When Ponce Christie started CCC PDX in 2017, he expected his bike courier business to grow moderately year over year.
What he wasn't expecting, though, was for his business to grow over 300% in eight months.
"It was basically overnight," he says. "That kind of growth is exhausting, honestly. It's just a lot all at once."
As the coronavirus pushed everyone indoors in March, local restaurant owners had to quickly adapt to takeout and delivery. Those who grew frustrated with the exorbitant service fees of delivery apps like Uber Eats, Grubhub, Caviar and Postmates started to look for a better way to keep their businesses alive and customers fed.
Enter CCC PDX.
Christie and his business partner decided early on they weren't going to sit still until things went back to normal again. Instead, they tripled the size of their delivery area, hired nearly two dozen new couriers, and brought on more than 50 new restaurant partners.
What makes CCC PDX's service different from the other Big Tech behemoths is that it offers a direct line from customer to courier, and courier to restaurant. And in Portland, where the restaurant community is quite tightly knit, when something works, word travels fast. The majority of new restaurants CCC PDX has added have been from word of mouth.
Before the pandemic, Christie spent most of his day reaching out to restaurants to work with. Now, he says, he spends the majority of his time responding to restaurants that have reached out to him.
"We try to foster a real relationship with the customers and the restaurants we work with because we live here, too," Christie says. "The money you spend is going into the local economy, not one of these giant [venture capital] projects."
And if an issue should arise, it can be resolved in a timely manner without a lot of back-and-forth with a customer service representative in another part of the country. Plus, it's all powered by people who create their own schedules and enjoy biking.
"I'm not competing with DoorDash or Grubhub or Uber Eats or whatever, because I'm never going to have their marketing budgets, I'm never gonna be able to hire the sales team," says Christie. "There's just so many things that I can't do. But if I want to be better than them, it takes almost no effort."
Still, with the virus very much not under control, Christie says he's been living in "extreme stress mode" for months, worrying about the state of the industry and the safety of his employees. With the four-week restaurant "freeze" now in place in Multnomah County, Christie expects his couriers to remain busy, if not busier.
"This is a very weird time to be successful," he says. "In a couple of months, we've done what I think would have been like 10 years of growth. I want to do whatever I can to make sure that people can make money riding bikes and the restaurants in Portland are able to get through this."