Joey founded Supplyve in May of 2021 after seeing firsthand the rampant issues in Small Retail. He's a graduate of University of Maryland's Supply Chain program, and today sits on the technology council of the National Small Business Association.
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[00:00:00] Jeff Roster: Hello everybody. Welcome back to this week and innovation today. I have two very interesting guests. I have Joey Rubenstein, CEO of supply and kin doubt. Joey, welcome to the podcast.
[00:00:11] Joey Rubinstein: Thank you so much, Jeff. It's great to be here.
[00:00:13] Jeff Roster: And tell me a little bit about yourself and what you're up to, what your company's.
[00:00:17] Joey Rubinstein: Sure. I studied a supply chain and entrepreneurship at the university of Maryland go TURPs. And basically after that, one of my friends approached me and he was running this independent retailer.
[00:00:27] And he realizes, oh shoot. The way that we're doing our supply chain is really problematic. Everything was very manual. There were all sorts of issues in terms of the way in which they ordered, how they ordered from who they were ordering, when they were ordering you name it, they had problems with it.
[00:00:40] We, started speaking to hundreds and hundreds of different people that were within the industry, trying to understand if this is a real problem or just something that was, localized
[00:00:46] turns out it's a huge problem. So we dove in headfirst.
[00:00:51] And basically what we're trying to do is we're trying to redefine their ordering process from their vendors and make their lives a million times.
[00:01:03] Joey Rubinstein: An independent retailer is basically a one, mom and pop store all the way up to, as a chain of like 10 stores.
[00:01:09] Jeff Roster: Very interesting. And today those retailers I'm thinking about my brother's place. It's probably a lot of paper. I'm not even sure. There's Excel sheets. There's probably, you're probably trying to try and replace physical
[00:01:19] Joey Rubinstein: paper. Yeah. So actually initially we started out by interviewing like in-depth like a hundred different independent retailers. 93% of them were not using any sort of technology. They were using either Google sheets or pen and paper. The majority of independent retailers received their basically their orders through what's like paper. Like they actually get, invoices, physical paper, invoices
[00:01:38] that's not to say that there are people that aren't familiar with technology and willing to adopt technology. It's just that up until now, they have been underserved.
[00:01:46] . So basically the technology that, that we would be replacing is the technology that comes with the point of sale. So in every point of sale, that's basically where people swipe their credit cards.
[00:01:54] A lot of times they have these tack on, supply chain software but they're very ineffective and they suffer from the same problem that [00:02:00] actually all the current technology suffer from even all the way up to SAP, which is that they require a massive amount of manual data entry.
[00:02:06] So if I want to get my system up and loaded it on square, for example, I would have to type in, each individual product that's within my store. So let's say I have 10,000 products. It would take me 180 hours. Which is seven full 24 hour days just to type in my products. And that's not to mention when I'm actually getting, stuff into my store and I need to, update the inbound inventory.
[00:02:25] While there is technology that is, technically within the stores, people don't use it by and large because it's just too cumbersome. And I think basically what we did is we built a product that, addresses all those things. It allows, basically minimal manual data entry and that's the long and short of it. And now, we're just, just getting running, we have a number of stores that are signed up we're, signed with a couple of vendors as well.
[00:02:45] But the small market as an aside is very large as well.
[00:02:48] There were 156,000, stores in our sort of initial starting market, which is to say convenience stores groceries and liquor stores. And that's really just the beginning because this is also applicable to, sports stores, sporting goods [00:03:00] stores, it's applicable to toy stores. It's applicable to you name it as long as they have barcodes.
[00:03:05] And things are really looking good.
[00:03:07] Jeff Roster: Yeah actually that was my next question. There is no segment that you need to worry about. You're not focusing on grocery or anything. Anything with a barcode
[00:03:14] Joey Rubinstein: works for you in the short run. Obviously you need to stay focused in order to, build a viable business and all that stuff.
[00:03:20] So we're starting with the grocery and the three I named before, which is, grocery convenience stores and liquor because they have a similar product set but then we're going to work our way out, as time goes on
[00:03:28] Jeff Roster: very interesting now, Ken Dowd is on the line with us and Ken is on the advisory board, but I wonder if you could unpack a little bit how you two got connected and Ken, maybe you could tell us about your background because I couldn't even begin to do it justice.
[00:03:44] Ken Dowd: I met Joey early on about four or five months ago. Very aggressive team. I met the whole team by zoom. What I liked about they did early on was they started small and had a lot of lessons learned on how they were working their [00:04:00] process.
[00:04:00] And as you can see, they're building to larger efforts. But I liked advising these guys and talking to them. I'm a retired major general in the army. Did all the logistics most in Afghanistan and Iraq and Kuwait. In the 2014 timeframe, 2012. And Joey asked me to jump on the team and advise them on ideas and thoughts and way ahead.
[00:04:22] But I would just tell you, these guys are very aggressive and they do a real good job on lessons learned. And then they build that into their process.
[00:04:30] An aggressive team for an old guy like this, watching these guys try to improve process. Always makes me excited.
[00:04:37] Jeff Roster: What's really interesting to me is for such a young startup to have such a strong advisory board.
[00:04:41] That's what really, Can S same thing. I got a call out or I got a email out of LinkedIn, out of nowhere for some, some young guy doing something up in Palo Alto and it's I get a bunch of those. And for whatever reason I went up and.
[00:04:54] A lot of it was because of the advisory board that, that Joey already put together. When I'm talking to startups, that's, I [00:05:00] highly recommend putting an advisory board together. And I think in this case, he hit it out of the park with some very big names. Yeah can I can't miss the opportunity to ask you some some military questions.
[00:05:11] What can retail learn from your experience? You, have you worked in, or you actually you manage lead probably the most sophisticated supply chain in the history of man. I would think us, us, military. W what can we learn in retail from what you what you've done?
[00:05:25] Ken Dowd: It was bringing in expertise from industry to show us how we might be able to do our processes and procedures in the supply chain. One thing I did as a GO (General Officer) was work with industry on ideas and things they might already have figured out. And then, as you talk about the supply chain and things like that we're coming out of Iraq in 2011.
[00:05:52] We put a lot of this IT and processes that we learned from other large [00:06:00] IT industries in there to make our effort coming out of there very easily done. And then the supply accountability of all that equipment and trucks and personnel was outstanding. And so I just see, what Joey's pulling together.
[00:06:19] There may be ways we can link up. On ideas to always improve both processes and DOD and retail.
[00:06:30] Jeff Roster: Yeah. That's that's exciting. I'm an old supply chain person, myself. Mervyn's target. And lived in, lived and died in the supply chain. And I guess I'm happy and probably a little sad at the same time to see supply chain really moved to the forefront.
[00:06:42] Not just because of the amazing things we've always done, but the fact now the entire world realizes how delicate a supply chain is. So any any expertise that we can drag into retail, I think is just phenomenal.
[00:07:03] There's always great ideas out there. And I think leaders have to take time to listen to those ideas and see if they'll help the process as we move forward.
[00:07:13] Jeff Roster: Yeah. Very interesting. So Joey want to go back to the question about. Advisory teams and advisory boards. What, where did you get the idea to go after some pretty big names.
[00:07:24] And if you want to drop some of the other names on your advisory board, feel free to
[00:07:28] Joey Rubinstein: yep, absolutely. Basically what happened we're a young company. And it's really important to be able to look at your company honestly and say, see what the weaknesses are.
[00:07:36] It's really important to have people that have time in these industries and that understand these industries really well.
[00:07:42] So that way, even just the little things like where you can ask them questions, Hey, how on earth do does, this part of the supply chain work cause, cause people that have actually done things, over a course of 30 years they obviously understand things, more in depth than, somebody that is coming in fresh.
[00:07:59] Again, there are [00:08:00] different advantages and disadvantages to each, perspective. There's actually a podcaster named Greg White with Supply Chain Now. And he was talking about how the most successful startups have, supply chain startups generally have people with fresh eyes and then excellent advisory boards.
[00:08:13] So I took that to heart. I reached out to Ken, basically took a flyer. I said, listen, we're trying to do something really cool. You have a lot of experience in this would love to get you on board. And then we also added on Maxime Cohen. So Maxime is one of rethink retailers, 100 retail influencers of 2022.
[00:08:33] Yeah. Oh, he's yeah, another guy's on there. I wonder who that is. Wonder how I found your name now anyways, but basically Maxime absolutely crushes it. In terms of retail analytics. He's one of the foremost experts in that he wrote actually one of the books on predicted.
[00:08:46] Like analytics and how to, best guess what you should be stocking. So he's a really great expert and that fills a strategic need of ours, to understand cause analytics are really important part of what any company in this space is doing. And then we also added on Levy.
[00:08:59] So Edith [00:09:00] Simchi-Levy is part of almost like a Royal family of supply chain. She's really one of these, long standing experts. She knows everybody in the supply chain. She also exited a couple of supply chain startups herself and basically wrote one of the original textbooks on supply chain. So people that really genuinely understand that we actually added another really excellent advisor yet, but things are, things are just getting close right now. So I'm not going to go into details, but, follow our LinkedIn, you'll see it there. And yeah basically each of them, really add something special to the team.
[00:09:27] They've all proven themselves as really incredible assets, people that really want to help. And I think that sort of the approach that. Is that it's good idea to get as many, smart people in the room as possible, because if, if you get challenges to your opinions, so what ends up happening is that your opinions get stronger as a result.
[00:09:46] That's our philosophy as a company and it's been working out really excellently. Like we've turbo-charged our business in a lot of different ways through that approach.
[00:09:53] So we keep, like Ken was saying, we keep an open ear and an open heart and that's, that's been really effective. And I think that's, that's probably a good principle just in [00:10:00] general.
[00:10:01] Jeff Roster: It might be a good principal. I don't see it done all that often. So congratulations on that. If you're listening to people that know what they're talking about, that's a, I think you're about 10 miles ahead from what I've seen over the 30 years or so can I wonder if we, can we get any fun, supply chain stories, military supply chain stories, and just maybe one from your experiences?
[00:10:19] Ken Dowd: I guess the biggest one and one I'm proudest of the most is. The the Iraq drawdown in 2011 I got to be in charge of that oversaw all the efforts coming out of Iraq. And we had truck convoys going in there. We had airlifts going in there. We actually got airmen to drive our trucks because we had so much stuff to get out of Iraq.
[00:10:41] And then the other thing was working with the Iraqis and the Kuwaitis to make sure we all cooperated to graduate. So I can remember standing on the last the border of Iraq and Kuwait watching the last M rep come out of Iraq. And I was just hoping that darn thing wouldn't break down [00:11:00]and it rolled out of there.
[00:11:01] And it was a great day, but I had many of your friends on the sideline from the press watching those M reps move. And I was just so proud of our soldiers, airmen, Marines, and Navy folks who made all that happen. And it was all about teamwork. So that was an exciting one with all that stuff coming out of Iraq in 2011, and president Obama had just made the decision a couple of months before.
[00:11:31] So we had to really execute plan, train, and rehearse, and it went very.
[00:11:37] Jeff Roster: Wow. Hopefully hopefully all your experiences in retail are maybe a little less dramatic than that. But that they'll, there'll be as challenges and maybe in some regards. So it's going to interesting to watch how you folks run.
[00:11:46] Joey, what, where, what regions are you operating in or which regions do you have customer wins at now. And can you talk about any customers.
[00:11:55] Joey Rubinstein: Sure. We are in Israel.
[00:11:57] And then we're also in the ne the Northeast of the U [00:12:00] S so we have, a few businesses out in New York, a few businesses out in the Maryland area. And we're, expanding trying to take that whole area.
[00:12:06] So basically they're using our platform. They're really enjoying it. They're getting a lot of, a lot of pleasure and a lot of I would say gains as a result of what we built. And hopefully we'll be able to match up with these guys and provide them the best experience possible because in my opinion, independent retail and the conception of small business is probably the most important thing for a functioning, country.
[00:12:27] The idea that people have financial, independence and are able to run their own lives. To me, that's really important.
[00:12:31] Jeff Roster: Interesting along those lines, I just listened to a report talking about, as we.
[00:12:36] Hopefully everyone realized at this point, we're in a baby, a formula problem. And somebody reporting that in New York city was saying hard to find it at CVS, but all the local bodegas for whatever reason and ethnic bodegas tend to have a lot of baby formula. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe just people don't know it's there, but if anybody doubted the importance of the supply chain over the last two years they haven't been watching the news.
[00:12:58] So kudos for working with that [00:13:00] very important link. That most of us in retail have either started in independent retail. Have family members in are going back into the independent retail, but boy, what a backbone of the U S kudos on that. Hey, as we wrap up, I want to ask it, Joey, I want to ask you a couple of things.
[00:13:15] The last two questions.
[00:13:16] What advice would you offer for young entrepreneurs? What would you say to young people getting
[00:13:20] Joey Rubinstein: started first and foremost?
[00:13:23] The best way to learn is by actually doing things and by listening to people that have done things you can always re you can always iterate, right? You can always come up with and improve ideas, but unless you're actually out there and testing them out in the marketplace, so you're not going to really know what ideas are good, and what ideas are bad.
[00:13:41] And this follows basically this line of philosophy from this book. That's very, well-known in the entrepreneurship world, which is like the lean startup by Eric Ries. Fantastic book. And basically what it talks about is, you, as an entrepreneur, what you really want to do is you want to get the quickest product that you possibly can out into the marketplace.
[00:13:59] [00:14:00] That's viable the minimum viable product MVP. And then you want to basically see how that's, reacted to in certain circumstances. It means that you need to cut things out of the product and in certain circumstances. You need to add things to the product, but just by having, having the exposure and actually seeing things on the ground.
[00:14:14] That's really important. And then the second thing is I think that people really discount their own agency, going into a philosophical perspective. I think that people have a lot more control over their lives than many people would like to admit. And agency's really critical.
[00:14:27] Like at the end of the day, each one of us could say, I have this idea. I want to go make it a reality. And just because people say it's not a good idea, maybe they don't understand. And sometimes a lot of people can say a certain message and it turns out to be completely not correct. And that actually is something that, you, I think pretty much every early stage startup probably experiences a lot.
[00:14:47] We're all speaking to, hundreds of different, investors and venture people, and they're all giving you all the doubt in the world. But then you'll see the people that manage to get through that because even the most successful with a few exceptions, even the most successful [00:15:00] ones, they all have the exact same sort of trajectory, which is to say there's a lot of doubt at the beginning, then things start moving forward and you keep plotting along.
[00:15:07] So then all of a sudden that doubt turns into, huh, this is interesting. And really it's just about, proving yourself and not really listening to I would say negative feedback, as long as you've done your homework.
[00:15:19] Jeff Roster: Awesome. And last question, what skills that you use now, do you wish you would have paid more attention to back in college or the early part of your career?
[00:15:26] Joey Rubinstein: In college, I would say number one finance and accounting are important skills. But that being said, I think that, also more of a, like kind of a philosophical view of things. I think that kind of taking an outside perspective and figuring out what you're good at and what you really want to focus on and figuring that out as soon as possible.
[00:15:47] That's a good thing because indecision really doesn't get you very far and it makes sense, people want to check out their different options. But I think that if you have a clear idea of what you want to do and then just work really hard to get to that idea as soon as possible.
[00:15:59] So what you're [00:16:00] doing is, life essentially is cumulative. As you build in a particular direction, you're going to be more and more. So I would say, I would have paid more attention to the things that would have really pushed me in the direction that I'm going right now.
[00:16:09] I would have paid a little bit more attention to the supply chain aspect of what I'm doing. Once I discovered that I really liked supply chain, which was pretty early on relative to marketing, I wish I'd focused a little bit more on that.
[00:16:20] Jeff Roster: Fantastic. That's a good place to put a pin in it.
[00:16:22] Joey Ken, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and tell us your story. And I wish you as say, as a proud customer of many independent retailers, I wish you the best of luck and I hope you can help us solve some of the, some of their supply chain problems. Thanks. Thanks for coming on board.
[00:16:37] Joey Rubinstein: Thanks so much, Jeff. Thanks, Jeff.