As a girl, Shanna Mann paid close attention to her grandfather as he worked. He was a carpenter, and to build things properly, he worked with careful precision. Each cut was measured twice, each line straight. Mann sums up his philosophy by saying, “You must check every assumption.” Mann’s observations may not seem like an obvious link to her work at Central Virginia Prep, a one-stop-shop for direct-to-customer deliveries, B2B fulfillment services, packing skills, and navigating distribution for third-party Amazon sellers. However, as Mann explains, “Warehousing and prep is something that also rewards precision.”
Prior to opening Central Virginia Prep in 2018, Shanna and her husband sold used books on Amazon for seven years. After being entrenched in the used bookseller community, they noticed an unmet need. Many booksellers had inventory that they could be selling on Amazon, but they were overwhelmed by how to do it.
This unmet need sparked an idea in Mann, “I was like, well, I do love an unmet need. I persuaded my husband that we were very organized and process-oriented people and that this would be easy money. All of the best businesses start with that kind of hubris, I think,” she says. With that, Central Virginia Prep became a game-changer for anyone wanting to sell a product online.
Shanna and Chris Mann, founders of Central Virginia Prep.
While the initial set-up of the business took some research and planning, the response from people interested in their services was immediate. As Mann explains, “Because we had a lot of experience already with Amazon Seller Central, which is their seller side portal, which is a really difficult piece of software, that was our leg up because anybody that’s not familiar with Seller Central will really struggle because it’s one of those things that you just have to learn from trial and error. Since we’d already done all the hard stuff, it was relatively simple from there to just start adding clients. We got a few referral partners, and it just was staggering, the amount of demand.”
With the onset of the pandemic, Central Virginia Prep actually saw another increase in demand as entrepreneurs and business owners quickly pivoted to online selling to survive. What some people may not know was at the same time as the pandemic, Amazon severely limited storage in their warehouses. Being always attuned to unmet needs, Mann saw an opening to add warehouse storage to the list of Central Virginia Prep’s offerings. Mann tempered her initial expectations but describes what came next as a “complete torrential downpour of need.”
From board game creators to tea towel designers, Central Virginia Prep is taking the stress out of warehousing and prep for new and seasoned entrepreneurs alike. The ability to support entrepreneurs in this way is something Mann is especially proud of. “Before, if you were a craftsman or you had an idea, there were a whole bunch of steps in the value chain that you had to accomplish. You had to do your own manufacturing. You had to arrange for shipping. You had to arrange for marketing, your own sales channels, and distribution channels. You had to find a platform and develop it and pay for advertising to drive it. Then you had to do all of the packaging yourself. I don’t think most people realize how much of that can be outsourced or productized at this point,” Mann says.
Inside Central Virginia Prep.
When asked what advice she has for other entrepreneurs, Mann’s approach is, not surprisingly, grounded in community and process. “The whole Shenandoah Valley is full of craftspeople and artisans. I’m sure that they’re thinking mostly in terms of how much can they make and where can they sell it around here, and who can they sell it to? I’m sure that the problem with having fewer visitors go through in the last 18 months has really caused revenue issues all over, but if you think a little bit bigger about what kind of an online store you would get and the distribution there, you could potentially have that audience. I want to encourage people to think a little bit bigger because the hard part of product distribution has been solved for the most part,” she explains.
On the surface, Central Virginia Prep is a warehousing and prep business, but the deeper mission is connecting entrepreneurs and business owners with the world. By removing such barriers to entry, entrepreneurs in the Shenandoah Valley and beyond, can dream and think bigger than ever before.
To learn about Central Virginia Prep and their services, visit centralvirginiaprep.com. For our complete interview with Shanna Mann, check out Ep. 13 of the Waynesboro at Work podcast on podcast on YouTube and Spotify.