Almost every day I read through various customer stories, product reviews and testimonials here at Stitch. I’m amazed by how many people leverage Stitch to grow their businesses, and even more amazed by how unique their stories are. "How did they start their company?" "What drives them?" "How did they find Stitch?"
A few months ago, one story in particular caught my eye. We hosted a contest for the most inspiring Stitch customer story and so many incredible tales came our way. Our goal was to uncover how we currently empower our customers to be happy and successful, and determine the things we can do to ensure we are doing that for all businesses who join the Stitch community. After going through several different contest entries, I began reading a very special one from Ryan Salzer of Sealake Products.
Sealake not only has really fascinating products (shipwreck tour maps!), but an unbelievable story and passion behind those products. Within a few sentences, Ryan demonstrated such a clear understanding of what it means to run a business that is directly focused on the needs and wants of his customers. He also had such an amazing way of articulating how Stitch plays a role in that and almost everything Sealake Products does. It was incredibly moving to read, and I hope it helps illustrate why we do what we do here at Stitch.
Tell us a little bit about your company:
Sealake Products, LLC, was started more than 20 years ago by my father, Jack Salzer, who always had a passion for fishing. He loved reading about nautical history and anything related to the sea. He turned those passions into a thriving business that makes and sells fishing charts, shipwreck charts, and other nautical prints that cover much of the eastern coast of the US, from New Jersey all the way down to the Florida Keys.
Today, we are one of the leading publishers of shipwreck charts in the US and sell in hundreds of retail stores all along the east coast. These include large and small retailers, museums, aquariums, gift shops, surf shops, etc. We also sell online through multiple sales channels like eBay and Amazon. In addition to all of those, we also sell through our websites, www.thegoodspots.com and www.shipwreckcharts.com, that ship to the US and all over the world.
How did you get introduced to Stitch Labs?
In December of 2013, my father unfortunately passed away from esophageal cancer, and I was tasked with taking over the business in its entirety. I had always been involved with the business and worked with my father throughout the years on product development, marketing, and sales. But I had never been deeply involved with our inventory tracking, customer management and order management, most of which he had done using the “Excel Spreadsheet Method". With my wife and I living in Nashville, Tennessee, and our distribution and shipping location being in Knoxville, Tennessee, where my mom and dad lived, we needed a clean way to closely manage orders coming in and shipments going out in one consolidated platform that everyone could use. I suddenly realized that the excel method of inventory and order management was not going to work.
How have things been since you started using Stitch?
We started using Stitch in January of 2014 and the rest is history. We have three full-time employees - my wife Amanda, me and our operations/shipping manager, Lisa. We also have five sales representatives. Stitch has been an incredible tool for managing and tracking orders and inventory from anywhere. Lisa, who processes our orders, picked up entering customer orders, creating invoices and packing slips in less than an hour. The sales reports have been a phenomenal way to not only track sales growth but also as a great way to understand what geographic areas and what SKUs are performing the best, so we could quickly determine what new areas to develop more products for.
We immediately integrated our eBay channel, just launched on Amazon and are in the process of integrating that channel also. The orders seamlessly coming from eBay have sped up our order processing time, and we have been able to get shipments out faster, resulting in a 100% eBay satisfaction rating. We hope to redesign our website to integrate web orders later this year.
In addition, we use Stitch to track customer payments, both retail and individual. Being able to quickly email retailers their invoices from within Stitch has been great. It has helped with receivables and essentially getting us paid sooner (never a bad thing). Finally, I’ve been able to tag each of our retailers to our sales reps and can pull ad hoc reports to see how various accounts and territories are performing in seconds.
I would like to thank the Stitch team for helping to run our business a lot easier and give us more time back to develop cool new shipwreck charts and other nautical prints, especially after going through such a dramatic change with my father’s passing in December. We continue to have the same passion my father did around fishing, shipwrecks, and the sea and we see the business growing well into the future.
Both my wife and I can’t imagine not having Stitch as part of our business now.
What problems were you running into that led you to search for Stitch?
- Lack of inventory tracking in one consolidated platform
- Lack of receivables tracking
- Needed a central place for multiple people and locations needing to access and enter customer information
- Needed better metrics and sales reports to understand SKU and customer performance
- Needed better channel sales metrics (retail vs webstore vs eBay)
- Had no one who wanted to manage spreadsheets for hours on end
How are the things different for you now that you use Stitch?
- Better customer order tracking. We consolidate all the FedEx and USPS tracking info into one central place. If a customer calls asking about the status, we can give them real time updates.
- We track retail customer invoices a lot better now and communicate with our customers better with the ability to immediately email invoices. We can also signal them for late payments.
- I have a daily understanding of how the business is performing, and I can compare to last year's numbers to see if we are growing and on track.
- We sell many different formats of our charts and maps, such as paper, laminated, framed, etc. I now have a better understanding of what formats sell the most. I actually never understood how many laminated prints we sold (a lot more than I thought!)
- With Stitch's real-time inventory tracking, I know exactly how much we have on hand without having to re-count or go back to a dated spreadsheet.
- We bring up Stitch before contacting customers to look at prior invoices so we can recommend products for their next order. This has resulted in much better customer service.
- I've been able to look at sales by representative a lot easier. I've tagged our retail stores with sales rep names.
- Everyone actually likes entering in new orders, since no one has to use the dreaded spreadsheet anymore.
Can you estimate how much time you are saving with Stitch?
We save at least 5-10 hours per week with Stitch.
What are you able to do now, that you weren't able to do before using Stitch?
We have been able to provide customers real-time information about their shipping info, since we enter everything into Stitch. We can look back quickly on SKU sales by product and by territory and make new product recommendations quickly. Any one of us employees can call a retail store at anytime and have information on their current order or past orders to help speak to the customer and give them advice on what to re-order. We never had all this info on hand at once. In the past only the person who had the master sheet could call with all the latest info. The integration into eBay has made it so simple to create and print invoices/packing slips on the fly. In the past it was a multi-email exchange which was time consuming and not efficient. And we never really had great tracking of our eBay and online channel sales vs retail. Now we do!
I am able to balance my time better and spend less of it on operations and inventory management and more of it on product development, which is really important.
How much have your sales increased since you started using Stitch?
What are your plans for growth? How do you see Stitch playing a role in that?
We will continue to develop and sell new products that cover new territories in and around the US. We will also develop new map formats and products in our existing territories. Stitch has helped "map out" what territories and product themes are selling well. We have already started using this info for two new products we are developing in real time.
We also noticed that certain formats have sold better than others and have aligned our product strategy to what is selling. We have been tracking our customer sales by retailer much better and with that we are able to provide our sales reps better guidance as to what products should have more inventory in store based on sell-through.
Can you summarize in one sentence what difference has Stitch made for your business and for you, personally?
I would like to thank the Stitch team for helping us run our business easier and give us more time to creatively develop cool new shipwreck charts and other nautical prints.