← Techstars Blog

Small Business Innovation Spotlight

What is the the Small Business Innovation Spotlight? A weekly newsletter featuring a real small business with a real problem. Have a solution? If you decide to build a solution for a featured small business problem, we’ll help you get in touch with the small business owner, and potentially feature you on apps.com and more.

Edition #1 – April 15th, 2015

Meet Michelle Sahagian and her small business Western Food Safety LLC

Q: Tell us a little bit about your business.

michelleA: Western Food Safety is a food service consulting and training company and we have been in business since 2011. I love the excitement of feeling that we provide top quality customer service to all of our customers from beginning to end. Hearing feedback from happy customers is what gives me the most satisfaction and I feel we do that partly through good communication and providing up-to-date and current options in all areas of the business.


What’s the biggest challenge you face in trying to manage your business?

A: Our biggest challenge is having a system that works for what we do and we haven’t yet found something that fits our niche. We have to use workarounds to try and make systems work but none of them quite fit and this means that managing our customers can be difficult and lead to confusion and errors. For example we host open food safety classes throughout California that people go onto our website and register for. Customers enter their contact information, class date selected and payment information into our website forms. We use the app Zapier to automatically pull the customer data in QB’s online but it doesn’t import the actual transaction. This means we have to manually go into QB’s Online and create a sales receipt or invoice depending on the customers payment preferences. We also have to use the memo line is order to sort the classes to create a roster for each class date because their isn’t any other way we can sort through the sales receipts to find out who is in which class. Essentially we are trying to use QB’s online as a class management system but that’s not what it really is.

How many different software solutions do you use to run your business?

We use: Quickbooks Online (accounting), Formsite (online form building), Zapier (API), Godaddy Hosting, QB Payroll, Google Adwords, Godaddy Calendar (scheduling), Live 2 Support (online chat), Time.ly (online based calendar), WordPress (blog), Powerpoint (training course design).

What would be an ideal software solution for your business look like? How much would you pay for it? 

To see the answers to these and more, you must be a subscriber. Sign up to get new ideas every week directly from customers willing to pay for them.


How much time do you spend working online in the course of a typical business day? How do you use your time online?

I spend almost 100% of my time online during the business day. I am generally using all the software types I mentioned above since most are online based products. Most of my time is spent generating business with larger clients online using LinkedIn and other networking websites. I also do daily accounting and scheduling for the instructors and work on the website. Lately, I have been building registration forms for our corporate clients so that they can have their employees register for classes we set up for them as an additional benefit for them and a way to manage the classes better.

Do you currently use any mobile apps to run your business?

My instructors use the mobile QB Online app to receive payments at the class location. I also use the QB Online app on my iphone and tablet when I’m on the go and want to check reports or contact a customer.

What features of your current small business software do you love?
Does it help you stay organized? Save you time and money?

I love how Zapier acts as an API and links the registration form information on our website to Quickbooks Online. It really saves time because in the past we would have to pull the contact information the customer entered and then manually enter it into Quickbooks online. This saves time and money from an admin perspective which helps since we are a growing business.

What features of your current small business software do you hate? Is it well suited to your type of business? Do your different software solutions work well together?

The same software I love, I also hate at the same time because it doesn’t do everything we need. A majority of the software we use is missing something.

What would be an ideal software solution for your business look like?

The ideal software would be something that provided a back office and a front office. The front office would offer an online store as well as an event/class registration system that could be installed easily as a widget or java script on a webpage. The front office would accept orders and/or registrations and process them by either creating a sales receipt and charging the credit card provided or invoice the customer and record that in the back office. The back office would also allow you to manage those orders either by easily helping to queue the product for shipping and manage the event/class sign ups by class or event and easily create class rosters and move people around if they wished to reschedule their class date or cancel.

How much, if anything, would you pay for this solution? How much would this solution be worth to you on a monthly or annual basis?

This solution would replace 4 software solutions I currently use as well as hours of my employees time. I would value it for myself at around $300-$350/month.

Do you have any additional thoughts you would like to share? Is there anything about QuickBooks or any other small business software solutions that you would like to share?

I really like how Intuit has been progressive with gradually allowing more apps to integrate with Quickbooks Online. I would like if Quickbooks had more options for sorting and creating reports as well as options to create additional fields embedded in the sales receipts/invoices that are fully searchable and able to be used as a filter. This would be useful for class/event management purposes.




Mitchell Cuevas
(@mcuevasm) I am the Sr. Marketing Director here at Techstars, am passionate about helping entrepreneurs, and am obsessed with finding, playing with, and implementing all the best new marketing (and other) technology I can get my hands on.