Why settle for a sleeping bag when you can have a sleeping quilt? Sleeping quilts from Enlightened Equipment are filled with high-end down or synthetic insulation that keep the weight super low without sacrificing warmth or packability.
Founder Tim Marshall started sewing quilts by himself in his basement in 2007. As demand for Enlightened Equipment products grew, so did the business. Today, Enlightened Equipment has 75 employees creating quilts, clothing, accessories, and more in a 50,000 square foot building in Winona, Minnesota. And their product philosophy is to “be smarter and lighter, eliminating useless extra features so you only carry what you need.”
Like many manufacturers, Enlightened Equipment has a fairly complex web of relationships with vendors, for everything from raw materials to marketing expenses. To streamline and optimize their financial operations, they turned to BILL.
When Jessica Sonnek joined Enlightened Equipment as Director of Finance in 2020, she quickly realized their bookkeeping was highly manual and inefficient. The company was paying all of their bills with paper checks, and then dealing with all the paper documents that came along with that method. That meant stacks of paper everywhere, and it was difficult to find documents when they needed them.
The spend management process for Enlightened Equipment was also cumbersome. “As a company, we only used debit cards, and we only had two or three,” Sonnek recalls. “They were passed from employee to employee and it was hard to track who made purchases.”
When a purchase was unaccounted for, Sonnek had to play detective, questioning everyone at the company. "It was a very uncomfortable way of doing things,” she says. “I wasn't accusing them of doing anything wrong. I just needed the documentation.”
Sonnek knew they needed a better system. “I always say that my love language is efficiency. If something can save me a keystroke or anything, five minutes in a monthly process, that adds up to a long time saved at the end of the year.”
“I always say that my love language is efficiency. If something can save me a keystroke or anything, five minutes in a monthly process, that adds up to a long time saved at the end of the year.”
The time had come for a change in the company’s financial operations. “I spent the first year cleaning up and then the second year fine-tuning,” Sonnek remembers. “But the very first step of the cleanup was to say, ‘let's implement BILL.’”
It only took Sonnek a day or two to set up BILL. “The coolest part was that the CEO didn't even really need any training because BILL is so user-friendly. He was able to jump in and start doing approvals,” says Sonnek.
BILL Accounts Payable has transformed the way the company processes invoices. “Our policy is that every single payment that runs through any of our checking accounts has to touch BILL, so that it goes through that approval process,” says Sonnek. “Almost everything, from the electric bill to the rent, including raw materials. Our materials inventory spreadsheet is more than a thousand lines of just raw goods.”
The reliability of BILL is important for Enlightened Equipment as a manufacturing company.
“We do quite a few international wires because most of our vendors require either a hundred percent down payment before the goods come, or 50%, or 30%—a pretty substantial amount usually,” Sonnek explains. “So, we have to process that pretty much immediately. As soon as the email comes through that we've made the purchase, I immediately go into BILL, enter in the invoice, set up the approval process, and then get that payment processed right away.”
They also have a handful of vendors who still require a check before they will release goods to the company. “If I need to, I can still send checks through BILL. But with BILL, payments are more transparent,” says Sonnek. “BILL has totally changed the way we send checks and turned it into a very transparent process that leaves no doubt as to who did what and why.”
“BILL has totally changed the way we send checks and turned it into a very transparent process that leaves no doubt as to who did what and why.”
The response to BILL from their vendors has been overwhelmingly positive. “Everybody likes BILL,” says Sonnek. “I think it provides reassurance when vendors see we use BILL, because a lot of them already use it themselves. BILL has created a bit of a following in the business world.”
With BILL Spend & Expense, Sonnek is now able to easily track every company and employee purchase digitally. And with virtual cards, they never have to worry about lost cards or unauthorized charges. “We had so many issues with fraud because of our wide range of vendors. And a lot of our transactions are online,” Sonnek explains. “There are just so many holes and so many people who have access to that credit card information.”
To make matters worse, when there was a problem with their debit cards, the process to cancel and replace was a time-consuming hassle. “We had to cancel the debit card, order another one, wait for it to come in the mail,” Sonnek recalls. “Even just canceling the card was a 20 minute phone call and we had to sift through multiple menus and people before we could even prove we had the authority to make such a request.”
With BILL Spend & Expense, as soon as a problem occurs, they immediately do a dispute and cancel the card. “In two keystrokes, it's done,” Sonnek says. “We went from 20 minutes to only seconds to process a dispute with BILL.”
“In two keystrokes, it's done. We went from 20 minutes to only seconds to process a dispute with BILL.”
Now, they have a designated virtual card for each vendor. “When there is a problem, it only takes me 30 seconds to set up a new BILL card for one vendor, instead of having to get a new card number out to 50 different vendors,” she explains.
The increased control with BILL Spend & Expense has been a game changer in terms of budgeting for the needs of each department. For example, their Purchasing Department does not need a budget limit because they buy raw materials for manufacturing. In contrast, the Marketing Department has a more defined budget, so with the help of the Enlightened Equipment admin team, a purchase request process was created. Once the request is approved, Sonnek sets up a virtual card to fund the purchase. BILL has given her much better visibility when it comes to spending.
For Enlightened Equipment, BILL has been a huge time saver generating operational efficiencies and establishing strong internal controls. This integrated financial operations solution has checked a lot of boxes. With one login, one task list, and one platform, now automated financial processes have helped the business to gain greater control, efficiency, and visibility.
“Our CEO was amazed by BILL,” Sonnek shares. "He said, ‘Where did this magic come from? How did you make this job that was so time-consuming and unorganized into something that was honestly quite beautiful?’”