Forecasting in your Product Business with Stefani Schoen

 

 

I had heard of forecasting for your business before, but before becoming Instagram friends with Stefani Schoen, I didn’t know how to implement it for my business. Through her Instagram and conversations with her, I have learned the incredible value that forecasting your business is and I know this will be a great episode for the end of the year!  That’s why episode 81 of the Product Powerhouse Podcast is about forecasting your business! 

In this episode of the Product Powerhouse Podcast, Stefani Schoen is sharing the importance of forecasting and actionable steps you can take right now to create a plan around your business to increase sales and decrease your stress around business finances. 

Some of the talking points I and Stefani Schoen go over in this episode include:

  • Stefani’s journey from working with big corporations, like Coach, to consulting, and how her platform and consulting journey has evolved in the last three years.
  • The steps to start forecasting your sales and inventory needs based on sales you’ve already had.
  • How a small business owner may implement these skills and information to better their small business, as well as prepare for the future of their business growth.
  • Many small businesses can get hung up on forecasting and the result that will happen if they hit that forecasted goal or projection or not; Stefani discusses how to make sense of that feeling, and make the plan anyway.

As someone who was once intimidated by forecasting, after doing it myself I discovered how freeing it is and how much of a relief it can be, to get it done; and it wasn’t difficult either! So be sure to tune in to all the episodes to receive tons of practical tips on growing your product shop and to hear even more about the points outlined above.

Thank you for listening!

If you enjoyed this episode, take a screenshot of the episode to post in your stories and tag me!  And don’t forget to subscribe, rate and review the podcast and tell me your key takeaways!

Connect With Stefani Schoen:

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Connect with Erin Alexander:

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Show Notes

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The following is an unedited transcript of the episode.

Stefani Schoen 00:00

Forecast is a plan. And it's just like any other aspect of the business where you want to have a plan, you have to know what you're trying to achieve and what you can achieve based on trend. This isn't just like wave your finger in the air and pick a number, right that is based on something. So it's good to have that plan to march towards it. If things should go awry and you don't hit that plan, there are things that you probably need to consider about this is

 

Erin Alexander 00:28

you're listening to product powerhouse a podcast to inspire and empower you while you build a powerful product based business that fuels your passion and feeds your family. I'm your host, Aaron Alexander, I run an E commerce web design agency that helps shop owners build, grow and scale. This podcast is all about actionable strategies specifically for your product based business. So friend, grab an iced coffee and let's chat because DIY in your business doesn't mean you have to do it alone. Hey, everyone, welcome to another episode of the product powerhouse podcast. I am so excited for today's episode. So a few weeks ago on Instagram, one of my Insta front, you know one of those people who you're acquainted with on Instagram, and you love talking to them. Anyway, she shared the profile of today's guests. And I went down this rabbit hole of like, learning everything I could from Stephanie, who is today's guest, and she just blew me away with everything she has done. And so I asked her to be on the podcast to talk about forecasting for 2022. Because here we are, at the time of publishing this podcast episode, we're like three weeks away from 2022. I actually recently learned more about forecasting in my own business, which is something I always struggled with. But I learned more about how to make it actually work. I just knew that this was something that you guys wanted to because I think we're all in that same position where like, we want to have enough inventory. We don't want to end up with too much at the end of the year. How do we manage that? How do we even go about planning ahead? And I've even had this conversation with one of my clients who wants to be able to get orders out the door faster. So how does she plan ahead and make some of those things that people are always buying. So this is the perfect conversation to end 2021 With so going into 2022 We can do some of that forecasting and really be prepared for the year so I'm excited about it. Let me read you Stephanie's official bio. Stephanie Schoen has over 15 years of retail management experience in merchandising, inventory, planning and buying in growth categories across companies large and small. Stephanie focuses on streamlining supply chain and product streams, building merchandising hierarchies, developing sales forecasts, and establishing best practices for merchandising organizations in order to help her clients grow profitability. You guys, Stephanie has such an incredible background and has so much experience in retail and it's it translates so beautifully over to e commerce. And so I am really excited for this episode. So go ahead, grab your iced coffee, and let's dive in. Hi, Stephanie. Thanks so much for being on the podcast. How are you today?

 

Stefani Schoen 03:14

I'm great. Thank you so much for having me.

 

Erin Alexander 03:16

Great. I'm so excited to talk to you. We have a mutual friend who has actually been on my podcast before Bridget Brown from the advisory guild she shared about you on Instagram. And I was like, I love this girl. I need to talk to her. So

 

Stefani Schoen 03:30

thank you, Bridgette, if you're out there listening, and I'm happy that she kind of pass along way though.

 

Erin Alexander 03:36

So why don't you tell everyone like your background and what you're doing now.

 

Stefani Schoen 03:40

I actually I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. And I have grown up here and I have spent many, many years being obsessed with everything retail fashion, sewing, everything from the beginning, when I was nine years old, I learned to sew, and I wanted to be in the fashion industry. And then in college, I sort of realized, you know what, maybe you don't actually want to be a designer. Maybe I just really liked the industry. And I really want to learn more about the experience of owning and running that fashion industry world. I ended up going to work at the gap in their training program, their retail management training program, which is kind of a nine month crash course on production, merchandising and inventory planning. And that kind of gave me that taste of the business side that I didn't know much about. From there really kind of jump started my career I worked for the outnet which is a subset of Netta portait group and coach and I worked in merchandising and inventory planning by I launched several businesses within those organizations. Most notably at coach I launched their entire ready to wear line coach 1941 Launching a entirely new product category for such an essential The company taught me so much about the business kind of gave me the ability to touch all aspects of that retail world. And then, you know, I actually had some children, your children decided to take a step back from the corporate world. And now I work for myself in a consulting capacity. And I help businesses, you know, whether they're just starting off, or growth businesses around that five to $10 million range, help with all aspects of merchandising, and inventory planning.

 

Erin Alexander 05:36

Wow, I mean, that's incredible. You have had such an incredible like career in retail, I love how you said, You got to have your hands on like every part of the business throughout your career, which is really invaluable. It's really cool to see how all those companies are working. Now you're consulting. And that's really, really cool. I love that you've been able to kind of address your career with what you're passionate about. But as you've had children and your lifestyles change, so that was really awesome. What was like the big deciding factor for you to start getting into consulting,

 

Stefani Schoen 06:10

you know, it happened pretty naturally, I would say that I moved out of the corporate world for location, my husband's job, I had to leave my job that I loved very much. And I just didn't know, if I wanted to get back in the same capacity or how I wanted a career to go from there. You know, we got married, had a kid. And just naturally if people were reaching out to me to help out with, you know, their businesses, and I had a lot of friends that were kind of in the investment world that were saying, Hey, do you know this company, like our company's thinking of investing in it, like, tell us about this company, kind of knowing a bit of the retail and just kind of being obsessed with it kind of gave me that natural progression, took me a couple years. But after a while, I realized, wait a minute, I'm basically consulting here, like, let's just make it official. That was a transition and realization. But still, within the consulting aspect, which I've done for a couple years now, three years, that has also evolved, started out as helping a bit more kind of social media, which is not necessarily my passion or my expertise. But a lot of people need help in that. And then that was able to give me the in into more of the operations and the financials, and like the nitty gritty of the sales business aspect of it, which now I've realized that's kind of my sweet spot over time took a while to

 

Erin Alexander 07:38

get there. Yeah, that's really cool. I know, like every business owner kind of has like this evolution of like, I started here. And then I kind of realized, oh, maybe I wanted to go a little to the left a little to the right. And it's like a wiggly journey. But that's how you get to like the great end result, where you're working on what you really love and what you're passionate about.

 

Stefani Schoen 07:57

Exactly. And I think that's what makes me or anybody got it, their job is when you find the thing that you're like, Okay, this is actually what I'm passionate about, and the differentiating factor between what you do versus somebody else, and being able to really hone in on what your offer is and how it's different. Yeah, absolutely.

 

Erin Alexander 08:13

Can you tell us a little bit more about like the types of businesses you work with now, like, who's a great fit for working with you?

 

Stefani Schoen 08:20

Yeah, so anyone really in the fashion or lifestyle space. And whether it's brick and mortar, ecommerce, Etsy, you know, anything like that. So really, I have clients that are men's apparel, I have clients that are fitness products, I have had clients in the maternity space and fashion, I've had clients that are launching baby clothing, businesses that are creating their own product, as well as that more wholesale approach as well. So I've done everything, my background is sort of being able to do both. When you're getting in and focusing on the numbers, it kind of doesn't matter as much what the product or the platform is. It's more about understanding the sales and being able to build a sales plan and watch your sales accordingly.

 

Erin Alexander 09:15

Yes, you have like this niche of fashion world, but it's very broad. Like there's a lot that can go into that. You know, its consumer,

 

Stefani Schoen 09:23

what is the girl want? What is the guy want, right? It's, it could be food, it could be this, it could be that it's what it's like, what are they surrounded themselves? Or were they you know, passionate about as a consumer.

 

Erin Alexander 09:34

So true. Yeah.

 

Stefani Schoen 09:36

So let's talk about sales forecasting. How do we even do that? Like I know that the people listening in the shop owner say are like, I don't know how to sell forecast, like they don't even know like where to begin. So what is the first step? The first step is always to hindsight. So the first step would be looking backward at your sales and looking backward at them at the wheel. Weekly level, I strongly suggest looking at them at the weekly level, as opposed to monthly. Even if it's like I sold one item last week, that is fine when you want to do is you want to be able to build that full 50 to 53 week plan. And if you have been in business for a short period of time, you might not have that. That's okay, you still want to be populating that as you go. And building what you would estimate to be your sales by week looking for. If you've been in business for a while, that's great, you can take history, you can easily layer 2021 2000 22,019 on top of each other, by looking at them at a weekly level, you'll start to see some natural trends emerge due to seasonality of your product that might due to holiday sales, it might be due to something external, whether it's, you know, a marketing push you did, or you always send emails the first week of the month or something like that. And that's going to start building that forecast for you. But everybody has a different trend. And trends are important because sometimes it is a macro level thing where it's a seasonality, maybe so bathing suits, and so you're gonna see that naturally, or in the case of when I send an email, I see as natural increase, then all of a sudden, you realize I'm in control of this trend. That's why having that yearly view of it, you can see and you can say, oh, last year, I had this big bump in the first week of September. And why is that? Oh, it's because I sent an email, like, I need to send an email again. But the first thing is really looking at your sales at a weekly level and building that history.

 

Erin Alexander 11:53

Yeah. Do you recommend like a spreadsheet to do that? Is that how you track them?

 

Stefani Schoen 11:58

Yeah, I mean, honestly, you can use anything I have, you know, a subscription to excel on my Mac. But I actually use free software as well, numbers, I believe it is on my Mac, but kind of typing it in and creating like a stack. You know, week one, week two, week three, and then you have a year, and you'll start seeing these patterns emerge. Mm hmm.

 

Erin Alexander 12:22

And then you take that data, and you use that to make a prediction about what you think is gonna happen.

 

Stefani Schoen 12:29

Yes, so part one is building this dataset. Part two, is being able to take it and then look forward, as we're saying, because that's really what forecasting is all about. Whether you are making your own product, or buying someone else's product, what's really important to consider is what that lead time is, in order to get that product created in half, if you are selling things yourself, great, your lead time, maybe a week. But if your lead time is, you know, more like three months, which is what many products are six months, often, you have to be able to look forward at that entire timeframe in order to see, oh my gosh, like, do I have enough inventory right now to be able to meet those sales needs in six months. And that's where there's a bit of calculation. And that's where it gets, you know, more dependent on what your business model is, and your product lead times. And you want to start looking at things maybe at the style level or fashion, it would be like the fabric level. But some businesses you know, with more like hard goods, you know, we have issues with iron and powder coating and things like that. And you really have to kind of think about all of that together to look forward into those future sales. Yeah, I'm

 

Erin Alexander 13:55

thinking like You even brought this up, like people who create or sell bathing suits. They're right now. They're in that process starting now, which is blowing my mind.

 

Stefani Schoen 14:06

We all know what happens. But then you're like, Oh, my God, that really has happened. So really, in order to capitalize on these seasonal trends and think about Black Friday coming up, whether it's a seasonal item or gifting item, like you have probably had to think about so long ago. And this helps give you that knowledge and that like security ahead of time. And, you know, I think the other aspect of this is that it's not just about you and your business. It's also about the business partners that you have. If you are in any business where you are working with other suppliers or other vendors. It's so important to be able to tell them, hey, listen, I think I'm going to need to buy X number of whatever it is you sell. How can we work together on that? That time, Brian, I'm going to tell you ahead of time, I want you to be able to fit it in your production line in the most efficient way. And these are the ways that we end up getting supply chain efficiencies as well as better costing on many items. If you can, you have a really good heads up to people that you can often negotiate for better pricing, because they know that you're like secured in what you're doing, you're more of a guarantee, as opposed to the person who comes in and is like, Oh, I don't know what I need. I mean, you know, how soon can you get me 100 units?

 

Erin Alexander 15:35

Yeah, how do you think that? Maybe a solopreneur? Or just like a small mom run business? Not that she's any less powerful? How can she start to adapt these practices in her own business? Like, you know, she's probably not talking to manufacturers, necessarily yet. Some of my clients, some of our listeners do work with manufacturers, which is incredible. But I know a lot of people listening are handmade businesses, how do you think that they can start to adapt some of this mentality of preparing for the future? Now, within their small business,

 

Stefani Schoen 16:10

it's the same with kind of bulk purchasing power. If you are knitting something yourself, it can often seem when you're solopreneur, your small business, your home business, it can seem daunting to buy lots of goods at once. You're like, do I really want to put this upfront cost? How long is it gonna last me like me sitting on this is going to be just in my living room forever, you know, packaging when people have to buy extra boxes and things like that. That is a huge savings, if you can project board and say, okay, but I know I'm always gonna get a great amount of sales at this week, or this timeframe. So it's worth me going up for the bulk discount on my label, or my tissue paper, or the stickers that I'm buying. It's not just about the product, but the packaging costs so much for these things and shipping and all that. But if you can cut 10 cents here, 10 cents there. In the end, I mean, that's so helpful for small businesses.

 

Erin Alexander 17:17

Yeah, it really is. Well, one guy I've had on the show, she has like a storage unit, which is her warehouse, she has all her packaging, and you know overstock because she has the same products, but she gets better deals and better prices and better margins, if she buys more in advance. Yeah, that's really incredible. So we make this prediction, whether it happens or not. I guess that's the part that I think people kind of get hung up on. They're like, well, I predict that this is going to happen, but what if it doesn't, and they get a little nervous? How do you maintain that prediction is all about your marketing and what you do at that point.

 

Stefani Schoen 17:58

It's a plan, your forecast is a plan. And it's just like any other aspect of the business where you want to have a plan, you have to know what you're trying to achieve, and what you can achieve based on trend. This isn't just like wave your finger in the air and pick a number, right that is based on something. So it's good to have that plan and march towards it. If things should go awry, and you don't hit that plan, there are things that you probably need to consider about the business. Maybe it's not marketing, maybe it's macro trends, it maybe it's shipping delays, maybe it's marketing, maybe the product isn't where it was, or maybe it's not as relevant as it once was. There are a lot of reasons, it should give you like a hint as to what's going on. And it should also just make you think about, yeah, why didn't this happen. But on the flip side, if you don't have a plan, you think about all of the sales that you've left on the table, all the opportunity that you had, that you weren't prepared for. So it can go either way. That is part of the business. It happens all the time where you're succeeding or missing plan. That's okay. But you still have a plan. I think a lot often times what is it really hard for small businesses, they don't really know. Or they don't have that plan. And I think that's such a bummer. Sometimes. It's just like, if you don't really know what you want to achieve, then how are you going to achieve that? You need that roadmap?

 

Erin Alexander 19:26

Yeah, absolutely. I was like kind of asking just to kind of hear your opinion on it. But I also know like, sometimes you just have to make a plan and then go after it. So I recently did forecasting with a CFO for my company. And it was like, Well, yeah, we always booked two clients, and it was like, but what if we don't book two clients? And it was like, I just can't think about that. I was talking to my husband about it. And he's like, Well, Walmart knows if their doors open. People are gonna come in. They don't sit there waiting for people to come in. They just have the doors open and people Do come in, it feels scary to like, think about that in terms of our business. I know a lot of people listening and myself included, we tie up a lot of ourselves in our business. But once you can start thinking about it objectively as like, these are numbers, these aren't, this has nothing to do with me. If these are numbers, then it makes it a lot easier to see and to feel like the plan is going to work. That's such a good point.

 

Stefani Schoen 20:25

I think if you have a financial plan, it does create some distance between you and your emotional level, versus the sales plan that's right in front of you. It is often freeing, I think a lot of people are very daunted by like numbers and spreadsheets. And it's like, it seems like a lot of time spent on you know, fussing over things, but is a great emotional distance to create between you and your business and really looked at it as like, I'm a CEO, and this is how I can look at it more objectively.

 

Erin Alexander 21:01

Yes, I think so to doing that forecast for myself, it was just like, oh, well, that's easy. It was like, instead of being like this big thing I had to figure out, I was like, oh, it's easy to book to clients in my position. And that was a really great way to like, pull myself out of it with my emotions tied into my business. Absolutely. Stephanie, this has been so cool, like very eye opening to hear about forecasting from like, such a big picture for like big companies. And this is how all these companies you've worked for do it too, right? Like they look at the trends and they see what they were supposed to do. And they go after it.

 

Stefani Schoen 21:39

Yes, I know that there are a lot of small business owners listening here. And it really is the same. And when I tell you that I started a clothing line within coach, we are selling one unit a week, okay, so it's not like we're selling. We were in, you know, 20 doors in the United States and really just kind of struggling to get credibility for one item and you would think, are this massive company people lining up remarketing dollars. So it really is even at the most basic level. It's important, even when it's looking, gotta make sure you buy accordingly if you're selling one item

 

Erin Alexander 22:17

that is inspiring, like for anyone listening, because they probably were thinking that oh, she started aligning coach, I'm sure that just flew off the shelves. But now even the big companies, even these huge, mega million years, million dollar companies, I mean are selling one at a time making predictions, looking at their past trends to see what they can do again, everyone starts at the same place, no matter who they are. Exactly. Thank you for saying that. It was the tiniest bit but it really like tied everything together. So where can people find you and hang out with you online?

 

Stefani Schoen 22:53

Find me on Instagram, my instagram handle is at shown retail consulting. And shown is spelled se hoe en retail consulting, DM me anytime. I also have a website, it's shown retail consulting.com. And really no question is too big or too small. I mean, I'm happy to answer even the smallest questions. That's kind of what I'm here for. And you know, remember, I'm building my business as well. So yeah, it's not like I have giant multi million dollar companies asking, you know, banging down my door. It's all small companies like your listeners.

 

Erin Alexander 23:29

And we will make sure we have the link to your Instagram and your website in the show notes because I know it can be hard to remember. So we will always have those you guys can connect with Stephanie go through her Instagram because she has shared some really incredible information on there. And that's what I did when I found you. I think you're like a wealth of knowledge just waiting to burst out of your new bubble. Thank you. Thanks so much for being on the show, Stephanie.

 

Stefani Schoen 23:55

Thank you Erin. I really appreciate it. This was fun.

 


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