The Secret Chocolatier Simplifies Back Office Operations
In 2011, college roommates, Erika Welsh and Keeley Tillotson had no intention of starting a business when concocting a delicious, natural peanut butter in their apartment. However, as the butter quickly gained a loyal, hungry following, the pair decided to build Wild Friends Foods—now, a $5+ million per year company with five employees.
Today, Wild Friends produces more than 18 kinds of nut and seed butter in a variety of sizes and packages, available at 10,000 stores nationwide, including Whole Foods, Target, and Sprouts Farmers’ Market, among other national and regional grocers. They also sell directly to consumers on Amazon.
Wild Friends began using BILL for payables in 2014 based on a bookkeeper’s recommendation. BILL has allowed them to streamline payables, save time, and work efficiently with their remote bookkeeping contractor—a more affordable solution for a growing small business than to retain a part- or full-time onsite employee to handle financial tasks.
Solving the Paper Problem
“It’s really challenging working with paper—it’s annoying,” shares Tillotson, who has paid the company’s bills since the beginning. “We used to get a bunch of bills and not know what to do with them. Unless your bookkeeper is present on site, he or she can’t code them in without access to the paper bill and other related documents. So, if you want to use anyone remote, you pretty much have to use a service like BILL.”
Before BILL, Tillotson says they tried scanning and emailing bills, which was far worse than dealing with paper. The process lacked organization and obscured visibility that is necessary to manage day-to-day cash flow. It also didn’t afford the efficiency and anytime-anywhere flexibility that is necessary to optimize a mundane back-office process like paying bills. Tillotson still had to spend precious time signing checks, stuffing envelopes and mailing payments.
With BILL, Tillotson can digitize the incoming paper bills and easily share them with her bookkeeper for processing. Images of the digital documents are then available every step of the way as payment decisions are being made.
Clearing Up Cash Flow Complexity
The company pays between 200 and 400 bills per month. Wild Friends sources all of their own ingredients, so their billers include ingredient suppliers, contractors, brokers and third party manufacturers and packers. In addition to BILL, Wild Friends uses QuickBooks™ Desktop.
“I like BILL because it’s much, much easier for me to see our cash on hand,” reports Tillotson. “Because we’re a small company, we’re always in cash management mode. I pay all our bills depending on what our cash situation is for the week and what we want to pay.” BILL’s ability to automatically sync transactions with accounting software also keeps things simple, alleviating the need to perform time consuming and error fraught data re-entry.
Gaining Accessibility and Flexibility
Tillotson sometimes needs to pay bills on the go or get something done quickly, and BILL helps her to do both. “If I’m running around and need to make an urgent payment, I can just hop on my phone or my computer really fast, pay it, and move on with my day. I can feel confident all of the information is there. And I can see at a glance what bills are due right now, and what will be overdue next week.”
BILL’s convenience and ease of use make it an indispensable tool for Wild Friends. Tillotson says that it’s hard for her to imagine handling payables any other way—she does everything on her computer and travels extensively for work, so being able to take care of payables on the go is essential.
“When you’re wearing a lot of hats, your time is one of the most valuable things you have,” she explains. Tillotson estimates that she spends four to five hours a month on the payables process, a number that would most likely triple without BILL.
Better Bill Pay for Banks
When asked about how her bank could play a more valuable role in helping her company solve their financial management challenges, Tillotson reported that her bank’s bill pay service seemed as if it had been designed to support recurring consumer payments, but was not suitable for complex, variable business transactions, such as purchasing inventory. She offered a view that banks should team up with innovators like BILL to deliver best-in-class solutions. Her prior negative experience with bank products leads her to conclude that such a partnership is necessary to create an experience that is easy, streamlined, and “just works.” Tillotson wholeheartedly recommends BILL for other entrepreneurs to save time and prevent headaches. “Anyone who pays their bills online knows how much better it is than trying to manage bills on paper,” she says. “BILL makes using online bill pay viable for a business like mine. The less you’re thinking about your bill pay service, the better it is. I don’t want to think about it—I just want to use it and get out.”