In 2007, when the first iPhone debuted, Vlad Kiforishin realized he could take his passion for technology and turn it into a business. After years of constantly purchasing the newest technology for himself, he began refurbishing technology to sell on ecommerce marketplaces. He started selling iPhones through a retail arbitrage model, purchasing as many phones as he could at one time and reselling them on eBay and his own website.
Slowly, Vlad was able to find credible suppliers that shifted his business from arbitrage to a wholesale model and began adding other smartphone brands to his catalog. Over the next five years, Vlad’s business continued to grow, but he struggled to expand his business onto Amazon. In 2012, Vlad’s business became so large that they contacted him to help establish an Amazon store, helping him more than triple his sales that year to reach 9 million dollars in revenue. Over the next decade, Vlad’s sales have continued to grow, reaching 8-figures, despite employee turnover and dips in profit throughout the pandemic. Despite the ongoing success of his business, Vlad knew that its growth was limited by cash flow.
Despite scaling his passion project from a side hustle to an 8-figure business with almost no external funding, Vlad still wasn’t satisfied. “There’s a saying, ‘Go big or go home,’ and it wasn’t time for us to go home yet. We could still go bigger.” To take his business to even greater heights though, Vlad had to face a handful of challenges that were limiting his business’ growth.
While his business was profitable and successful, Vlad was still struggling with cash flow hiccups every payout cycle. This was especially problematic during busy seasons, like Q4, where he would find himself selling out of everything and then waiting on payouts to purchase more inventory. In the meantime though, his business came to a halt and allowed competitors to take advantage of a less aggressive market.
At the same time, Vlad was acutely aware of the opportunities that the business was missing out on and remained eager to take advantage of them. Over years of expansion and growth, Vlad’s team created and maintained a list of potential hot, new products for the business. These were items that over time he hoped to add to the product catalog to saturate the market and outcompete rival sellers. As soon as the business had money, “The more SKUs that we can take up, the more we’ll push our competitors further down in the rankings, through better prices and a wider range of products available.”
However, new products required consistent cash flow, and even then launches came secondary to restocking bestsellers. More and more competitors could launch those products or find footing in the technology category–meaning time was of the essence when it came to scaling.
To ‘go big’ like he hoped, Vlad would have to establish a more dependable cash flow. Then, and only then, would he be able to begin eliminating competitors and scaling the business at the rate he dreamed of.
“We have always been our own limitations. We had been running up against the walls of our cash flow for a long time now and our ability to scale was always stunted.”
Although his business was limited in speed and scope of growth, Vlad was still hesitant to seek out external funding for a boost. After previously researching ecommerce funding solutions and briefly working with Payoneer, he had found that external funding tended to come at too high a price and too impersonal of a partnership for him to be comfortable trusting them with his business.
“Payoneer’s approach was so robotic, everything from their offer to their customer service was automated and it was impossible to talk to a real person directly,” he shared. “And on top of that, I felt like I was constantly losing money with bad exchange rates. When I finally would get someone on the phone they would tell me that if I wanted a better rate I needed to go to a bank.”
By the end of his experience with Payoneer, Vlad was frustrated and underwhelmed. While external funding might be able to help him accelerate his business’ growth, he felt it just wasn’t worth the effort.
That’s when Viably connected with Vlad by coincidence, through a call.
“At first,” he admits, “I wasn’t enthusiastic. I get a lot of phone calls about improving my cash flow or growing my business so I just kind of blew it off. As soon as we actually started talking though I was shocked to realize I was speaking to a real person.”
Vlad connected directly with Viably’s VP of Customer Success and was pleasantly surprised to discover just how personally Viably takes their partnerships. Over the course of several phone calls, Vlad shared how his passion for technology had fundamentally shaped and driven his business, as well as his current goals for growing the business.
“In a world run by automation and robots, Viably provided a private banking experience and real human interaction. Working with real people helped me trust Viably because they knew my business and I knew them. Even before they put together a custom working capital plan for us specifically, they were aware of the unique challenges and goals we were facing as wholesalers.”
At the same time, Vlad was introduced to Viably’s seamless, all-in-one funding, banking, and forecasting platform. Where he had previously experienced frustration due to a lack of transparency about conversion rates, funding platform capabilities, and clear cash flow, Vlad found that Viably’s fully integrated Growth tool eliminated these issues.
“Viably has a great tool where we can apply for and accept funding. The funds are sent right to a bank account and it’s so fast. And the forecasting tool automatically helps us see our cash flow, which I love because you can instantly see the bigger picture.”
After seeing firsthand how human the experience with Viably was, Vlad decided to take the leap and commit to a first round of funding right before the start of Q4.
With an injection of capital before entering his busiest season of the year, Vlad’s sales have never looked better. Greater capital at his fingertips has improved buying power and increased inventory, driving sales and improving cash flow by creating a cushion between payouts. Additionally, Vlad’s finally in a position to take advantage of all the opportunities that he’s had his eye on.
“As soon as we get payments from Viably, it all goes automatically into inventory. We can never have enough. Whether we’re buying more bestsellers so that we don’t run out or we go to the huge list of potential products and buy from there, we’re always prioritizing inventory.”
Throughout the season, Vlad hopes to add even more new items to his catalog to continue expanding and growing sales. “There are so many products that no one is selling yet, and we always want to be their first,” he emphasized. “It’s this battle of constantly trying to be the first, and then once people are established with a product it’s a battle of underbidding everyone else.” Thanks to the cash flow boost from Viably, Vlad’s business is better able to saturate the market and win customers by eliminating the competitors and working toward the monopoly that he hopes to one day have over the market.
Despite how much opportunity the increased cash flow has provided for Vlad’s business, he’s adamant that he wouldn’t have given Viably a chance if it hadn’t been so tailored to him and his business.
“Viably is a huge help, especially when we’re in a season where everything sells, but that matters so much less than their custom approach. Viably comes to business owners on a very personal level, meeting them where they’re at and taking an interest in their goals. They built out a cash flow cycle that worked with my exact times of repayment and it’s just been really helpful for growth.”
To other sellers who are interested in taking on external working capital to improve cash flow, Vlad is adamant that they remain cautious and wait until their business is well established before taking on funding. “I’m only comfortable taking on funding from Viably now because I know my business is stable and that an unexpected problem won’t send it under. Ensure that your business is in a good place before taking on money and have a strategy for it. Whether you’re using that money for inventory or marketing, just have a plan.”
Despite his bad experiences with funding providers in the past, Vlad is grateful that he connected with Viably when he did. “We can already see the difference in sales, and it’ll only grow,” he shared. “Viably’s a very person-centered business which is hard to find, especially in ecommerce, and what they’re doing helps customers so much. Any cash flow support is amazing for a growing business.”