Industry:Health & Beauty
“DEAR gives you transparency for the whole organization. I can just jump in and see what I need to see. And then it organizes everything for the accountant, so we're not spending hours and hours. It just saves us a lot of time.”
DEAR Systems and Bean Ninjas helped this product seller grow 150% year on year
Great tech and great advice are the reasons why most product sellers can’t hold a candle to Royal Essence
There’s not really any such thing as overnight success. Most of what people perceive as “overnight” achievement is actually a combination of hard work, learning, great advice, and good fortune, sustained over a long time.
But, with that said, when all the right ingredients come together, sometimes the speed of success can be truly staggering.
Paul and Hannah Chamberlain, founders of Royal Essence, know all about the dizzying acceleration that happens when everything lines up just right. Together, the husband-and-wife team have taken a brand that they jokingly call “Kinder Surprise for women” from their garage to a seven-figure international ecommerce business in just a few years.
But, unlike a lot of ecommerce sellers, things were pretty big for Royal Essence right from the start.
“We did a million in our first year, and we’ve averaged 150 percent growth year on year since then,” says Paul.
How did they manage what so many haven’t? For Royal Essence, it started with a great idea, but they’ve managed to sustain their success thanks to trustworthy partnerships, talented advisors – and great inventory management with DEAR Systems.
Lighting up social media leads to burning the candle at both ends
Royal Essence’s product is tailor-made for the age of memes, social media influencers, and the rise of Tik-Tok.
They sell mainly scented candles and bath bombs, with a unique twist: each comes with a very welcome jewellery surprise inside — which can be worth anything from $90 to $5000.
Paul and Hannah came up with the idea for Royal Essence when Paul was working as an ecommerce marketing director.
“I’m always trying little side hustles. I saw this one, and no-one was doing it well. I made a few candles in the garage while Hannah was away on holiday, and sent her a photo,” Paul says.
“She thought, ‘Okay, another crazy idea, here we go again.’ But then it took off, basically immediately.”
Hannah says that the results of the first ads they placed for their first tiny batch of candles were incredibly encouraging, but even better was the reaction on social media, where the product was an immediate viral hit.
“We had a pre-sale that ran for two weeks, and the number of orders was just ridiculous. And suddenly I had to make maybe thousands of candles, in that short amount of time.”
“The first six months, we were just trying to keep up. We’d be up at 2 AM pouring candles in the freezing winter,” Paul adds. But it was well worth it. In the first month, they made $10k. Month two was $19K. By the six-month mark, Paul and Hannah’s garage business was making an incredible $70,000 in monthly revenue.
“Paul had a full-time job, so it was basically all me!” Hannah says. “And I was working at a fish-and-chip shop at the same time, two days a week, and did wedding photography on the weekend, so it was pretty full on.”
Adding to the toll taken on their personal lives was the fact that their sheer sales volume meant they suddenly had an enormous inventory to manage — and no good way to do it.
“We had no idea. We were just starting the business. We were completely lost as to how inventory even works,” Paul says.
After a year of struggling with spreadsheets and guesstimates, things came to a head. For the business to keep growing, and for Paul and Hannah to spend less time in the daily grind, they needed an effective inventory management solution.
Instant wins from DEAR
All the best success stories start on the shoulders of giants. For Paul, an important mentor was his former boss, who had encouraged him in his side-hustle and now helped as he transitioned to making Royal Essence his and Hannah’s full-time living.
“He’s a good guy. He loves anyone who gets into business,” Paul says of his mentor. “I stayed for a couple of months, while he figured out someone else for my position, and he helped me out. He recommended a DEAR consultant in Adelaide to help us get set up.”
Paul and Hannah’s consultant helped them migrate their data from spreadsheets and made sure their starting inventory information was correct from the start. Right away, Royal Essence felt the impact of accurate inventory tracking. Things that had been excruciatingly difficult — like reordering in time for the next batch of production — were suddenly easy.
“Before DEAR, I was always just guessing – the number of boxes in front of me, what’s going to be used for production that day,” Hannah says. “After DEAR, the instant win for us was we were able to see the big picture. You can definitely see the movement of the raw materials, and I was able to do our reorders in time. That’s a really big thing for a small business, especially because during that time we were growing so fast.”
With DEAR implemented and day-to-day inventory tracking enabled, things were already much better. But that’s only a fraction of DEAR’s capability. For Hannah and Paul’s burgeoning ecommerce business, now selling all over the world, they needed to be able to track inventory on the financial side. For that, they needed a specialist ecommerce accounting partner, and that’s how they found Bean Ninjas.
Fast and agile ecommerce accounting
Bean Ninjas is an e-commerce specialty accounting firm, with a very clearly defined target market — seven-figure-plus ecommerce companies. “We consider ourselves tax agents and accountants, but there’s a big advisory piece as well,” director Tracey Newman says.
Ecommerce businesses that sell in multiple markets have a lot of considerations that other businesses don’t, Tracey explains. Merchants charge varying fees depending where the business is located, and the tax compliance requirements can be enormously complex. And when inventory isn’t being tracked accurately, the accounting falls apart. Sellers, already buried under enormous workloads, find themselves faced with compliance and logistics challenges that are impossible to work through themselves. Then, as they try to grow, they’ll often find that cashflow runs short, and banks won’t lend to them because the financial picture isn’t clear. That’s where Bean Ninjas come in.
“Very commonly, successful ecommerce sellers are husbands and wives, or friends, who work out of their own houses. They haven’t really had an opportunity to get data like benchmarking, or advisory services, and there seems to be a big uptake for that all-around advice,” Tracey says.
“One of the things I say to my clients when I’m recommending DEAR is that I really like how DEAR takes a focus on balance sheet, as well as on profit and loss,” Tracey says. “Very few other inventory solutions do that.”
For Royal Essence, Bean Ninjas were able to help on multiple fronts. Using DEAR as the single source of truth for inventory meant that everything could be lined up correctly in Royal Essence’s accounting system of record, Xero.
With Bean Ninjas advising, Royal Essence moved their manufacturing operations overseas, which massively increased their gross margins. With banks now eager to lend, they had the operating capital to expand their ecommerce operations to the UK and Europe.
“Where DEAR really helps these days is with multiple channels, and syncing locations, and ensuring that our accounting is nice and up to date,” Paul says. “We don’t have to stress at the end of the year because our books aren’t correct and we have to spend a month going through it all. Instead, it’s all up to the accountant.”
What’s more, Royal Essence could track their product through every stage of production and sales: from manufacturing, to freighting and landing, to selling and shipping. The increased transparency and reduced workload meant they could grow — and so they did.
End-to end transparency: DEAR tracks inventory from production through to sales and shipping
Transparency is the key that unlocks growth for many product sellers. Being able to see what’s happening, and how much it all costs, during all stages of the product life cycle means sellers know exactly how to optimize their supply chain.
Royal Essence has a simple product, with a complex product journey. Materials are sourced from overseas suppliers, and then combined in a different manufacturing facility. From there, the goods are freighted to third-party logistics (3PL) warehouses around the world, where customer orders are processed and shipped.
“It starts from making a purchase order from our two suppliers — the supplier of the actual product, and the supplier of the jewelry,” Hannah says. “Then it goes to be manufactured, and DEAR shows that picture for us. Then it’s assembled, and it even shows when they’re in the container, so we know there’s stock on the water, on the way.”
This entire process is in DEAR, so inventory is always up-to-date. Whenever raw materials are purchased, this is noted in DEAR. When these components go to manufacturing, they’re virtually assembled in DEAR as well, becoming the finished product.
“That helps a lot,” Hannah says. “You can see how much the raw materials cost, and the cost per finished item.We get visibility on exchange rates, so when the product is cheaper to buy, and profit margins on raw materials. We can even see, across different locations in three continents, how much we have, or how much is arriving.”
This visibility means that, unlike many ecommerce companies without a good view of cashflow, the business knows exactly how much it can spend on getting new customers in the door with Paul’s specialty subject: marketing.
“It dictates how much I can spend on marketing, basically,” Paul says. “I need to know what our cost of goods is, what our gross margin is, in order to know how much I can spend. Having the data from DEAR means I can focus on sales, and marketing, and getting more customers in the door.”
DEAR’s 3PL sync is the secret to rapid scale
DEAR continues to offer full transparency and visibility even as goods are landed in their destination countries and taken to 3PL warehouses. They’ve got a 3PL in Sydney, which takes care of the Australian market (which still accounts for 70 percent of their business) another in Pennsylvania that serves the US and Canadian markets, and two in the UK.
“When it arrives in our 3PL, our 3PL receives it, and it syncs to DEAR that they’ve received it,” Hannah says. “So we can see the inventory in all different places — some is being manufactured overseas, some is on the water, and some is ready to be sold to consumers.”
The whole system provides an incredible snapshot of a business in motion, Royal Essence says. “Being a numbers guy, I personally love seeing those landed costs, because it’s so hard to calculate without DEAR,” Paul says. “It’s so good that you can just jump into DEAR, search the SKU, and just see it there.”
The system also keeps pace with customer orders, enabling swift and hassle-free fulfilment. As stock is shipped to customers, the 3PLs sync their inventory with DEAR, daily. They also manage stock adjustments when necessary, making time-consuming, laborious manual stock counts a thing of the past.
“I couldn’t stand doing stock-take,” Paul says. “It felt like a waste of time — often just to find out we’d miscounted! It’s so good having someone else do all that for us, and we just do an auto-sync through DEAR.”
This is the secret to rapid scale, Paul and Hannah says. They have the marketing, personnel, and other systems set up, and entering a new market is almost as easy as CtrlC + CtrlV.
“It’s 100 percent repeatable,” Paul says. “We’ve already proven that a couple of times. And we’re about to do it again in the EU, so we’re looking at setting up another 3PL in the Netherlands. We’ve done it before, it’s the same process. We’ve got a team that knows how to use DEAR, and it’s just a matter of copy and paste from here.”
The transparency provided by DEAR is the jewel in Royal Essence’s crown
With DEAR powering their inventory and acting as the single source of truth for every business process from manufacturing to shipping, Royal Essence has been able to hit milestone after milestone. Even the Covid-19 pandemic, which spelled doom for many product sellers who weren’t ready to move online, didn’t disrupt their momentum. In fact, it boosted their sales by up to 40 percent.
“We feel very lucky. I know a lot of businesses struggled through COVID, but we just got an uplift in sales,” Paul says. “I think everyone was at home and didn’t know what to do with their time and money, so they decided to buy some candles with jewelry in them.”
Paul and Hannah have now set their sites on a number of new markets, aiming to repeat and refine their proven business process in each. DEAR has even enabled them to automate some selling on Amazon, a notoriously tricky platform for ecommerce sellers, but one that offers enormous rewards to those that master it.
“The thing with having software like DEAR — because the UI is so straightforward and simple, it lays it out in front of you as to how to go about things,” Paul says. “Just the accuracy, and detail, and feature set that the product has.”
On the accounting side of things, Bean Ninjas say that in their experience, accurate financial results are the most important thing to get right for businesses that want to grow and prosper.
“There’s an incredible correlation between accurate financial results and almost every other impact in your business,” Tracey says. “By having knowledge and control from a system like DEAR and making sure you understand all of the moving parts, it has an impact on your cash balance. I’m a little biased but I think it’s one of the most important pieces to get correct.”
DEAR, Tracey says, comes as a huge relief to clients once it’s set up and running smoothly. Things that were tear-your-hair out headaches, time-consuming, or downright impossible become a breeze with the right inventory management system, especially when integrated with best-of-breed financial and sales software like Xero and Shopify.
“DEAR means one less human making mistakes,” Tracey says. “It’s such a relief for clients to have a totally integrated system that produces reports at the end of the month, that integrates directly into Xero, and that gives you meaningful, accurate financial information. I see clients going from confusion and bewilderment before using a system like DEAR, to a much better sense of financial control and process improvement after implementing.”
Royal Essence, with four years of running on DEAR, are in full agreement. They’re thrilled with the visibility DEAR gives them in the day-to-day running of the business, the increased efficiency of operation, and the ability to plan for even greater business growth — because they’re not done yet.
“It’s the transparency for the whole organization,” Paul says. “I’m not in the product side of things, but I can just jump in and see what I need to see. And then it organizes everything for the accountant, so we’re not spending hours and hours. It just saves us a lot of time.”
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