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Intro & Outro: 00:00 Welcome to the Winning with Shopify podcast, the podcast that will teach you to take your Shopify store and turn it into an automated sales machine with the latest marketing emails, sales and social media advice, strategies and tips from experts without the fluff. Your host Caroline Balinska, the founder of justaskparker.com the only small marketing task agency for Shopify owners with over 10 years experience in marketing, manufacturing, design, and ecommerce. She shares her knowledge and interviews the experts to help you in your journey to success. Now here’s your host, Caroline Balinska.

Caroline: 00:35 Hi everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. I’m your host Caroline Balinska and today I have something that’s a little bit different. A brand new app out on the market that I know that everyone out there who has something to do with manufacturing, will love to know all about this. So I’m bringing you something very unique today. I love telling you about the new and most useful apps in the market. Now, if you have anything to do with market, if you have anything to do with manufacturing at all, then you need to listen in today because this episode is definitely for you. Today. I had Chris Jacobs, he is from Katana and he’s in charge of customer success. That is the only thing he cares about is making sure that his customers are happy. So he’s going to be telling us all about this amazing app when they got in touch with me and told me about it, I went, this is really important information for people listening to my podcast. So let’s introduce Chris. Say hello to him and let’s find out more about Katana so Chris, how are you today?

Chris: 01:34 Hey, I’m good. Thanks for having me on the podcast.

Caroline: 01:36 Wonderful. Well we’re really glad to have you here. I know that you’re extremely busy looking after all of your customers, so I don’t want to hold off for too long, but tell us a little bit about what you do at Katana and how you help people.

Chris: 01:49 Yup. Uh, so I’m responsible for customer success at Katana. We typically have a lot of customers come in. I do demos for them, I give them a presentation and learn about their business case and mostly working with small manufacturers, crafters and artisans. We introduced Katana to them and how we could fit into their business workflows for production and inventory management.

Caroline: 02:13 Fantastic. So I’ll just also let everyone know we’re going to get into exactly what the time is all about. Like I said, it’s for people that are manufacturing any products now we are holding together in coming up very soon. Chris and I are actually going to be doing a live webinar where we go through exactly some amazing parts about Katana and the success that they get for their customers. So we can’t get through all of that on a podcast and it’s much better to be doing this with video back a screen. So we want to be doing a webinar. So listening today, take a listen and if you love what you hear then sign up on the actual podcast page. It will be episode 38 when this is released. And on that page, they’ll be a little sign up form halfway down where you can actually sign up for the Webinar. By end of the Webinar, you’re going to know how to dodge major challenges that come up with growth and scaling your manufacturing business through an easy adoption of this platform. So we’re going to be going through all of that for you. But today I just want to explain exactly what Katana is so you know exactly what you can be doing better inside your business. So Chris, let’s get into some questions that I have for you. That I know a lot of people want to know what is Katana and who is the designer?

Chris: 03:28 Great question. Yeah, Katana is quite a lot of things, but in short, we’re an easy to use and easy to adopt inventory and production management app, for makers, crafters and artisans selling on Shopify.

Caroline: 03:41 That’s pretty simple. So what else? So what sort of artisans and businesses do you actually deal with? Who are these customers that sell on Shopify?

Caroline: 03:52 So quite often it’s usually small makers that are beginning to scale their business. Really popular industries that that use our product quite a lot. Leather makers, jewelry makers, coffee roasters for example, kind of fit in our top three main categories and industries. We also have like vape and CBD products as well as cosmetics and even furniture companies use our product.

Caroline: 04:13 Okay, so people, let’s just get this really straight. So anyone listening, I don’t want to waste people’s time if it’s not for them. Are people actually manufacturing in other countries in other locations and the factories or these are people that are manufacturing at home or in their own factory?

Chris: 04:30 This is mostly focused toward small manufacturers that have a vertically integrated business, meaning their direct to consumer and they produce most of all of their products in house. This is the main target that we typically work with.

Caroline: 04:41 Okay, fantastic. So if someone out there has got a business, they’re making jewelry at home or they got a little workshop or they’re making, like you said, vape products or they might be doing some sort of leather making and they are producing that stuff themselves. And theses definitely the sort of platform that they need to be using.

Chris: 04:58 Yeah, we definitely can help those as well. And also some companies that have like their own workshops that are a little bit bigger and beginning to scale. This is also a major niche where we could really fit in.

Caroline: 05:08 Fantastic. Okay. I’ve got a lot of people on my mind straight away that this will be perfectly suitors posted. That is fantastic. So tell me why your whole goal is to help shopify merchants, I know that that’s really a passion. When you guys put in touch with me, you were telling me that you know, your passion is looking after Shopify merchants. So why is Katana such a blessing? How have you created a platform that really helps them?

Chris: 05:32 Well, Shopify, as we know, it’s the fastest growing ecommerce platform out there. Most customers who are using the Shopify platform, are direct to consumer, since Katana is built for vertically integrated businesses that are direct to consumer manufacturers, we see quite a strong overlap between Shopify makers and these particular target customers. You know, and since the system is very easy to adapt for small makers because we plugged directly Shopify as platform, we just connect your Katana accounts, pulling all of your sales orders, customers products and initial inventory. And we can also sync your inventory and order fulfillment and a, so it makes the adoption process very, very simplified for people that are beginning to scaling process through their Shopify store.

Caroline: 06:15 Okay. So just just to get everything clear, I just want to make sure that everyone understands exactly. So let’s say we’re talking about someone that makes handbags because there’s probably not too many pieces for that. So we’ve got handbags, we’ve got a piece of leather and we’ve got some buckles and we’ve got some zips for example. So they just work out, Hey, I’ve got 10 zips, 10 pieces of leather and 10 buckles and I’m going to put them into the system. And then when sales come through, I can see what’s being used up from my stop. Is that correct?

Chris: 06:42 That’s exactly to kind of go into a more simplified approach with that is Katana enables you to track your raw materials from the purchasing of the raw materials to the raw materials that are live and inventory to as they get consumed in their, in their manufacturing process. And Katana enables you to pull that sales order in, generate the commitments for those materials that get consumed to make the products that you sell to your customer. And uh, that’s essentially the whole entire workflow through the Katana’s platform when it comes to selling on Shopify.

Caroline: 07:12 So really the benefit to these, so setting it out, putting in new stock and spending a little bit of money and it’s not much for this platform, but doing all of that is actually going to save you a lot of money because I know, yeah, I’ve manufactured shoes myself, so I know exactly what that’s all about. Understanding how much money you need for stock is where a lot of people fail. And I get a lot of people coming to me and they say, I, you know, I can’t keep up with my sales or I don’t have enough stock and I’ve got people ordering and I can’t keep up. So what you’re doing is actually helping people take control of what’s their profit levels are at the end of the month.

Chris: 07:49 We do enable that because we do track all of the costs that gets applied into a product that you make. This is also very difficult for small makers when it comes to understanding how much the cost of production. Yeah,

Caroline: 07:59 yeah, it makes total sense. So why a spreadsheets not enough when Scaling Your Business? Because I think a lot of people are out there now and I’m guessing that there’s a lot of people using spreadsheets, but I also do know from people I’ve worked with that they still using the little sticky notes with all I better order some of those new zips or oh, I better order some of that. Knew of the vitamins to go with that. And they’ve just got it all written on pieces of paper or best scenario. They’ve got it in a spreadsheet, so why is that not enough when you’re scaling Your Business?

Chris: 08:29 Yeah. You know, spreadsheets are great. It had been around for ages and many people have used it to get started. The thing is is that with spreadsheets, as your business starts to grow, your sales start coming in. You have to actually manually update your spreadsheets every time you make a business decision on what we do when we step into this is with Katana you make the business decision and all of the inventory that applies to that business decision is automatically updated. So that way you just focused on the business decision process, not the actual other process of updating your spreadsheets as you, as they become more complicated as your business grows. This is also another major issue for small makers in the sense that as they continue using spreadsheets, they might run across a situation where they are the only person who knows how to use it. So if you’re out sick from work for one week, you know your whole business can be crippled as a result of you being the only one who knows how to use that. That’s one example.

Caroline: 09:25 And what is some other struggles that you find, that you see makers and crafters, struggling with in their back office.

Chris: 09:30 quite often, you know, scaling businesses will add more and more products to their portfolios. Many of these products share the raw materials that are consumes during the manufacturing process. So I find through all the dozens of interviews I do with customers that uh, they often run out of raw materials due to the fact that are shared with so many of the different products when they run out of, when they run out of stock, you know, they have to order more. And some of these materials have very long lead times. So you could have one sale that can be even several weeks or months late just as a result of not having the correct materials available to make those products to fulfill those orders. So in general, bringing it all together Katana enables this live data to be constantly available to you. To understand what materials you’re listening so you can be on top of your purchasing or what products are missing so he could be on top of your manufacturing and and that ultimately enables you to bring everything from priorities that take place in sales to your manufacturing priorities also to your purchasing activities. And it puts them all together into a unified platform.

Caroline: 10:32 Okay. That’s, I’m getting really excited now. I’m listening to what your saying. So what I’m understanding is that if you’ve got brown handbag and a red handbag, but they both had the same zip in a normal spreadsheet, you would have to go and put it into the brown hand bag. You’d have to say you use the zip and in the red handbag you users. And then in the main, if you’re going to do it properly, you’d have to have a main spreadsheet that says, okay, this product has gone down because of the Brown handbag and the red hand bag. But you’re saying that you just upload all the data the first time and you know that every single item has these particular pieces of product or amount of product. And then it automatically assail goes through and you can say, okay, that’s being done. So it goes through with how much stock you’ve got in stock and then how much products you’ve already used. And then you just go one place that you vote. Is that correct for all of your analytics and see how much stuff I need to buy, how many more would zips I need? Um, knowing that you need a lead time on those products.

Chris: 11:25 Yeah, absolutely. So during the setup process, we keep it very simple in Katana, you have a product, a product is something you make and that product do you define a recipe for it. And the recipe consists only of the materials that are required to make it. Now, fortunately for us to Katana enables you to have multiple variants and then you can define the materials that are utilized in those variants. Many of it, many of which in this case with with the different colored handbags that use the same zipper, when the manufacturing order is created, the recipe is automatically pulled together based on your initial inputs. And then those numbers are automatically committed from your inventory directly to that manufacturing process and this makes it very, very clear, simple and easy to stay on top of your life. Inventory data.

Caroline: 12:07 I love it. I love that you use the word recipe, I think that’s really good because that just as soon as you said that word I went, okay now I get it one this one cup of that and it all comes together so it makes total sense. That’s fantastic. So I love it. I’m like definitely there’s a couple of my clients that I think are perfect for this [inaudible] It’s not for everyone, it’s a very particular nation. I see. What you guys have done is really found there’s a need for this in the market and you have created the exact experience that people want and like you said, it’s very simple to you. So it’s not something they go in once a week, some weeks, and what God had to do. What would she do with an excel spreadsheet? If you want to have all the formulas working, then that’s lessons all the time.

Chris: 12:55 Absolutely. You know, actually in, in general where we tried to find ourselves as, you know, those companies, so small businesses at how’d the workshops where you can focus on your craft or the thing that you need to do better. And you know, of course the requirements of the business grow. But as those requirements grow, you can try to make excel more complicated or you can adopt a very comprehensive ERP system which are often difficult to implement or too expensive. Um, we’re trying to find ourselves right there for the small businesses that are, are managing to grow their company and do it in a mirror. Very easy and adaptable sort of way.

Caroline: 13:32 I love it. So what would be the, if someone’s listening, what would be sort of their starting point? Like how, how big would a business have to be to get started with, um, your software?

Chris: 13:42 Well, we’re pretty much suited for most of any businesses of any size. But if you feel that you are facing very specific growing pains in your manufacturing business and you know it depends on the use case or the business case can’t really necessarily say it’s based on how many people or how big the business is. It kind of depends on your needs. But whenever you find that you are missing missing sales, missing deliveries or a running out of stock or having difficulty adapting your manufacturing process, then you can probably adopt Katana. Getting started on it as a Shopify seller is pretty simple. You would simply just connect your account. You would pull in all your products, your customers as well as, and then your sales orders would begin to pull in as well automatically. And Katana will sink. It’s finished goods inventory with your, with your Shopify store as well.

Chris: 14:34 So you’ll always have the point of truth inside of Katana for any internal business operations that are taking place. When it comes directly to your live inventory values, as that information pools in then all you need to do at that point is find what materials are going into the platform and then define the product recipes and operations to make them inside of the Katana itself. And then as soon as that’s ready to go, you’re pretty much ready to start. We have really easy onboarding, so it will definitely help you understand how you can adapt it to your business needs.

Caroline: 15:06 Fantastic. So I just want to make it clear to everyone, I’m not one of those people too. I don’t want this to sound like I’m trying to sell this. This is not what this podcast is about. It’s really to help people and I think that people need to understand is a really fine line. There’s a fine line between not to needing it yet and then waiting too long and there really is that fine line and I can say [inaudible] like give your opinion after I’ve said what I’ve got to say really what I think is that that fine line comes down to not being in those shoes. Yeah, be a little, literally I was doing shoes, I’ve been in that position and you don’t want to be doing this. If you set up the business so far and you’re not getting any sales at all and you’re sitting at home and you’re making say jewelry for example, and you have got $1,000 worth of stock of jewelry and you haven’t even sold one thing in, this is not the time to be doing this yet.

Caroline: 15:56 You haven’t made any sales, but as soon as you start making sales, you need to have these in place. Because trust me, I can tell you I’ve had more than 13 businesses over to the last 20 years. And I can tell you one of the worst things that you can do as a business owner is wait too long to implement. Whether it’s this or there’s many other things. But if you wait too long, then you end up in a position where you’re trying to bring in these orders. If you’re trying to take care of that, then you try to implement a new strategy and you system and then you don’t have time to do anything and everything falls apart. And I cannot tell you I’m going through it with. Just ask Parker at the moment that we’re updating a lot of things. And I’ve decided to do it now because it should.

Caroline: 16:37 It could be done in six months from now and making changes for the future. But I’m doing it now because if I wait any longer than it’s going to be too late and I’m going to put myself in jeopardy. So my opinion is that if you’re making no sales yet and you’ve got a lot of stock sitting at home and you’re not selling anything yet, then maybe it’s not the time highway, the, if you know, hey, I’m doing a big PR campaign, I’m going to get a whole lot of promotional advertising, what? I’m going to run a Facebook ad and I’m going to put $10,000 in Facebook ads, for example, then you’ve got to start doing this now. So I don’t know, Chris do you have an opinion on that?

Chris: 17:07 Yeah. probably this part won’t be on the recording. About adopting a platform, the challenging aspects of adopting a platform when it’s the right time to do it. Yeah, I mean, I could say, I can say that I definitely agree with that. Making a change is a very critical business decision for a small makers. You know, I also used to be a small business owner myself. I had a small company that made a skateboard bearing oils for skaters. And if I knew what I knew back then as a, as an owner, I would have made some big choices and changing the platform and operations and how I do things. So yeah, when you get to a critical point when you need to pivot and change your approach with your manufacturing, adopting a platform will give you some level of scalability will certainly ease the frustrations and pains you would experience if you don’t take that decision. But doing it at the right time is very critical. So that way you have an easy transition as you begin to scale.

Caroline: 18:04 I was going to say, and it really comes down to the fact that you can lose a lot of sales if you do it too late. It’s like you said, if you run out of stock and you have a lead time, eight weeks to get a particular item that you need and you’ve got people, let’s say I’ve got a client in a moment and he just went through a huge PR campaign and had all these problems with the back end of his website, had to put it on. I’ve had two clients like this actually recently had to turn on the button of the, I’m not in stock at the moment. Terrible. That’s a terrible situation to be one of them. It was completely out of his control. It had to do with Paypal and another one, it was because of other issues that were, again, it was sort of in his control but not really. It’s terrible when that happens.

Chris: 18:51 Yeah, I completely agree with that. We have, we have several customers that I had a customer similar to that too was making leather shoes and they have special leathers that they have an eight week lead time on and they found them in the same exact position, lost sales, three months delays and completely no tracking on the supplies that they bring in to make their product. Uh, so yeah, I definitely would recommend that staying on top of that, it’s the raw material management is absolutely critical for having great success on your sales.

Caroline: 19:21 Yeah. Fantastic. So Chris, we’re going to wrap it up here because I think that let’s do the live Webinar. Let’s let people get onto that because I would love you to go through some things on a screen where you can explain things properly and show people some examples and also on that live Webinar, I would love you to have some customer examples as well because some people might be thinking, I’m not sure if this is really for me, if anyone’s listening at the moment, Chris has said that they’ve got a 14 day trials of three so then they can try it out. If you want to jump in on it and try it out before you pay anything. So do you want to just let people know about signing up for the free trial?

Chris: 19:58 Yeah, yeah. We have a 14 day free trial. It’s really easy. Just go to Katanamrp.com and click on sign up. It’s a no credit card commitment, 14 days. you can also, if you need an extension, if you decide to actually really get into it and you need a two week extension, just feel free to write to us. So support@katanamrp.com and we’ll be happy to extend it for you just say that Caroline sent you.

Caroline: 20:21 Okay, fantastic. Thank you for that. So everyone, thank you for listening and we will be sharing with you the live webinar sign up page. It’s like I said at the beginning, it’s on the podcast page. It’s also, if you’re listening to this from your smartphone in the link of the podcasts information, there will be a link there for the signup as well. So you can go straight through there and it’s going to be really exciting. We’re going to go through a lot of great information, but Chris, thank you. it’s been fantastic and I think you’ve really opened people’s eyes to understanding that they need more help and that they do need to take action and think about this seriously.

Chris: 20:55 Thanks Caroline it’s a pleasure.

Caroline: 20:56 Wonderful. Thanks, Chris. Thanks everyone and keep smiling.

Intro & Outro: 20:59 Thanks for listening to the winning with Shopify podcast. Join the Facebook group facebook.com/group/winningwithshopify and get our show notes at justasparker.com/podcast don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast so you never miss an episode, and as a listener, get 20% off at. Justaskparker.com by using the code podcast.