This ethical fashion accessory business struggled to manage inventory — but then they found Cin7 and Halkin Business Partners.
Arms of Eve is an ethical fashion accessory business, co-founded about three years ago by husband-and-wife team Aaron and Kerryn Langer. Before starting Arms of Eve, the pair had already run a successful wholesale fashion business together in Los Angeles, flying in Australian Merino wool to the States.
“When we started having kids, our lives became very busy, and the world of ecommerce was growing quite rapidly,” Aaron says. “We didn’t have time to go to stores, or shop during store hours. We did all of our shopping — everything from baby supplies to clothes — online, and we were just enraptured by this world.”
When the two decided to move back to Kerryn’s home country, Australia, they decided to start a new, ecommerce-focused fashion business. Australia, they say, wasn’t quite as advanced as the US at ecommerce at the time, but they knew it would catch up.
“We wanted to create a really simple, one-stop shop for cool boho-chic fashion accessories, starting with scarves and ponchos. Then jewelry was something we sort of dipped our toes into and really quite enjoyed it.”
Aaron and Kerryn figured that a fashion accessory and jewelry company could afford them a lifestyle where they were able to travel to destinations like India, Indonesia and Thailand, and enjoy beaches and sight-seeing while they met their manufacturers and toured factories. It’d also enable them to give back to the world, as well as conducting business according to their personal values — all of Arms of Eve’s jewellery is handcrafted and ethically sourced.
They set up a Shopify store, and began experimenting with selling fashion accessories at weekend markets. Kerryn would wake up early, put up a pop-up store and, as she sold, worked to understand her customers, what they were looking for, and how they were wearing the jewelry. This in-real-life interaction helped them get a feel for what their online customers wanted, and the care and attention to detail they lavished on customers helped score them their first big break, when they were approached by Australian ecommerce marketplace The Iconic.
“They legitimized us in the marketplace as a ‘real brand,’” Aaron says. Soon, they were selling on high-profile online marketplaces like the UK’s Wolf & Badger, and Revolve Clothing in the US, as well as in-person and online.
Arms of Eve’s growth plans were working like a charm, but there was one sticking point: their inventory management.
“We were growing really rapidly. We had our own Shopify site, we were on The Iconic and a few other marketplaces, and keeping track of stock was such a sore point,” Aaron says. “We were doing it manually on spreadsheets.”
Aaron knew that to sustain and increase growth, Arms of Eve needed two things – a solid inventory management system, and the right team to help them use it to its full potential.
To do this, they turned to Cin7, and Halkin Business Partners.
Halkin Business Partners is a business consultancy who’ve been helping entrepreneurs and business owners scale for over 20 years, and they serve businesses of all sizes, from startups to established enterprises. A Xero platinum partner with thousands of clients and a wide-reaching consulting network, Halkin have offices all over the world, and specialize in an outsourced services model across accounting, tax compliance, strategic advisory, HR and technology.
“We have a strong foundation in numbers and accounting work, which is where we originated as a business,” says Adam Wakerman, Halkin Director. “But, at the end of the day, accounting systems are repositories of data and information, and our ability to provide clients with accurate financials and provide insights based on those, is the product of the data that actually goes into the system.”
It was with this attitude around data that Halkin began their foray into not just consulting, but operational consultancy and management. This involves, Halkin say, taking a holistic view of business, its systems and processes, and being able to understand how all those systems link together for the purpose of ensuring data integrity. Simply: if you can measure accurately, you can manage better.
“We’re able to plug in with the founders and work directly with them across not just the accounting or bookkeeping work but also across their systems, their processes, their structure, and their HR, and then also obviously their CFO related requirements,” Adam says.
Aaron met with the Halkin team, who zeroed in on Arms of Eve’s inventory management processes.
“They said, ‘You need to organize this. You need to understand the value of stock that you’re holding. And if the Iconic sells something, and Shopify sells something, how are you dealing with taking that stock off inventory? And how does it work with Xero?’” Aaron says.
“And we just shrugged our shoulders. We had no idea,” he adds.
After Halkin did their initial assessment of Arms of Eve, they recommended Cin7 for their inventory management. Initially, Aaron was resistant.
“We thought Cin7 would be really great, but we were scared initially because for a small growing business, it was a big deal. But Halkin backed that decision to such a degree that they actually fronted the money to pay for it. They said ‘You’ve got to go with Cin7, we’ll front it, and you’ll pay it off slowly as you continue to scale, but this is what you need.’”
Halkin says that, for them, helping clients upfront with their inventory software to help remove some ‘sticker shock” isn’t that unusual. When they know that Cin7 will really help a customer, they’ll do whatever they can to help them make the move.
Aaron is full of praise for how Halkin helped Arms of Eve switch to Cin7.
“Our financial team at Halkin have Cin7 experts on board, and they’ve really helped us integrate the software into the business,” Aaron says. Halkin have even gone so far as to create a custom tool that alerts Aaron to any money sitting in open invoices. If he needs any support, he can choose from a financial and software support team that includes a bookkeeper, a virtual CFO, a tax advisor, and a whole Cin7 team.
“Before and after implementation, we’re always looking to improve the process, and the business as a whole,” says Diego. “We know that we have the big picture, so after the implementation when a customer needs help, we know their process, and why they’re asking.”
“I just don’t know how we operated before Cin7 and Halkin, to be honest,” says Aaron. “Before, inventory management would literally keep me up at night, because I knew we were selling stock we didn’t have – and you don’t want to do that.”
Since implementing Cin7 with Halkin, things have changed dramatically for Arms of Eve. Cin7 now sits at the center of their business. Everything connects, including their multiple Shopify stores, marketplaces like The Iconic, their accounting software Xero, and Starshipit, which they use for all their fulfilment.
“The ‘before’ picture was scary as hell,” Aaron says. “But the ‘after’ picture — Cin7 is the hub, the all-important beating heart of the business. In terms of connecting all our inventory, it really makes things significantly easier, and transparent. In the days where we didn’t have that, it’s just hard to fathom how we operated.”
Now, with Cin7, the Arms of Eve team know their stock levels at the touch of a button. They better understand how to service the business, and their customers, by understanding what is selling well, or what is running out of stock. They’ve been able to streamline their order processes from end-to-end, which is a “huge time saver.”
“The reporting and data through Cin7 just makes it really easy to understand,” Aaron says. “All of our customers, all of our suppliers, everything’s in there. It’s like a one-stop shop. It’s become a huge time-saver, and time is money”
One of the best things about Cin7 is the way that it democratizes information and data at Arms of Eve. Everyone in the business has access to Cin7, and it’s an invaluable tool for all stakeholders to understand what’s going where, when.
“Our wholesale manager needs to understand stock levels, and needs to be able to write order fulfilment. There’s different people who are touching it at different points. I think that’s one of the most brilliant aspects for us – I don’t know how we would have done this without Cin7.”
This data democratization has made it easy for Arms of Eve to innovate in their product categories. They’ve created combinations of products for sale called “stacks” and “sets.” Stacks are all about styling; Kerryn, who is a designer, wanted for customers to be able to purchase several items from one category that all look great together. “I want people to say, ‘I want that great-looking bracelet. You have four bracelets and they look so good together. How would I go about getting that?’ So we’ve created bracelet stacks, necklace stacks, earring stacks.”
Sets, on the other hand, are across categories — for example, a combination of different pieces of jewelry that all look good together, like rings, necklaces, bracelets. Cin7 has enabled this innovative product bundling by allowing the creation of ‘virtual stock’ in the Bill of Materials. The software looks at the different SKUs available in inventory, and then allows stacks and sets to be built accordingly, limiting the number of virtual products that can be created by the inventory count.
“Let’s say you have 50 of two kinds of jewellery, but only 10 of another kind. The software will only allow you to make 10 stacks,” Aaron says. “Virtual stock was for us a Eureka moment. We can manage it really successfully, because when we sell a stack, it takes three individual items out of inventory to create it. With Cin7’s BOMs, we keep our inventory really neat, tidy and organized.”
With the Covid-19 pandemic making travel difficult or impossible, Arms of Eve has also had to change how it approaches suppliers and quality control. In the old days, before 2020, they could easily travel to meet suppliers, but now it all happens via WhatsApp. Kerryn designs and mocks up in Photoshop, the factories create samples and share pictures, and then Arms of Eve has all the information it needs to know if they want to enter production. Here, too, Cin7 has helped.
“Before Cin7, we weren’t really tracking those purchase orders, but now they’re coming through, and they’re the first item that gets ingested into Cin7. We’re creating new products in Cin7, we’re putting our costs in, when it arrives, it’s marked as arrived. The inventory’s now in our system, which is great.”
Cin7 even allows Arms of Eve to track any inventory they’ve gifted to influencers, who can then choose to show off their products.
In addition to their ecommerce channel, Arms of Eve are also using Cin7 to handle wholesale. While they don’t specialize in selling to small boutique shops, when they are approached by someone who wants to sell their products, it’s easy to set up with Cin7.
“When a wholesale order comes in, the sales order is written in Cin7,” Aaron says. “The inventory’s taken out, the wholesale costs are in there, Cin7 speaks to all our dispatch and everything.”
Dealing with smaller boutiques and lesser-known customers can be risky for a business like Arms of Eve, but Cin7 enables them to process payment instantly, with strict cash-on-demand terms.
“Wholesale payment is often handled through the Stripe account connected to Cin7,” Aaron says. “I think we’re about 50/50 in terms of people doing bank transfers, and people hitting the ‘pay now’ button in Cin7.”
Halkin says that the customers they put on to Cin7 frequently see enormous business benefits. It’s certainly been true for Arms of Eve.
“Arms of Eve now have transparency with their stock numbers, so they can make decisions. They’ve gained efficiency as well. Stuff that used to take hours to reconcile, now takes a couple of minutes. The main gains are the transparency of the financials, being able to make decisions, and understanding the big picture.”
For Aaron, looking back to where they were before they adopted Cin7, their decision is a “no-brainer.”
“Cin7 is really adaptable. It’s really smart. It does all the heavy lifting really seamlessly, and it’ll just save you headaches. For us, it’s a no-brainer, looking back. You know when they say, hindsight is 20/20, well if we hadn’t done this, our business wouldn’t be where it is today.”
Before Halkin helped him on to Cin7, Aaron says that he “hadn’t even realised that software like this existed.”
“When you think about what I understand about the business now, and how everything plugs in — well, back then I didn’t even understand what needed to be plugged where. If I could go back in time, I’d draw a diagram and put Cin7 in the centre,” Aaron says. “Everything plugs into Cin7.”
Diego from Halkin says this centralization of complex inventory functions is the exact use case that Cin7 is built for, and it’s these cases where they don’t hesitate to prescribe Cin7.
“It’s holistic and robust in terms of connecting to ecommerce, having EDI connectivity, having 3PL, logistics, and accounting connectivity as well,” Diego says. “A lot of competitor software has some of those things, but not all, so the fact that Cin7 also has APIs and the ability to connect with other vendors in the ecosystem is a big advantage.”
With Cin7 in place and running smoothly, and with Halkin on side to provide business, financial and software integration advice, Aaron says the future is bright for Arms of Eve.
“Now we’ve built an ecosystem that is running really smoothly on Cin7. It’s eureka — this is the future, this is the map.”