Sekou Soumano was working as a cook at a burger joint when the pandemic hit in 2020. Instead of staying at a job where he felt overworked and undervalued, he decided it was time to take advantage of this opportunity as the world changed. With many retail stores temporarily closed during the pandemic, online shopping was booming, and after running into a group of Amazon resellers, Sekou decided it was time he tried his hand at a new career. “No one knew what they were doing, but there was so much opportunity that it was impossible to pass it up.”
Three years later, Sekou’s online arbitrage business is incredibly successful and still growing. Unlike private label sellers, Sekou doesn’t sell any particular product or even in a specific category. Instead, he and his team focus on purchasing high-demand products at a good price. “It’s more about data points and less about the product themselves,” which has led to great rewards and even greater growth opportunities.
While Sekou independently managed to grow his business into a 5-figure a month business, it was in early 2023 that he found himself dissatisfied with the rate of his growth. There was no question that the business was successful, but months of marginal growth had become exhausting. That’s when Sekou realized that his cash flow wasn’t moving fast enough.
Amount spent is one of the most important metrics that Sekou considers when reviewing sales each month. “The question was almost always, ‘Did we buy enough?’ because that’s what ultimately allows us to grow,” he shared. But, the reality was no. Sekou and his team could rarely spend enough because they didn’t have the capital to.
“I was always capital-hungry. There’s a direct correlation between the money you put in and the profit that you generate. And we just always needed more.”
Opportunities would arise but there wasn’t capital at his disposal to fully take advantage of them. “When you’re in a dense, high-demand season, like back to school, you need a ton of inventory to maximize your sales and potential profit. But buying that much takes working capital that we couldn’t get quickly enough.” Sekou rapidly became frustrated by his inability to take advantage of opportunities right in front of him and scale his business at the rate he wanted.
On top of his desire for greater capital, Sekou’s plans of scaling the business were being slowed down while he got caught in the weeds of operations. His daily operations required a lot of attention, and educating his team of buyers was time-consuming. While Sekou dreamed of being the “big picture” guy and creating a vision for his business, he didn’t have the time or resources to remain strategic.
With his business already in a healthy place, Sekou wasn’t actively seeking out capital. Even though supplemental capital would help him scale his business faster and more effectively, he couldn’t bring himself to deal with the predatory behaviors he’d seen other sellers face from ecommerce funding providers. In the arbitrage community, Sekou had witnessed many of his peers get taken advantage of with shark-like tactics, leaving him with a bad taste.
“The big-name providers that everyone knows about are terrible. They promise 2% rates and I’ve had friends deal with 6% or 7%. And there are always hidden fees. Those funding providers are always nice. Until they’re in your pockets.”
After seeing Sekou’s story online and resonating with his journey to success in arbitrage, Viably reached out to connect. Instead of dealing with the same false promises and money-hungry tactics that had thrown him off other funding providers, he met directly with Viably’s VP of Customer Success who took the time to truly understand his business and its needs. Even before Sekou had an offer, he knew that Viably was different from any other ecommerce provider on the market.
“Viably came through with a financing offer that was, well, actually viable for my business and it was incredible. The whole team provided consistency, great customer service, great people, and great communication. And on top of that, the process was hassle-free. No other provider can compete with Viably when you show up like that.”
In February of 2023, Sekou took his first round of funding with Viably, at a number and rate that he and the team had agreed on, based on data and projections for sustainable growth. This injection of working capital allowed his monthly amount spent, and as a direct result his sales, to increase dramatically and move him that much closer to his vision of “$200K in sales a month” outsourced to his team.
“It’s really hard to even begin to do $200K a month without some sort of additional injection of capital. That’s where Viably came through and helped.” Instead of just recklessly throwing money at Sekou, Viably worked with him to decide on an amount that would help his business profit from all the opportunities he had been missing out on, while also avoiding pitfalls that can come with taking on funding that doesn’t serve a purpose.
“There’s so much abundance. There’s so much opportunity. The cash flow issue was always that it was right in front of me and I couldn’t make use of it. Now I can.”
Thanks to the boost of working capital that Viably was able to provide for Sekou’s business, his dreams are increasingly becoming realities. Greater capital to spend has driven sales and profits, keeping the cash flowing fast enough to take advantage of the new opportunities that each season provides.
Over time, Sekou has also come to appreciate Viably for the convenience of its seamless, all-in-one platform. “I didn’t even realize that my Viably account operated as a full bank account until recently,” he admitted, “But once I knew that I could make payments directly from that account I started saving so much time.” Rather than waiting days for money to transfer between business bank accounts, Sekou is now able to pay suppliers quickly and easily from his Viably account.
On top of increased sales and expedited payments, Sekou has been able to allocate more time to training new team members. Bringing the whole team up to speed so that they can competently run day-to-day operations is a big step in the right direction, so that ultimately one day he can focus more broadly on the direction of the business. “When you’re running things you can’t always figure out what needs to be focused on or the best way to do it,” he shared. “I need my team to run the daily stuff so that I can see the forest through the trees.”
A large part of that bigger picture for Sekou is expansion. With greater access to capital, the possibilities for expansion are endless. Currently, he’s in the process of acquiring a portion of another arbitrage business from a former mentor to supplement his already thriving company. As part of this purchase, Sekou will gain new leads and suppliers that can ultimately help him take his business to the next level.
To other sellers looking for ecommerce funding, especially online arbitrage, Sekou encourages them to have an immediate plan for that capital. “You don’t want to take out a loan that will just sit there for six months, you want to flip that money as fast as possible so you can see the profit on it. And then you want to flip it again.”
Additionally, he encourages sellers to know their numbers. “If there aren’t opportunities already in front of you that you’re hoping to take advantage of, it might be time to reconsider why you’re looking for money.”
While Sekou grew his business independently for years, he’s adamant that he wouldn’t have gotten this close to his North Star number of 200K so soon without Viably.
“By working with Viably we can just keep cash consistently coming into the business and pumping up bigger and bigger months. Each month we get closer and closer, without Viably it would have taken years more for this to be attainable.”