2 page Case Study
Posted: 2/10/2012
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Naturally Me Beauty Product Company Broadens Reach Through Smart Use of Online Tools

Naturally Me, a company that makes natural beauty products, needed to go beyond email to help its six employees communicate and collaborate efficiently. The company adopted Microsoft Office 365 and now has the ability to easily share documents, remotely access email and information, and conduct web conferences for meetings and presentations. By using Office 365, the company saves US$7,000 while increasing employee productivity by 25 percent.

Business Needs
Naturally Me makes luxury body care products that the average working woman can afford. It all started when Chaundra Smith had trouble finding products to soothe her daughter’s skin irritation. Three years later, through perseverance and hard work, Naturally Me has grown into a vibrant business.

Naturally Me sells its products directly through its website; through consultants who sell at in-home demonstration parties; and through boutiques, spas, and other vendors. Smith, the company’s founder and product developer, has a full-time job elsewhere and runs the company during evenings and weekends. She has a store in Durham, North Carolina, and a space where she creates products and packages them for shipping.

The company also includes an Illinois–based salesperson, three sales consultants across North Carolina, and a public relations (PR) consultant in New York. All six women need to communicate regularly to discuss new products, establish marketing strategies, and exchange best practices, but the only technology tools they used were email and text messaging. “We’ve got three states, two time zones, and multiple work shifts to deal with, so syncing our schedules was really difficult,” says Smith.

To collaborate on promotional materials and set up meetings and tradeshow activities, Smith and her PR consultant either used email or mailed paper copies of large documents to each other. “We tried to use Google Docs, but it didn’t work reliably and often skewed the formatting,” says Tamara Walker, Public Relations Consultant for Naturally Me.

* Being a small company, our budget is modest, but Office 365 gives us capabilities we never could have fathomed before. *

Chaundra Smith
Founder, Naturally Me

Naturally Me took a big step toward technology sophistication when Smith discovered Microsoft Office 365 in June 2011. “I downloaded a 30-day trial version of Office 365 and fell in love,” says Smith. “I had no hesitations moving Naturally Me to the cloud because Office 365 is from Microsoft, so it felt safe and secure.”

Satisfied with the collection of email, calendaring, collaboration, and conferencing services available in Office 365, Smith extended it to employees in September 2011. “We trained everyone at Naturally Me to use Office 365 within 15 minutes,” says Smith. “We spent more time getting caught up with each other than learning to use Office 365.”

Everyone at the company now relies on Office 365 for email—including access through smartphones, portable computers, and other mobile devices—and for shared calendaring through Microsoft Exchange Online. “We tried using a different tool to share calendars, but the process was too long and involved,” recalls Smith. “Now I just go online, see when people are available, and schedule a meeting.”

Naturally Me uses Microsoft Lync Online to hold regular web conferences. The company also collaborates on documents by using Microsoft SharePoint Online, and sales consultants use it to support their sales efforts. “They don’t have to print out paper catalogs anymore,” says Smith. “Instead, they bring a portable computer and use SharePoint Online to present our products to party guests.”

Naturally Me now has tools that help it run more efficiently and sell to a wider audience. “Thanks to Office 365, Naturally Me looks like one of the ‘big dogs,’ not a small, six-person company,” says Smith. “Personalized email domain names, shared storage space, and web conferencing add credibility and help us better compete in the marketplace.” Benefits include:
  • Increased efficiency. Now that Naturally Me has Office 365, Smith can respond to email and edit documents from anywhere, which saves her time. “I use my smartphone to respond to Naturally Me email, schedule appointments, and review documents during my lunch hour and breaks at my other job,” says Smith. “Everyone in the company saves five to 10 hours a week now that we’ve got Office 365. I spend that time with my daughter and making more products.”

  • Reduced environmental impact, including 80 percent decline in paper use.Naturally Me tries to run a green business, and using Lync Online instead of printing and mailing presentations supports that effort. “We also don’t print and mail drafts of huge press kits and other marketing packages because we use SharePoint Online,” says Smith. “As a result of adding Office 365 capabilities, we’ve trimmed 80 percent of the company’s overall paper use and nearly 100 percent of our reliance on paper for marketing and PR activities.”

  • Enhanced collaboration. Smith and Walker no longer waste time dealing with version-control issues because they track revisions in SharePoint Online. And the improved collaboration is not limited to revising documents. “The sales consultants use SharePoint Online team sites to interact with each other far more than before,” says Walker. “They share selling strategies, help each other overcome challenges, and plan for upcoming sales opportunities. Naturally Me believes its sales have increased by 15 percent as a result.”

  • Cost reduction of US$7,000. Naturally Me saves money in a variety of areas by using Office 365. For example, Smith plans to use SharePoint Online to run a website for the community service branch of her business. “I’ll save nearly $1,000 in web design and outside hosting fees by using SharePoint Online to set up the website,” says Smith. “From travel costs to printing costs, we save in so many ways by using Office 365.”

  • Expanded international reach. Smith anticipates that Office 365 will foster business growth because the company can use Lync Online to host virtual, “face-to-face” meetings with potential international vendors, who just need to download and install the Microsoft Lync 2010 Attendee client. “The international vendors love that we can just send them a box of sample products to try while we explain each one during a Lync Online videoconference,” says Smith. “There’s a huge difference between a $1,500 international plane ticket and a $30 shipping cost. Being a small company, our budget is modest, but Office 365 gives us capabilities we never could have fathomed before.”

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Solution Overview

Organization Size: 6 employees

Organization Profile
Durham, North Carolina–based Naturally Me develops and sells handmade, all-natural, certified-vegan beauty products, from shampoo and soaps to hand scrub and scented linen spray.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Exchange Online
  • Lync Online
  • SharePoint Online

Vertical Industries
Specialty Retail

United States

Business Need
Cost Containment