Nick Malinowski and Parker Barnes

Co-Founders of OTW Shipping

Nick: Nick is a former division 1 athlete from Aurora, Ohio, with a background in marketing. Post-graduation, he self-taught his way into the data science world. Now, he runs an eCommerce fulfillment center with his childhood best friend and co-founder, Parker. You can find him in South Windsor, CT with his fiance, Jen, and their two dogs, Aspen and Kona.

Parker: Parker is from Aurora, Ohio, and currently lives in Salt Lake City, UT, attending the University of Utah. He is studying Biomedical Engineering. He loves being active and spending time with family and friends. He is a competitive golfer when he finds the time between school and a growing eCommerce fulfillment center.

Where did the idea for OTW Shipping come from?

Parker: I was working in a warehouse for an eCommerce brand that did their own fulfillment. I learned as much as I could about the fulfillment process through them, and decided to hit Nick with the idea of starting a fulfillment company. I figured we didn’t have any ideas for products, but since others did we could definitely provide a service to them!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Nick: I’ll start my mornings around 7am and check our client channels to see if there is anything that needs to be addressed. The rest of the morning is usually spent responding to sales calls/emails and making sure everything is on track with our team at a high-level. My afternoons may be spent developing content or developing solutions to improve various areas of our business. Then, in the evenings, I’m usually on some more sales calls or doing some cold outreach.
I stay productive by making sure I have my calendar synced with my planner, have a general idea written out on what I plan on accomplishing that day, and going through blocked off periods on my calendar where I can get into deep work.

Parker: I wake up and check my email and our client communication channels to see if anything urgent needs to be responded to. Once the warehouse team is in, I will call in the morning and just make sure that I am aware of everything that they have on their plate for the day, and remind them of anything else that needs to be completed. Apart from that, I help our clients onboard into our software, ShipEdge, and hop on support calls if needed. During the school year I am typically doing this in between classes (or sometimes during them).
I do have a planner that I will use, as well as setting reminders for myself on my phone so that I am setting up backup plans in case anything slips my mind. Trust me, it tends to happen.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Parker: Talking about ideas is the best way to bring them to life. Talk with people who will try to uplift you rather than question you. Oftentimes, we are the ones who stop ourselves from achieving goals, but many of the ideas come from people who try to tear us down. If you have an idea that you are passionate about, tune out the haters and start running with it.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Nick: It’s exciting to see the number of people jumping into entrepreneurship. With starting a business becoming increasingly accessible to all groups across a variety of industries, I’m excited to see new types of ingenuity and niche apps to make everyone more productive and solve more problems.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Nick: I am extremely well organized, to the point of micromanagement. This allows me to be hyper-efficient with my time. Very rarely will something slip through the cracks for me or my team because I am pretty much always on top of things.

Parker: I like to make sure that people know that I listen to them, and I always assume that someone else in the room is smarter than me. If you truly listen to people and learn from them, they will respect you more, and you will be able to learn much more than if you try to run the conversation.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Nick: College may not be the best route for learning. Now, I say this with caveats, naturally. If you are not extremely disciplined and self-motivated, college will give you the structure you need. However, if you are like me, you learned more through doing and self-teaching than college taught you. I also want to add that this completely depends on the major. I studied marketing and the only class I’ve ever used was an elective, taught by an adjunct, for digital marketing.

Parker: I would say that creating productive habits is very important. I was lucky enough to have the experience of living overseas for a couple of years where I developed habits that really taught me how to be productive and efficient. Being in a situation where I balance college, running a business, and squeezing in things that I enjoy can make it hard to keep things straight. If I had not developed those habits it would be even harder than it is now. The best thing you can do is teach yourself discipline and make sure you know how to motivate yourself.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Nick: Micromanaging is sometimes necessary, especially in a startup when building the foundation of your business.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Nick: Iterate on processes. I’m constantly taking feedback from clients and our warehouse team and thinking how we can foolproof and optimize processes to be faster, more accurate, and better for our clients.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Nick: Being scrappy. We were DMing companies on Reddit, messaging Kickstarters on Facebook, and doing the dirty work that won’t scale to get that first round of clients in the door.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Before we had a strict set of protocols in place for how client inventory could be sent, we onboarded a client with a lot of SKUs. Their inventory would never come in on time, either didn’t have barcodes or had incorrect barcodes, had different outer packaging for the same product, and SKUs were always rotating. This made for an inventory and picking nightmare.
We could not execute effectively for the client and so we made a mutual decision that it was not a good fit between us. Fast forward to now, and we have an easy to follow onboarding process with clear designations of how shipments need to be sent in, and we require barcodes so the process is streamlined for our clients and warehouse team!

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

SOP writing services.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

We spent $59 on Jasper AI which has helped us to get blog ideas written up in a much faster fashion. It saves you from the writer’s block you get from starting new blogs and helps you get your word count up!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Google. We use the various tools within it for everything from dashboards to planning to reports to SOPs to client resources.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Parker: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – this is a great book that my dad told me to read and I’m glad I did it! As you can tell from the title, it just goes through ideas for habits that you can create in your daily life that are common across effective people. Great read!

What is your favorite quote?

Nick: “Do or do not, there is no try.”
“If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;” – excerpt from Rudyard Kipling’s “If”

Parker: “Stand for nothing, fall for anything”

Key Learnings:

  • Doing is the best way to learn. Don’t think you have to go to college or have to take a thousand courses. Just start.
  • No idea is perfect and the most consistently successful ideas are almost always the boring ones in the “saturated” markets.
  • Be scrappy. Do the non-scalable things to get enough cash in the bank to grow and automate.