Delivery service brings IKEA to your door
Calvin grad seizes an opportunity to create his own business.
Planning a trip to IKEA? There is a delivery service in town that will make the trip for you.
Via Logistics has been making trips to IKEA in Canton on behalf of West Michigan residents since August 2011.
IKEA, a Swedish company with 315 stores in 27 countries, offers a wide range of household products from ready-to-assemble furniture to kitchen gadgets and décor. Customers can even order a full kitchen or bathroom for installation in their home.
James Eldersveld, a Grand Rapids native and Calvin College graduate, said he started the service to help IKEA customers get their products without having to make a trip across the state. The IKEA store in Canton is the closest to Grand Rapids, approximately a two-and-a-half-hour drive.
“It can be a process to get there,” he said. “It takes a whole day — quite a bit of time (and) money for gas.”
Eldersveld figured if he could attract enough customers he could make the trip for them and create a viable business for himself.
“It’s always been my passion to start something of my own,” he said. “I’m kind of an idea guy, and this is the first one I’ve done anything about and I love it. I love doing my own thing. I love providing a service that is valuable to people, valuable enough they are willing to pay for it.”
While IKEA does offer delivery, and products can be ordered from the store’s online catalogue, delivery can take two weeks and isn’t available for all products
Eldersveld makes weekly trips, ensuring that orders are received within one week. He said that is another benefit of his service.
Eldersveld has built the business into a full-time gig over the past three years.
“I was working full time for two and a half years when I started it,” he said. “Back in December, I left my full-time job and started this full time. I saw a decent amount of growth and I got to the point where I was comfortable: busy enough, had enough customers, and providing enough of an income for myself to take that leap.”
He said business continues to grow.
He makes deliveries in the greater Grand Rapids area, along the lakeshore and, recently, he added Kalamazoo to his delivery route. He also offers assembly service.
Eldersveld uses paid advertising through Facebook to get the word out.
“Word of mouth has been huge, and Facebook advertising is like word of mouth on steroids,” he said.
Eldersveld operates his business independently of IKEA, placing customer orders for them and then billing them for the purchase and delivery cost.
The ordering process is simple: Customers go to viaikea.com and email the list of products they wish to order to Eldersveld so he can place the order on their behalf. The delivery fee is a percentage of the total order cost and decreases as the order amount goes up.
Orders can be picked up from Eldersveld’s house in downtown Grand Rapids, or he will deliver them to the customer’s door.
Eldersveld said he receives between six to 10 orders in a week.
Currently, he rents a trailer or other vehicle each week to make the trip, but he expects to purchase a vehicle of his own eventually.
“I’m figuring out what the demand is on a weekly basis and what is going to be the most efficient, cost-effective type of vehicle to own and operate with,” he said.
In addition to residential orders, Eldersveld said small business orders are a significant piece of his business.
“Businesses that are just starting up might not have the funds to purchase more expensive furniture, but they still want to have stuff that is well designed and looks great,” he said. “That has been great to see that business come in and to be able to help them out with my service.”
When asked if he might be the only person in town not to want an IKEA to open on the west side of the state, Eldersveld said it might surprise people, but he would be glad to see a store open here.
“I really think it would be great,” he said. “You are always going to have people without a car or without a big enough car.
“I think that would just force me to diversify more. I think I would get more requests for assembly and it would make it easier to expand delivery to northern Michigan. There is always going to be business, but you have to search in different places for it.”
Right now Eldersveld is only concentrating on IKEA for his delivery service, but he did note he gets a lot of requests to expand his service to include Trader Joe’s deliveries.
“Trader Joe’s is probably the top request I get,” he said. “Trader Joe’s is a tough one because they don’t have a product catalogue online.”
He also noted it wouldn’t be a cost-effective option for people.
“The delivery cost would be too much, I think, for the cost of the products you are getting,” he said. “I’m definitely keeping my options open as far as offering deliveries from different places, but I’m really just focusing on IKEA for now and fine tuning that.”