Solutions

Crafter of unique hand–poured candles takes orders, tracks sales, and manages production with a FileMaker Pro 7 database system.

Sweet Spirit Candles

Candles of beauty, candles of meaning — poured by hand at Sweet Spirit Candles. This Seattle–based manufacturer of intent candles produces over 700 distinctive styles, distributed both by retail and over the web. It's as well known for its personalized service to customers as it is for the quality of its products, which many users believe aid them in achieving personal goals, candles which may be used for everything from celebration to worship.

Overview

  • Manufacturer of an extensive line of hand–poured intent candles, sold by over 40 retailers, an overseas distributor in Japan, and online.
  • Based in Seattle WA
  • Approximately 5 employees

Industry

  • Small Business

Solutions

  • Candle database stores full recipe information for over 700 varieties of candles
  • Sales database organizes retail and wholesale business, and imports order information from online store
  • Production manifest imports data from sales database, creating daily production orders and reports
  • Warehouse database tracks current candle inventor

I wouldn't have been able to implement this project without the multi–table capabilities of FileMaker Pro 7. It's eliminated a lot of manual tasks and makes it possible to do things we simply couldn't do before — making the production process more efficient, and giving us greater visibility into the status of jobs in production.

— Philip Zack, Vice President, Sweet Spirit Candles

Business Challenge

Deborah Hardy and Philip Zack purchased Sweet Spirit Candles in April, 2004. As longtime customers, they appreciated the company's commitment to quality and service — but when they took over the business, they immediately saw the need to improve the day–to–day workflow both in sales and production. "When we purchased the business there was no technical infrastructure to speak of," comments Philip. "The previous owners relied on paper orders, didn't track which candle titles were sold, and managed production with a set of awkward checklists. To me, it was a challenge worthy of my skills as a software and database developer, user interface designer, and technical writer."

The challenge Philip took on was complex: he wanted to create a database system capable of taking orders, tracking sales, and managing production of over 700 distinct candle recipes, with each of those varieties available in 23 different sizes. "That couldn't be accomplished in a method that restricts you to selecting from a list or entering a known SKU," he notes. "Therefore, I chose to create a system from scratch, using FileMaker Pro."

Successful Solution

Working entirely on his own, Philip used FileMaker Pro 7 as the basis for an elaborate database suite, made up of five comprehensive files. The candles database contains all of the recipes, in a form that permits easy editing, and which is fully searchable for customers needing specific types of candle. The sales database handles both retail and wholesale business functions, allowing efficient management of product orders, including data imported from the website. The production manifest imports order information from the sales database, generating daily production orders for the manufacturing staff, organized according to shipping priorities. The warehouse database allows at-a-glance management of inventory, and the cart agent serves as the interface to the Sweet Spirit Candles web store via an ODBC connection with a MySQL database.

The entire system is fully cross-platform. "I never considered another database for this project," Philip emphasizes. "It had to be cross-platform, because while I do all my own work on a Mac, the store operations run on a Windows PC."

I wouldn't have been able to implement this project without the multi-table capabilities of FileMaker Pro 7. It's eliminated a lot of manual tasks and makes it possible to do things we simply couldn't do before - making the production process more efficient, and giving us greater visibility into the status of jobs in production.

— Philip Zack, Vice President, Sweet Spirit Candles

Customer Benefits

The company's office manager is the system's main user, and he has come to rely on its easy, efficient functioning. "It is now possible to tell a customer on the phone what we have in stock without having to go and look," says Philip. "We can also adjust the production schedule to move a rush order ahead even while producing candles for a number of orders at the same time."

And as the FileMaker Pro 7 system speeds the completion of vital daily tasks, it remains a smooth, user-friendly tool. "One thing our office manager appreciates is that all the informational and error messages are written in a friendly style, using one of three 'voices' depending on what aspect of the system you're using, " Philip points out. "Most of the messages are from 'Concierge,' much like the person at an expensive hotel who is there to make sure you have a pleasant stay. Messages presented during technical tasks, such as maintenance functions, are from 'Housekeeping,' a sort of blue-collar person who speaks much less formally. And messages having to do with the website are from 'Cart Agent,' who's a roughneck from Australia!"

Linking the various databases within the suite depends on FileMaker Pro 7's improved relational capabilities. "Every bit of functionality depends on it," Philip continues. "The files are inextricably linked together in more ways than a banyan tree has roots. I wouldn't have been able to implement this project without the multi-table capabilities of FileMaker Pro 7. It's eliminated a lot of manual tasks and makes it possible to do things we simply couldn't do before - making the production process more efficient, and giving us greater visibility into the status of jobs in production."

For FileMaker:

Kevin Mallon
Public Relations Manager
FileMaker Inc.
408-987-7227
kevin_mallon@filemaker.com
http://www.filemaker.com

For Sweet Spirit Candles:

Philip Zack
Vice President
Sweet Spirit Candles
888-871-9001
phil@sweetspiritcandles.com
http://www.sweetspiritcandles.com