Inside Industrial: E-Commerce and Distribution

MaiiC’s second ‘Inside Industrial’ business open house gave students an inside look at two pioneering e-commerce and distribution firms, to learn about how their favorite products get to their doors—and about job opportunities in the field.

On April 22nd, students from New York City schools participated in Inside Industrial: E-Commerce & Distribution. Building on a MaiiC effort to connect young people with the realities and promises of industrial business, this virtual event focused on two New York City based e-commerce and distribution companies, their logistics processes, and the large array of career and growth opportunities within the companies and the field at large.  

First, students virtually toured the Uncommon Goods (UG) warehouse and distribution facility in Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Army Terminal. Uncommon Goods is an online marketplace that connects creators of unique, high-quality creations with shoppers looking for special products. As a certified B Corporation, Uncommon Goods takes an active approach to positively impacting society, workers, the community, and the environment—in addition to its profit motive. Students learned how this unique outlook affects a business model, from operations, to career growth opportunities, and products. For example, products that are sold by UG must be handmade, unusual, reclaimed or recycled, and made without leather, feathers, or fur.

Students toured the multiple floors of the Uncommon Goods warehouse, learning about different roles, and interacting with members of the team on their career pathways. Many team members had started off as seasonal warehouse workers, and moved up to positions such as Operations Manager and Project Manager, and even into creative and marketing fields. UG’s focus on worker advancement even means that they provide educational support to exemplary workers. In addition to entry level seasonal roles, Uncommon Goods also provides internship opportunities.

We were also joined by Southeast Asia Food Group (SAFG), a distributor of specialty Asian food in New York City that sells products to places like Momofuku, corporate cafeterias like JP Morgan’s, Market Line at Essex Market, and other restaurants and groceries. Students virtually toured the warehouse and heard about the career paths of warehouse manager Peter Caballero, logistics manager Rodney Allen, and CEO and MaiiC Executive Board member Kevin Liang, who spoke about how he expanded the family’s grocery store business into a wholesale distributor. As Covid-19 hit, SAFG’s wholesale clients—restaurants and office cafeterias—shut down and the business was facing a crisis. Kevin pivoted the business to include direct to consumer options, which helped them stay afloat during the crisis.

And in another unique arrangement, SAFG hired The FOBBS, a collective of Asian artists, to develop Asian themed murals to “up the employee work experience” in what could’ve otherwise been a drab warehouse. The murals show art that’s related to SAFG’s products, providing internal marketing, and also beauty, color, and representation to make the space more inviting, vibrant, and enjoyable for the team members themselves.

CEO Kevin Liang at SAFG’s warehouse in Gowanus, Brooklyn

You can view the full virtual tour and panel here

Bringing students and others inside the realities of industrial businesses is an important way to bridge the talent and awareness gaps. In the coming years, the young people of New York may well be at the forefront of the next industrial revolution. 

If you are a business that’s interested in opening up your facility for an Inside Industrial tour and discussion in the future, please email us at MaiiC@sbs.nyc.gov

All images courtesy of SAFG and Sold Mag NY