When a business owner first considers incorporating dynamic data-driven analysis into their routine management, the prospect can sometimes seem overwhelming. Technology infrastructure, mobile app development, real-time updates – where do you start first? It’s easy to forget that all you really need to begin on a small scale are a computer, a phone, and tools such as Power BI and Power Apps.
Just ask incoming Seattle high school seniors Julia Reguera, 16, and Ava Zech, 17. Earlier this summer, Julia and Ava launched a fashion-forward, charitable thrift store in downtown Las Vegas called Hand Me Ups. The store is stocked with brand name clothing donated from classmates and social media followers, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to multiple charities such as the Environmental Defense Fund, Rape Crisis Center, and the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation.
How do they track their sales, inventory, and donations? With Power BI and Power Apps! We talked with Julia (who also happens to be the daughter of Microsoft Principal Program Manager and Power BI evangelist Marc Reguera) about how Hand Me Ups implemented their data analytics, and how it’s working out for this unique seasonal business.
What data are you tracking from the Hand Me Ups storefront?
J: I track every single sale transaction. I do this so I can know the exact time of sale, the number of items sold, as well as the price of each item.
How do you collect this data, and how easy was it to get the technology running in the store?
J: Each sale transaction is recorded using Square, which is very easy to use with my cell phone. I download the data after we close from Square as an Excel workbook. Then, I append that data every day into a Power BI file on my OneDrive, and then I simply refresh my file on the Power BI service.
Tell us about the process of picking which numbers to track and what features you wanted in the point of sale system.
J: I helped design the Power App by describing what I needed to do for every sale we did. Every time we make a sale, we ask the buyer to choose which charities they’d like us to donate the proceeds of the sale. Once they pick one of the 12 charities we offer, we need to enter the amount of the sale. The app needed to: 1) let me select one of the 12 charities, and 2) enter an amount towards that charity.
For the dashboard, I needed to know not only how many sales we made, but also more importantly our profit, because in the end that is what we give to charities.
How has Power Apps and Power BI made it easier for you and Ava to run Hand Me Ups?
J: Power BI and Power Apps have been crucial key to Ava and I. With Power BI, I can see which hours we sell the most, what are the busiest days, and if I sell cheaper items or higher end value.
We are open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, but we make sure we take breaks during the times that tend to be slowest. We also use these slower time to re-stock our shelves with new clothes. Tony [Hsieh, CEO of Zappos] and the manager of the container park, Michael Downs, often will ask us to send in our progress. Power BI allows us to quickly show them how we are doing, and helps us brainstorm what we should do to bring in more customers. Power Apps saves us a lot of time because we can update our database instantly instead of writing it down and then manually entering the data later on.
Have you found it useful to access business information via your phone with Power BI Mobile?
J: I use mostly my phone to review Power BI because I can simply scroll down to see key numbers in the dashboard, and can click on the report if I want to see more detail. I really like the Mobile version because I can see our sales instantly and look at more detail if I want to.
Now that you’ve worked with Power BI and Power Apps, would you use them again in your next business venture?
J: Of course. It was extremely easy and helpful to use an app to enter information, and I can see quickly how we are doing with Power BI. It's really nice being able to show people our progress with Power BI, instead of telling them.
Hand Me Ups just closed for the school year, but they’ve set up a GoFundMe to continue raising money for charities all year long.
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