Online apparel entrepreneur solves cash flow hurdle to drive expansion
When Brendan Singbeil started his business, he was just a young guy with a dream of being self-employed — and of finding a career he enjoyed.
One day when he was a kid his dad had made him a skimboard (a small surfboard) and it was so much fun, he decided to make some for others.
Working from his garage in Vancouver, he roped a couple of friends into helping him keep up with production demand. As sales grew they decided to make some T-shirts to promote their brand and engage with their customers. Before long, the custom-designed tees started outselling the boards.
While his buddies decided to pursue other interests, Singbeil opted to keep a good thing going and create a new business, focusing this time on T-shirts and other corporate-branded products.
“I could see a real demand,” he says.
“We were getting requests from people who wanted shirts, hoodies, hats, that kind of thing, for their teams and schools. I didn’t want to lose that momentum.”
Navigate Apparel was born.
Singbeil starting selling in the Vancouver area to schools, sports teams and businesses — basically, anyone who needs a company name and logo on products to promote what they do.
“We’re a custom apparel and promotional product supplier working specifically with schools, businesses, teams and non-profit groups who are looking for merchandise programs.”
As Navigate Apparel grew, Singbeil decided earlier this year it was the right time to expand the company to Toronto and set up another production hub. He now spends most of his time in Ontario.
But cash flow is one of the things that keeps him up at nights as his company grows.
“That probably takes up a lot of my mental sanity.”
Singbeil needs to make sure he has the cash at hand to continue to fill existing orders as well as those for new clients.
While looking into different financing options, Singbeil read an article about FundThrough, Canada’s largest invoice funding service.
FundThrough helps businesses access the capital they need to ensure cash flow is never an issue.
A business owner can collect on their invoices within 24 hours so that they can start using the money right away, without waiting on invoice payments to come due. And that gives them room to grow now instead of waiting for pending invoices to be paid.
FundThrough’s technology is able to easily connect to a business’ accounting software and banking information to automatically assign a funding line in just a few hours — with less than two minutes of work for the owner.
“We created FundThrough as a way for just about any business owner to access an entirely new source of funding or cash flow whenever they need it,” says Steven Uster, FundThrough’s CEO and co-founder.
“They just need to do what they do best, which is sell and invoice. With FundThrough they can get the money they’ve earned into their hands when they need it instead of having to wait 30, 60 or 90 days.”
FundThrough users are usually too new, too young or growing too quickly to get help from banks. They also want something that works quickly and easily.
“Entrepreneurs are busy and need to move quickly, which is why we’ve automated everything. From our two-minute sign-up, to viewing your outstanding invoices, to the direct deposit and repayment from your bank account. Whenever you need funds it’s only a click away.”
Singbeil approached FundThrough in June 2016 as a way to meet the needs of a new major client. He didn’t want to say no, but he knew he’d need to outlay some money to fill the order, money that he didn’t yet have in hand.
“We have an increased customer base but the have the same amount of dollars to work with,” Singbeil says. “FundThrough is allowing us to stretch things right now.”
The service is a quick way to access money and will be part of his company’s financial “arsenal” as it continues to expand.
“Brendan is a great example of an entrepreneur who is growing his business but needs quick and easy access to working capital to get to the next phase. FundThrough is the perfect way for him to use his current receivables as a way to fund that next leap without having to take on debt. And he’s 100 per cent in control of the entire process,” says Uster.
“FundThrough has given me peace of mind and the ability to draw on cash if I need it.”
And, Singbeil says, it’s been a positive experience, one he has recommended to fellow small business owners.
“It’s easy to set up,” he says. “And they’ve been really attentive, answering any questions I’ve had about how the whole process works.”
Solving the cash flow issue has meant Singbeil can focus on what he does best: expanding the navigateapparel.com business. He recently hired a new employee in Vancouver so he can focus on signing deals and solving people’s merchandising woes.
“We’re starting to see some payoff for a lot of the work I’ve done the past year or two,” Singbeil says.
“Seeing the business grow is an extremely satisfying feeling. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”
Originally published in the Financial Post on October 6 2016
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