A computer rending of warehouses and sellers such as eBay and Amazon. SkuVault has partnered with Alibaba.com
Screenshot courtesy of SkuVault

Local software startup SkuVault just got a big reputational boost by landing a partnership with Alibaba.com, one of the world’s biggest e-commerce companies.

SkuVault President and CEO Andy Eastes told Insider that once Alibaba gets more established in the U.S., he expects the partnership to enable SkuVault to gain more clients and generate additional revenue.

“We were very excited to work with them,” Eastes said.

A portrait of Andy Eastes
Andy Eastes

Alibaba announced last month that it was making its business-to-business platform available to U.S. businesses, putting it in direct competition with Amazon. The move also will open more foreign markets to more U.S. e-commerce companies, especially small- and medium-sized businesses.

According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, B2B e-commerce is a $24 trillion global market. Alibaba said it has 10 million active business buyers in more than 190 countries and regions.

Alibaba.com is part of China-based Alibaba Group Holding, which was founded by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma and is being traded on the New York Stock Exchange. It reported net income last year of $12 billion, on revenue of $56 billion, which was up 51% from the prior year.

SkuVault said in a news release that it “will strategically collaborate with Alibaba.com on cross-promotion marketing, audience development and networking opportunities to help small businesses selling in the online community better understand the future of digital B2B commerce and how they can sell globally.”

SkuVault helps businesses manage their warehousing operations through cloud-based software. It performs functions such as updating what’s in the warehouses in real time to prevent running out of stock. The software also integrates with accounting platforms such as QuickBooks and shipping software to reduce labor costs and errors, which helps increase customer satisfaction.

Eastes said that as SkuVault would be one of only 12 partners involved in the Alibaba expansion in the U.S., SkuVault’s clients will have access to selling through Alibaba before customers of SkuVault’s competitors.

That means the partnership will benefit SkuVault’s current customers, and it will benefit SkuVault because the company can attract additional clients, both in the U.S. and across the globe. In addition, SkuVault’s customers will be able to more easily sell their products outside of the U.S., and SkuVault can more easily gain international clients.

About 90% of SkuVault’s clients are domestic. Some do only e-commerce, while others have brick-and-mortar operations but are diversifying into online sales. Most have at least a warehouse on both coasts, but Eastes said SkuVault’s software allows even very small companies to sell online.

“We’re giving them the tools so that they can compete,” he said.

One of those small businesses that got help from SkuVault is Prospect-based The Feet Treat Boutique, whose owner, Lisa Maltese, started selling shoes eight years ago on eBay.

A portrait of Lisa Maltese
Lisa Maltese. | Courtesy of SkuVault

Maltese told Insider that she had to keep a limited inventory, of about 2,000 pairs of shoes, because she had trouble keeping track of them. She was keeping the shoes in five storage units she had rented.

While she had a system to keep the shoes organized, errors sometimes cost her hours as she had to look through the various storage units to find the pair of shoes that a customer had ordered.

When SkuVault approached her, she was skeptical because she didn’t want a monthly payment. Company representatives eventually persuaded her that she needed help with inventory management if she planned to grow.

Now, after years of support from SkuVault, Maltese sells shoes on major e-commerce sites including Amazon and Walmart, has opened a brick-and-mortar store at 13306 W. U.S. 42 and has diversified her products to include soap, candles and other gifts.

“Without (SkuVault), I wouldn’t even know where to begin to be on all the different platforms,” Maltese said. “Because of SkuVault, I’m able to manage all of these platforms, and it’s seamless.”

The boutique’s inventory has grown to 4,000 pairs of shoes. Whenever a customer buys a shoe in the physical store, the SkuVault inventory system automatically removes that pair from the websites.

Maltese said all of the help from SkuVault’s software has eliminated many worries and have allowed her to concentrate on growing the business. And whenever she has questions, whether about shipping providers or point of sale systems, SkuVault can offer input.

“They have a lot of good things to offer,” she said. “I feel like we’re partners.”

The Feet Treat Boutique now has five employees.

The company has seen its revenue grow about 35% compared to last year, Eastes said. SkuVault generates revenue through monthly and annual subscriptions. Monthly charges start at $199. Employment has grown to 73, up from 50 a year ago. Most employees are software engineers.

The business, which has existed since 2012, has been profitable, but Eastes said this year is sacrificing profitability to enable it to make big investments to gear up for the expected growth.

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Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.