Now Pro Delivery Truck
Ken Bell One of Now Pro Delivery's trucks

An ambitious Charlotte, N.C., entrepreneur and his startup trucking business could become both a threat and an opportunity for dealers nationwide.

Kenneth Bell’s year-old company, Now Pro Delivery, aims to exploit two potential niches in the last-mile delivery of building products. The first is a threat to dealers, because Bell is reaching out to suppliers who don’t have their own delivery vehicles. By providing transportation, he now makes those firms more competitive with LBM dealers. The second niche is an opportunity for dealers, because in Bell and companies like his they could have a backup delivery option available for hot runs and fill-in service.

The business model pairs up well with GoFor, a Canadian firm that provides Uber-style services primarily for remodelers who need a few items and don’t require anything bigger than a pickup truck to transport them. As a result, the two companies have partnered to offer Charlotte-area suppliers a wider spectrum of delivery options, from car to flatbed. Now Pro Delivery also does business today in Nashville, Tenn., as well as Charlotte.

Already operating in Ottawa, Canada, GoFor plans to launch officially in Charlotte on Feb. 19, with service in Nashville and Houston to follow. Meanwhile, Bell is exploring whether to franchise his business.

Ken Bell, owner and founder, Now Pro Delivery
Ken Bell, founder and owner, Now Pro Delivery

Bell told ProSales in an interview this month that his inspiration to start Now Pro Delivery came from 20 years’ work in real estate, home-flipping, infill development, and related construction work.

“Getting product to market as fast as possible made me the most money,” he says. “I calculate interest cost every day. [But] I was always at the whim of my distributors to get things to me. A one-day swing can be catastrophic. I’ve had bricks delivered and if I’m three straps short, the bricklayer would say to me, ‘If you don’t get the bricks to me today, I won’t be back for a week.’

“So, what if there was a resource for people to pick up 300 brick for me? What if I started a company that did that? At the very least, if I can get my materials, I can pay for the truck.”

Bell purchased his first flatbed truck with forklift in September 2016. Now he has two trucks in Charlotte and a third in Nashville, Tenn. For dealers, he charges a flat fee to pick up the materials and then a per-mile charge to get to the end point. If he makes multiple deliveries, the pickup fee stays the same and only the mileage between drop-offs gets charged. His rates are scaled to turn a profit on every delivery.

Commercial clients, such as a fence company in Nashville that previously couldn’t make deliveries, can call in a request as late as 9 p.m. and get served the next day. For same-day request, “I’m willing to commit to a three-hour turnaround if it’s a reasonable distance,” Bell says.

Aside from the fence company, Now Pro Delivery also counts as customers a wholesaler of outdoor decorative stone, some tile companies, and cabinet and flooring operations. In some cases they hadn’t offered delivery service previously. In others, Bell’s firm is a go-to firm when the need arises.

Bell says he spends much of his time now teaching contractors that it pays to be speedy. “A lot of contractors are bad business people,” he says. “They don’t understand that delays cost them. If you can save 45 days in delays, you’ll be able to complete another project. It’s money over time.”