Customer Stories

From Ballet to Broth: Bare Bones Uses Fancy Footwork, and Bill.com, to Meet Skyrocketing Demand

Katherine Harvey, co-founder of Bare Bones Broth, has been on one wild ride as an entrepreneur — from a part-time gig, to the explosive growth of overnight fame, to the retail and production challenges of a global pandemic.

Still, Katherine exudes boundless energy, bouncing up and down on feet that were diagnosed with incurable arthritis when she was only 18. An avid ballet dancer and runner at the time, she was told she would never take another step without being in pain.

“They didn’t recommend surgery because there was a 50% chance of paralysis from the waist down,” Katherine told us. “I had to accept that pain as a life-long reality.”

Seven years later, she met her future husband, Ryan — a professional chef who suggested a paleo diet.

“I didn’t have any expectations,” said Katherine, “but then the pain in my feet disappeared. After 7 years. That’s when I realized how profoundly food and nutrition can affect our health. I became passionate about creating food that can help the body heal.”

Scrambling to meet unexpected demand led to a cluttered back office filled with towering stacks of paper

Katherine and Ryan started Bare Bones Broth as a side hustle, selling the chef-quality broth through a website created by a friend. When a celebrity chef made gourmet broth a buzzworthy sensation by selling it out of a window for $9 a cup in New York’s East Village, Bare Bones Broth wasn’t prepared to meet the sudden increase in demand.

“Out of nowhere, we had national news coverage. Then a book deal. We had to relocate to a bigger kitchen,” Katherine said. “We attracted seed money and eventually broke into retail, Costco and Amazon. We created a new instant line. When that all started, I was still managing the bookkeeping myself — employees, vendors, expenses — even as we kept taking the business to a whole new level every few months. It was a real challenge.”

Despite the huge demand, the operation itself was still small. Katherine and Ryan struggled to keep up when their linear growth turned exponential.

“We were still a husband-and-wife-run operation, working out of this semi-rural commercial kitchen in Southern Oregon. Some of our vendors only took paper checks. You literally handed a check to the truck driver when he showed up. That was our reality — lots of paper and lots of those stacked files and me trying to keep track of stuff and a lot of forgotten payables. Staring at that stack of papers and knowing how hard we were already working, I could see it was only going to get worse.”

“Payables went from being my whole job, probably 30 hours a week just managing stacks of paper, to maybe 5 hours a week. Bill.com enabled us to grow and optimize at a level we never would have been able to.”

—Katherine Harvey, Co-founder of Bare Bones Broth

Desperate to streamline their e-commerce, the team introduced a modern, digital tech stack, including Bill.com

“We hired a consultant to help us optimize our marketing for e-commerce,” Katherine told us. “He gave us tools and resources to help us be more efficient, and he was a huge advocate for Bill.com. As soon as he showed it to me, the decision to adopt it was a no-brainer.”

Adding Bill.com freed up hours of Katherine’s time while also freeing up their operations director. That allowed them to focus on running R&D, optimizing the cost of goods, and vetting new partners in their supply chain.

“Payables went from being my whole job, probably 30 hours a week just managing stacks of paper, to maybe 5 hours a week. Bill.com enabled us to grow and optimize at a level we never would have been able to. We're in brick-and-mortar retail. We're Costco. We're online. We're on Amazon. We have some direct wholesale partners. That's a lot to manage for our tiny team.”

But one of the biggest advantages, Katherine told us, was the improved control over cash flow, especially with so many moving parts in their supply and distribution chain.

“When you're mailing checks, you don't know when they’ll get deposited. If a bunch of them hit your account before your next receivable comes in, you could overdraw the account. So you’re always waiting on them.That was a huge benefit to switching to Bill.com. Just knowing when the money was coming out and being able to control it.”

“If I'd had to worry about managing our cash flow during the early months of the pandemic, we would have dropped the ball 1,000%. But thanks to Bill.com, I was able to dedicate all those hours to our supply chain. In the end, there wasn’t any drop in sales.”

—Katherine Harvey, Co-founder of Bare Bones Broth

When COVID hit, the company faced a new Herculean task: keep the production line running despite slowdowns and rationing

Because Bare Bones Broth has so many points of distribution, the early days of the pandemic saw a quick shift from brick-and-mortar channels to online sales. Soon, Katherine and Ryan were getting desperate calls from stores begging for extra product to fill empty shelves. But the real problem wasn’t demand. It was supply.

“Our big challenge was operations,” Katherine said gravely. “Production was backed up by months, and things just kept getting worse. We had to change the way we allocated inventory. We had to communicate with our supply chain from end to end. Where were our raw materials coming from? When would they arrive? Then our production line started rationing their time. What would that mean for us? We had to communicate expectations downstream to all of our wholesale and direct-to-consumer customers.”

For Katherine, managing the production line problems and keeping the supply chain going became a full-time job.

“If I'd had to worry about managing our cash flow during the early months of the pandemic, we would have dropped the ball 1,000%. But thanks to Bill.com, I was able to dedicate all those hours to our supply chain. In the end, there wasn’t any drop in sales. It wasn’t even a blip. That's a testament to how great Bill.com is.”

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