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Freight Forward Fireside with Shenandoah Growers’ Cameron Geiger

Welcome to the first installment of Freight Forward Fireside. We invite some of our closest customers, partners, investors, and collaborators to discuss logistics and transportation news and share ideas on business strategy.

While most industries struggled to fare with the pandemic, few saw growth soar. One of those industries included food and beverage, specifically with companies that had business with grocery retailers. This is no different for indoor agricultural startup and leader in the fresh herb category, Shenandoah Growers. Their COO, Cameron Geiger sat down with ZUUM’s Matt Tabatabai to examine how Shenandoah Growers managed to prop up an additional business model and key traits to look for in a potential partnership or solution provider.

Prior to joining Shenandoah Growers in January 2021, Geiger spent over the past 20 years holding executive leadership roles with TriMark, Walmart and Sam’s Club across supply chain and technology.

Coming from big box retailers to a growing startup, naturally has its unique challenges. While the need for cost-effective and reliable transportation remains the same, small businesses and startups do not have the same access to resources. This has consequently led Shenandoah Growers to come up with creative solutions.

Turning a Cost Center Into a Profit Center

Shenandoah Growers launched their private fleet for LTL shipping. Since LTL shipping is known to be quite expensive compared to FTL shipping, they connected companies in need of temperature-controlled transportation who may also need their products delivered to grocery stores they were already delivering to. After identifying viable interest, they saw the opportunity to subsidize their transportation costs by loading a full trailer and scheduling shipments for their fleets’ backhauls.

Finding creative ways to offset critical costs can be beneficial in the long run, but Geiger advises such initiatives must continue to contribute to the company’s core values and capabilities. For Shenandoah Growers, that’s leveraging indoor agriculture to provide affordable, organic, fresh produce for their customers.

Vetting Potential Partners & Providers

This approach can also be applied to vetting software solutions providers and potential partners. It’s best to look at which companies that are independently interested in solving the problem your company is facing rather than connecting with a provider that is trying to mold your pain point into something that matches their solutions.

A commonality among startups and growing companies is that employees tend to wear multiple hats. This generally means that team members have limited time to learn, implement, and manage new technologies. For instance, transportation management systems (TMS) historically have been difficult to implement quickly. Additionally, managers who often lead efforts like adopting a new TMS typically do not stay in the position long enough to complete the integration process themselves. Therefore, solution providers need to present new technologies in ways that both technical and nontechnical folks are able to understand and ultimately train internal stakeholders.

Innovation in Logistics

Geiger concludes that the next generation of innovation in logistics will come from industry experts with strong technical chops collaborating with enablers from the tech industry. The key to forming a strong partnership lies in each party’s ability to identify a shared problem to solve. This, of course, is much easier said than done.

For Shenandoah Growers, the global pandemic challenged the startup to come up with creative solutions to continue business more efficiently. What’s next for them? “We're going to let our customers tell us that” says Geiger.