Keera Brooks spent 16 years working in the male-dominated world of transportation and logistics before buying a business that allowed her to fulfil her passion for empowering women.
Based in Georgia, USA, Wholesale Sugar Flowers supplies local and international confectioners and home bakers with beautiful cake decorations to inspire and elevate their creations.
Keera is using many of the skills she learned working at a $2 billion global company to take a small business to the next level. “I’ve been doing this for just over three years, and it’s been one of the more rewarding things I’ve accomplished,” Keera says.
“My goal has always been to help women realise they are much more than they may think they are. We have a great team, and we hire as many women as we can throughout the different functions of the company.”
One of the first things Keera did after buying the business was to look for a system to help with inventory forecasting. StockTrim is the key to ensuring the business has the right products to meet the specific demands of each season or holiday.
Managing thousands of SKUs
When Keera took over Wholesale Sugar Flowers in 2018, it had a loyal customer base, great products, and solid relationships with its suppliers. It was selling thousands of SKUs and the owner was managing the inventory manually.
“I came in very blind to the baking industry and how to run your own business. Everything was new to me, so I kept doing what they had been doing from a planning standpoint, but I knew from my time in corporate that it wasn’t a long-term solution.
“It took days to put purchase orders together and I never had a handle on our fastest selling items or our slow movers, or how much value was in the inventory I had.”
Keera found herself second-guessing what her customers were going to want and couldn’t be sure whether she was ordering enough of a particular item. With thousands of individual products in the mix, that was a big problem.
“You know you’re going to be wrong sometimes because nobody can plan everything perfectly, but I needed to close the gap in how far off we were going to be in our projections of what we needed.
“Because we’re international and our suppliers are international, we don’t have the luxury of time to correct some mistakes mid-stream. If we don’t order enough for Christmas, for example, we miss the whole holiday.”
Cash is everything
Keera found StockTrim through the Shopify platform and found onboarding to the platform was simple, quick (a couple of hours), and did not disrupt the business. She acknowledges that her experience with logistics and supply chain probably helped.
“I went from multiple days to hours to put an order together. That’s really valuable for a small business owner who doesn’t have people to sit and do these things. I have to be really smart about how I use my time and also my operating expense - is it worth a headcount to do this, or does it need to be distributed somewhere else?”
StockTrim has helped the business lower its inventory carrying costs, prevent ageing inventory, centralize inventory planning, bring automated intelligence to demand planning, and helped manage cashflow more efficiently. Most helpful has been the automation brought to the inventory planning process.
“It’s important to underscore the value StockTrim brings to your cashflow as a small business. I don’t believe we’re sophisticated enough as humans to make the decisions on what and how much to buy and to forecast as well as this software does.
“When we put StockTrim in, we were able to realise a 74% improvement in idle or stagnant inventory and quickly get control over that stock that was just sitting. It helped us manage cashflow better because we weren’t having to buy things we didn’t need. Now we’re putting all our money into product that will sell.”
Furthermore, the company’s limited warehouse space is no longer taken up with cases of slow-moving product that would eventually be discounted to make room for the next shipment.
“When you’re a small business, cash is everything. If you put your cash into product that’s not necessary, or it’s the wrong product or you could have timed it better, that could be the difference between success or failure.”
Avoiding mistakes at a critical time
The last two years have highlighted the importance of good cash management, with every operating expense needing scrutiny. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Wholesale Sugar Flowers reduced all spending, including putting its StockTrim subscription on hold, while Keera and her team figured out how to keep the business alive.
“Once we’d done that, StockTrim was one of the first things we spent money on again and it really helped us avoid making mistakes during that critical time.”
StockTrim made it easier to mitigate the full impact of international supply chain delays by lengthening lead times for purchase orders. It also made it easy to add more SKUs and flexibility to the ordering model when Keera decided to expand the customer base by marketing to home bakers, as well as professionals. That decision enabled the business to realise significant growth.
Keera has been impressed with StockTrim’s customer service. When she needs support, someone always responds within a day, and she’s never had an issue that can’t be resolved. She understands that StockTrim is continuing to develop and add new capabilities to its software and appreciates that this is what makes it affordable.
Nothing compares to StockTrim
“If I looked at other products in the same value space, nothing compares to StockTrim. I haven’t been able to find anything at the same price point with the same capabilities, so I feel I have the best product for the value.”
Wholesale Sugar Flowers has not had to hire additional people to manage the inventory and Keera says StockTrim will help the business continue to grow in a way that achieves the best return on capital investment.
“Our longer-term goal is to be the world’s largest supplier of cake decorations. We have some of the most beautiful decorations I’ve seen and we’re focusing solely on what goes on top of the cake – we have over 350 sugar toppings and over 800 different kinds of sugar flowers and decorations.
“You should be able to come to us for whatever you need, and StockTrim helps us manage that in the most efficient way.”