How SMB Consultants Enabled A Platform For Expansion
For purpose driven camera and art accessories company Urth, Cin7 and SMB Consultantsmade a world of difference. Learn how SMB Consultants enabled a platform for expansion.
To embark on the journey of growing their business, it started quite literally with a journey across the Americas. It was a powerful and transformative experience. History is full of people who’ve found their purpose on the road. And the founders of Urth were no different.
For the founders of Urth, formerly known as Gobe, a road trip from California to Patagonia was the catalyst for change. They became dedicated to enabling more people to experience nature for themselves.
The products that support Urth’s mission are eclectic; Urth makes products, grouped together loosely into the categories “Art, Carry, and Camera,” these categories are the key areas that help their customers either spend more time in nature with their cameras, or engage with nature-inspired art. It’s all about enabling the experience of nature. This nature based approach extends to sourcing environmentally friendly products and materials, and even creating products that can be used for a lifetime reducing their environmental footprint and unnecessary waste.
All purchases from Urth are offset against the carbon emissions they create, as well as helping fund communities to plant trees. For them it’s not just about enabling accessibility to nature, it’s about looking after the environment so nature is around for generations to come.
“Urth creates products that support creativity,“ says Chris Gooley, co-founder of Urth. ”We started off in the photography niche, but through our vision are expanding out into all different forms of art and artistic pursuits.“
Today, Chris Gooley continues as one of Urth’s directors, and his focus is on operations and finance. “It’s eight years later now, and things are going pretty well. We’re selling all over the world, and we’ve got a strong customer base.”
To scale their business to this point and beyond, Urth needed robust systems that they could build their vision on. Before they found consultants to work with and the right platforms to build their foundation upon they were limited in their ability to grow.
When Urth Discovered Their Limitations
Urth was a well-established ecommerce business doing well. They were running both their ecommerce and inventory through ecommerce platform Magento. While many product sellers find Magento an excellent platform for ecommerce, it’s actually not intended to work as a full-fledged inventory management system. However, it’s still often used as one.
Many product sellers start out using spreadsheets, accounting software, or use their ecommerce platform to manage inventory. This approach can work for small sales volumes, however as a business grows it can be a big impediment to operating efficiently at scale. It simply doesn’t have enough of all the required things that need to be tracked and automated easily.
For Urth, this problem was compounded by the fact they were running inventory out of more than one location. They were already running inventory out of Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) as well – and Magento and Amazon weren’t talking.
The manual updates were adding up. This also meant the number of hours and resources to manage it were adding up too. “Magento could really only deal with recovering inventory by unit sold. It couldn’t do inbound shipment updates, adjust for stock variances, et cetera. We’d have to upload our website orders to the fulfilment centres manually. It was a pretty inefficient system, to say the least.”
This, in addition to being incredibly time-consuming, led to a host of further issues, the biggest issue and subsequent headache was that customers were able to place orders for items that were actually out of stock.
Ultimately all these issues resulted in Urth’s limited capacity for further growth. Expansion to new markets or sales channels was rendered all but impossible.
“It caused enormous headaches, and a poor customer experience,” Chris says. Fixing mis-ships took “a lot of back and forth emails, offering different products as replacements, and dealing with – well, not necessarily irate, but definitely upset customers. And manually uploading our orders to the fulfilment centres was always a nightmare, and very time-consuming. And our opportunity for expansion was limited as well. It had a pretty stifling effect.“
In 2020, the Urth team made a decision – they’d move off Magento and on to Shopify. To do this, they worked with a web development agency called Process Creative, who suggested they find an inventory management system that integrated natively with Shopify and Amazon FBA – and they recommended SMB Consultants to help them do it.
“They said, look, if you’re going to make the Shopify website work efficiently and you want to make room for expansion, then Cin7 is the way to go,” Chris says. “So we did our own research, and came to the same conclusion. And we’re glad that we also followed their advice of getting SMB Consultants to talk us through that process and set it all up.”
If you want to change the world, plan it
When SMB Consultants were brought in to transition Urth to a new inventory system, they found themselves faced with a significant set of requirements. As a global business they needed to consider different international tax and compliance requirements.
Together, SMB Consultants and Urth worked to identify two key objectives for the implementation: an accurate inventory valuation, and understanding of the cost of goods sold (COGS.) With that baseline, automations could be put in place to massively increase the business’ efficiency, as well as ease of management.
It was determined that Cin7 had the capabilities to handle the inventory requirements of Urth.
They established they would need to implement two instances of Cin7 (one to take care of APAC and US sales, and another for the UK and Europe) as well as multiple sales channels and fulfillment centers.
“Urth was already a successful, growing business, so the main thing for us was working together with a good client, to come up with a good solution that everyone is happy with,” says Jeffrey Atizado, CEO and co-founder of SMB Consultants.
With key inventory data safe in Cin7 and syncing seamlessly between Urth’s Shopify stores and Xero accounts, the task for Deepak Stevens, SMB Consultants’ resident Cin7 expert, was to implement Cin7’s powerful automations, taking away the time spent on admin work. This one aspect of reduced admin saved hours of time.
“Our scope was to set Urth up so they could focus more on the business – on sales, customer service, and all that good stuff,” Deepak says. “The really cool thing for us at SMB Consultants, is that this was probably the first account where we utilized the full potential of Cin7’s automation functionality.”
Making Urth’s products available anywhere on Earth
Properly implemented, Cin7 has incredible automation capability. This is where the true value of working with SMB Consultants shines through. SMB Consultants take the time to understand the business processes and fully implement the cloud platforms they recommend. They actively work to prevent the ‘Frankenapps effect’ happening.
Urth already had a great starting point, with the majority of their inventory and fulfilment coming out of Amazon FBA. “Urth’s setup is very clever in the way that all the stock is in FBA,” Deepak says. “So they already had a world-class fulfilment centre using Amazon services. Our task was to connect Cin7 to Amazon in the best way possible, to make sure fulfilment works anywhere Urth wants to sell.”
An essential factor of Urth’s mission to inspire customers to get out in nature is to support them no matter where they live. They wanted to be able to ship their products to anyone, regardless of location. With minor exceptions, that’s precisely what Cin7 has allowed them to do.
“One of the most unique things with Cin7 is the option for us to route orders by delivery country,” Deepak says. SMB Consultants have set up a Cin7 automation that, no matter where an order comes from, routes to the appropriate FBA fulfilment location. It all happens automatically, without any intervention from Urth’s staff.
“Once we had that up and running we were completely automated,“ Deepak says. ”Without any admin work, orders are placed, sent to Amazon, fulfilled, and the tracking code goes back to the customer on Shopify.“ Staff who used to intervene in this process manually can now get on with doing other things that can grow the business instead of just maintaining it.
Urth are growing and now utilising a Singapore-based 3PL warehousing facility called IMF to expand their reach even further. “IMF holds stock for Urth to fulfil to countries that Amazon might not do,” Deepak says. “Then we created an even more complex routing table in Cin7 that, for all of the countries that Amazon excludes, we can push those orders to IMF to fulfil those countries automatically.”
The expanded reach and time saved by these automations is enabling Urth’s continued growth. As the business has developed, SMB Consultants and Cin7 have kept pace with requirements, adding layers of functionality to ship to more countries. Urth are developing these new arena via online marketplaces. Urth now sells through eBay, France’s Fnac, Worten in Portugal, OnBy, BestBuy, eMag – and Cin7’s new partnership with supply chain automation software Synqware is fueling their expansion.
“Ordinarily, that would be a huge effort,” Deepak says. “We would have to hire a developer, get an API sorted, then go through that whole song and dance of setting up a new integration. I think Urth is really unique in that they’re offering fulfilment to almost everywhere. Normally, you see product sellers restricted to one or two regions, but Urth is now one of the few businesses that can really utilize Amazon’s warehouses plus their own 3PLs, and basically cover anywhere they want. It’s really exciting to see.”
Peace of mind: priceless
All of this complexity could be a minefield come tax compliance time, but with Cin7 installed properly. Things are much easier for Urth.
Chris says that Cin7’s smooth accounting workflow with Xero is a huge advantage, which is made even better with advice from Joy, SMB Consultants’ in-house accountant. Cin7’s native reporting functionality has also proved invaluable to Urth’s leadership, with the ability to provide breakdowns on profitability by region, or product category.
Being able to get accurate profit and loss reports at the end of each month means Urth have been able to better invest back into the business. “We’ve been able to actually assign meaningful budgets to things like product development, our marketing budget, hiring budget,” Chris says. “All these things are now accurate and meaningful rather than speculative.”
According to Urth, the capability provided by Cin7 – and SMB Consultants help in taking advantage of it – is “priceless.” They simply could not have tackled it by themselves. Instead, adding SMB Consultants insight and advice to Cin7 has saved them having to hire back-office or development staff.
For product sellers who are looking to expand their geographic or channel footprint, Urth say that Cin7 is by far the best option – and they also recommend getting a partner to help make Cin7 work to its full capability right across the business.
“If you really do have a global mindset for your business, then Cin7 is a great option,” Chris says. “That has been reiterated in the last few months with our expansion into this whole other world of e-commerce, selling both B2C and B2B.”
Chris’s elevator pitch for other product sellers looking for an Inventory Management System is simple: you need a one-stop inventory solution that connects to other best-of-breed apps for product sellers.
“To have one central inventory management system that’s also connected with Xero takes away a lot of stress. Shopify, Amazon, Xero, and Cin7 – it’s all in the same tight loop. Cin7 has proven to be the best inventory solution out of all the other options on the market, and the most affordable.”
According to Urth, the capability provided by Cin7 fully optimised and implemented with SMB Consultants help enabled them to take full advantage of what was possible is a “priceless” experience. They simply could not have tackled it by themselves. Instead, adding SMB Consultants insight and advice to Cin7 has saved them having to hire back-office or development staff.