For mission-driven camera and art accessories business Urth, Cin7 and SMB Consultants made a world of difference.
A journey across the Americas can be a powerfully formative experience. From Mark Twain to Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard to Che Guevara, history is full of people who’ve found their purpose on the road.
For the founders of Urth, formerly known as Gobe, a road trip from California to Patagonia was the impetus to create change — by giving more people the opportunity to experience nature for themselves.
The products that support this mission are varied; Urth makes products, grouped together loosely into the categories “Art, Carry, and Camera,” that help their customers either spend more time in nature with their cameras, or engage with nature-inspired art. In addition to sourcing environmentally friendly products and materials, and creating products that can be used for a lifetime, all purchases from Urth are offset against the carbon emissions they create, as well as helping fund communities to plant trees.
“Urth creates products that support creativity,“ says co-founder Chris Gooley. ”We started off in the photography niche, but are expanding out into all different forms of art and artistic pursuits.“
Today, Chris Gooley continues as one of Urth’s directors, and his focus is on operations and finance. “It’s eight years later now, and things are going pretty well. We’re selling all over the world, and we’ve got a strong customer base.”
To get to this point, Urth needed strong systems on which they could build their vision. And before Cin7 and SMB Consultants, those foundations were looking a bit shaky.
Urth was already a well-established ecommerce business by the time they found Cin7, and started working with SMB Consultants. Before then, they’d been running both their ecommerce and inventory through ecommerce platform Magento. While many product sellers (including Cin7 customers) find Magento an excellent platform for ecommerce, it’s not intended to work as a full-fledged inventory management system. However, it’s still often used as one. Many product sellers start out using spreadsheets, accounting software, or their ecommerce platform to manage inventory, and while this often works for small sales volumes, it can be a big impediment to operating efficiently at scale.
For Urth, this problem was compounded by the fact they were already running inventory out of Fulfillment By Amazon – and Magento and Amazon weren’t talking.
“We were running inventory with Magento, so there were a lot of manual updates,” Chris remembers. “Magento could really only deal with recovering inventory by unit sold. It couldn’t do inbound shipment updates, adjust for stock variances, et cetera. We’d have to upload our website orders to the fulfillment centers manually. It was a pretty inefficient system, to say the least.”
This, in addition to being incredibly time-consuming, led to a host of further issues, the biggest of which was customers being able to place orders for items that were actually out of stock. It also limited Urth’s capacity for further growth, with expansion to new markets or sales channels made all but impossible.
“It caused enormous headaches, and a poor customer experience,” Chris says. Fixing mis-ships took “a lot of back and forth emails, offering different products as replacements, and dealing with – well, not necessarily irate, but definitely upset customers. And manually uploading our orders to the fulfillment centers was always a nightmare, and very time-consuming. And our opportunity for expansion was limited as well. It had a pretty stifling effect.“
In 2020, the Urth team made a decision – they’d move off Magento and on to Shopify. To do this, they worked with a web development agency called Process Creative, who suggested they find an inventory management system that integrated natively with Shopify and Amazon FBA – and they recommended SMB Consultants to help them do it.
“They said, look, if you’re going to make the Shopify website work efficiently and you want to make room for expansion, then Cin7 is the way to go,” Chris says. “So we did our own research, and came to the same conclusion. And we’re glad that we also followed their advice of getting SMB Consultants to talk us through that process and set it all up.”
When SMB Consultants were brought in to bring Cin7 to Urth, they found themselves faced with a formidable set of requirements. For international tax and compliance reasons, they would need to implement two instances of Cin7 (one to take care of APAC and US sales, and another for the UK and Europe) as well as multiple sales channels and fulfillment centers.
Together, SMB Consultants and Urth worked to identify two key objectives for the implementation: an accurate inventory valuation, and understanding of the cost of goods sold (COGS.) With that baseline, automations could be put in place to massively increase the business’ efficiency, as well as ease of management.
“Urth was already a successful, growing business, so the main thing for us was working together with a good client, to come up with a good solution that everyone is happy with,” says Jeffrey Atizado, CEO and co-founder of SMB Consultants.
With key inventory data safe in Cin7 and syncing seamlessly between Urth’s Shopify stores and Xero accounts, the task for Deepak Stevens, SMB Consultants’ resident Cin7 expert, was to implement Cin7’s powerful automations, taking away the time spent on admin work.
“Our scope was to set Urth up so they could focus more on the business – on sales, customer service, and all that good stuff,” Deepak says. “The really cool thing for us at SMB, is that this was probably the first account where we utilized the full potential of Cin7’s automation functionality.”
Properly implemented, Cin7 has incredible automation capability. Urth already had a great starting point, with the lion’s share of their inventory and fulfillment coming out of Amazon FBA. “Urth’s setup is very clever in the way that all the stock is in FBA,” Deepak says. “So they already had a world-class fulfillment center using Amazon services. Our task was to connect Cin7 to Amazon in the best way possible, to make sure fulfillment works anywhere Urth wants to sell.”
A critical component of Urth’s mission to inspire customers to get out in nature is to support them no matter where they live in the world. They wanted to be able to ship their products to anyone, regardless of location. With very few exceptions, that’s exactly what Cin7 has enabled them to do.
“One of the most unique things with Cin7 is the option for us to route orders by delivery country,” Deepak says. SMB Consultants have set up a Cin7 automation that, no matter where an order comes from, routes to the appropriate FBA fulfillment location. It all happens automatically, without any need for intervention from Urth’s staff.
“Once we had that up and running we were completely automated,“ Deepak says. ”Without any admin work, orders are placed, sent to Amazon, fulfilled, and the tracking code goes back to the customer on Shopify.“
Urth are now utilizing a Singapore-based 3PL warehousing facility called IMF to expand their reach even further. “IMF holds stock for Urth to fulfill to countries that Amazon might not do,” Deepak says. “Then we created an even more complex routing table in Cin7 that, for all of the countries that Amazon excludes, we can push those orders to IMF to fulfill those countries automatically.”
The expanded reach and time saved by these automations have cleared the ground necessary for Urth to expand their operations. As the business has developed, SMB and Cin7 have kept pace with requirements, adding layers of functionality to ship to more countries and add new channels, in the form of online marketplaces. Urth now sells through eBay, France’s Fnac, Worten in Portugal, OnBy, BestBuy, eMag – and Cin7’s new partnership with supply chain automation software Synqware is opening the door to even more.
“Ordinarily, that would be a huge effort,” Deepak says. “We would have to hire a developer, get an API sorted, then go through that whole song and dance of setting up a new integration. I think Urth is really unique in that they’re offering fulfillment to almost everywhere. Normally, you see product sellers restricted to one or two regions, but Urth is now one of the few businesses that can really utilize Amazon’s warehouses plus their own 3PLs, and basically cover anywhere they want. It’s really exciting to see.”
All of this complexity could cause terrible headaches come tax compliance time, but Cin7 has Urth covered. Chris says that Cin7’s smooth accounting workflow with Xero is a huge advantage, which is made even better with advice from Joy, SMB Consultants’ in-house accountant. Cin7’s native reporting functionality has also proved invaluable to Urth’s leadership, with the ability to provide breakdowns on profitability by region, or product category.
“That has been really insightful,“ Chris says. ”For Cin7 to give the live gross profit reporting per product group, and for each country, has been fantastic.“
Being able to get accurate profit and loss reports at the end of each month means Urth have been able to better invest back into the business. “We’ve been able to actually assign meaningful budgets to things like product development, our marketing budget, hiring budget,” Chris says. “All these things are now accurate and meaningful rather than speculative.”
According to Urth, the capability provided by Cin7 – and SMB’s help in taking advantage of it – is “priceless.” They simply could not have tackled it by themselves. Instead, adding SMB’s insight and advice to Cin7 has saved them having to hire back-office or development staff.
“It’s such a high stakes part of the business,“ Chris says. “For an e-commerce site, you need to be showing inventory in the marketplace, you need to be able to fulfill it. Whenever we’ve had any issues, Deepak has got onto it straight away. Cin7 has given us not only peace of mind, but a platform for expansion. It’s happened so quickly and yeah, it has made a huge difference. It’s been fantastic.”
For product sellers who are looking to expand their geographic or channel footprint, Urth say that Cin7 is by far the best option – and they also recommend getting a partner to help make Cin7 work to its full capability right across the business.
“If you really do have a global mindset for your business, then Cin7 is a great option,” Chris says. “That has been reiterated in the last few months with our expansion into this whole other world of e-commerce, selling both B2C and B2B.”
Cin7 is the platform for their success, but SMB Consultants’ help is what’s enabled them to get the most out of its extensive capabilities. “As for using SMB, or another partner, I think you definitely do want someone to help you set it all up correctly in the first place,” Chris says. “There’s too much at stake to get your setup wrong. But we’ve been able to push forward with huge peace of mind, and fantastic ongoing support.”
Chris’s elevator pitch for other product sellers looking for an IMS is simple: you need a one-stop inventory solution that connects to other best-of-breed apps for product sellers.
“To have one central inventory management system that’s also connected with Xero takes away a lot of stress. Shopify, Amazon, Xero, and Cin7 – it’s all in the same tight loop. Cin7 has proven to be the best inventory solution out of all the other options on the market, and the most affordable.”
Chris Gooley, Co-Founder, Urth