Heath Wells and Olivia Skuza say they are out to help bring retail into the modern age.
The husband-and-wife co-CEOs believe they have struck upon a way to speed the time it takes for vendors to get their products in stores, offering consumers products they want when they want them.
Their company, NuORDER, is an e-commerce platform connecting brands with retail buyers to browse products and catalogs, sales and inventory data and place orders from their computer or mobile app.
A lot of this is still done on paper, making it necessary to begin placing orders months in advance, a longtime retail tradition that Wells and Skuza believe they can help bring an end to.
The most important part of being CEOs and founders is to continue persevering, “even when thrown curve balls that you may have never anticipated,” Wells said. “Giving up is the easy solution, but is not an option.”
Wells said he and his wife “have learned to block out the noise around us and believe in our decisions, even when others don’t. This perseverance can be incredibly difficult,” but worthwhile.
An opportunity to modernize
The idea for the Los Angeles-based company came to them from attending large fashion trade shows in different parts of the world, observing how many retailers conducted their wholesale businesses and noticing “how antiquated” the process of placing orders was, Wells said.
By 2012, they had a prototype for NuORDER and raised their first seed round of $3.5 million. Since then, they’ve gone through ups and downs with growing too quickly early on without the necessary structure and working to change behavior in a very traditional industry.
But 2016 was a breakout year for the business, when it turned profitable, grew its customer base and proved it had a viable business model. All told, they have raised $13.9 million through investors, mainly venture capitalists, and have continued to grow the business and exceed targets, Skuza said.
A gap between B2C and B2B experience
NuORDER offers a way for retailers “to get immediate inventory,” Skuza said. That’s the company’s linchpin, with an online model that allows retailers to discover new brands year-round.
Brands were using printed catalogs and line sheets to merchandise their products. Buyers were using pen, paper and fax machines to place orders. Both were relying on physical tradeshows to discover new products, and neither were leveraging digital or mobile because there wasn’t a simple B2B e-commerce option available to them.
“We were witnessing the dramatic increase in popularity of B2C e-commerce,” Wells said. “Brands were delivering incredible experiences and benefits to their end consumers. We knew there was a missed opportunity for brands to offer a similar e-commerce experience to retail buyers as well.”
The company feels it is changing the way retailers and wholesalers make purchases, shifting from using catalogs to adopting an online model. “It lets wholesalers and retailers find new brands and vice versa,” Wells said.