In 2008, Steve Greenspon ‘09
was struggling to get his fledgling storage and organization company, Honey-Can-Do
, off the ground when he received a phone call.
“The phone never rang,” he recalls. “So before the first ring even finished I picked up the phone.” The man on the other end of the line was from a fairly small e-commerce website and asked if Honey-Can-Do practiced drop-shipping. “My response was, ‘Well, if we drop-ship will you buy from us?’”
After the man agreed to feature Honey-Can-Do’s entire catalogue on his website, so long as it drop-shipped, Greenspon excitedly ran to tell his one warehouse employee at the time that they had a new customer. His response? “What’s ‘drop-shipping’?”
Greenspon didn’t know either, but he was determined to figure it out.
It turned out that drop-shipping, or shipping goods directly to a consumer instead of to the retailer who took the order, wasn’t a common practice in the organization and storage product industry. This gave Greenspon the chance to carve out his first niche.
“To this day, it’s a challenge for many companies in our category to be able to drop-ship, but we happen to be very good at it,” he says. “We were able to get a lot of online customers that our competitors just couldn’t support.”
This ability to pivot quickly and adapt to changing customer demands is where Greenspon feels like an innovator. “We’re kind of the anti-Shark Tank because we didn’t focus on product innovation in the beginning,” he jokes, but also says that innovation doesn’t just come from product development. “Our innovation was taking a lot of basic products and figuring out a better way to take them to market.”
Greenspon knew that he liked working in the consumer products industry after heading a plumbing and bath company, but he wasn’t sure which products he wanted to produce and sell. After walking the aisles at several stores, he determined that organizational products such as shoe racks and laundry hampers were perfect since they were simple enough that if he studied hard he could become an expert on them. He also liked that there weren’t any well-known consumer brands; the products were generally overpriced and the packaging was horrible—there was ample room to enter the space and improve it.
Greenspon didn’t create Honey-Can-Do with a formal business plan based on market research, and he didn’t study his business model’s viability. “It was very much ready, fire, aim,” he says. Yet this approach worked for him because it was still rooted in what he learned at Kellogg and WCAS. He was especially taken by the wisdom that the late Professor J. Keith Murnighan shared in his Organizational Behavior course at Kellogg, since it taught Greenspon how to shape a growing office culture that could roll with a shifting business world.
Kellogg has also equipped Greenspon with an alumni network he calls “incredible” and the training that gives him confidence to forge ahead amid the retail space’s often chaotic landscape.
“In business it’s really difficult to plan out your week or even your day, so you can’t get overwhelmed” he says, adding that innovation can come from simply improving the process. “You can probably make a good living in just about any industry if you find a way to do things a little better than other folks.”