Daphna Englard and Dasya Katz, cofounders/co-CEOs of ReturnQueen (Ramsey), started out as good friends who both worked in the nonprofit world. The busy moms and professionals were talking one day about returning items they had ordered online, and what a chore it was.
The two had different issues with returns. Katz, who is very organized, noted, “I would never miss a return window, but I was constantly busy packaging up my returns, taping them, processing them, printing out labels, dropping off my packages at the post office, UPS, FedEx. I was busy with it all day.”
Englard was always feeling overwhelmed as she tried to fit this chore into her schedule, without ever really getting around to it. She would end up missing her return window and not getting her refund. Englard admitted that she had to sneak items she hadn’t returned past her husband, rather than admit that they had lost all their value.
“We were basically saying that in a world of convenience, where there’s Instacart and Ubers and other services to give us our time back, why wasn’t there anything to simplify the returns process?” Katz said.
So, they set out to solve their problem by making the returns hassle-free for consumers, and launched ReturnQueen in June 2021. They are bootstrapping the young company.
Issue-Free Returns for Consumers
“If we were going to jump into simplifying the returns process, we wanted to do it the right way,” Katz said. “We set out to develop an app that syncs to the customer’s Gmail. It pulls all your online purchases into the app, and you can view them in an organized manner, sorted by expiring return date. And the ones that have less than seven days to return are highlighted in red. That way the consumer never misses a refund.”
In the next step, users select the items that they want to return and they select the time and date for ReturnQueen to come pick up their returns. “They throw all their returns into a bag and they put their address into the app and tell us where to pick it up. They put it outside their door. When the driver comes in our purple truck [or in a partner’s truck], they pick up a mixed bag of items — that can be any number of items from any number of retailers — and the items are taken to the ReturnQueen sorting facilities,” she said.
“We know the items that are coming in, and we have software built into our sorting facilities. We process those items. Basically, we package them, we put on the labels and we send them back to the retailers on behalf of the customers. And then the customers get their refunds.”
Solving Logistical Problems for Retailers
“We will always be coming from the consumer side of things, making this easier for the consumer,” Englard said. However, the cofounders figured out that they could also solve logistical problems for the retailers. “We realized that this was such a huge problem that we could, as the first-mile company — that first company that’s touching the product for the customer — offer a lot of solutions. So, we decided to take the next step. Let’s partner with the retailers directly. Let’s expand our fleet network and expand nationwide so that we can really offer the bridge that we need to work with retailers,” she said.
“We could have just stayed with what we were doing, doorstep pickups for customers,” she added. “Eventually we would make some money because we’d be doing volume, but that’s not the big picture. We have bigger goals where we can streamline the process. If you think about it, we’re getting many, many different customers’ pickups. We could add all that, and then we could palletize it and ship it or send it straight to wherever the retailer wants it to go. There are different ways that we could cut the costs of the transportation for retailers using this class of return.”
The cofounders noted that they knew very little about logistics before they started out, but they are learning along the way. “We are talking to a lot of smart people and are working with people who have strong experience in logistics,” Englard said. “We have the passion, and we have the goals. Our mission is always front and center, and we surround ourselves with good people with tons of experience.”
Speaking about pricing models for their consumer business, the cofounders noted that they offer a range of plans, including a $7–$9 pay-per-pickup option, a $19/month plan and a $99/yearly plan. In addition, ReturnQueen recently announced that it had expanded its service nationwide to provide customers with returns from any store, no matter where they’re located across the United States.
The company consists of a few teams who work together to provide a premium service. They have a dedicated customer-support team. Almost all the software for ReturnQueen was developed by an in-house development team led by the company’s CTO, and there is an in-house marketing team. In addition, the company has several operations managers who supervise the drivers and the sorters in sorting facilities. And two of its sorting facilities are in New Jersey.