YOU'RE NOT ALONE: INTERVIEW WITH A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER

We love our small businesses (obvi) and that’s why we’re here to help. Square simplifies your point of sale (POS) system immensely... but we know you struggle with more. To understand those struggles, we sat down with Hannah, the owner of Metaphor, a women’s boutique in San Diego, CA. She’s smart, business savvy and is always trying to find ways to better engage her customers and keep them coming back.Dalia: Hi Hannah. Welcome! We appreciate you taking the time away from your business to sit down with us today. Tell me a little bit more about your boutique. What do you sell and how long have you been around?

Hannah: Hi Dalia! We are a women’s boutique that specializes mainly in clothes but we also sell candles, unique greeting cards, jewelry, soaps and a variety of small gift items. We like to support our local community by carrying locally handmade goods as well.

We are located in a very close knit community that is trying to revitalize their area. When we first opened in April 2012, we were taking a big chance as the only retail store in the area. We went in with big hopes that it would pay off. From the beginning we knew that we would have to be very business savvy in how we priced our items, knowing the area and the demographic that surrounded us.

D: Sounds challenging! When you opened, what kind of POS system did you use?

H: As a first time business owner, I did a lot of research around several POS systems. I noticed quickly that they were all very expensive. Before opening, we didn’t have thousands of dollars for a POS system. In our attempt to find something affordable, we noticed a new POS system that was gaining popularity: Square. I already had an iPad and it worked out perfectly with minimal cost and setup was fast so I could be in business right away. We signed up really fast! (POS system pictured below)

D: That sounds ideal for you and your business. Speaking of costs before opening, I can imagine that buying apparel and accessories to stock the store can be expensive.

H: Yes. It’s a risk that you have to take.

D: To manage this risk, how did you monitor your sales and what to buy next?

H: In the beginning, we didn’t have much merchandise to start with. Everything we bought was trial and error. Since we were careful about the quantity we ordered, not too much money was locked into it. As things sold, I would survey the store to see what sold and what didn’t.

D: So you eyeballed what was selling and what to reorder?

H: Yes. It was a very manual process. I could literally see what had sold, what we were running low on and also what had completely sold out. With that process, I could generate a report to figure out what to buy next week.

D: How much time did that take you?

H: At first it wasn’t too bad but then it started to take longer and longer. At least an hour after closing every day. As we became more successful and needed to buy more merchandise to fill up the store to meet demand, my initial manual process became much more difficult - keeping track of inventory, staying up to date to reorder popular items, it was definitely adding up and becoming way more demanding.

D: Yikes, that sounds painstakingly slow and tedious. Did you also try to figure out predictive data around your manual count?

H: We did. Well, we tried best we could. The first year it was difficult when we were prepping for the holiday season. We weren’t sure what we should stock up on so we guessed. We stocked up on sweaters, scarves and gift items but it wasn’t based off of any solid data that we had.

D: Was this efficient? How did it work out for you?

H: Not well. To be honest, the holidays combined with growing demand made me realize I had to figure out a better system to make my manual inventory management technique less tedious.

D: What would make you more efficient? What did you need?

H: More analytics and automation. Square gave me excel reports but I needed something on top of that, that would allow me to better organize and read deeper into the data I was collecting. Knowing that Square didn’t provide inventory management, I searched for just that.

D: What did you find?

H: At first, all I found was inventory management through the POS systems I had so happily avoided in the beginning.

D: What was the biggest challenge with these solutions?

H: The cost! Yes, I was starting to gain success but it was still expensive and I had gotten so used to the cost-effective, easy-to-use Square system I really didn’t want to change.

This was not ideal and certainly an affordable solution for my small business. I would prefer something for the next generation of payment systems. In my case, for Square.

I narrowed my search to small business tools that could help with this problem to help me be a smarter business owner and buyer. That’s when Shopventory came to light.

D: What did Shopventory do for you?

H: It saved me! Honestly though, it was exactly what I needed. The best thing was that it was all automated. I didn’t have to do any extra work in terms of registering my items into my Square register. Nothing! On their end Shopventory would pull my sales data from Square and generate the reports for me front and center on this great dashboard that I could access and monitor.

D: What is the Shopventory dashboard and reporting experience like?

H: Oh, it helps with so much. I love checking the dashboard often. It shows me the progress of sales and it also gives me a quick glimpse of all the items that have sold. There are different charts that break down my sales down into items, time, etc.

Looking at just the daily reports, I can see what times are busy versus what times are slow so then I can schedule my breaks during the slow periods. The reports even show me the consistently busiest days - Fridays and Saturdays. Looking at the reports I can hire and schedule efficiently.

Every week I run sales reports to help with the next week’s buying trip to predict more accurately what we should and should not buy. For example, if I run the report and see we sold a lot of maxi skirts, then I know that for the following week, we need to buy more maxi skirts, but if we sold just a few dresses, then I would hold off on buying more dresses.

It also helps for quarterly accounting purposes. I can run a three month long report and see what happens by quarter. Now I’m at a point where I can use that reporting to forecast demand in the upcoming quarters and how to properly prepare.

It’s wonderful. So much insight that enables me to plan better for my overall business.

D: It sounds wonderful. And not to pop that bubble but if there was one dream tool in Shopventory, what would that be?

H: Hmmmm, well... it would be a dream come true to incorporate an email tool into the system so that I could easily send out updates for when we receive new items or when we have sales. That would be a very useful tool to have - incorporates my back-end inventory management and cost-effectively markets my business within the same tool.

D: That sounds like a logical ask. I hope Shopventory continues to help you make your small business more efficient so you can continue to be successful. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today, Hannah. It is always great to hear from our customers

H: Thank you, Dalia. It was pleasure to chat.

Metaphor's POS: iPad with Square