Adapt and Thrive: Interviewing Britain's Small Business Heroes. Meet Freight Brokers

Welcome to our new series where, every week, we interview some of Britain's brightest independent businesses to hear how they've adapted and thrived through lockdown and beyond.

This week we met Ben Keisner, sales director at Freight Brokers UK.

Hi Ben, can you tell us a bit about Freight Brokers?

Freight Brokers is a family-run business set-up by my father Charles Keisner in 2005. I joined the firm in 2010. We are a small team of just 7 people based in north London.

We are a boutique international courier broker, specialising in providing bespoke courier and freight services.

We use our unrivalled portfolio of clients to negotiate discounted rates with all the major recognised carriers. All our clients then benefit from these excellent rates for their shipments to and from the UK to literally anywhere in the world. Complementing this first-class global network, we provide personal in-house customer service from our London office.

Who is your business aimed at?

We specialise in the fashion, luxury goods and beauty sectors, working with retailers, brands and suppliers at various levels of the market.

Currently, we’re proud to count more than 250 companies in our portfolio, including world-renowned brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and New Look. We also handle all the international courier requirements for British fashion brands such as Raeburn and Mackintosh.

Can you talk us through some of your biggest milestones to date?

Five years ago, we were invited to be logistics partner for Walpole, the high-profile promotional group that represents British luxury brands from Bentley to Burberry, from Wedgwood to Jo Malone. It is a fantastic privilege and compliment to Freight Brokers to be aligned with such a best-in-class group.

Our most significant milestone, however, came in March 2019, when we decided to go carbon-neutral and offset all the carbon emissions created by the shipping of our clients’ parcels. Initially we were part of DHL's Go Green programme before adding the United Nations’ carbon offset platform in January 2020.

Having originally offset 100% of our emissions, we have now moved up to offsetting 125% of emissions incurred. And all this is done with no extra cost to our clients.

Freight Brokers is the only courier company in the world that offsets everything, making us climate-positive! In the past year alone, we have offset 2.5m kilos of carbon emissions. Check out the live tracker on our website to follow our progress.

How has PayPal helped you reach these milestones?

We use PayPal to collect all our international payments, from customers as far apart as Germany, the USA and Israel.

We needed a trusted brand that is known internationally. Today any customer not based in the UK that wants to work with Freight Brokers pays via PayPal.  

Was your business impacted when the UK went into lockdown?

Initially our volume of shipping was quieter than usual. People were working from home, so we had to devise new processes to collect parcels from private houses rather than offices and design studios. Being a small family-run business, we were able to put changes in place quickly, allowing us to focus on other initiatives during lockdown and beyond.

Did you make any changes to continue trading during this time? 

When the COVID-19 situation became serious, we wanted to use our expertise to help out as much as possible. We launched a programme offering to move around the UK – totally free-of-charge – up to 1,000 parcels a month for any companies manufacturing PPE for the NHS and related care services.

The initiative took off quickly and we were soon moving packages for a large number of businesses including Matches Fashion, John Lewis and Net-a-Porter.

To support the demand, we increased our offer to 2,000 parcels a month free of charge. Since lockdown has eased, the number of PPE packages we are handling has decreased slightly, but we are still offering our services to the NHS and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

How did PayPal support you?

Crucially, PayPal enabled us to continue accepting payments and running our core business for international shipping, while our free UK-based PPE initiative was taking place.

As PayPal is incredibly easy to use and gives us no problems, we were able to focus on helping small businesses and designers to support the NHS

What does the future look like for Freight Brokers?

Going forward, we plan to keep our customers’ best interests at the forefront of what we do. We will continue looking after our existing customers as we increase our portfolio of clients.

And, of course, sustainability will continue to be a massive priority for Freight Brokers as we continue 125% carbon offsetting. Our aim is to increase this number to 250% by 2025.

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