small business supply chain logistics

Early last year, the coronavirus pandemic stopped life as we know in its tracks, causing major interruptions in the supply chain. As businesses and customers have, for the most part, acclimated to increased shipping times, entrepreneurs are thinking about what the future of the small business supply chain and international commerce look like. Our 2019 Fellow Caitlin Murphy founded Global Gateway Logistics with the intention of finding creative, efficient solutions to operational problems. She answered our community’s questions about international commerce, preparing for a crisis, carbon-neutral shipping and more on Instagram

Q: How did you found your company?

A: I was in logistics for many years and decided there was a white space in the market of firms that simplify logistics and education. I started there and took integral steps, such as deciding on a software to manage my client’s shipments, getting licensed with the government and building relationships on carrier and customer levels.

Q: How do you start with getting connected with possible suppliers in other countries? 

A: There are so many ways! Check out your local World Trade Center office as well as many state-level organizations that promote global trade. Obviously, trade shows are a good one, too, but given the current climate, they’re not feasible. So, take advantage of virtual trade shows right now, which are less expensive (some are even free!) and gain contacts that way. Also, depending on the commodity, a freight forwarder may have resources!

Q: I don’t have any experience working with an international vendor. What do I need to know if I want to start importing goods from a foreign country?

A: Here is what I recommend:

  1. Become an importer of record (a freight forwarder can walk you through this), which is a requirement in the US to import commercial goods.
  2. Understand Incoterms® 2020. Incoterms® are international trade terms that dictate the risk and cost responsibility for global trade. Freight forwarders can help provide resources.
  3. Know the landed cost before placing an order. Calculate item cost, shipping, duty and tax based on the Incoterm. Usually the vendor or a freight forwarder provides this info.
  4. Ensure the vendor overseas is an entity you can trust and a certified business that can export.

Q: What are ways to create carbon efficiency and reduce our brand’s footprint while still smoothly operating?

A: This is a passion of ours too! Here are a few recommendations:

  1. Partner with the EPA to learn more about their calculator, emissions reporting tools and data collecting. Data share is so important.
  2. Make an integral plan to start with measurable goals and with one business unit. See what is sustainable and what needs to pivot.
  3. Choose vendors and suppliers that share in the initiative to reduce emissions.

Q: How would you go about calculating a sellable unit’s carbon footprint and offsetting it?

A: Great question! There are some companies that have built carbon calculators for shipping, such as DHL and Maersk. Also, a way to offset is to find proactive ways to improve the environment. For example, my company partners with EcoMatcher to plant ten trees for every 25 shipments we handle and we gift those trees to clients. They can view their trees on a satellite map and learn about the local farmers planting them.

Q: What’s the best method for keeping track of container shipments from suppliers to the warehouse facility?

A: Definitely work with carriers and logistics partners that have online tools for tracking! It’s a must in today’s environment

Q: What are the top three things the industry could do to be better prepared for the next global crisis, whether it be a pandemic, the effects of climate change, civil/political unrest, etc.?

A: The top three things the logistics the industry can do would be to create better capacity planning of all modes via technology, ensure that there is support from our governments to get involved in matters of global logistics crises (e.g. current rising of shipping rates without a cap) and to solidify essential supplies in domestic warehouses in order to avoid being reliant on an overseas supply during crisis.

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