In this episode of the Safety Stock podcast, host Will Davis interviews Angel Gutierrez, Purchasing Manager, and Rodrigo Gonzalez, Director of Marketing and Brand Strategy, from GOJA. Listen in as they discuss the challenges they face in the supply chain, including e-commerce dynamics, inventory optimization, supplier relationships, and talent development. This includes emphasizing the importance of technology integration and data-driven decision-making in improving efficiency and success in the supply chain.Read Transcript
Will Davis (00:07):
All right everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Safety Stock. I’m Will Davis and we are happy to have a couple of guests here with us. Right before I get to them, I want to let y’all know that we have heard some of your feedback related to what you want to hear on the podcast, and we are incorporating that into today’s interview. So without further ado, I want to introduce my guest. Both of these gentlemen are from GOJA and I have Angel Gutierrez with me, a Purchasing Manager here at GOJA, and then also Rodrigo Gonzalez, who is the Director of Marketing and Brand Strategy. Rodrigo. Angel. How are y’all doing?
Angel Gutierrez (00:44):
I’m doing well. Thanks for having me here, Will.
Rodrigo Gonzalez (00:47):
Great, great. It’s finally stopped raining in Miami for 24 hours, so we’re enjoying that too.
Will Davis (00:53):
Yeah, I was going to say, people in Miami, Miami, does it get old being in such a nice place. Or is it one of those things where you’re just like, oh, you wake up and you’re like, oh man, I’m borderline in paradise.
Rodrigo Gonzalez (01:08):
I think you realize you’re borderline in paradise. It gets a little warm during the summer, but other places get snow and we get beach days, so
Will Davis (01:15):
There you go. I hear you. I hear you. Well guys, I think the interesting thing about GOJA is that y’all are doing a lot of different things and the story about how have you all come to be, but also some of the brands and how you’re supporting customers and people buying different products is interesting. So can you tell us a little bit about what GOJA does and how GOJA’s really come to be?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (01:40):
GOJA is unique in that we started in 2009. We were just about 800 square foot space inside of somebody else’s warehouse and really started selling on marketplaces from day one. And at the time eBay was 800 pound gorilla, but then quickly Amazon came in as an 8,000 pound gorilla and we’ve really been there since day one. The first brand that we created was Magic Fiber, and then the second brand we created was Altura Photo and all of that was because early on GOJA focused on photography in the photography space, but we quickly realized that creating and growing brands was really something special that you could do through Amazon. Just the same that the whole world has realized the power for entrepreneurship around Amazon. And so we kept going in that direction and so we started aggregating brands in 2019. And so that’s really where we went from creating brands to acquiring brands.
Will Davis (02:40):
So when you think about the brand acquisition phase, what typically are you looking for when you’re deciding to pull a trigger on bringing a brand under the GOJA umbrella?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (02:55):
There are spaces where we really shine and we have brands like, like I said, Magic Fiber. One of the brands we acquired was Luna Bean. Another brand we acquired was Alpha Grillers. And as long as they make sense, obviously from a business perspective and they fit within the products and the categories that we feel we have expertise and strength in, we will look at anything.
Will Davis (03:18):
I think the interesting part of that comes from a supply chain perspective in that you have a lot of different brands and it’s probably fair to say that they’re doing a lot of different things in terms of what product they’re selling and who they’re targeting. What’s the biggest supply chain challenge you’re currently facing in the next six to 12 months in order to continue to have those brands be successful?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (03:46):
Angel is absolutely the better person to speak on this, but I will just to preface a piece of what you said, right, we’ve got dozens of brands in automotive, arts and crafts, health and wellness, and we really rely on great people on our team like an Angel who can better answer the rest of this.
Angel Gutierrez (04:05):
Sure. Well, Will to have bullet points to answer this can be the e-commerce dynamic that we have now, the inventory optimization that most of the companies have to struggle with it, supplier relationship, the last but not the least, the talent development. That would be my short answer.
Will Davis (04:29):
When you talk about talent development, are y’all finding it hard to get people today in terms of the positions where you are, whether the company’s growing or just in general it’s hard to find qualified people to what you need to do because your brand is unique?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (04:45):
I think that I’ll just speak broadly about that because we’ve been around for as long as we have since 2009, we’ve been developing Amazon expertise and talent, so we have really robust systems. We have teams of people that have been here for a long time. So I think we’re in a really unique space where we’ve been able to cultivate and bring talent along to learn this really new area that is Amazon Selling. And Angel can speak more closely to the supply chain side of it.
Angel Gutierrez (05:12):
Today, GOJA has three offices. The headquarters is Miami. We have offices in Bolivia and also in China. And there is a fun fact about talent. We have fewer than 20 people in the entire country here in Bolivia who have been graduated from the Center for Transportation and Logistic at MIT. One of the most important universities in the world and four of them are working at GOJA. So that’s what I mean when I say that we invest in talent and we are trying to find the correct talent to manage this because as Rodrigo said, it’s a new industry here in Amazon.
Will Davis (05:59):
No, that’s interesting. Now, when you talk about then from a talent perspective, the second part I think about is the amount of brands that you have. Is there a clear, the certain brands are driving a percentage of sales that is much higher than other brands or is it more dispersed equally to the point to where you have to focus your buying power, you need to focus your business strategies, your supply chain across all the brands in order to make sure that you don’t lose a certain amount of percentage of sales if one starts to slip or if one grows, you have to put exponential more effort towards them?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (06:44):
I think that any organization, you’re going to have some brands that are stronger than others, and that’s certainly true of GOJA. We have our favorites like Luna Bean, like Altura Photo, like Magic Fiber and some brands require a little bit more attention than others, but we really focus on creating a balanced portfolio so that there’s seasonality, lots of factors that go in there, but we’ve again been selling since 2009. So there’s a lot of expertise and knowledge that goes into creating a good portfolio that’ll even some of that out, right? There’s always going to be ups and downs and there’s always going to be seasonality, but I think we’ve created a pretty balanced portfolio and that’s part of what we continue to do. Like I mentioned before, we’re acquiring brands that fit into what we are great at instead of leaping into different areas that might cause unnecessary strain and Angel can speak to some of the supply chain opportunities and challenges of that.
Angel Gutierrez (07:38):
Yeah, that’s true regarding that inventory optimization, it’s key in this situation. So balancing inventory effectively is crucial. Overstocking, tied up capital while under stocking can result in miss sales opportunities. So from supply chain perspective, we are working closely with the merchandising team and marketing in order to have advance demand forecasting, we carry extraneous variables to always improve these algorithms to create a better position in inventory optimization.
Rodrigo Gonzalez (08:17):
Will Davis (08:18):
So then in general, selling on Amazon is not easy. And then from a new product development that also brings on another unique challenge. How are you leveraging the supply chain and data you have to successfully bring original products to market in a timely fashion?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (08:38):
I think one of the things that’s so spectacular about Amazon, I come from a marketing background and so before if you wanted to launch a product, you might create some focus groups and you might get 50 people, a hundred people. If you have crazy resources, maybe you’re getting a few hundred people. And now Amazon is just an open book of consumer sentiment. So you can read about any product you’re interested in, tools out there like Helium 10 and DataDive do a great job of giving you even more information. So we’re really able to listen. We listen to our customers, we listen to our competitors’ customers and we use that to create great products. And like Altura Photo, which is like I mentioned before, a line we started on our own really came from just iterating and creating better products every time. And then every time you order, you optimize your products more based on the feedback you’re getting from your customers. And that’s where Angel and his team come in and really help us knock it out of the park with great supply chain and great logistics.
Angel Gutierrez (09:38):
And from supply chain perspective, new product development can be really tough. So at the beginning, we can handle a couple of items, but after trying different methods, improving our process, improving our tools, now we can manage more than dozen of products. Anvyl was key for it. When you need to track purchase orders, you have to do it by emails. It’s really hard. But when we started working with Anvyl and we get all centralized, we can give the other teams accurate data to the next step because new product development involves many steps across the chain. So I believe that having the correct tools and the correct process for this part of the company, it’s key.
Will Davis (10:37):
Yeah, it’s interesting to see how many companies still today generate purchase orders and ideate on things and then they still do everything in email and then they still put tons of things in Microsoft Excel, and the Excel files get gigantic. They ask people to ideate on them and then they lose information. Things become corrupt and it’s an endless cycle. And so I think what people love to hear is success stories. So is there a success story that you can think of about a recent product or it could even be in the past that y’all launched, and how the supply chain team helped that drive to a successful outcome?
Angel Gutierrez (11:21):
Well, from supply chain perspective, I would say that there are many of them. And that was because of the timing. When you want to create new products and you don’t have the accurate data to inform the other teams when they have to upload the images, when they have to send inventory to the correct locations, then you are not going to success on the launch. The launch is very important in doing product development. So when you come up with better data, better information from the other teams, you have success launches. So I don’t have a specific product, but from supply chain perspective I can say that we improve a lot on this.
Rodrigo Gonzalez (12:07):
I would just add to that, it’s not to duck it, but just we almost treat every order as a product launch. Every time we’re ordering is an opportunity to improve our products and to bring better products, better quality, better features to our customers. And you know how Amazon is, right? If you’re not improving, if you’re not growing somebody else is. So we really do that and we really rely on supply chain to make sure that we can be as competitive as possible. So every time we’re placing a purchase order, it’s really thinking of it almost as a product launch opportunity.
Will Davis (12:39):
Sure. So I agree. I think those were great answers and I am not officially saying that you ducked the question per se. If people were to say, or if someone was to ask you, Hey, here’s a product that, what’s a product that people should go out there that maybe people don’t know as much about? Or if you were like, Hey, I really like this one particular product that we produce, what would it be?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (13:03):
I mean, I kind of led with that. I think I’m going to over answer now. Our Luna Bean Hand Casting Kit is the number one Hand Casting Kit on Amazon and we’re constantly improving it. And I think that’s why we’ve stayed number one for as long as we have. The Alpha Grillers Read Thermometer, also the number one thermometer on Amazon because we’re constantly looking at ways to improve it. Magic Fiber has been around to the tune of 70,000 reviews because we’re always looking at how we can make our products better.
Will Davis (13:33):
So this is a little bit off topic, but if you see someone who overcooks their steak, overcooks their chicken, things are dry and they don’t have a thermometer, how often do you ask them, do you want to buy our product because this needs to change?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (13:50):
Depending on how much I like them, I’ll just give them one.
Will Davis (13:52):
Okay, I was going to say there is nothing worse than being like, Hey, I want a medium rare or I want a nice well done piece of meat, and they overdo it and you’re like, did you even check?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (14:02):
And a lot of people are just so intimidated by cooking chicken or steak and man, stick a thermometer in it. You’re good.
Will Davis (14:11):
Take the guesswork out.
Rodrigo Gonzalez (14:12):
Never suffer a dry steak again.
Will Davis (14:14):
No, absolutely not. Our producer, Vince is known for overcooking his food, so we’ll have to get him one.
Rodrigo Gonzalez (14:22):
Vince, I got you.
Will Davis (14:23):
Yeah, there we go. There we go. Alright. So when you think of opportunities to improve, because even though if there’s the perfect people out there, there’s always somewhere to improve, what do you think you’re focusing on in the next 12 months to improve efficiency across the supply chain to make things better?
Angel Gutierrez (14:41):
Well, I think that the biggest opportunity will be centered around technology integration. As we said at the beginning, we create our own technology, but also we work with sophisticated software like Anvyl. So having all the information that does software is catching up in one single place, it would be our focus in improving opportunities.
Will Davis (15:12):
And then maybe to expand a little bit more on that, do you consistently see changes in terms of whether it be the information you’re getting from Amazon and if those changes are taking place, does that force you to change the way that you review your internal software in order to make sure you’re producing the correct products at the right time?
Angel Gutierrez (15:40):
And if I understood well, that’s very closely related to the planning side as if you consider more variables in your algorithm, it’ll get better. So yeah, we are analyzing some cases, special cases in order to improve our algorithms and also the way that we work with our suppliers. You can improve lead times, always, you can improve the way you ship the things. Most of the cases, it would be cheaper to send it by air versus a fast boat or a ship. So yeah, we go to all the data, we learn about it and we change our procedure to get better.
Will Davis (16:30):
Awesome. And then before we get to the speed round, so over the past years we’ve seen disruptions. I would say we’re a little bit more normalized than we were back from 2020, 2021. Has there been any big disruptions on your business where you’ve learned from them? Or you could go back in time and say, Hey, if you would’ve done this, things would’ve been a little bit better?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (16:55):
Yeah, I mean the Covid era was tough, right? It was tough on everybody. We saw everybody went through tough times from Target and Walmart, some of the biggest people in the world. We were just in the unknown. And I think that fortunately, again, having 2009 as our start gave us a lot of time to learn. And so it was a tough time. There are definitely some things we can improve on and lessons we learned along that way, but having really a great team, proprietary technology and systems that we’ve built over all those years in business and great products helped us get through it, I think more intact than I think we saw some other businesses go through. So it was tough, but I think our team, our technology and our expertise really helped it smooth out. I only can speak more to that as well.
Angel Gutierrez (17:48):
Well, from my perspective, I would say that I would emphasize the importance of prioritizing the long-term view over the immediate gains. The bullwhip effect has been a challenge for many companies, retail companies, big retails company like Target, Walmart. So that’s what I mean that when I said prioritizing the long-term bill over immediate gains, Will.
Will Davis (18:14):
Sure. And just for those who’s not familiar with the bullwhip effect, you can look it up anywhere online, but it’s really the idea that if you’re not supplying somebody initially that you have this buildup of goods and then as things end up easing towards the backend, they then become available. But you have too much of it and so it kind of snaps in right in front of you and it’s not a great thing. So take a look at that from that perspective. Alright, so we’ve gotten to the speed round. The goal is for you to say whatever pops in your head, if you take too long, I’m just going to stare at you.
From a supply chain topic, what do you wish people would stop talking about?
Angel Gutierrez (19:03):
That the out of a stock situation is solely the supply chain responsibility?
Will Davis (19:08):
Crap rolls downhill is a good way to summarize that as I like to think about that. Alright. What supply chain topic does not get talked about enough?
Angel Gutierrez (19:19):
Well, I think the importance of supply chain sustainability and environmental responsibility is not discussed as much as it should be.
Will Davis (19:28):
That’s fair to say. From an environmental perspective, I think we see a lot of times it slipped service, we know how poor things are, at least in terms of recycling here in the US and so that makes a lot of sense there. Alright, artificial intelligence is in supply chain, is it the future or is it a bunch of hype?
Angel Gutierrez (19:50):
It’s definitely the future, for sure.
Will Davis (19:53):
Oh, interesting. I’ve heard a bunch of hype here recently. All right. What’s one thing that makes GOJA’s supply chain remarkable?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (20:04):
Will Davis (20:04):
Oh, look at that. Nice.
Angel Gutierrez (20:06):
Thank you, Rodrigo. My short answer is people and flexibility in supply chain.
Will Davis (20:11):
Oh, there we go. People and flexibility will take you a long way. Alright. If you were not working in supply chain, what would you be doing?
Angel Gutierrez (20:18):
Oh, that’s a good question. I would be a programmer. I think I have a passion for creating things, automating process, evolving system. And I’m pretty sure that in alternative life I would have been a system engineer, writing code and building nice solutions like Anvyl.
Will Davis (20:35):
Alright. All right. All right. I like it. Rodrigo, if you were not the Director of Marketing and Brand Strategy, what would you be?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (20:45):
I would be on permanent vacation.
Will Davis (20:50):
Alright. Now where is permanent vacation?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (20:55):
The best place is always the next place.
Will Davis (20:57):
Alright. All right. Okay. And then maybe the last one, what GOJA product should people buy more of?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (21:06):
I mean, just based on the problem we saw with your producer, the instant thermometer. I mean, you do not want people overcooking their meat.
Will Davis (21:16):
You’re right. And then Angel, what about you?
Speaker 4 (21:18):
I would recommend our Luna Bean Handcasting Kit. It’s a fantastic product and from my perspective, it lets you create good memories. So search on Amazon Luna Bean Casting Kit and you will know what I’m talking about.
Will Davis (21:35):
Alright, I will absolutely do it from that perspective. Yeah, I, I’m in agreement. Just people out there use a thermometer if you don’t know the nose, forehead, cheek trick to test if your meat’s done or not.
Our previous host, Dan, he was also guilty of overcooking meat. So it’s an epidemic, let’s just be honest. It’s an epidemic. Last question related to the speed round is what is the best advice that you have gotten in supply chain, Rodrigo?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (22:17):
I think Angel, would you agree that it’s Anvyl?
Angel Gutierrez (22:20):
Sure, for sure. It’s Anvyl.
Will Davis (22:22):
Oh man, y’all are kind. We’ll have to go. That’s it. We’re obviously going to end on that one and get a gift basket out to both of you. Perfect. Alright guys, well I truly appreciate all the time that you’ve given us and some of the answers related to GOJA. I think there’s a lot of things out there that people can learn related to Amazon and the products that are out there. You can go now, maybe the last question, if people want to learn more about GOJA, where should they go?
Rodrigo Gonzalez (22:55):
Will Davis (22:56):
Rodrigo Gonzalez (22:57):
And also feel free to reach out to me. Feel free to reach out to the Angel. I’m happy to talk to people and share whatever we can.
Will Davis (23:06):
Alright guys, well thank you so much for being on. It is much appreciated. And for everybody out there, if you are searching for GOJA, go to goja.com. If you’re looking for software related to supply chain management and you’re wanting to check out Anvyl, you can go to anvyl.com, that’s A N V Y L.com, tune in to Safety Stock. We look forward to hearing more for you. And thank you guys. Have a great day. Appreciate it.
Rodrigo Gonzalez (23:35):
Angel Gutierrez (23:36):
Thank you, Will.