On-demand movies and TV shows, on-demand water heaters and on-demand Uber rides have benefited Flagstaff consumers in recent years. But now, Flagstaff consumers have access to a new spin on fast and convenient: on-demand consumables. goPuff, an online convenience store, recently opened a warehouse near Northern Arizona University campus and is delivering consumer packaged goods like grocery items, household essentials, office supplies and electronics at the same prices as convenience stores, with a $1.95 delivery charge.
The business model is the brainchild of best friends and millennials Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola who were named two of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in 2017. “We were college students and saw a pretty big problem with the convenience store business: convenience stores weren’t really convenient. What started as a small, college delivery service has turned into a national, new-generation convenience store,” said Ilishayev in an exclusive interview with Flagstaff Business News.
After raising $8.25 million in venture capital backing to grow their online convenience store in the Philadelphia area, they branched out to cities around the nation. “To be honest, Flagstaff wasn’t part of our [planned] 2018 launch,” said Ilishayev. The decision was made after hundreds of people from Flagstaff zip codes requested the service via the goPuff app or online store.
“It was organic growth. We operate in Tempe, Phoenix and Tucson, but there were hundreds of people putting in their Flagstaff zip codes who weren’t able to get delivery,” added the co-founder of the company, which has tripled its revenue annually. goPuff started delivery in Tempe almost one year ago and added Tucson six months later. People who experienced the impulse-buying service in those nearby areas started requesting it in Northern Arizona. Southern Arizona locations are liquor enabled, while alcohol and cigarette delivery is not yet available in Flagstaff.
According to the company’s marketing consultants, the top-ordered goPuff items are:
- Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
- Kit Kat
- Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked
- Powerade Mountain Berry Blast
- Nerds Rope
- Snyder’s Honey Mustard & Onion
goPuff also delivers Ben & Jerry’s ice cream pints, Coca-Cola and Pepsi products, school and party supplies and consumer package goods (CPGs) like toilet paper, cold medicine and birth control devices. The national average delivery time is 25 minutes.
The brand resonates with millennials. “The way that we relate to millennials is that we are their true best friends. If they are sick, OCD, hungry or thirsty, we consistently deliver. We never let you down; goPuff is there for you,” explained Ilishayev, a first-generation American whose parents are from Russia. His business partner, Gola, is also first-generation American, whose parents are from Israel.
The online and app-based service can pinpoint sales geographically and has become a data source of CPG-consumption by the coveted college market. goPuff works with its suppliers and brands to provide the valuable marketing information, and good prices for its customers.
“We are vertically integrated so that we can offer the same price as convenience stores, with a $1.95 delivery charge,” explained Ilishayev. “The [Flagstaff] warehouse currently carries 1,800 different SKUs [stock keeping units], and we will add more and more until we mature at 2,300 to 2,400 SKUs.” goPuff is currently open in Flagstaff from noon until 4:20 a.m. Customers earn free delivery with orders of $49.99 or more.
“We’re really excited to be in Flagstaff as Arizona has treated us very well as a whole. We are proud to give people what they want,” Ilishayev concluded. FBN
By Stacey Wittig, QCBN
For more about goPuff, visit gopuff.com.
goPuff co-founders Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola are both first-generation Americans answering the call of on-demand consumers and living their dream.
Photo by Stacey Wittig