Being in retail since he was 16, from Best Buy to Saks Fifth Avenue, Jon Garrett realized he 1) likes to stay busy, and 2) enjoys capitalizing on that busy-bee-ness with multiple income streams. When the pandemic shut down his stores, he joined Instacart to stay busy and add extra funds.
“Long story short, I did Instacart for about four months and a friend was a Dumpling customer and had a personal shopper in the Washington, DC area, and said, ‘Hey, you should think about doing Dumpling. You’re obviously enjoying grocery delivery and seem to have a lot of people who like having you shop for them,’” Jon says.
After filtering through Dumpling’s app, in June of 2020, Jon’s VIP Delivery came to life as his entrepreneurial venture. As he gained compliments on his service or requests from clients to have him as their regular shopper, he’d transition them to his new Dumpling business.
“I was trying really hard to plant as many seeds as I could…But I also spent a ton of time and energy on Facebook groups. I joined basically every single Facebook group I could find that was neighbors helping each other,” explains Jon, “I was posting a lot of pictures of my food hauls and seasonal items saying, ‘Hey, this is what I’m seeing, this is what’s new, and by the way, I can shop for you.’”
Turned out one of his ecstatic clients saw his Facebook group posts and wrote a glowing recommendation about his conscientiousness and shopping diligence. “She jumped in there and gave me the big thumbs up, and that springboarded my business,” Jon says, “I probably got close to 60 clients off that one Facebook group and I was posting monthly.”
Although he’s transitioned now to working mostly for a nonprofit client who helps refugee families get settled when they don’t have access to any benefits or employment yet, that spark lit his business up enough to make the switch to Dumpling from Instacart a done deal. And he hasn’t done an Instacart order in almost two years.
Less-Than-Zero Interest in Ever Going Back to Instacart
“After hearing all the things Instacart is doing now, if I had any interest before, I now have negative interest in going back to Instacart,” says Jon, “When I think about it from the customer’s lens, it’s a really subpar experience to pay inflated grocery prices because your order’s being lumped with somebody else’s many times and there’s not a thorough screening process for folks doing Instacart…there’s a good chance you’ll get a less-than-stellar shopper doing it because it’s a quick buck.”
It’s the lack of putting customers’ needs first that pushed Jon to seek out Dumpling, and as he looked for a competitive edge for his new business, he came upon a gem: his number one competitor in the DC market, a close friend of his, is only available in the evenings.
“So instead of giving the choice of who they want to pick, I took that option away by positioning myself to have morning availability,” Jon explains, “It’s one of those things I feel that’s my competitive edge because of my unconventional day job scheduling where I’m available when other business owners aren’t.”
Another competitive edge he realized over Instacart was who he began catering to in terms of clientele. The right customer for Jon’s VIP Delivery is one who’s “not interested in tons of back-and-forth with a grocery delivery service, and wants it to be easy, breezy, one-and-done,” he says, “And because of that, I try to price myself competitively for the effort I’m putting in and the service itself.”
In the beginning, Jon was at a $15 delivery fee and a minimum tip of 20 percent, but his new pricing model is no less than $50 as a minimum order requirement.
“I was really concerned that I was gonna lose a lot of business while I did that, but I found out that you need to take your time and put a price tag on it,” says Jon, “Whatever that number is for you, hold onto that number…don’t sell yourself short. If you’re providing a service that’s saving time and putting forth 100 percent effort, you should be compensated for that. Period. And If they like you and you do a good job, they’ll pay it.”
Seeing the Vast Potential Outcome with Schedule Flexibility and Setting His Own Pay Rates
Because he has flexibility to set his rates and hours, and manage his changing availability with his full-time retail job on the fly, Jon sees his Dumpling transition as a huge win. “I found that when I did Instacart, I was extremely reliant upon tips customers may or may not have loaded onto their orders,” he says.
When he went out of his way to elevate his service or upgrade his online presence, he was rewarded with his Dumpling business unlike with Instacart where it was more difficult to increase average orders, deepen client relationships, and up financial benefits.
“Dumpling gave me a good storefront to legitimize my business where the website, is clean, neat, professional,” says Jon, “And the app is extremely user-friendly…There’s a lot of good stuff with the app that allows business owners to make strategic decisions that are mutually beneficial for them and their clients.”
“I was willing to invest time into it because I saw what the potential outcome could be if done correctly,” he adds, “So if somebody’s thinking about transitioning or starting their own business or looking for another stream of income with Dumpling, figure out how you can scale and make sure you’re maximizing your time and energy into what you’re trying to accomplish.”
Differentiating His Business With Dumpling by Saying Yes Whenever Possible
Leaving Instacart for Dumpling, you have to think about what you can do to keep up with your clients changing needs to deliver that differentiated service, explains Jon, “As long as your request is reasonable and it’s possible, I’m never gonna say no, and that’s white glove and treating you like a VIP, right? Like you cut the line, you get early access.” That includes upgrading from a hatchback to an SUV so he could fit about three families-worth of groceries in the trunk to deliver quicker.
With his main nonprofit client, he also gets to achieve his other goal of positively impacting his life and the lives of others in meaningful ways. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone to somebody’s house and opened up my car and it’s like their eyeballs are gonna pop out of their head because they’re amazed at how much food they’re about to get,” explains Jon, “Or the number of times a child comes out and I give them that big Costco-sized box of ice cream and it’s like Christmas.”
At the end of the shopping day, going above and beyond for Jon is more than hand-delivering a bag of groceries. “I feel like when you can add a personal touch that makes you stand out, that’s what people will come back for because it’s a service,” Jon says, “And always respect your client’s preferences because if they don’t feel like you’re treating them as an individual with that personalized service, they’re not gonna feel like you gave them something they can’t get elsewhere, and that’s the differentiator between a Dumpling business owner and other major delivery options.”
Say yes more than no to your clients and try to think like an opportunist if you’re considering joining Dumpling or starting a grocery delivery business. “The more yeses, the more opportunities, and if you’re constantly doing things, you’re gonna be able to grow your business,” says Jon, “You’re becoming something like ‘Wow, he really can do anything and he’s making my life easy!’…If you say no, then it could be the last time you ever have a relationship with that client so the number one thing is always say yes when possible.”