Craving a Sweet 3PL Partnership
Thanks to its 3PL partnership with Evans Distribution Systems, Bon Bon Bon workers can fill orders more quickly than was possible previously. One reason is Evans’ technology, which offers a step-by-step guide for processing orders.
Bon Bon Bon, a 10-year-old artisan chocolate company with stores in Michigan and an ecommerce arm, creates bonbons with clever flavor combinations and eye-catching designs.
Evans Distribution Systems is a full-service third-party logistics provider that offers warehousing, fulfillment, value-added, transportation, and staffing solutions.
From its start in the back room of a diner about a decade ago, Detroit-based Bon Bon Bon, which offers “the goodest goodies and sweetest sweets,” now operates a manufactory and four brick-and-mortar locations, has a presence at local markets, and ships across the United States and internationally.
Yet even as Bon Bon Bon has grown, its internal shipping department remained small—no more than a handful of employees. So, Bon Bon Bon partnered with Evans Distribution Systems, a third-party logistics (3PL) provider, also based in Michigan.
“We never would have been able to offer shipping solutions at the level of expertise that Evans has been able to,” says Alessandra Rodriguez, head of marketing for Bon Bon Bon.
A Life of Chocolate
At 19 years old, Alexandra Clark, Bon Bon Bon’s founder and head chocolatier, decided to dedicate her life to chocolate. With $32,000 she received from a taxi accident—it occurred as she was leaving a chocolate show—she opened a chocolate shop near Bon Bon Bon’s current manufactory.
Initially, the shop was open only on Saturday. Fast forward to 2024, and the company has multiple locations and is in action seven days a week, with operations significantly ramping up between Thanksgiving and Valentines Day.
Before Bon Bon Bon connected with Evans, a “small and mighty team of employees,” according to Rodriguez, filled and packaged online orders, among other responsibilities.
Along with the challenges of managing the growing volume of orders were the challenges of the chocolate itself, which is perishable and requires a temperature-controlled environment. What’s more, each order can be customized, including with a handwritten note and a choice of packaging tape designs.
Finding a Partner
In 2023, Bon Bon Bon began its partnership with Evans Distribution Systems. The team at Bon Bon Bon knew of Evans in part from its work with vegan cosmetics and skincare brand, The Lip Bar (TLB), whose flagship store is also in Detroit.
A 90-year-old company, Evans operates more than three million square feet of warehousing space in Michigan. Bon Bon Bon uses Evans’ fulfillment, shipping, logistics, warehousing, and product storage services.
Evans’ handling of these functions enables Bon Bon Bon to focus on its core competency—making great chocolate—as well as increasing sales and expanding to other markets, says Leslie Delekta, director of customer solutions with Evans.
Evans direct-ships online and corporate orders. To ensure a temperature-controlled environment, Evans has located a refrigerated container within its warehouse. The 3PL is able to add staff to the Bon Bon Bon account to manage the holiday increase in sales. As volume tapers off, Evans can shift those employees to other clients.
Bon Bon Bon and Evans are electronically connected through Shopify, which transmits most orders to Evans; currently, corporate and other large orders are handled separately. Once Evans receives the order within its warehouse management system (WMS), employees kit the product and place it into custom boxes, says Rich Huziak, senior operations manager with Evans.
When developing customized solutions for Evans’ clients, verbal explanations typically go only so far, Huziak says. To gain a thorough understanding of Bon Bon Bon’s operations, the Evans team toured its manufacturing facility and stores. Evans then built a solution that considered the processes already in place.
For instance, when Bon Bon Bon delivers inventory to Evans, it’s in trays of single bon bons. These are recorded in the Evans WMS. Evans developed a kitting process so employees know which chocolates to pull for each order.
Many packages are finished with colorful wrapping tape; customers can choose from several designs. They also can request a handwritten note to accompany their orders. The WMS lets Evans employees know which packages will include these embellishments, as well the card, message, and tape to include. The employee who packs the box also initials and dates it before sending it on its way.
Depending on the destination and time of year, the order may be packed in ice. “It’s a very custom experience,” Delekta says.
Handing responsibility for packing customers’ orders and creating handwritten notes means entrusting another company to accurately represent the Bon Bon Bon brand. “It’s a big thing,” Rodriguez says.
When Bon Bon Bon receives very large orders—say, from corporate clients—it currently emails the information to Evans. This allows Bon Bon Bon to designate specific products for these customized orders.
Evans receives Bon Bon Bon inventory anywhere from several times each week, to almost daily during the busiest season. Because Bon Bon Bon’s products are perishable and custom-made, it’s not feasible to stockpile inventory in advance.
Getting up and running with the Evans team was fairly rapid, Rodriguez says. The longest piece of the puzzle was redesigning the website and creating new stock-keeping units. “It was almost as though we created a new store,” Rodriguez says.
The benefit? Setting up a new website and new SKUs from the beginning of the partnership minimized the need for Bon Bon Bon to retroactively adjust any information.
Once the new website was complete, testing took a couple of months. The teams mapped out multiple scenarios so everyone could be prepared for any type of order.
For instance, team members needed to learn what an order would look like, operationally, if it included multiples of one item, plus an item from another category or a gift card.
Similarly, if a customer ordered a box of bonbons with one tape design and another box with a different tape design, Bon Bon Bon and Evans needed to understand how the person packing the order would know which design went with which box. “We were able to work together on that,” Rodriguez says. “It was a collaborative effort.”
The Evans team needed to make sure the processes were functional, while also taking care that Bon Bon Bon’s website would be customer-friendly and provide a strong user experience. Through their combined efforts, the companies ultimately improved both the customer experience and internal operations.
More Efficient Order Processing
For example, orders can be filled more quickly than was possible previously, even with Bon Bon Bon’s dedicated internal team. One reason is Evans’ technology, which offers a step-by-step guide for processing orders. The systems in place for the fulfillment and packing teams make it easy for them to work efficiently, as they don’t have to figure out how best to process each order before they begin filling them.
This is key, as the faster rate at which orders are filled means customers have a longer time to enjoy their handmade bon bons, Rodriguez says.
The speedier processes are especially valuable with larger orders. Previously, handling a very large order could delay other orders. Now, Bon Bon Bon is able to manage all sizes of orders at the same time. Being able to accept more large orders, instead of being constrained by operational limitations “is largely beneficial,” Rodriguez says.
Tackling New Challenges
As soon as the two companies were up and running with regular orders, they began working on new opportunities, Rodriguez says. One was developing an effective pre-sale system. This allows customers to, for instance, place Valentine’s Day orders in January, but delay shipment until early February.
Later in 2024, Bon Bon Bon plans to release two new extensions to its website. One is a “box builder.” This will allow customers to select exactly which bon bons they want in their box. Bon Bon Bon actually offered this capability years ago, but it didn’t have the back-end operations ironed out. Now, through its partnership with Evans, Bon Bon Bon will be able to offer this feature to its customers, while also being confident it will work operationally.
Building Large and Customized Orders
Bon Bon Bon and Evans also are working on a large-order builder. Customers placing large—often custom—orders will be able to complete their transactions with several clicks.
If Bon Bon Bon was working with any other company, management probably would be more nervous about embarking on multiple new initiatives at the same time. “But Evans has already proven to us that they can handle it and that they’re willing to figure out how we can offer these things,” Rodriguez says.
The Bon Bon Bon team hails from across the city, as well as the world, and they are united in their belief that good people deserve good chocolate, Rodriguez says. “The Evans team has joined our efforts in accomplishing this mission in the most genuine and collaborative way,” she adds.
Casebook Study: How Sweet It Is
Finding a way to effectively and efficiently manage order fulfillment and shipping as Bon Bon Bon grew to encompass multiple locations and national and international shipments, while still creating quality chocolate.
Partner with Evans Distribution to handle fulfillment, shipping, logistics, warehousing, and product storage.
A significant reduction in order processing time and greater ability to handle large orders.
Working on extensions to Bon Bon Bon’s website, including a pre-order feature and the ability to enable customers to create large orders with several clicks.