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February 5, 2018
On the record

Mark Murrell of GetMaineLobster.com ready to expand beyond crustaceans

Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Mark Murrell, owner of GetMaineLobster.com, plans to expand the company's offerings beyond lobster to grass-fed beef, charcuterie and specialty chocolates.

Mark Murrell founded GetMaineLobster.com in 2009, but plans to expand well beyond crustaceans to grass-fed beef and exotic game. Through a network of suppliers and distributors, Murrell and his Portland team ship product via FedEx and UPS for next-day delivery.

With five employees plus several contractors handling customer experience and technology, the model has successfully leveraged online shopping trends into the live lobster market, with customers from across the nation. Murrell was anecdotally told by one shipper that his holiday 2017 shipment numbers ranked No. 2, behind only L.L.Bean.

We caught up with Murrell as he was looking to expand the model to other products, like other proteins and specialty chocolates. Here's an edited transcript:

Mainebiz: How did GetMaineLobster.com come about?

Mark Murrell: I grew up in Auburn and moved to Chicago in 2005. But I came back to Maine often. A friend who owns a fish market thought it would be a good idea to sell lobster on the internet. He asked me because, at the time, I was a consultant for clients in multiple business categories, focused on internet marketing and e-commerce. I did the research and found lots of people were looking for this service. So I said, 'We should do it: You provide me with product.' It was a win-win. We grew really fast. I don't view this as a lobster company. I view it as a customer-centric e-commerce company that happens to sell lobster.

MB: Who are your suppliers today?

MM: We have one major supplier in South Portland that brings in product from Downeast. For now, we're focusing on Maine lobster and scallops. But we're evolving into other proteins. We're getting into charcuterie, and we've sold fine chocolates. We'll be launching micro-sites focused on niche products, like grass-fed beef and exotic game. We have access to everything. If someone calls with a request, we can supply anything from ostrich to alligator to stone crabs. We also leverage other Maine businesses to develop value-added products, like lobster mac and cheese.

MB: How does 'customer- centric' work?

MM: Customers need assistance. They're trusting someone in Maine to ship lobster to their house, and they expect it to be alive and awesome. That's where we spend most of our time. What's awesome about the world we live in today is that the technology is robust. We designed software to handle phone calls, chats, emails — anything.

MB: How much lobster do you handle?

MM: A couple hundred thousand pounds per year. Nothing crazy. But we've served over 200,000 people since inception. That's the number I love. We've given people a cool, unique experience.

MB: Dealing with sensitive product, you must work closely with suppliers.

MM: We do. And because of the seasonality of the business, we keep an eye on supply. But because we sell in a unique way, a supplier can tell us they have a limited product. For example, the fishmonger I buy from texts me and says, "I have some amazing bluefin, but I only have 30 pounds." I say, "I want it." We sold out of it in 30 minutes, through our large email database. Customers love that kind of thing.

MB: What are you seeing for the status of the lobster fishery?

MM: Lobster is getting more popular. Lobster roll shacks are popping up everywhere. Another influence is the rise of the middle class in China, which has directly impacted the availability of lobster here.

MB: You instituted '30 Days of Random Acts of Holiday Kindness,' buying one person's order every day for 30 days. Tell me other cool aspects of the business.

MM: We give $5 from each order to Project Healing Waters, a nonprofit dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel. We recently launched Lobsters by Fabio with Chicago restaurateur Fabio Viviani. I want to design Fabio products that are new and unique and made with lobster and seafood.

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