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Reshaping big-box retail creates a multimillion-dollar company

When a company grows from initially operating out of one of its founder’s garage to being named by Forbes magazine as one of the next “billion-dollar startups,” there has to be an intriguing back story.

That company is Boxed, and co-founder and CEO Chieh Huang shared some of that story with the more than 125 attendees at the 2017 Greater Cleveland Middle-Market Forum held May 11 at Corporate College East.

His company, launched in 2013, is disrupting the wholesale shopping club experience by enabling customers to shop for bulk-sized items online or via mobile app and have them delivered directly to their door.

Huang acknowledged that there were a few days in the beginning when no orders came in. “Those days really tested us,” he said.

Since then, everything has changed. Huang showed a map of the U.S. where Boxed—with annual revenues of more than $100 million—now delivers.

The company’s impact is nationwide. This includes deliveries to cities and states where customers have the option to drive to a big-box store to purchase large quantities of consumer goods.

The convenience of what Boxed offers makes a difference, Huang said. The company delivers anywhere in the continental United States and offers free two-day shipping on most orders.

He also talked about his decision that he would personally cover college tuition for children of Boxed employees. Half of his stock in the company provides the funds.

Growing up poor, he said he is very mindful of how education made his success possible, and he wants Boxed employees to be able to provide this opportunity for their children. He also said that it’s an acknowledgement of the work employees are doing, which is driving the company’s success.