Every superhero has an origin story, and super-companies do, too.
I set out to uncover one of the faces behind Opply’s deep-tech, data-driven, bright purple exterior by sitting down with co-founder, Helen Murphy, to talk supply chains. Helen shared with me her professional background, shedding a light on how exactly she discovered the magnitude of the supply chain problem. Without resorting to jargon or tech-speak, she also explains how Opply’s technology can (and will) solve the supply chain problem. I felt that, by the end of our conversation, I – a layperson – shared Helen’s enthusiasm for Opply’s technology as well as her sense of urgency surrounding the mounting supply chain problem.
For those of you who made it past “supply chains” without nodding (and logging) off – well done – and please do read on to discover Helen’s past success, present work, and future aspirations.
Let’s begin at the beginning: what inspired you to found Opply?
Well, I have always been very entrepreneurial at heart. So I’d previously started businesses alongside my 9-5 job. And it was during my time at Procter & Gamble, when I first noticed a lot of the strategy in the operational side of larger companies – and the logistical challenges they face. Whilst leading P&G’s e-commerce team we encountered supply issues, probably every two seconds. Supply truly became the biggest heartache of everyone’s day. This was my first taste of the supply chain problem. Then, when I started my own consumer goods company, called Suds and Goods, I noticed that a lot of the challenges which came up were in fact supply chain related.
When I went to work at Bain, a global management consultant firm, where I specialised in operational transformations, I really saw how significant a problem supply chains were – regardless of company size. My work at Bain made me realise, this wasn’t just me not knowing, for example, how to tackle supply chains in my own startup that made it an issue; this is a wider industry issue.
Later, when I joined Entrepreneur First, I met Martin Postel – Opply’s co-founder! Martin’s specialism is in automation technology applied to supply and manufacturing. We quickly discovered our mutual interest in supply chains. Together, we spoke to loads of brands about their pain points. And I will say: you will never be ranted at more in your life than when you talk to a young brand about supply chains. It is the biggest pain in all their days and this gets iterated still in every brand conversation we have.
These conversations proved that our focus on solving the supply chain problem was not misguided – but that it truly is a pain point which warrants urgent attention. And so it was these discussions which really prompted us to found Opply. We just wanted to help these brands out.
It’s worth noting as well that there’s a huge power play in the market. Whilst small brands are little on an individual level, cumulatively they actually compromise a huge part of the market. So if you can bring them all together, you unlock their potential to get a really fair deal in the market.
But we weren’t just interested in helping brands, we also wanted to help suppliers. Particularly when so many suppliers are trying to deal with brands who have no supply knowledge whatsoever. For example, a brand might be looking to buy a pair of clogs, and a supplier might ask what grain they want – but brands really have no idea about that. So they might say “well, I want wood, and I probably want them solid. And I probably need them in a shape that’s comfortable.” They’re doing their best, but the brands often can’t provide very helpful specifications for their suppliers. So, the suppliers also need a solution as to how brands communicate with them as well.
What values do you strive to instil in Opply as its founder?
In order to achieve this huge mission, we quickly realised the importance of teamwork and ensuring everyone member of the team is performing as best they can. We always say as a company that we are people before we are business. And that’s something we want to echo as well throughout everything we do with our brands and our suppliers and all of our customers – that it is people at the core of this before it is business. I believe if we treat everyone like that from our team up through our customers, that’s what will ultimately make Opply a success.
We’ll be releasing the second part of Alice’s interview with Helen in the coming weeks. Continue to check back fro updates, or sign up for our Blog Newsletter using the link below!