About 10 years ago I witnessed a friend in Abuja nearly close shop because of the inability to account for his stock levels and know how much his customers owed him, I was shocked that such a simple lack of record could pose such a big problem that can translate into lack of growth and could even lead to closing shop.
As a self taught programmer back then seeking to add value, I was motivated to do something.
“All the math you need for trading, you get in the fourth grade.” — Peter Lynch
Certain problems appear trivial and this could actually make the problem more difficult to solve because it is easy to underestimate how that simple problem connect to other bigger problems. Writing code to help business people do math is not rocket science, it becomes hard work when the math can decide if someone loses real money.
Anyway teaming with a friend and my partner, I began work on storeharmony software test version, piloted in Abuja and rolled it out in Lagos in 2015. Storeharmony is a desktop solution that helps any store owner sell and manage inventory and instantly account for stock levels. This solved 2 headaches:
- When its time to raise credit or process insurance claims, you can instantly deliver a stock report
- Pilferage reduced greatly by more than 80% because you don’t depend on people to tell you what is left or how much money you have made
Why Storeharmony among many other common solutions?
What made storeharmony different among many others in the market is that it made realtime inventory possible as sales were being done. This was like the innovative edge and what was to actually differentiate our offering. The popular packages needed like an end of day reconciliation that disconnected sales from inventory. This is known in accounting as periodic inventory. This worked for big stores such as Shoprite but didn’t work for smaller stores due to lower management budget. Storeharmony connected all the records together in realtime cutting the need for regular auditor or accountant. This is what made it different and for this our clients are willing to pay from 6,500 to 25,000 monthly varied by users and stores count.
On the Journey..
On the fourth grader reference I made earlier, so the work I assumed will take about 1 year or 2 to perfect ended taking up to 5 years to make a stable software and find a market fit. We had little or no external funding but we never relented in making it work for our paying clients. Today it works for them.
Ever since, over 1000 stores have signed up for storeharmony desktop and over 60% are still actively using it to sell and track stock levels and more than 50% switched from an existing foreign package. We intend to double this number in 2021 and hit 10,000 stores within 3 years with support from investors.
While we perfect the first phase of our journey, today, another problem has appeared that seems trivial but can constitute a big problem for many merchants and store owners: COVID is forcing the hands of small businesses online and if you have inventory stored up in your store or warehouse, you will be in some COVID induced economic challenge.
What we found out is: Stores need to go online while keeping an active physical presence. As simple as it sounds, they will run into a big management overhead as they deploy traditional ecommerce platforms such as woocommerce:
- They need to pay developers to setup online stores a large sum for a disconnected online store
- They need to manage stock levels across two stores and manually manage errors
- They need to track payments across two stores and manually manage errors
- Eventually have to hire more or choose to lose money or lose clients
Many, including you, may have attempted shopping online where they took your money (because paystack and flutterwave works well) yet the product didn’t exist on the shelf. You told yourself that you will not shop there again or even shop online again. The total lack of faith in the backing process compounded by the logistics nightmare in many cities such as Lagos has made many potential online consumers lose faith in the process. They either hold their money (which is bad for GDP) or walk/drive to a safe place to shop nearby. If nearby stores don’t have it, shopping may be over except it is a pressing need. No economy works when people only spend for pressing needs, they must be able to conveniently shop, spend and expend on needs, wants and desires.
We observed this problem and early in the year 2020, we rolled out R&D effort to help curb the inventory management and setup cost component. Thus we have founded Storeharmony Stocker.
Interchanging between physical selling and online selling will continue to become a challenge for small businesses, storeharmony stocker is designed to change that. With storeharmony stocker, a small business can now both sell online and also sell physically at same time from anywhere, through many mobile cashiers using the same inventory.
Stocker which only runs on Android phones at the moment, can be used to sell physically, sell online, issue tickets, print receipts via pocket bluetooth printers, send PDF invoices, create online presence, sell via multiple sales partners and keep business inventory intact. We are also working to connect lenders in the future and will enable users access financing to grow.
We now have over 200 downloads because we restricted access for testing and feedback purposes. Some LIVE mobile based online stores powered by Stocker have gone live such as www.pelssywines.com and www.frailsfabbles.com. You can download the app via https://bit.ly/stockerapp