Transforming a Print Shop with Fresh Books and Google Apps

Editor’s Note: Sunir Shah is Chief Handshaker with FreshBooks, the leader in online billing and bookkeeping. Available in the Google Apps Marketplace, FreshBooks is an essential tool helping small and medium-sized companies manage their needs 100% online, providing invoicing, estimates, time tracking, reporting and other business functions.

Roy Potterill and Natasha Taljaard are two of the lead creative wizards at Inner City Ink, a Johannesburg-based print shop producing high-quality screen printing and merchandise, including T-shirts, caps, stickers, posters, buttons, flyers, hoodies and just about anything else you can print on. Inner City Ink take pride in being able to print pretty much anything their clients want on whatever they want, supplying creatives, retail clothing labels, the music industry, event companies and more.

Sunir Shah: Running a business is hard enough; people shouldn’t have to deal with complex systems to do their billing and bookkeeping. That’s why we built FreshBooks – to help small businesses and teams everywhere get paid, painlessly, so they can focus on what they love to do.

Right from the start, FreshBooks has always been a cloud-based app and we’re big believers in the value of the cloud for small businesses. Having all your business data available online, from anywhere, is a huge thing for small teams.

The Google Apps Marketplace is a great step forward in our view – it helps millions of businesses find new online tools, and provides a simple way to connect all these tools together. We’re really happy to have been part of the Google Apps Marketplace from the beginning and we’ve already heard from customers like Inner City Ink about how it’s making a real difference in their business.

Roy Potteril: We’ve got a reputation at Inner City Ink for innovation and doing things differently that extends beyond the originality of our design and printing work all the to how way we work with clients.

We’ve been in growth mode for a while, but with the World Cup coming up this summer, and word getting out about our work, our business just exploded. Suddenly, we’ve got t-shirt and custom printing orders coming out our ears. Before we found Freshbooks, we were always scrambling under pressure and bound to one PC at the office, with stacks of paperwork lying everywhere. With the sudden increase in work it was bedlam.

Natasha Taljaard: We were taking orders and handling all the print jobs we could during the day, then plowing through quotes and invoices every night, or whenever we could get to the office. As an on-the-go group, living on our cellphones, being tied to the one PC in the office we used to write up quotes and bills was killing us. Freshbooks was our ticket out of the madness.

RP: I’ve been pushing for ways to scale our business and help us work better for a while. Web technology is the key to transforming a business like this. I was already a Google Apps convert – doing everything I could through Gmail, Google Talk and their other web apps. The access anywhere model just makes sense with the way my life works. When I found out about FreshBooks through the Google Apps Marketplace, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Now the whole team can quickly get into any info we need, wherever we are, and we’re not worrying about seeing the most up-to-date version of a quote. Better still, we don’t have piles of paperwork all lying around everywhere and we look way more professional when we can produce that all-important first quote in next to no time.

With everything in the cloud, we’re doing 100% more quotes a day. In the first two months of using Freshbooks we had an increase in turnover of over 30% per month. We’re now able to cut out 50% of the workload because of the speed at which we can do quotes and invoices.

At the same time, we’re able to finish our work a lot quicker, and spend more time on follow-ups and marketing. We’re always on the same page and connected, so we have more time to spend on the important things – talking to clients and selling, not spending the day stuck behind the computer.

NT: One of our biggest corporate clients was so impressed with this whole setup, their financial manager called in his associates to come and check out the way we’re working. That makes us look great. You might not think web technology could have such a big impact on an old-school business like screen-printing, but we’re only just scratching the surface here – this is going to be huge.

I had this dream of being able to enjoy a glass of wine on the stoep of a farm on the West Coast, while still being plugged into what’s going on back in Johannesburg. I think she’s still a bit stunned that she can do exactly that now that I’ve set her up with FreshBooks and Google Apps.

Posted by Chris Kelly, Google Apps Marketplace team

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