ROUNDUP — Customers making returns, exchanges and cashing in gift cards have big retail giants such as Amazon just as busy after the holidays as the days leading up to it. The same is true for a small business in Roundup that’s doing business in a big way.
It might be a surprise to hear that the package you received on your doorstep this holiday may have already made a pit stop in a small Montana town with a population of roughly 2,000 by way of an Amazon prep center.
This is where business is booming for owner of Selltec Prep and Ship, Kristal Graham.
“We started that in our garage,” said Graham, who opened her business in 2015.
“We expanded to a 50-by-50 building, “she said. “We then expanded here.”
She now has reign over roughly 40,000 square feet of warehouse space on the outer edge of Roundup, filled to the brim with packages and goods coming in and heading back out.
“We prep items for Amazon sellers,” she said.
And prepping for Amazon is big business.
A high number of products on Amazon come from third-party sellers. Graham said pretty much anyone can sell, and most of her clients are your typical “mom and pop shops.”
Still, Amazon has rules when it comes to shipping. The seller can prep the items the Amazon way themselves or send it to Graham to do for them.
She started her business with just herself and her husband prepping in their garage, expanding over the years to four employees to now over 30 employees.
Her business serves a workforce need in Roundup and fills a gap in Montana, she says.
“Being in Montana and being tax free. It gave us an advantage,” she said. “We were able to fill that gap that was in Montana.”
So, what exactly does “prepping” a product entail?
“The items come in, in one box. We open them up, we relabel them, repackage them. Put them in another box. Relabel for shipping and send them back out,” Graham said.
Her warehouse operates much like a well-oiled machine, with stations of workers un-boxing and re-boxing.
“They’re pulling them out they’re bagging the items they are label them with the Amazon labels, so that they can be easily identified.”
Graham said about 60 percent of the items in her warehouse then get shipped back out and send to the Amazon fulfillment center in Illinois, where they are shipped back out again.
“In order to come to Amazon’s warehouse, it has to be labeled correctly,” she said. “We get clients that ship thousands of items at a time.”
Her clients are small businesses. Those who buy merchandise online at a discounted rate, then turn around and sell it on Amazon for profit. It’s much like eBay.
The business model works because, as Graham puts it, “We’ve gotten to be a society of we want it and we want it now.”
And that means that the days surrounding the holidays keep her business especially busy.
“People will pay that expense to get that free two-day shipping,” she said.
She says others in Roundup have caught wind of her business, with other prep centers also popping up in town, but at a smaller scale.
And Graham doesn’t mind the competition because she says, they’ve become overloaded with clients in recent months.
“And we have scaled it back now,” she said.
She says even if she moved her business to a bigger city, she could likely expand and keep up with demand. But for Graham, Roundup is exactly where she wants to be.
“We are starting to enjoy our work and it’s been a good process.”