would you like to bring in the Inventory Storage & Management industry?
I’d like to see the industry become less transactional and more solution-oriented. I’d also like less “tech just for tech’s sake” and more informed decisions based on what works for your brand. Sometimes less is more if a brand doesn’t need all the bells and whistles. You have to walk the line between improving the customer experience and managing costs. I’d like to see more fulfillment providers help brands move strategically and fine-tune their operations based on what works in the real world, not just going for the cool new app or UX platform of the moment. Every added cost has to solve a real-world problem.
What, according to you, could be the next big change in the Supply Chain industry? How is your company preparing to be a part of that change?
I believe that the changes in shopping behavior that we’ve seen in the last year and a half are here to stay and that ecommerce will continue to eat into brick-and-mortar sales. We’ve already seen big established brands move into direct-to-consumer sales channels in categories like CPG that we never thought we’d see. New technologies have also made it easier for brands to sell their products internationally. As enablers of this growth, we need to stay ahead of what our clients, partners and employees need. Something will have to change on the shipping end, given the mess we are still seeing in ports around the world.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for Ruby Has Fulfillment?
I see nothing but growth ahead for Ruby Has and I intend to be here to help drive that growth. We are already thought leaders in the industry, and we are constantly adding new technology and new partners to stay ahead of the needs of our clients. I see us being a leading global fulfillment provider in the near future.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the Supply Chain sector?
I have always said that women are better positioned to succeed in ecommerce than other sales channels because when you go direct to consumers with your products, there’s no one standing in your way. It’s your brand, and there are no gatekeepers or middlemen you have to impress. Women also have a history of being the primary shopper for their families, which makes us more sensitive to design, function, and price. We know what we want, so who better to create it? I love working with all the innovative entrepreneurs at Ruby Has Fulfillment, and it’s an honor to help empower their businesses.