John Vanhara's bicycle-importing business was doing fine, but his warehouse was half empty. Vanhara conceived Shipito.com, which acts as an intermediary between U.S. companies that don't ship internationally and their overseas customers, as a way to squeeze revenue out of the extra space. "In the U.S., we feel we don't need the rest of the world because this market is so big," says Vanhara. "If a company can't ship to Austria or Australia, they don't really care. It's not worth the hassle of customs forms and the risk of credit fraud." An international customer gives Shipito's address to a merchant. Shipito receives the package, photographs the contents, and posts the photos online so the customer can check that the order is correct. The company also repacks goods into the smallest and fewest boxes possible to reduce costs. Today, Shipito processes 50,000 to 60,000 packages a month out of four warehouses.
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan