Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Dianna Allen, and I co-founded Inventora with my partner, Jeremy Blalock. Inventora is an inventory system that not only tracks your products, but also the supplies used to make them and the relationship between the two.
Inventora also allows you to calculate your COGS per product, integrate with your store, perform inventory audits, and view reports to easily keep up with your finances.
We soft-launched Inventora 4 months ago as a free system and have since gained over 2,500 users. We introduced premium features just a month ago and have hit $500 in MRR since then. We’re expecting to hit our goal of $3k MRR in a few months, by the end of September.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
We unofficially started Inventora in November 2020. It was actually just a small personal system that I used for my own shop’s inventory.
I believe the biggest lesson we’ve learned is one we already knew. Get users in early and pay attention to their feedback. They are your most valuable asset when beginning any business.
I run a home fragrance shop, TERRA, where everything is handmade. And I was searching for a daily use product that would help me manage my full inventory. There’s plenty of systems out there that help you manage the inventory that you sell, but there wasn’t anything that helped track the materials that you use to create the products that you sell.
I spent weeks searching, but ultimately there was nothing that fit exactly what I was looking for. They were either too expensive for my small business or they were affordable but majorly lacked the features.
So, I voiced my frustrations to Jeremy and explained how I’m using a spreadsheet to, unfortunately, try and track everything and create relationships between it all. We then started creating what is essentially Inventora today.
Inventora was used by TERRA over the next couple of months, and slowly we fine-tuned some details of the system during this time. Because I found the use of the system, I had a feeling there were many others out there in the same situation.
After all, the handmade business is a niche that will never die. We have been creating products for thousands of years.
At the time, Jeremy and I both worked full-time outside of Inventora. But because I have a network of artisans, I thought I’d get the word out there and see if people were truly interested in an inventory system like ours. So, I posted on my Instagram story and in a Facebook group.
Over the next couple of weeks, hundreds of users had signed up. Jeremy, being the founder of the popular no-code tool Adalo, said he’d never seen traction like this so early on with a product. Not because of the user signups, but because of the user activity and frequent returning users.
We knew we had something good.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Creating Inventora was actually a pretty easy process between the two of us. I had the problems and knew exactly what the solutions should be, and Jeremy had the technical skills to bring the solutions to life.
We started building Inventora based on how my spreadsheets were structured. I tracked my individual materials and the products made from those. I also had categories, unit prices, COGS, formulas, notes, and other small but necessary details related to each material.
Having created the basis of Inventora to individually track each material and each product, we then added the feature to connect the two. This was the feature that every single system I looked at lacked, and I needed it so terribly.
When we opened up Inventora for a soft launch, many people applauded us for creating this. Mentioning how they previously were only tracking on a spreadsheet, because again, they were in the same situation as myself.
As new users joined, we highly encouraged them to voice their feedback and help us make Inventora the best inventory system for artisans. Soon enough, we had textile artists, jewelry designers, candle makers, and overall, a variety of makers using Inventora.
Describe the process of launching the business.
As I mentioned previously, we soft-launched Inventora to my close network and followers. I knew many other artisans followed me and my business, so getting their attention was the easiest.
Our website was not nearly as polished as it is today. In fact, the landing page was made on Carrd. There was barely any description of its powerful features, we didn’t have blog content, all we had was the system itself.
And sure enough, people caught on. Just goes to show that if you have a good product, then maybe that’s all the convincing you need.
Part of the reason we were able to get off the ground so quickly and cheaply was that Jeremy had previously been working on another side project (now defunct), and he was able to reuse a lot of the code from that project to build the first version of Inventora. Things like user accounts, Stripe payments, and even the signup flow were all already in place.
After that, we took a lot of shortcuts that ended up being beneficial, like doing a lot of the calculations, sorting, filtering, etc. on the frontend. This was easier to build, and it also makes the product feel more responsive. Sure, it might not scale to hundreds of thousands of materials, but our audience doesn’t need that!
We self-funded this since the beginning, as the startup costs were very minimal, and part of the reason why we’re able to offer a free plan option to users of Inventora.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since our soft launch, we’ve spent $0 on marketing, and have gained all of our users organically.
This was done through Facebook groups and Instagram. We found niche groups full of business owners hand-making their own products, and using the search bar, questions about inventory systems have already been asked. We simply answered their questions and suggested trying out Inventora for their future needs.
We also similarly approached Instagram. We seek out people who hand make products and cold DM them our solution.
A few of our users actually created reviews/walkthrough videos of Inventora which exploded our growth just a month after getting Inventora out to the public.
After seeing the effect of influencers sharing Inventora, we started an affiliate program just a couple of weeks ago to further encourage this sharing behavior.
Other tactics to keep people engaged and allowing new users to discover us consists of being active on Instagram, diving into SEO content through the use of our blog and website, and sending out monthly newsletters.
Having similarly started TERRA, quickly but minimally, I take a lot of what I’ve learned when growing my shop’s audience and taking what worked over to Inventora. For the most part, the tactics overlap although the products and audience are very different.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are pleasantly surprised with how well Inventora has been received by just a small number of people. After all, we haven’t even had a formal launch yet.
We are confident in what we’ve built. I believe this is because I myself am the target user. And since I’m the target user, we can bring to life exactly what is lacking on the market. I know all the problems to solve because I experience them daily.
Taking that with Jeremy’s extensive experience within the startup and tech industry, we can’t fail.
While I still spend most of my time on my main business, TERRA, Jeremy has recently made Inventora his full-time job. He’s constantly cranking out new features and perfecting the system, and I’m taking control of marketing and user growth.
We both know our strengths, and they’re basically a match made in heaven.
Right now, we’re just working out of our house, as it’s only us two. However, we do plan to grow our team and because I can’t give Inventora my full attention, we’re hoping to hire a content creator in the near future.
We’ve applied to Arch Grants, a program that awards multiple $50,000 grants to startups within our city, and so far it’s looking good. We’ll probably hear a decision within the next month, so it’s an exciting time for us.
We also have a handful of investors interested in what we’re creating. So, we can really take Inventora through any door we’d like. We know Inventora is great and can truly revolutionize how artisan businesses manage their inventory. For now, we are just carefully weighing all of our options, while continuously building the product.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Because we both previously have worked on businesses of our own, I think the most helpful thing we’ve realized is for us to work with our strengths.
We knew from the start what we’re both good at and simply divided our roles and worked solely on what we know best. There hasn’t been much experimentation yet, as it is still so early for Inventora, but just getting it off the ground and available for the public has been the best decision we could have made.
I do think we have an added benefit of the timing of creating Inventora. As we started working on it during COVID when many businesses were being created due to people losing their jobs and having extra time on their hands.
The artisan niche is larger than ever, and we’re happy to grow with and be part of the new generation of small businesses.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our business is very simple. We use social media for marketing (primarily Instagram and YouTube), Stripe for billing, and BaseDash for analytics/data admin.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I don’t really listen to podcasts (they put me to sleep, to be honest), but I loved the story in Shoe Dog. Another good one was The Innovation Stack by Jim McKelvey, co-founder of Square.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
A lot of people say “just getting started” is the hardest part, but I think that the even more important thing is to find something you’re truly passionate about and solve a real problem.
Inventora was born out of a problem I had running TERRA (i.e. managing my inventory). And I started TERRA based on a personal desire to create beautiful handmade products that I myself would want to buy. Lots of people get too analytical about what to build, but really you should look at your own life and your own problems.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We’re looking for a full-time creative marketer. Get in touch if you’re interested!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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