Tony Kime’s store sells very old things — an antique brass ship’s wheel, a 1930s binnacle. But when it came to running his small business, the owner of Annapolis Maritime Antiques wanted the newest technology.
His quest led to an unusual partnership between the 72-year-old Vietnam veteran and the tech-savvy group at Bindo, a startup geared to helping small businesses operate more efficiently.
For Kime, the journey started five years ago when he founded his maritime-themed antiques store as an online shop. “I had an old credit card system and took orders on the phone,” he tells NerdWallet.
Last year, he decided it was time to expand. From an online-only shop, Annapolis Maritime Antiques became a brick-and-mortar store on Severn Avenue in Annapolis, Maryland.
You might also like:
You can buy all sorts of nautical antiques and knickknacks — the binnacle, which holds the ship’s compass, for $1,995 or the wheel for $5,600, as well as a handmade nautical keychain for $12.95. Kime’s shop also makes furniture from World War II Liberty ship hatch covers.
Kime knew setting up a brick-and-mortar shop wouldn’t be easy. Topping his list of must-haves was a point-of-sale system that would handle pretty much everything — processing sales, keeping track of every item in his shop and getting a sense of business trends.
“The biggest challenge was I wanted it to be relatively inexpensive,” he says. “I also wanted the latest technology.”
Kime said he did “a ton of research,” filling two manila folders with his exploration of more than a dozen options. He was starting to get frustrated when a business professor who studied point-of-sale systems told him, “You should talk to these young kids out of New York City.”
Rising star in a growing market
Those young kids were a company called Bindo, which turned out to have the technology Kime was looking for.
Bindo’s POS system has helped him keep track of business, including sales and inventory at the antiques shop.
“Life is good and we’re loving it,” Kime says. “It’s intuitively easy to learn and doesn’t take a deep skill set to use it.”
And the price was right too. Kime spends less than a hundred bucks a month on the system.
Bindo, based in New York City, is one of the rising stars in a fast-growing market for information technology systems geared to helping small companies manage their business. There are plenty of options for the small-business owner, including from such vendors as Shopify, Square and Lightspeed.
Bindo was founded in 2011. Jason Ngan and Brad Lauster derived the name of their company from the Cantonese word for “where.” Like other point-of-sale systems, Bindo’s technology seeks to simplify the way you perform key small-business tasks.
“Small retailers don’t have the tools to be able to effectively manage their business,” David Bozin, Bindo’s vice president of growth development, tells NerdWallet. “Some of them use cash registers. Some of them use QuickBooks. Some of them use other PC-based systems. Some of them use pen and paper — a lot of people are still using that.”
Bindo’s point-of-sale system lets you keep track of virtually every key aspect of your business in an easy, user-friendly manner. Here are a few features:
- An inventory management system that uses photos of items to show how much stock is left.
- A customer-loyalty tracking system that lets you know how much a customer has spent at your business and even the profit margin produced by those purchases.
- A time clock and staff management feature for keeping track of employee schedules and work hours.
- A business analytics system that allows you to drill down on sales and other key metrics.
“Merchants see what they have,” Bozin says, “and manage everything from their inventory to their customers to their employees, their reports and all those things.”
To get started, a small-business owner can check out the Bindo website to get a quote and request a free trial. Bindo will assign a point-of-sale specialist to help, Bozin says. The specialist is typically someone who’s had experience running a small business.
You pay a monthly fee of $89 for a basic plan. You’ll have to buy the gear for the system, which includes an iPad, a credit card reader, a barcode scanner and receipt printer. You typically won’t spend more than $1,500 for the equipment you need.
If you have a small business with more than a thousand items for sale, you can sign up for the pro plan for a monthly fee that ranges from $89 to $149 and also covers the cost of the gear. And Bindo offers discounts to small businesses that are just starting out.
Who qualifies for a discount
Kime, of Annapolis Maritime Antiques, got a 10% discount and pays $68 a month. If you’re a really small store with, say, five items for sale, Bindo will let you sign up for free as you’re getting started, Bozin says.
Jean Luc Carrucciu, owner of Les Toiles Du Soleil, a home decor store in New York City, says he’s happy with the system, although his small business has sometimes encountered problems, such as payments not going through or the system being slow.
“Am I happy with the system? Yes,” Carrucciu tells NerdWallet. “Do I want to go back to a cash register? No. Would I want it to be more reliable? Definitely, yes.”
Bozin says the speed issue is often due to an Internet service provider’s network and that Bindo’s staff members now routinely work with business owners on choosing a provider and networking gear to make the platform work faster and more efficiently.
“We make sure our merchants are aware of this,” Bozin says. “We work with them to find the proper Internet [service provider] and recommend specific routers.”
Kime cites customer service as another one of Bindo’s strengths. He and his team weren’t exactly tech savvy, he says, and they had plenty of questions as they were starting to use the Bindo system.
“We just pestered the heck of them about problems that weren’t really problems,” he says. But “no question was too small.”
Then there’s the other benefit, Kime says: the element of surprise. The shop owner says many of his customers don’t expect an antiques shop to be using a high-tech system.
“We got the most modern system, and they’re surprised,” he says. “We have fun with that.”
For more information about how to start and run a business, visit NerdWallet’s Small Business Guide. For free, personalized answers to questions about starting and financing your business, visit the Small Business section of NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor page.
Image via iStock.