Norfolk Network stories

Blog Member Stories

Lockdown launches a wave of new online entrepreneurs

Beth Tyler

In what is otherwise a very disruptive and financially uncertain time, here at Vdepot we are witnessing something really inspiring – despite the nation being in lockdown, with thousands furloughed and brick-and-mortar businesses struggling to survive, we’ve been inundated with enquiries from a number of new entrepreneurs who have used this time to found a new ecommerce business from home.

We’ve also been contacted by a number of offline stores wanting help taking their brand online, as well as growing ecommerce businesses who need support after their orders have gone through the roof.

We think a big part of this is down to the pandemic profoundly changing our online habits – we’re all spending more time online at the moment, and 47% of us are specifically spending more time on social media (GlobalWebIndex, 2020). Consumers also seem to be taking more time to research their purchases and learn about smaller, independent businesses, helping to level the playing field and give more time and space for new brands to make their voices heard.

Off the back of this, we’d like to share some advice for local ecommerce businesses, and, as fairly new members of the Norfolk Network, give a brief introduction to who we are.

Advice for new founders

Founders of successful new businesses often find that their orders start snowballing, increasing at a rate that is difficult to adapt to. Obviously it’s great news that they’ve brought a product to market which people want and value, but a side effect of rapid success means that owners are quickly snowed under by the admin of daily orders, not to mention their homes and garages becoming overrun with stock!

“When founders of start-up businesses get in touch with us, it’s usually a similar story – their order numbers have grown much faster than anticipated, the demand scaling much faster than their ability to cope.” says Natasha, head of customer service.

“When this happens, it’s really easy for founders to fall into the trap of working in the business, doing admin and processing orders, instead of working on the business which is what they really want to be doing.”

This means that what should be a really exciting time for them can quickly become overwhelming.

How can ecommerce founders avoid falling into this trap?

Start speaking to fulfilment providers even before you think you need one. Get a sense of how they work, what you would need a fulfilment provider to do for you, and what it will cost so you can start planning ahead.

Key questions to ask include ‘can their service scale as my business grows?’, ‘how will my account be managed?’ and ‘can I easily get the information I need from their system?’

If you wait until you are already overwhelmed with orders, spending all your time packaging orders and dealing with delivery companies, you risk rushing into a contract that may not be right for you.

This same advice applies to other functions that businesses often outsource eventually: marketing, website design, accounting, photography and more.

Who we are

Vdepot is a fulfilment and storage centre based just outside of Norwich. We work with a variety of companies, including food & drink, fashion, health & beauty, furniture and electronics. Since 2001 we’ve been working with businesses in the local area and further afield to store their products, manage their inventory, and automate their packing, shipping and returns processes.

We integrate our warehouse management system with our customers’ online stores, so that they can monitor their orders and inventory while we do the heavy lifting. Having an outsourced fulfilment service means that business owners get more time to build their brand’s future, knowing that their day-to-day operations are running efficiently.

For some of our clients who are just starting out or need support to grow (e.g.: for marketing, licensing, sustainability etc), we often play an active role in helping them find the right provider.

The pandemic has of course been challenging for everyone in different ways. We’ve been speaking to most of our customers on a weekly basis, asking how they’re feeling about their business and if they need any support or expertise to adapt to the challenges they’re facing. We’ve introduced our customers to marketers, importers, accountants and other specialists to help them through these unique times.

If you’re interested in speaking to us about our fulfilment services, we would love to hear from you – email or call 01603 881700.

Alternatively, if you think you have skills which would benefit some of our customers, please email