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Startup Stories: Laura Hill, Managing Director Australia at Sendle

Sendle’s first ever Managing Director for Australia, Laura Hill, joins us to talk about the company’s record-breaking 2021, and her plans moving forward.

by hao-nguyen on February 23, 2022

Laura Hill is the Managing Director Australia at Sendle, the first 100% carbon neutral parcel delivery service in Australia and the United States.

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Hi Laura, thanks for joining us. For those of you who don’t know, can you start by telling us a little about Sendle and your role there?

Sendle is the first 100% carbon neutral parcel delivery service in Australia and the United States, and the first technology b corp down under. We wear these ‘firsts’ as badges of honour and are proud to be a company that’s pioneering and leading the shift to sustainable shipping in Australia and globally.

Sendle’s mission is to deliver Shipping that’s good for the world and we’re doing that by levelling the playing field for small businesses with simple, reliable and affordable delivery tailor-made for them, and by treating the environment with the same respect we give our customers, community, eCommerce partners, delivery partners, investors and the entire Sendle team.

I joined Sendle in early 2021 after a successful period at Gumtree in Australia. It was a natural progression from working in the ‘buy and sell’ part of the eCommerce tech stack at Gumtree to the ‘shipping’ part of the stack at Sendle. Last year I was Sendle’s Vice President of Partnerships where I played a critical role in fostering commercial partnerships with eBay, Shopify, ShipStation and Poshmark.

Now I’ve been charged with leading Sendle’s entire Australian operation as we enter the next phase of growth. Each week I’m working closely with our Network, Partnerships, Sales, Customer Support, Marketing, Engineering and People & Culture teams to make sure we’re delivering the very best service and experience for our customers, partners and team.

Sendle’s start-up story is really interesting. Founded off the back of a community platform for sharing re-usable goods, Sendle has since become Australia’s first technology B Corp, a sustainable shipping option for small businesses and a major challenger to Australia Post.

What do you think has contributed to Sendle’s success as a shipping and logistics start-up?

Before the arrival of Sendle, small businesses were essentially overlooked and underserved in the parcel delivery space in Australia. Back in late 2014, when we officially made the transition from being a giving marketplace called TuShare to Sendle, we opened up simple, reliable, affordable and sustainable shipping to thousands of small businesses around the country.

Many had already been pivoting online, but there wasn’t an eCommerce focused delivery service designed specifically for them. Our co-founders had felt the pain points first hand of lining up at the post office to send a parcel, or having to pay the same shipping rates as the big end of town.

It’s often hard for the little guys to negotiate fair rates with the bigger delivery networks because their volumes are much smaller. Hence, we arrived on the scene as a homegrown Aussie start-up. With innovative technology, Sendle offered a modern, nationwide delivery network, affordable rates and a green approach to shipping. We’re now delivering parcels to more than 1 million small business customers.

What makes Sendle so interesting is its commitment to sustainability, but when it comes to shipping and logistics, those two things often don’t go hand-in-hand. Why has it been so important to keep sustainability as a key driver for Sendle all throughout its start-up journey?

Very true. Shipping and logistics typically don’t go hand-in-hand with sustainability, but with the planet facing a climate crisis, it’s time for an environmental awakening across the entire industry.

Shipping activities from heavy and light trucking, aviation, rail and sea currently account for 17 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. And, as a consequence of the long-term shifts driven by the COVID-fuelled surge in online shopping, the World Economic Forum estimates we’ll see 36 per cent more delivery vehicles driving around our city streets by 2030.

There’s a lot of decarbonisation work to be done and while there are green shoots, especially in the Electric Vehicle space, there needs to be serious progress if the shipping and logistics industry is to achieve net zero by 2050 in line with the Paris agreement! Building sustainability into the core of Sendle’s business model from day one was non-negotiable for our co-founders and being a 100% carbon neutral shipper has been a major differentiator for us.

In our latest small business survey, 88% of Sendle customers said carbon neutral shipping is important to them. Every small business that’s shipped with Sendle can feel proud that they’ve contributed to offsetting 31.5 billion kilometres of carbon to date. To get all mathematical – that’s 29.19 Light Hours, or equivalent to driving a 1 tonne truck from Earth to Mars and back 283 times!

Last year we saw a dramatic increase in shipping as the pandemic moved things online, putting a lot of pressure on the supply and logistics industry. How did Sendle manage that challenge?

2021 was another record year for parcel delivery as couriers like Sendle became the backbone of the eCommerce ecosystem. You sell, you buy, you pay and then you ship!

Delivery networks were put to the test like never before and to put it into perspective – Sendle’s parcel volumes during the winter lockdowns were up 92% in Sydney, 58% in Melbourne and 61% nationally. Then came the Black Friday to Cyber Monday popular shopping period when our parcel volumes increased by a whopping 111% nationwide when compared to a normal week prior to the lockdowns.

Like everyone in shipping, we’ve had delays during those lockdown periods. But because Sendle is the digital backbone of a vast network of established couriers in Australia, we were able to successfully direct our record volumes via multiple carrier partners and find the most efficient routes to get parcels to their destinations.

Additionally, we bolstered our customer support team and introduced weekend deliveries. I’ll always be grateful to our dedicated Customer Happiness Champs, Network Team, delivery driver partners, small business customers and the entire team here at Sendle who’ve collectively shown patience, dedication, innovation and resilience over the past two years. It has been huge!

You’ve previously worked in media and advertising, and most recently at Gumtree. What was it that drew you towards Sendle and working with a tech start-up?

It’s an exciting time to be at Sendle as the company continues to ramp up its growth in Australia and expand its nationwide and international shipping service for small businesses and side hustlers. After six years of working for an eCommerce marketplace, a move to a parcel delivery tech start-up was the most logical step for me. Shipping truly is one of the most exciting and critical parts of any online transaction, and its importance has been brought to the forefront during COVID.

The idea of working at Sendle was also enticing because it’s a challenger brand innovating in a very traditional sector that is ripe for disruption. I knew the work would be fast-paced, that the environment was evolving rapidly and that Sendle was looking to grow from a start-up to being a real player in the industry.

Not only that, but Sendle’s purpose and values appealed to me on a personal level. My decision to join Sendle has been validated every day by the inspiring and committed people who interviewed me and are now my colleagues.

Before we let you go, can you tell us a little about the goals you have for Sendle over the next 12 months as the new Australian managing director?

Australian small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy. We’ve witnessed their creativity and resilience during the pandemic, as so many have pivoted and found new ways to survive and thrive online, while often turning their bricks and mortar stores into fulfilment hubs. At Sendle, we’re constantly evolving our products and expanding our service to level the playing field and fulfil their shipping needs in this new and exciting phase of eCommerce.

Over the next 12 months, we will be 100% focussed on serving small businesses as we always do, as well as launching new innovative shipping services and products. In January we announced our first-ever bespoke Returns service and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so I’d say “watch this space!”

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