Baker Al-Qudsi of

Case Study: MiButler is Milwaukee’s All-Purpose Delivery Concierge

This local concierge service battles big names to deliver to your doorstep

All Baker Al-Qudsi’s friends wanted was coffee. And tacos. And a sweater.

At the time, no delivery service would drop off all three items, especially in one trip, and no one gathered at the Shorewood residence that day volunteered to peel themselves away from the Packers game to collect everything themselves. Then it hit him.

“It took a few seconds, but I just quietly kept thinking, why not? Why couldn’t that happen?” Al-Qudsi says.

Thus began MiButler, the latest endeavor from a serial startup junkie. MiButler is a concierge service that brings Milwaukeeans anything they ask with a simple text message. Well, almost anything. For liability purposes, it won’t chauffeur tobacco, cash, pets, people and, significantly for Wisconsin, alcohol.

“I know, it would change the game,” Al-Qudsi says. But he doesn’t want to risk selling to minors with a fake ID or being party to any other infraction. “Unfortunately,” he says, “it would take just one bad apple to ruin it for everybody… We don’t want to be in the news for the wrong reasons.”

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Employees and contractors: 15
Founded: 2015
What it does: Text message-based concierge service
Customers: Approximately 460[/alert]

What it will deliver is any meal, grocery, parcel or prescription located in Southeastern Wisconsin. MiButler customers who text 262-671-4756 are connected to a dispatcher employed by the company. The agents, on call from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., confirm order details and pricing, and then assign the delivery to one of 12 drivers. The flat rate for food delivery is $7.99 within a 3-mile radius of the pickup spot; grocery deliveries start at $15. For an extra fee, people can order items across a greater distance or bundle several errands into one order. “Our customers are starting to get creative. ‘Can you grab my Amazon package, and then my mom’s medication at CVS?’ The answer is yes,” Al-Qudsi says.

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It’s that service stackability that Al-Qudsi believes separates his venture from the well-funded tech giants of Silicon Valley. And despite the throwback nature of interfacing through SMS, Al-Qudsi is adamant the approach provides superior customer service to that from an app. “I don’t want to come off as app-hating, but an app is really limited by the parameters that the developer wanted to or could create at the time,” he says. “An app requires space on your phone. You have to download it. It takes time to learn how to use the app, and then also build your account. That’s wasted time from the consumer’s perspective.”

MiButler is not Al-Qudsi’s first company. Previously, he poked around in the renewable energy sector, looking to fund a solar power project. Next, he sought a way to leverage his passion for cars into a workable concept, ending up with a proto-MiButler model that shuttled around mechanics and hairdressers.

To start MiButler, Al-Qudsi, 35, says he invested funds “somewhere in the $20,000 range,” most of which went to developing communication and payment processing technology needed to support the business.

He launched with a full appreciation of the challenges of operating a shoestring service in a crowded delivery market that’s come to include DoorDash, Peapod, Grubhub, UberEATS and Amazon’s move into grocery delivery. But MiButler is in the black and looking to expand heading into 2018, according to Al-Qudsi. It added 182 new customers in 2016 and 277 by December 2017, and has a new partnership with Hayat Pharmacy – where Al-Qudsi works as VP of marketing – to deliver over-the-counter medications anywhere in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Al-Qudsi is bullish about what lies beyond the horizon. Part of it is personality-based. “What keeps me going is there’s a fire on the inside. Once an entrepreneur has that fire, it’s difficult to contain.”

‘Meet the Disruptors’ appears in the February 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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