By Susan Mikula Campbell
Fahim Mojawalla firmly believes in the four "P"s: passion, patience, persistence and politeness.
The four, especially persistence, paid off for the owner of the Island Ship Center recently as his business finally received Authorized Shipping Outlet status from UPS. The move will not only save him money, but already is bringing in new customers.
"I am superbly excited," Mojawalla said.
When Mojawalla opened his business in 2006, it was designated a FedEx-authorized ship center. In 2007, he began shipping UPS packages, but was not listed by UPS as an "authorized" agent. When he moved the business to its current 1879 Whitehaven Road location in 2008, he applied again to UPS for ASO status and was denied.
"Many people kept asking me why I wasn't on the UPS website even though I was operating like a fully functional UPS facility. I politely told them that my application for ASO status kept on being denied because UPS maintained that my store location was too close in proximity to the Niagara Falls UPS Store," Mojawalla said.
In August 2014, UPS revised its program to permit awarding ASO status to independent businesses (like the Island Ship Center) based on each individual case. Mojawalla resubmitted his application and once more was denied.
ASO status puts the business on the UPS.com website locator, which brings in new customers who may work on the Island, but live elsewhere, so don't know about the Island Ship Center as a safe, convenient place to drop off packages. Also, not having ASO status meant that for eight years Mojawalla had to pay out-of-pocket to maintain a UPS account, shipping packages, paying for weekly pickups and accepting prepaid drop offs (like Amazon, LL Bean, printer cartridges and textbook returns) at no charge to his clients.
In June, Mojawalla and his wife, Seema, attended the Retail Shipper's Expo and Trade Show in Las Vegas where they met other pack-and-ship business owners also trying to win UPS approval and had a chance to talk with a UPS official. The Mojawallas decided to join AMBC, a group for associated mail and business centers.
AMBC resubmitted the Island Ship Center's application and at the same time Mojawalla received and submitted letters of support from Eric Fiebelkorn, Grand Island Chamber of Commerce president, and Mary Cooke, town supervisor.
"We feel the case for Island Ship Center to be granted status as an authorized UPS shipper must take into consideration the physical barriers the Island's bridges represent to some residents, the cost of tolls and gas to get to other UPS outlets, weather limitations, and the reality of our aging population's growing needs," Cooke wrote.
She noted that more than 38 percent of the Island's 20,374 residents are more than 50 years old, and pointed out that some residents are reluctant to leave the Island for routine needs.
Fiebelkorn noted in his letter that, as of 2015, average daily UPS drop-off volume at Island Ship Center was 20 to 25 packages "just from word of mouth alone."
He wrote: "This convenience (granting ASO status) would save UPS a lot of time and money in the long run and would not take away any business from the Niagara Falls UPS locations."
"Lo and behold, in less than two weeks (in July), I was authorized," Mojawalla said. "Every day, I get new people coming into the store."
The Island Ship Center now has three authorized accounts: UPS, Federal Express and the U.S. Postal Service.
"It was impractical for them (UPS) to look at the Island community and not see the potential on the Island. I'm just happy to be the business to show them that," Mojawalla said.
Fahim Mojawalla of the Island Ship Center earned Authorized Shipping Outlet status from UPS.