Steve Anderson and Barclay Saul wanted to start a company with a conscience. After working on projects to reshore manufacturing jobs in the U.S., the D.C.-based partners hoped to apply their supply chain and marketing experience to a business that did good in the world.
They learned of a wool-crafting factory in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, that made slippers and other products and that was a significant job creator in a country where 40% of GDP comes from remittances.
“People will leave to find work in Moscow doing menial labor and send home their money,” Steven says. “Not to paint it as this destitute place, but there is a lack of opportunity there.”
The work that is available—shepherding is a major occupation—is dominated by men, making it especially difficult for young women to find employment.
A Matching Pair
Steven and Barclay were intrigued by the factory’s reputation for providing women with decent jobs in a craft that has deep roots in Kyrgyzstan.
“It’s a culture where they would graze their sheep and move on, living in yurts, which were made of wool felt,” Steven says. “The clothes they wear and the homes they lived in are made of wool, and felt is part of their heritage and that was pretty neat to us.”
The factory, which once sold its slippers through a casual US distributor, was eager to find a new American business partner. Steven and Barclay liked what they saw and launched Kyrgies with a Shopify channel and a little space set aside in a garage, the classic American origin story.
Kyrgies took off. It soon shifted warehousing to a storage unit and began to sell through a second channel, Etsy. Steven and Barclay started to look into adding wholesale channels to the mix. The factory, meanwhile, hired an additional 40 people to handle Kyrgies orders.
“We were doing everything we set out to do when we founded Krygies,” Steven says. “We were a company with a social conscience and we were growing our sales channels.”
SKU and Inventory Problems Emerge
Steven and Barclay used Shopify’s built-in inventory features at first, but as they began to branch out and add variation to their products, they saw how difficult it would be to manage business in the long term.
“We wanted to offer a lot of different colors and as many different styles as we could get to give our customers plenty of options,” Steven says. “We didn’t realize the headache that that was going to cause us to keep it all organized.”
Managing multiple SKUs took time and effort, and because Shopify didn’t integrate well with their accounting software, there were persistent discrepancies between Kyrgies inventory and balance sheets.
These problems were amplified as Kyrgies started to sell on Etsy. Without a centralized inventory management system, they couldn’t rely on Shopify to accurately track stock levels. For example, if they had three pairs of slippers in storage and they wanted to move two pairs to sell on Etsy, Shopify would tell them they had only one pair in storage.
“We were basically keeping two inventories, and that was not ideal,” Steven says. “If we were to continue to branch out to wholesale or to Amazon, that was obviously not the way to be doing business so that we can grow and scale. It would just be creating a lot more work for us.”
How Cin7 Helps
Kyrgies started using Cin7 in 2019. Now, Steven and Barclay can manage many SKUs, inventory and sales for Shopify, Etsy and a steadily growing base of retail customers, all with one solution.
“It’s a unified solution to a complex problem,” Steven says. “It ties in all our channels in one place and it’s pretty user-friendly, once you know how to use it.”
Cin7 eliminates the need to manage separate stock for every B2C and B2B channel they sell through today. It integrates seamlessly with Xero, keeping inventory synced with their accounts. It also integrates with ShipStation, for streamlined order fulfillment. Finally, it’s a solution that sets the stage for Steven and Barclay’s growth plans:
“We want to expand aggressively to more retailers,” Steven says. “I want to keep growing to turn this into something where we’re financially secure but we’re still fulfilling on our social-impact promise.”