One of the most amazing and frustrating parts of running your own business is that, more often than not, there’s no real set ways of doing things. Amazing, because you get to trust your gut a lot of the time, take an idea and run with it and be the creator of the sort of environment that suits you best. Frustrating, because sometimes, you know the way you’re doing something isn’t the most time or financially effective but you’ll be jiggered if you can think of a better way of conducting the aforementioned task. I’m talking things like bookkeeping, data management and inventory tracking. Sure, we can look at how our peers and contemporaries are presenting themselves online, or visit open studios and talks run by likeminded businesses, but more often than not, the very nuts and bolts that keep a business ticking over like clockwork can seem like carefully guarded secrets.
One of my many self-improvement goals for this business year was to be able to devise a system that meant that Gareth and future employees would be able to have a much better grasp of our inventory without me being involved. To be able to head onto the computer to find out what components made up which product. To be able to forecast stock control in order to get the best deals from suppliers. To stop end-of-year stock take being a task I completely dreaded. To even be able to do the material purchasing without my being there - hell, my old method of trying really hard to remember where I bought grosgrain ribbon from 18 months ago wasn’t cutting the mustard for even me anymore. As the business grows I need to be able to streamline the countless barely updated spreadsheets and word documents into something clear, concise and completely user friendly. A task I thought completely unachievable without getting some heavy-duty (read: dollar) back end system in place that would take a millennia to figure out how to use.
And then I stumbled upon Craftybase. An online inventory tracker and project management tool dedicated to handmade products. Super user friendly, Craftybase boasts at-a-glance stock tracking, the ability to create ‘recipes’ for your products and automatically creates pricing models so you can make sure your margins are up to scratch - even with labour cost involved, too. Sales data can be automatically imported (just from Etsy at the moment, though the creators have said that Bigcartel and Shopify are in the pipeline) and analysed in order to keep track of how your products are performing. Supplier details are stored in an address book - so no more racking your brains trying to remember where you bulk-bought washi tape from 12 months ago at an amazing price. Craftybase can also supply all sorts of reports, from cash-flow to customer activity.
Slightly-shit name aside (anything with ‘Crafty’ in the title makes me toes curl a little bit, to be honest…) I am really rating Craftybase as my go-to solution for our in-house logistics and project management, even though I’ve only touched the surface at its’ capabilities. As we currently make everything to order, I haven’t fully explored the inventory capabilities of this little bit of kit but know that when we move to holding more completed products in stock, we won’t need to update to another piece of software to control this is totally invaluable. I am using it to store supplier contact details, create our product ‘recipes’ and make sure our pricing is right as we expand our wholesale markets. It’s completely streamlined our production operations and I’m safe in the knowledge that it’s so user friendly, that anyone involved in the business in the future should be able to get their head around it pretty easily, too.
How do you deal with your in-house logistics? I’d love to hear! By the way, if you fancy giving Craftybase a go for yourself, there’s a fortnight’s free trial - and if you sign up using this link, we’ll both get 10% off the (already very reasonable) monthly subscription.