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Real (Shop) Life Pomodoro

Belle Beth Cooper is responsible for so many great reads, including her recent post to Medium, Real Life Pomodoro. In this article, she outlines a few of the ways she uses the Pomodoro productivity technique to her daily life. The technique typically uses a timer to set time limits and break up projects into smaller tasks—instead of a typical timer, she uses the natural rhythms, breaks and chores of the day to outline chunks of time for work. We thought we could apply the same technique to the ebb and flow of shop life. via A Continuous Lean on Flickr

via A Continuous Lean

1. Downloading a large file. This is an ideal time to check on get some quick social media work done. Troll the web for shareable content, draft up some tweets and respond to a message or two. When the file is done, you'll know it's time to unplug from Facebook and get back to work, rather than getting sucked in for longer than you'd planned.

2. Waiting for a product delivery. Race the delivery truck! See how many emails you can get through before the order arrives. Or better yet, use it to clean up your work space, organize your checkout counter or make sure your restrooms are in ship-shape.

3. Technology updates. You know how you've been putting off your computer updates and your software updates and your app updates? (Yeah, we've been there.) Instead of seeing it as an interruption, look at it as an opportunity to check off some off-line tasks like setting up appointments or making phone calls.

4. New music. Have a new album or playlist you're excited to listen to for the first time? This is a perfect time to check inventory levels, take care of special orders, add new products to your online shop or set up a new merchandise on the floor.

Where do you think you can sneak in some timed multi-tasking throughout the day? Let us know in the comments!

An Entrepreneur's Declaration of Independence

via One Red Buffalo on Etsy

Can you believe tomorrow is the fourth of July already? This year has flown. And in the spirit of Independence Day, we've created an entrepreneur's declaration of independence to inspire all you budding small business owners out there. Share your own in the comments!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (This part stays! Why mess with a good thing, right?)

We have the right to purse our dreams.

We have the right to be nervous about stepping off the corporate ladder to start our own businesses.

We have the right to create our own jobs and do work that makes us happy—whether that's starting your own stationary company, constructing tables from reclaimed wood, opening the first Indian restaurant in your hometown or building a kick-ass inventory management software.

We have the right to participate actively in our communities to support policies that help make small businesses stronger.

We have the right to laugh in the face of 9-5 workweeks, to make our own schedules and to take time off to breathe and recharge with our families. (Bring on the barbecue!)

We have independence from the paperwork and red tape we've left behind at our desk jobs.

We have the right to see the business world differently—that doing good and turning a profit can be complementary goals.

We have the right to celebrate our small victories with big fireworks.

We have the right to feel grateful to be able to follow our passions, create jobs and change the world.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody!

Whistle While You Work: Inventory Playlist (3rd Edition)

It's time for another rockin' inventory playlist to help you through inventory counts! Our Whistle While You Work series is a monthly playlist series where we share some new terrific tunes at the end of each month—all intended to putting a spring in your step while you count, and count, and count.

Workplace music can relieve stress, inspire creative problem solving and boost productivity. This month, we're dedicating our playlist to all of you business owners who burn the midnight oil in order to keep your shop running.

WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK1ST EDITION (1)

1. Night Moves by Bob Seger

2. Sky Full Of Stars by Coldplay

3. Some Nights by Fun.

4. All Night by Icona Pop

5. Clear Night Sky by La Luz

6. All Night Long by Lionel Richie

7. Radioactive by Imagine Dragons

8. Starry Eyed by Ellie Goulding

9. Night Sky by CHVRCHES

10. Counting Stars by One Republic

What's on your speakers this month?

 

Which Crowdfunding Site Is Right For You?

The idea behind crowdfunding is simple—entrepreneurs around the world can introduce people to an idea that resonates with them and ask them to fund the project. Since its inception, Kickstarter (crowdfunding's biggest player) has helped facilitate funding for over 63,000 projects. That's more than $1.1 million spent on creative, innovative, artistic, literary, delicious and all-around game-changing projects. For many small business owners, crowdfunding has helped them launch their company, create a new product or branch out into a new sector without the traditional business loans and debt. If you're interested in using crowdfunding for your own business, Kickstarter is no longer the only option on the Internet. We've rounded up several sites that just might be your door to success.

Kickstarter: The most well-known and established of the donation-based funding sites is ideal for new creative projects like inventions, films and artistic endeavors. Kickstarter curates projects and does not support charity causes or personal financing, but has been a major platform for supporting major product innovations like Pebble, a smart watch in the wearable technology realm. Pebble is one of Kickstart's most insanely successful campaigns, raising over $10 million in funding.

Quirky: Quirky is for inventors and their mission is to unlock the great ideas trapped inside people's heads. The community and collaboration focus is unique and can truly help makers learn how to take their products from the idea phase to the market.

Indiegogo: A broader focus than Kickstarter, Indiegogo allows people to raise money for almost anything. They are also one of the more established crowdfunding sites and have a large community of backers. Thousands of users have raised money for new businesses, personal causes, charity and more. In 2011, the world's first crowdfunded baby was born thanks to Indiegogo!

RocketHub: RocketHub's Success School really sets them apart, empowering campaigners connect with other entrepreneurs and business owners to help them collaborate in various ways. Musicians, entrepreneurs, fashion designers and all sorts of other business owners have been supported through this platform, which boasts founders from the music, film and tech industry as well.

Fundable: This Columbus-based crowdfunding site was launched in 2012 and supports all sorts of campaigns. Of note, Moxie Yoga raised $10,500 to open their first studio and Grapevine Craft Brewery raised more than $60K toward their launch. It's best for retail businesses as well as products.

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Inc Magazine also put together this handy 22-site map to help you determine which crowdfunding platform will be right for you.

inc-magazine-crowdfunding-infographic-june-2013_26652

 

Have you used crowdfunding in your business or to support another? What's your favorite platform and why?

 

Whistle While You Work: Inventory Playlist (2nd Edition)

It's time for another rockin' playlist to help you through inventory counts! Our Whistle While You Work series is a monthly playlist series where we share some new terrific tunes at the end of each month—all intended to putting a spring in your step while you count, and count, and count.

Workplace music can relieve stress, inspire creative problem solving and boost productivity. This month we wanted to really get you dancing with an electric set of electronic pop songs.

WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK1ST EDITION (1)

1. Million Dollar Bills by Lorde

2. Latch by Disclosure feat. Sam Smith

3. Fancy by Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX

4. Baby I'm Yours Breakbot feat. Irfane

5. Bang Bang Bang by Mark Ronson feat. Q-Tip and MNDR

6. Lights by Ellie Goulding

7. You (Ha Ha Ha) by Charli XCX

8. Can't Sleep by Adrian Lux

9. Titanium by David Guetta & Sia

10. Animal by Miike Snow

Hope you enjoy this month's music suggestions. Let us know if you have any requests for future themes!

Are You Ready for the Death of Ads in Free Apps?

If you are like the vast majority of humans, you have probably downloaded a free app for your smartphone or iPhone that is one of your most used pieces of software. The biggest problem is that there are usually annoying popup ads or banner ads on your phone’s screen either full time or after you complete a level on your favorite game. Most people understand that there’s no such thing as a “free lunch”, but there’s only so many political ads that one person can look at before they’re ready to snap.In fact, Apple has reportedly been denying the inclusion of apps in their App Store if they use the IDFA tracking system without showing ads; though Apple now requires that tracking platform for their app developers. The IDFA is today the preferred ad tracking option, following the phasing out of the unique identifier known as the UDID. Apple had been pushing app publishers to adopt the IDFA instead, and now it is the only format they allow. While Apple maintains that it is just to keep things modern, app publishers claim that they are being punished for offering free apps without advertisements instead of making them paid apps; which cuts into Apple’s profits.

Most logical thinkers will understand that a certain amount of advertising should be expected when using an app that took weeks or months of unpaid development for free. If you want access to new and better products without paying for them, their only option to generate revenue is to place ads throughout the app. However, many publishers have gone WAY overboard with their ad saturation, and this has led many people to be ready for the death of ads in free apps; even if they need to shell out for a paid version.

There are other motivations for wanting to keep your free app completely void of advertising that isn’t so malicious, and that’s new programmers who are trying to make a name for themselves or their app. If you remember, Facebook was once a completely ad-free platform because Mark Zuckerberg was afraid that users would drop off like flies at the first sight of ads. Now that it is easily the largest social media community in the world, Facebook now displays a whole menagerie of ads to monetize the site and pay the large number of employees and programmers that keep the site moving forward.

So while the vast majority of us are ready to see the death of ads in our favorite free apps, the sad fact is that it likely won’t be happening anytime soon. Sure, there will still be a handful of great apps that become available with no ads whatsoever, but that’s usually just temporary until the app catches on. The bottom line is that apps will by and large remain either paid or ad supported, and if you don’t want to be sold products you should buy the paid version of the app. There’s almost always an option to buy your way out of seeing the ads, so cough up the $0.99 to $4.99 and pay for your sanity.

Happy New Year from Shopventory!

Happy New YearHoly buckets. 2013 was a huge year for us. It was the year we graduated TechStars in Boulder, launched our first products with Square, raised $1M to grow our business, moved into our San Diego office (with a view), hired a CEO and a marketing manager, partnered up with Paypal Here and had the opportunity to meet some incredibly hard-working business owners all over the country. We can't wait to help small businesses make even bigger waves in 2014!

Happy New Year from Shopventory, Dave, Bach, Rares and Annie

 

What Our New Product Means For A Small Business Owner

We were very excited to announce our new product that is revolutionizing inventory management with an intuitive and innovative interface. I am ecstatic about what this product means for Shopventory in terms of innovation, but I’m like you, not an engineer! I need this new product to be explained to me in layman’s terms to really understand what the benefits are for customers and why the co-founders, Rares and Bach, built it. I reached out to learn more and am very happy that I now better understand what this product means for small business owners.

Dalia: Rares and Bach, I appreciate you chatting with me. When you joined TechStars in May you came with a product. What triggered making changes and updates to the product after leaving the accelerator?

Rares & Bach: The initial product was very basic. It had minimum usability and we always had plans to continue developing it and making it a more complex system based on our customers’ feedback. TechStars was a bit more hectic than we anticipated, so we saved our major update for right after the program ended.

D: So, you made an update ... but exactly what was the update?

R&B: User feedback unanimously stated that it was hard to edit inventory - they had to enter it one at a time and it required many clicks. It was tedious and time consuming. We made it so now the inventory is editable in bulk - much faster and easier, and with a lot less mouse clicks.

We also wanted to have a fresh, modern interface. We noticed that in general, inventory software is outdated and lacks an element of design. We made the overall look and feel better as well as easier to use. You shouldn’t have to be a software engineer to use our systems, it should be simple and intuitive.

Overall, our goal is to make our users, tech savvy or not, more efficient with our tools. Through lots of testing, brainstorming, and iteration, we created an easier and more visually appealing experience for our customers.

D: You focus a lot on your customer which is great. Let’s role play. I’m a small business owner - your customer. Sell me the three updates and/or new tools and tell me why I need them.

R&B: Absolutely. First, it is now super easy to enter your inventory. You simply hit edit, and you can tab around your inventory grid and update hundreds of entries at a time, saving you lots of time.

Second, at a glance with our new dashboard you can see how your business is performing. You can see data at a day, week or month level and also see trends.

Shopv dashboard

If you enter cost of goods sold, you can see your profitability during a specific time period. This data can aid in making better informed business decisions - this is powerful stuff for your business! Lastly, we’ve added customizable alerts for your business. For example, we can push messaging to you via the dashboard and/or email to alert you automatically when items are running low so you don’t run out and miss a sale. You wouldn’t want to miss a sale.

D: I absolutely wouldn’t. Sounds like some very important tools I should take advantage of as a small business. You mentioned earlier that you are better than other inventory management software. Can you elaborate a bit more on your differentiator(s)?

R&B: Well, we did mention our modern user interface. It may sound simple but we want to make sure our non-techy customers can easily use what we are offering.

We also integrate with Square and PayPal Here. The older inventory management software can’t and doesn’t do that. Using Shopventory and your existing Square or PayPal Here accounts you are up and running in minutes - there’s no need to re-enter any of your existing information or items.

Since our tools are simple and created with our customer’s user experience in mind, you will work faster. We save you time and money by tracking your cost of goods sold and tracking items that aren’t selling. We also enable you to increase sales because we can notify you when you are running low on items so you don’t miss a sale because the item is out of stock, and with the dashboard view you can see trends in your sales, immediately giving you a great idea of how your business is performing.

D: All of this is great but do I need it? Why is intelligently managing my inventory so vital to my business?

R&B: It is important to understand that as business intelligence software for managing your inventory, we are not solely focused on inventory. Shopventory helps you accurately manage your business’ cash flow. Inventory runs your cash flow. Your business is healthy when you have enough inventory but not too much where your cash is all tied up in it, or too little where you miss out on a sale. “The right stuff at the right time” is a phrase we’ve been playing with around the office.

D: That is a very important point. Managing cash flow accurately as a small business is essential to survive and I love that Shopventory is enabling their customers to do just that. Thank you taking the time to explain the product and benefits to me as a non-techy.

R&B: We’re always here to help! Thanks for chatting.

PayPal Here + Shopventory!

Back in August, you may have heard rumbles of Shopventory and PayPal Here working together. Today, we are ecstatic to announce the official Beta launch of PayPal Here on Shopventory.com.

What does this mean for you? As a Shopventory customer, if you want to be a part of the Beta, send as an email to help@shopventory.com and we’ll set you up right away. Once you’re set up, PayPal Here will integrate* with your Shopventory account - that means all your Shopventory data will automatically appear in PayPal Here. With this update, you have the liberty to make changes while logged into either PayPal Here or Shoventory, and those changes will sync right away.

We always love receiving feedback and answering your questions so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at help@shopventory.com.

*Please note that right now we are supporting PayPal Here on iPad and are working to add support for Android.

FCC May Allow Phone Conversations in Flight

In another long awaited move for business and recreational travelers alike, the FCC has announced that they are reviewing the data pertaining to make phone calls while in flight and are open to the idea of allowing phone use if it is deemed safe. This proposal from the FCC was recently published and would potentially include both voice and data usage if accepted. However, this doesn’t mean that people will get to gab away at their leisure and annoy the passengers around them; potentially.While the FCC is in charge of the airlines themselves, the airlines will be able to determine the rules around the use of phones while in flight. This means that even if the FCC approves the use of phones in flight, specific airlines can opt out or put specific restrictions on their use. Furthermore, the airlines would be required to install special equipment if they are interested in this new ability because you simply can’t access the towers from 30,000 feet high or in the middle of the ocean. Without equipment that relays the signals to the cell towers, passengers wouldn’t be able to use their phones if the tried. This equipment will also take a little while to implement if the proposal passes, so don’t expect to see the change overnight.

While there are some concerns about the safety of using cell phones during a flight among the general public, you can gain some peace of mind by knowing that there are already wireless relay devices in use on planes in other countries. Though the concept is new in the United States, it is actually quite well tested and found to be harmless. So, in the end, the question is really about the social aspects and privacy concerns more than safety. With a slight majority of adults in favor of keeping the ban in place, each airline will need to check their conscience if the FCC ultimately approves the measure to determine if it is right for their passengers and their brand.

Meet The New Shopventory CEO: Dave Carlson

DaveCarlson_headshot_300x360_colorDalia Mitra: Hi Dave, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I know you are super busy as the new CEO of Shopventory. You seem to be really enjoying it and I would love to start by learning a bit more about how your past experiences complement your new role.

Dave Carlson: Hi Dalia. To start, I was at Echostar / The Dish Network for 12 years, and spent 6 years abroad in Holland, managing the Sales, Business Development and Operations teams in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. In this role I was responsible for the purchase and management of very valuable equipment. That meant managing a large amount of inventory. We had to carefully oversee purchasing, inventory turns and pricing since in the electronics industry products and parts start to decrease in value the minute they are manufactured.

I left Echostar to start a web services and business incubation company called eonBusiness.  We started a company called AllAboardToys.com and you have to imagine a 22,000 square foot warehouse packed with inventory. We had shelves all the way to the ceiling and I managed the purchasing, inventory and customer service as CEO from 1999 to 2007.

Historically, I have invested in and been involved with SaaS (Software as a Service) companies, and that is exactly what Shopventory does. That, coupled with my passion for running my own businesses and managing inventory made Shopventory a very attractive opportunity to me.

DM: Sounds like a great match. How did you initially learn about Shopventory?

DC: In addition to being an active mentor and investor in Techstars since 2007, I am also on the selection committee. Every time a new class starts, I am always interested in mentoring two to three companies but I like to ensure the match is right. This year, after speaking with the Techstars Managing Director and learning Shopventory was a SaaS company, it seemed like a great fit. I felt I could help them given my past experience.

DM: You got involved right away. What took them to the next level for you? Why did you choose to come out of retirement and work with them?

Retirement is a funny word. I was technically retired from the operational stuff. Even in “retirement” I was making investments, providing guidance to the companies I’ve invested in and also did some consulting. I guess you could say I was semi-retired but I am always involved in something - sometimes volunteer work. I don’t think I can ever retire. Even when I’m 85, I’ll still be doing something in the business world because I love it.

My teammates, Rares and Bach, are incredible developers and really great guys. They wanted a CEO and over time, during my mentorship at Techstars, I learned more about and gained further interest in Shopventory. I sensed a great team dynamic and also saw where I could clearly help them on the business side. The opportunity was too great to pass up! I wanted to take more hours out of my day to be a bigger part of the Shopventory opportunity so I joined the team full-time.

DM: And here you are. Now, as CEO, what are the first three items you want to tackle?

DC: I may have more than three but I think these four are essential for success. When I look at investing in a company, I need to answer questions to understand the size of the opportunity and I am using those questions to ensure we are hitting our goals:

  1. Are we understanding, listening and solving our customers’ problems? We must meet the needs of our customers.

  2. Is our software the solution that addresses the needs of our customers? We have to continuously get feedback to be successful.

  3. Is our software so easy to use that customers want to pay us for it? We cannot make it too complicated.

  4. Are we a smart product? Inventory management tools exists but what those tools lack is inventory optimization. That means providing intelligence around the inventory to make our customer smarter, more efficient by managing their inventory the best they can.

The theme that is evident here is that we must be customer-centric. Our customers have to be passionate about Shopventory for us to be successful. To do this we have to listen to our customers. I have called dozens of customers to understand their experience with Shopventory and to learn what we can do to do a better job of solving their problems. Above all, if we are not listening to our customer, we will not be successful.

DM: Trying to achieve this takes a lot of time and energy. With a small team that is based in different cities, is it a challenge to streamline your goals and work?

DC: Today, you have online tools to help employees coordinate their work. People have to be accountable and meet deadlines that are agreed upon. We also over communicate to keep everyone on the same page and to ensure we are doing what we promised.

As a small team, communicating is easy and everyone is on the same page. But as a small team, we do struggle with not being able to do everything we want to as fast as we want to. We want to move faster, build more, achieve goals quicker. As a startup it is part of the challenge but we are working on it.

DM: Given goals and growth plans, where do you see Shopventory in one year? In three years?

DC: Well, in the first year, I want us to be in a position where as far as internet-based solutions for mobile POS are involved, Shopventory is the service everyone turns to for inventory management. One of my co-founders Rares said, “I want everybody to say ‘I love Shopventory’ when asked what they think about us.”  He is so right!

In three years, I want us to BE inventory. I want people to say, “Intelligent Inventory Management IS Shopventory.” We want to be the central hub for inventory management on the internet, regardless of platform, payment processor, e-commerce site, storefront, etc.

In regards to our software, we want Shopventory to be in a position where purchase orders are generated for the vendor automatically and our customers have the ability to pay vendors through our system. We want Shopventory to have the ability to intelligently order based on historical data, seasonality, even the weather, while finding new products from vendors for retailers to carry. At the end of the day we want our customers to be able to reduce costs, increase sales, and save time.

DM: I am very excited to watch this all develop. You are so passionate about the product. In the startup world you are so busy, with so many moving parts and everchanging landscapes.  What inspires you to tackle every day at Shopventory with such vigor and drive?

It’s my personality. It’s what I love. I’m driven by solving problems and handling conflict. When I diffuse a situation, there is most likely a positive outcome. Shopventory solves big pain points for retailers. I hope we impact and reduce the number of businesses that go out of business because the number one reason they go out of business is a lack of cash and that cash is often tied up in inventory.

DM: Agreed. Dave, thank you so much again for chatting with me. I am very excited to watch Shopventory grow!

New Rules Using Mobile Devices on Airplanes

In one of the most long-awaited announcements in recent technology history, the FAA has approved the use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets during the takeoff and landing portions of flying. This announcement means that having to shut off your gadgets at certain times will soon be a thing of the past. The rationale behind this new rule change was due to a large number of industry experts who claim that using such mobile devices at altitudes below 10,000 feet is completely safe and offers no threat to the safety of the plane or any of the instruments required for normal operation.Previously, the FAA required that all eBook readers, tablets, smartphones, and laptops be turned off by fliers until the aircraft had reached altitudes over 10,000 feet. The new rules will take effect immediately according to FAA spokespersons, but each company will be required to prove that their fleet can handle the use of such mobile devices before they are cleared for use. Because each airline has a varying selection of airplanes in operation, some fliers will see the change immediately while others will need to wait for the older models to be phased out.

It is also important to note that even though you can now use your mobile devices through the entire flight, using cellular capabilities during any portion of a flight is still prohibited. So, passengers will still need to switch certain items to “airplane mode” while in flight, but they can take advantage of Wi-Fi service during the takeoff and landing process without consequence. The reason for cellular service being forbidden is longer a safety issue according to industry professionals, but rather the fact that cell service simply doesn’t function at those elevations and thus is a waste of battery life as your mobile devices search for service.

So, even though airlines must prove they can handle the radio interference at all times during a flight, passengers can certainly look forward to these new rules making their flight an even better experience. Flight attendants are also stoked because this means that there will be one less announcement to make before the airplane can depart. In the end, everyone is a winner with the latest rule revisions released by the FAA.

$1.0 Million & New Features Galore

Today, we made two monumental announcements. After our Techstars Demo Day presentation and graduating from the Boulder accelerator this August, the past couple of months have been a whirlwind as we raised $1.0 million from trusted investors, and launched a more sophisticated, feature rich service for our customers.This type of backing from investors instills a great sense of confidence. It is clear there is a dire need for inventory management for mobile POS and Shopventory is the right solution. Our customers played an essential role in the development of our new features. We took into account the pain points revealed in customer interviews to ensure the updates we made would directly benefit our users and as we continue to innovate the Shopventory platform customer feedback and input will always be a critical part of our success.

Cool Businesses Use Mobile POS

Entrepeneur.com’s article reprises what we know - small businesses are rapidly turning their iPads and tablets into mobile points-of-sale instead of buying into the antiquated points-of-sale systems.This adaptation to a new system isn’t just hype. There is exponential growth ahead. The article goes on to confidently state that, “Over the next three to five years, many of the existing larger and pricier points-of-sale systems will be replaced with iPads.”

With these new POS systems, companies are satisfied with their initial gains: easy-to-use interface, simplicity, new technology and lower cost. What they realize later is that for all the benefits they sacrificed the data that the older systems provided.

This is where the passion and existence of Shopventory comes from. We give businesses the quantitative clarity they lack with a basic mobile POS system. 90% of small businesses fail in the first year because of initial large costs and then inaccurately forecasting sales and spend, driving them towards bankruptcy. Shopventory provides the tools to avoid that.

Mobile POS systems are cool and easy. Shopventory makes them smart.

What a combination.

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

 

We're Excited About Next Generation Payments

nextgenpaymentsRetailers large and small are adopting new mobile payments systems all with the goal to make everyone’s lives easier. For both the customer and the business, payment will be faster and the experience customized. A customer becomes more than just a walking wallet and, perhaps one day, he or she won’t need to lug around plastic and cash.

Mobile payment systems have typically been found in small businesses or scattered amongst pop-ups, but you may be surprised when you find the new PayPal in-store payment options in retail giants like Home Depot or JC Penney.

PayPal’s payment tools are moving toward improved customer experience. With PayPal Here, local and mobile businesses can process credit cards easily and from anywhere. Larger stores may gradually be implementing in-store payments, which just require your phone number and PIN. Finally, PayPal is partnering with Vend, Shopkeep, Erply, and Leapset, four POS software companies that suit well to small business needs.

With PayPal’s partnering with these companies, payment is fast and sales are organized. With a check-in app that opens the path for loyalty program options, customers are recognized, connected automatically, and encouraged to visit more often. Additionally, combining PayPal with the POS software consolidates almost everything into one system, making the retailer’s life much less hectic.

But if businesses take it a step further with organization, they can’t track the quantities of their products they sell. Business owners’ lives are still chaotic when they’re stuck keeping tabs on inventory manually. What sells the best? How soon before you run out of this or that? What isn’t selling well enough?

While two elements of the equation are solved, they need one more to optimize their business management. Using a program like Shopventory that integrates with what they already use can make a small or mobile business excel beyond what they originally thought possible. It keeps track of inventory quantities and provides reports on your sales to help with your business strategy, all while integrating with your POS and payment system. A business trifecta, if you will.

Maybe one day all customers can rely on their phones as their preferred method of payment. For now, the mobile payments industry is growing more innovative and more businesses are adopting next generation payments to accommodate their customer and management needs.

Have you experienced any next generation payment methods? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter (@Shopventory)!