Like so many modern-day consumers, Laura Borland knows the hassles that come with online shopping all too well. You order your products online only to have them arrive while you’re at work. Packages aren’t signed for, items go missing and are sometimes even stolen. Borland knew there had to be a more efficient way of receiving packages, so she created Vyllage, an app that connects users to vetted homeowners who make money by allowing their address to be used as an alternate shipping address for packages and deliveries. It’s a new niche in the gig economy that allows stay-at-home parents or those who work from home to make some extra cash by signing for packages and gives users the comfort of knowing their latest purchases have been delivered safely.
Borland’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
I started this business because I saw a gap in the logistics process and how deliveries were handled. With over 70% of packages being delivered during times when no one is home, it seems courier companies, known for seamless transfers from shipper to distribution centers to trucks for delivery, haven’t figured how to secure packages for the recipient. That’s why Vyllage was born: to put an end to package theft by ensuring that all deliveries are signed for, photographed, and housed in a secure location near to the customers home. Additionally, with the transition from brick and mortar retail stores to e-commerce emerging, it seemed like an opportune time to create this market to capitalize on the 45 million packages that are delivered everyday in the USA.
Success for me would be for Vyllage to be a noun and a verb. For instance, “I Vyllaged my package,” or “I used Vyllage” in the same way as people refer to Uber and AirBnB. That happens when there are Vyllagers in every ZIP Code in the US thriving as they run their own micro franchise while being stewards of safety with in their respective communities. Each Vyllager receiving a minimum of 20 packages per day represents someone who has a true, home-based business and monetizing their home to increase the wealth of their household. I also want to see Vyllage as a shipping option for retailers and logistics companies.
Since launching the app in November, 2018, Vyllage was covered in an exclusive news story on a South Florida station. It came as a result of working every day to find media contacts and repeatedly emailing my pitch. It was an arduous process with a lot of uncertainty around knowing if your pitch was read. However, the perseverance was fruitful, and I received that awesome first response from a reporter. I was beyond elated! As a result, the coverage gave us the exposure needed to put our first Vyllagers on the map.
My top challenge was securing the intellectual property without an attorney. Vyllage and Vyllager are both trademarked and the process took almost 2 years to be granted due to my ignorance of the law and the specific nomenclature required to make a successful first submission. My applications were rejected multiple times for what seemed like minor issues (a photographic sample proof of use deemed inadequate, etc.). How did I overcome this obstacle? I trudged through by making everyone of those changes every time and not procrastinating with it. Each day waiting for the trademarks to be granted represented one more day where the applications could be challenged. I was a bawling fool when I finally received those trademarks in the mail.
My most important role model passed away a few years ago. Her name was Sister Mary Bernadette, a Catholic nun who was the principal of my high school (Convent of Mercy Academy “Alpha”) for over 50 years. She was an extraordinary woman and struck the perfect balance of being a feminist while serving God with the fullest manifestation of her being. She taught us at this all-girls’ school how to become ladies and to navigate the male-dominated terrain with finesse and femininity.