An Inc. 500 Hall of Famer's keys to success


Tastefully Simple simplifies its complex shipping and billing with a little help from UPS.

In the wee hours of a Minnesota morning, Jill Blashack Strahan had an inspiration. Rather than asking customers to go to an event or a retail setting to sample and buy easy-to-prepare food products, why not offer the products at tasting parties in the comfort of the customers' homes?

Tastefully Simple uses Quantum View Manage® to make managing orders easier for its 23,000 consultants.

By taking simple, high-quality food products and selling them through a direct sales model (think Mary Kay Cosmetics or Tupperware), Tastefully Simple was born in Alexandria, Minn. "On a dream and a shoestring," says Strahan, founder and CEO. Almost 20 years later, the original national home tasting company enjoys more than $100 million in sales, resides in the Inc. 500 Hall of Fame, and serves as a role model for direct sales success.

A key value Strahan has nurtured in the business is a commitment to helping others shine by focusing on quality, simplicity and uniqueness. From the beginning, Tastefully Simple has provided top-quality food products that are ideally suited to today's busy lifestyles by being easy and quick to prepare. It's no surprise that Tastefully Simple demands these same attributes from its vendors. In 2010, the company reevaluated its shipping carrier and made a switch to UPS.

"UPS understands our business totally and we can work together on logistical issues,” says Joe Smoliga, Tastefully Simple's vice president of operations (pictured above). "UPS has proven to be a tremendous partner."

The advantages of standardized packaging
The greatest logistical challenge Smoliga faces is the inherent difficulty in packing custom orders with various-sized products – everything from food jars to drink buckets – into the 7,500 boxes that Tastefully Simple ships daily by UPS Ground or UPS 2nd Day Air.® The company has standardized shipping boxes to help manage transportation costs.

A decision to add or change a standard box must be reviewed carefully. As Smoliga explains, "Our WMS [warehouse management system] cubes out orders into specific box sizes. We go from 9 pounds to close to 40 pounds. Each individual order can be different. We pack the boxes 85 percent full, which enables us to compensate with different product sizes and leaves room for the packing material."

To determine whether a box change is cost-effective, Tastefully Simple feeds UPS Billing Data directly into its WMS to run a simulation that determines the cost impact of a box change. This data analysis results in savings. For example, a recent simulation revealed that moving to a larger standard box for some orders would save 2.5 percent on shipping costs.

Helping consultants shine
Tastefully Simple works hard to make things simple for the 23,000 consultants selling its products nationwide. One way is to use Quantum View Manage®. "A consultant receives a shipment notification via e-mail each time an order goes out; this has helped reduce calls to the COST [consultant order services team],” Smoliga says.

"If the team gets a call from a consultant, Quantum View Manage enables us to have an answer within seconds," he adds.

Tastefully Simple has also added a tab for UPS My Choice® on the company's consultant portal to enable the company's independent consultants to redirect packages when they will not be at home for a delivery or when it's more convenient to pick up the package at a UPS location.

As Smoliga explains: "We have consultants in Alaska. It may be advantageous for them to reroute a package so that it stays at the UPS hub. The consultant can pick the package up on a Friday versus waiting until Monday for UPS to deliver it. Our consultants like that capability, and it makes the whole shipping piece a lot more flexible for them."


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