ROUNDUP — Customers making returns and 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 called Selltec Prep & Ship that’s doing business in a big way.
You might be surprised to learn that the package you received on your doorstep this holiday season may have made a pit stop in Roundup, a small Montana town with a population of roughly 2,000, by way of an Amazon prep center called Selltec Prep & Ship.
Kristal Graham, the owner of Selltec, started in her garage in 2015. She continued, "We expanded to a 50-by-50 building, and 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. Amazon requires third-party sellers to package goods a specific way - a large 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 it for them.
She started her business with just herself and her husband prepping in their garage, expanding over the years to four employees, and now more than 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 labeling them with the Amazon labels, so that they can be easily identified.”
Graham said about 60% 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.
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.”