While many entrepreneurs measure the success of their business with profit or revenue, Chris Bingham (BSBA ’91, EMBA ’09), founder of Riley Life Logistics, prioritizes the well-being of his employees over everything else.
Riley Life is an e-commerce fulfillment and logistics company Bingham started with a single customer in 2007, working from his garage. The Raleigh-based firm has grown to nearly 60 employees and landed large national clients, such as “Good Morning America” and “The View.”
Riley Life specializes in fulfillment services for brand-conscious companies, and Bingham takes pride in differentiating it from other logistics services, such as Amazon.
“We say we work with brands,” says Bingham. “We seek out companies that we can add value to in a way beyond just throwing their stuff in a box and putting a label on it.”
This dedication to unique companies means Riley Life seeks out customers it can cultivate close relationships with and allows for flexibility in the fulfillment process. This method increases the potential for growth both within the company and geographically, as Riley Life is developing partnerships that would allow the company to expand west.
Riley Life’s holistic approach to fulfillment services is evident in the company’s status as a certified B Corporation, a for-profit company dedicated to a positive impact on its workers, the community, society and the environment. Currently there are fewer than 2,500 certified B Corporations in the U.S.
While the B Corporation certification process is an assessment of the company, working towards the point where a company can pass that assessment is a difficult task. As a mid-sized benefit corporation, Riley Life is at a unique disadvantage.
“Giving benefits and paying a livable wage to our employees isn’t always easy,” says Bingham. “We don’t have the scale associated with being able to do those things, nor the ‘smallness’ associated with being able to do that like one- or two-person operations. We’re at this middle point where a lot of things in that category are pretty difficult to pull off.”
Bingham’s dedication to providing a stable work environment for his employees has guided him through these difficulties. While many B Corporations focus on environmental impact, Bingham’s approach comes from a moral obligation to have a positive societal impact tied to his religious values.
“My values come more from my Christian faith than they do from a benefit corporation movement,” says Bingham. “I found the benefit corporation movement, which I believe helped me facilitate those values in a more productive business setting.”
Bingham’s passion for helping people has been a constant in his life. In his undergraduate career at Carolina, Bingham was on the founding executive board of Carolina for the Kids. In the past he worked with Nourish International and is a current board member at Marbles Kids Museum.
Using his experiences in the nonprofit sector and youth ministry, Bingham strives to give his employees the best possible work experience.
“I want to provide livelihoods to families,” says Bingham. “If there’s anything that gets me up in the morning it is knowing I have 55 people counting on me to keep the doors open. And they aren’t just counting on me to have a paycheck for them, but to create a good, dignified environment for them to work in and a good quality job that they can talk about to their families.”
While at a large nonprofit, Bingham enrolled in the Evening MBA Program at UNC Kenan-Flagler to climb the corporate ladder, but soon discovered that his talents could be used elsewhere.
“I’m getting my MBA, and it’s one of the top MBA programs in the country,” says Bingham. “I’m in the room with some of the best and brightest, and I’m holding my own. It was definitely a confidence builder, kind of a ‘what are you doing’ wake-up call for me.”
He went on to create Riley Life while he was still working towards his MBA, and he attributes the success of his company to the confidence and firsthand experience gained at UNC Kenan-Flagler.
“I’m a bit of a dreamer,” says Bingham. “I saw an opportunity and created a vision around that opportunity, and I think a lot of that confidence, at least the spark to that, did come from UNC Kenan-Flagler, and it came from the people around me at UNC Kenan-Flagler.”