Learn how The Adventure Challenge unlocked growth to expand into new channels and countries with ShipBob.
“In every sense, ShipBob has represented the word ‘partner’ really well. We always have competition reaching out, but the reason we haven’t left is because ShipBob’s been there for us and will continue to be there for us. We can save a dollar, great, but we’d lose the potency of that relationship. ShipBob’s been really critical structure to our company.”– Aaron Patterson, COO of The Adventure Challenge
Based in Redding, CA, The Adventure Challenge brings people together to create memories and break out of routine. Every adventure book is full of scratch-off blocks — each of which reveals a unique experience or activity for families, friends, or couples to do — along with a photo strip to affix a polaroid picture to and lines for journaling. With no phones, no take-backs, and some helpful hints to help you select the right adventure each time around, The Adventure Challenge is perfect for people looking for novelty in their lives and relationships.
- $80 million in sales in 2021 alone
- 1,233% increase in sales in 3 years
- 25% of orders shipped outside the US
- 100 employees
About The Adventure Challenge
Redding, CA is a fun place for outdoorsy people who love backpacking and hiking, but resident Bryant Ellis wanted to try something new.
To change things up, he began brainstorming creative games and activities for himself and his friends.
This brainstorm soon gave him another idea: he could compile an entire adventure book, filled with challenges that he and his friends could pick from randomly when they hung out.
The Adventure Challenge was born, and Bryant quit his job to devote his time to building his first prototype.
Once it was completed, he launched a kickstarter…which subsequently failed. Not everyone saw the vision right away — the investors he pitched his prototype to assured him that the business would fail.
Discouraged, he returned to the workforce — only to meet Ben Day, who believed in The Adventure Challenge just as much as Bryant did. Day invested his own money in the venture, which the two used to buy their first round of inventory and restart the business.
Despite everyone’s doubts, The Adventure Challenge quickly became a wild success. The startup earned over $250,000 in revenue in its first quarter alone, and $6 million in its first year. With a 100-person team, the company has scaled to include 6 varieties of adventure books and earned $80 million in sales last year.
Millions of people across the world have now purchased The Adventure Challenge to seek out something new in their life through novel and unique activities to spice up their daily life and relationships.
We sat down with Aaron Patterson, COO of The Adventure Challenge, to talk about the company’s stratospheric growth and ShipBob’s role in their fulfillment operations.
Finding flexibility in a fulfillment partner during enormous growth
As told to ShipBob by Aaron Patterson, COO of The Adventure Challenge.
For the first several months of our business, we fulfilled all of our orders ourselves.
We’d have U-Hauls packed with thousands of products making endless trips from our large storage unit to the post office. It wasn’t a scalable, long-term solution that would facilitate our growth.
Because our business was growing at lightning-fast rates, we needed a solution that would provide flexibility and that we could communicate with easily to solve problems. ShipBob was that solution for us.
I’ve worked with a number of fulfillment providers throughout my career. ShipBob is not just a cookie-cutter service where you have to follow their rules and there’s no flexibility.
Instead, they were super flexible as we grew quickly, and at the same time they gave us support and helped us work through issues when it mattered most.
“Most other companies like Amazon are structured in such a way that you don’t have flexibility — you’re just a small part of their business, so there’s no patience for you. The amazing thing about ShipBob has not just been its flexibility and ability to customize, but also the support it’s given us whenever we’ve faced problems. Having support through ShipBob has really allowed us to capture growth well.”– Aaron Patterson, COO of The Adventure Challenge
Growing through DTC and B2B channels
DTC is our bread and butter, and with ShipBob we can offer 2-day shipping, gift notes, and other aspects of the modern delivery experience that consumers want.
We also stock several hundred smaller boutique wholesales across the country. We recently started selling through a few major retailers, including Kohl’s and Francesca’s.
Learning to tailor our sales strategy, marketing, and packaging to each retailer’s requirements has been a challenge, but that’s where ShipBob really comes in handy. ShipBob is EDI-compliant with dozens of popular retailers, and their API integrations make it possible for them to fulfill orders according to each retailer’s compliance guidelines.
It’s going really well! ShipBob’s B2B Fulfillment Suite powers retail dropshipping and retail distribution for other retailers that we’re hoping to partner with in the future, including Target and Walmart, so we’re excited to keep expanding our retail partnerships with ShipBob.
Retail is looking like it will be a huge focus for us in the coming years, and we’re hoping that with ShipBob’s help, it will continue to be a larger and larger part of our business.
Fulfilling orders in Australia, Canada, the UK, & EU
While we’re based in the US, a quarter of our sales are international. It looks like international sales will overtake US sales in a few short years — so we are definitely using ShipBob’s international fulfillment centers!
We’ve found that there is consistent demand for our products abroad, and ShipBob’s ever-expanding global fulfillment network enables us to tap into that demand much more cost-effectively.
Currently, we have stock in ShipBob’s fulfillment centers in the UK, Canada, and Australia. We’ve also just begun moving into ShipBob’s fulfillment center in Poland, as we have customers in Germany as well!
With new locations being added all the time, ShipBob will help us service customers in more and more countries around the world over time.
Ensuring transparency, even in the chaos of COVID
While it seems counterintuitive, I think COVID actually helped our business. Even though most places were on lockdown, many families and couples who had quarantined together got stir-crazy and ended up looking for creative ideas to cure their boredom. As a result, we actually saw a huge uptake in purchases!
“Fulfillment is one of the areas that we were super keen to outsource to a partner who’s been ShipBob was invaluable in helping us navigate the COVID supply chain crisis, especially during the 2020 holiday season. Some fulfillment providers keep a curtain of secrecy around their operations, especially when issues arise — but not ShipBob. Even during the worst of the pandemic, they maintained transparency and communicated with us every step of the way.”– Aaron Patterson, COO of The Adventure Challenge
The 2020 holiday season was rough, and I remember our customer service tickets exploding through the roof. But whenever we would have issues with shipments and with fulfillment, ShipBob was always there. They were always communicating with us — we felt free to ask questions, and we always got answers.
They kept us informed on how they were resolving issues, from supply chain delays, to how they were navigating staffing shortages in the midst of the pandemic. We felt completely in the loop. ShipBob’s transparency allowed us to make better decisions on our end, and gave us the visibility and clarity we needed to make the right moves for our business.
Maintaining an integrated, winning tech stack
I’m proud of our tech partnerships. In addition to ShipBob, we’re primarily on Shopify Plus and use several apps for other features. ShipBob’s software directly integrates with Shopify, so our orders are automatically processed and forwarded to the fulfillment center closest to each order’s destination.
Our award-winning customer service program also has its own tech stack. We use:
- Gorgias as our website’s helpdesk and primary tool
- Recharge for our subscription box service
- Simplr to provide 24/7 customer support for our ecommerce customers.
ShipBob integrates with Gorgias, too, which streamlines our shipping-related inquiries and processes, and makes it much easier to manage our tech stack as a whole (and fulfill one-off and subscription orders).
Because of these tools, we haven’t needed to grow our customer support team despite our growth as a company, while still providing top-notch customer service.
What’s next for The Adventure Challenge?
The Adventure Challenge has grown so much, and we’re not slowing down! We always seem to have new campaigns launching. Right now we’re gearing up for Mother’s Day, and are getting ready to kick off spring and summer campaigns as well.
In the future, we’re hoping to expand into the rest of EU, Mexico, and India soon, as soon as we can get our adventure books translated into other languages and adjust the content to better serve different cultures and geographies.
I’m happy we have such a strong partner in ShipBob, bringing such a critical structure to our business, as I’ve really valued how there’s always a hard balance between relationship and execution.
“In every sense, ShipBob has represented the word ‘partner’ really well. We always have competition reaching out, but the reason we haven’t left is because ShipBob’s been there for us and will continue to be there for us. We can save a dollar, great, but we’d lose the potency of that relationship. ShipBob’s been really critical structure to our company.”
Aaron Patterson, COO of The Adventure Challenge
With the world beginning to open back up after COVID and spring just around the corner, there are so many opportunities to go out and have adventures — and we’re excited to keep bringing adventure back into the lives of customers everywhere.
The Adventure Challenge’s team at ShipBob
Shipton is the Senior Enterprise Account Executive who helped The Adventure Challenge get onboarded with ShipBob.
Kaleigh is on our Merchant Success team, providing strategic guidance to our largest customers.
Divey is the COO and co-founder of ShipBob, and serves as the Executive Sponsor for The Adventure Challege.
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