What does a pet product start-up have in common with a Girl Scout selling cookies? They can both teach you about mobile payments.
Sage's mobile credit-card payment system.
After moving to Florida in the economic downturn, Anthony Santarsiero did some market research to start his own business. When his dog got sick on chicken jerky that had been produced in China, he decided a line of pet products that included freeze-dried treats as well as dental and medical holistic remedies was what the world needed.
"There's a big drive for holistic and natural remedies that follows the human purchase trends within the past six months," said Santarsiero. "I saw an opportunity for food and products with no chemicals, made in the USA." TerraPaws was born.
After sinking his life savings into starting the company, finding chemists to formulate natural products, and creating inventory, he realized how many players there were selling this kind of product, and admits: "I didn't do my homework well enough." Things weren't as cut and dried as he had thought, and sales were tough to come by.
After negotiating with vendors for more lenient payment terms (net six months in some cases), he and his two salespeople hit the road, selling not only at local stores and events in the Clearwater region, but going up to three or four hours away, at American Kennel Club shows, Humane Society events, ASPCA days, and the like. With table setups and booths, they did their best to sell products. People would come by the table, like the stuff, but they often didn't have cash or checks to buy. Santarsiero had anticipated this. When he set up his website he had also worked with provider Sage Payment Solutions to get mobile payment capability. Terra Paws was able to take credit cards at shows, and the salespeople were able to close deals at local chains and distributors with a swipe of a card.
Santarsiero said "When we present the product, we try to make the sale, and having the ability to get a credit card sale is huge. The other day we walked into a chain and ran a $7,000 charge for an order on a sale." With that kind of cash flow, and immediate access to the money, his business quickly turned around.
The Girl Scouts found similar success by adopting mobile payment technology. When the Girl Scouts tried out taking mobile payments, the organization found a 13 percent increase in sales. It chose Sage as a provider as well.
Of course, many start-ups are on smaller accounting systems, and they're using mobile solutions like Square.
For Santarsiero, his advice to fellow merchants is that "Any business owner looking at not being able to buy inventory should consider mobile payments. Ask for the money, and make it easy for people to pay. We're not waiting, we're not factoring, we are just getting paid."
HOWARD GREENSTEIN is a social media strategist and evangelist, and president of the Harbrooke Group, which specializes in helping companies communicate with their customers using the latest Web technologies. @HowardGr