Markiss and Ashley Cooper’s First-Time Tech Venture Thrives Through Strong Tacoma Ties and Entrepreneurial Resources
The global market for last mile delivery — the transportation of goods from a transportation hub to a final destination — is expected to reach $62.7 billion by 2027. When Markiss and Ashley Cooper set out to create a better work-life balance for their family by building their own business, they saw a last mile delivery service as an opportunity to meet an acute need in Tacoma, starting with the elderly population, and add their own personal touch.
“As I learned about the transportation industry, I found that the more people buy online, the less interaction businesses have with the user,” shared Markiss, “When we founded iHAUL, we really focused on adding value to a purchase through personal connection.”
Their solution started with a simple online scheduling platform, inspired by Seattle-based Dolly.com, and a single pickup truck. Users choose from three tiers of delivery — curbside, threshold or white glove — and schedule the delivery on demand, then track their purchase in real-time. Today, iHAUL’s growing team uses their tech platform and a small fleet of sprinter vans to provide last mile services for both individual customers and larger contracts, like the Port of Seattle. Markiss emphasized that his 10 years as a nonprofit leader in the Tacoma community helped iHAUL garner the support it needed from the start: “Tacoma is a unique ecosystem, and it’s part of who I am. Our strong community ties helped us tremendously. If you’re serving the right purpose, Tacoma will back you.”
As a first time entrepreneur, Markiss took advantage of every opportunity to learn from local experts, participating in two Tacoma-based incubators, Maritime Blue’s Tacoma Maritime Innovation Incubator and William M. Factory Small Business Incubator. “The folks at Maritime Blue really helped me understand what the investment process looks like and get more experience pitching the business,” Markiss said. “Anytime we have a question, being able to go to someone who is well-versed in Tacoma business is so valuable.”
Demand for delivery service during the COVID-19 pandemic provided an unexpected boost for the Coopers’ business and a unique opportunity for them to serve Tacoma residents. “I thought that our business was going to go the opposite way during that time,” Markiss shared, “But the exposure from that service helped open up so many new doors. This period has probably pushed us for maybe four or five years further than I expected.”
In terms of what’s next for iHAUL, the founders want to ensure the company’s growth strategically focuses on advancing their scheduling platform and honing their position as a sprinter van service in the South Sound. iHAUL’s long term vision is to target unique relationships with larger businesses and ports to become their sole provider of final mile delivery. “We’re just tapping away at this niche,” Markiss added, “We’re really pleased with our growth so far and are focused on making this service the best that it can be.”
To learn more about iHAUL, visit ihauldelivery.com and follow them on Facebook. Follow Startup253 to keep up with stories from the local startup ecosystem.
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