How Two Entrepreneurs Use Automation to Run Efficient Businesses

Celebrating International Women's Day with Zapier Customers

Joey Blanco
Joey Blanco / Published March 8, 2019

In 2018, American Express's annual State of Women-Owned Businesses report estimated that women started roughly 1,821 businesses every day. Compare that to the numbers from 2012-2017 (~952), and you see an increase of nearly 100%. In fact, 40% of all businesses are now owned by a woman, and most of those are solopreneurs—a one-woman show.

Last year on International Women's Day (IWD), we celebrated some of the women we work with at Zapier. This year, we want to highlight two female business founders who are also automation experts.

How Automation Speeds Up Shipping for TinySuperheroes

"In my first 5 years, we shipped about 10,000 capes. Because of Zapier, we've shipped over 10,000 capes this year alone."Robyn Rosenberger, founder of TinySuperheroes

Even with all the tools that exist for eCommerce businesses, order fulfillment and management is still a complicated process. There's the online storefront, for one. Inventory numbers might be in one system, while label creation happens in another. And, of course, there's the physical act of shipping a product.

It's enough to slow any business down—and no eCommerce store was started because the founder enjoyed shipping things. That's especially true for TinySuperheroes and their founder, Robyn Rosenberger. TinySuperheroes provides capes to kids dealing with sickness and disabilities. Making sure the capes arrive fast is a top priority for Robyn.

"I used to have to create manual orders for every cape we shipped," Robyn explains. "Now that [app automator] Zapier does it automatically, it literally saves me hours and drastically increases how many capes we can ship."

About TinySuperheroes

Back in August of 2012, Robyn made a cape for her young nephew's birthday, due to his love of superheroes. Having enjoyed the process, she made a few more for kids and dogs alike. Serendipitously, she was reading a blog about a young girl who was born with a rare and severe skin condition.

"I became enamored with her story and was in awe at the strength that radiated from Brenna and her family," Robyn says. She had an a-ha moment: Brenna was a superhero and needed a cape of her own.

And so, TinySuperheroes was born. In order to reach as many children as possible, Robyn began seeking out apps and tools that would make her burgeoning business even more powerful.

"As we're growing our business, we use so many different applications to manage our data. I need no other resource to tie these together than Zapier."

TinySuperheroes's Tools

Icon: App: Used For:
Typeform Typeform Survey results
Google Sheets Google Sheets Backup leads database
ActiveCampaign ActiveCampaign Email & customer relationship manager
ShipStation ShipStation eCommerce shipping platform

How Robyn Turns Form Responses into Orders

While Robyn automates tasks as disparate as creating contacts, tracking orders, and sending emails, at the heart of TinySuperheroes is one Zap—our word for a automated process created in Zapier. This Zap connects four different applications: form creator Typeform, Google Sheets, contact manager ActiveCampaign, and eCommerce platform ShipStation.

Here's how it works.

The Workflow

When a someone wants to nominate a kid for a cape, they fill out a form on the TinySuperheroes site:

TinySuperheroes uses Typeform with Zapier to automate mailing their capes.

The typeform's response kickstarts the Zap, sending the answers to Google Sheets, where Robyn and her team keep a database. You could use any spreadsheet app, like Airtable, for the same purpose.

Next, Zapier sends the responses to ActiveCampaign, creating a contact and populating different fields with all the relevant information from Typeform.

Finally, the Zap creates an order in ShipStation, where Robyn and the team can have a label printed and get the cape mailed out.

In four simple steps, Robyn created a process that saves hours of manual work—and more importantly, speeds up the time between ordering a cape and a tiny superhero receiving one.

"This Zap is our lifeline," says Robyn. "It's how we stay organized so our tiny superheroes can receive their capes in a timely manner."

While Robyn's Zap has four steps, we broke it up into its core pieces, so you can pick and choose the portions that work for you.

With Zapier, Robyn's been able to automate away some of the most time-consuming tasks that acted as a chokepoint for TinySuperheroes' growth. Now that Zapier handles order creation, Robyn's focus is where it ought to be: "Getting capes to kids!"

And for anyone who might be trying Zapier for the first time, Robyn recommends thinking ahead. "Take the time to set up Zaps correctly—the time you spend on the front end is worth every minute it saves you on the back end."

If you want to accelerate your business like TinySuperheroes, give Zapier a try for free.

All images courtesy of TinySuperheroes.

How a Solopreneur Built Her Business's Back End on Automation

"Let Zapier do the behind-the-scenes work so you don't have to."Vanessa Prothe, founder of Speak English with Vanessa

As much as technology can help when you start an online business, it can also be a bit of a roadblock if you don't consider yourself immensely tech-savvy. If your expertise is in a specific subject matter, like teaching a language, dedicating a similar amount of time learning to code isn't the best use of time, especially as you try to launch a business.

Vanessa Prothe, founder of Speak English with Vanessa, could have spent her time teaching herself to code. She could have studied API endpoints and how to connect different apps to each other. But after a few years in South Korea teaching English, she knew her passion lay with education and making personal connections with students.

Instead of completely altering her career path, she instead embraced her strengths and sought tools that would make it easy to launch an online business that relies on multiple apps. She found Zapier and immediately got to work crafting a back end that runs on Zaps.

About Speak English with Vanessa

The key to learning a language? Conversation. At least that's Vanessa's philosophy—and one she tested while she learned French and taught English in South Korea for three years. Conversations are easy enough to foster in person, but when launching Speak English with Vanessa, Vanessa wanted to reach as many people as possible, which meant an online business.

To cultivate a community, Vanessa created a private Facebook group for her clients. There, they can all chat, ask each other questions, post videos, and help one another learn a language. And that's in addition to the free courses and resources Vanessa offers, as well as her paid courses and a YouTube channel with nearly one million subscribers.

With a few apps all connected to each other using Zapier, Vanessa automatically manages her courses, payments, and emails, enabling her to remain a one-woman show with a focus on her students.

Speak English with Vanessa's Tools

Icon: App: Used For:
Teachable Teachable Online course management
ActiveCampaign ActiveCampaign Email & customer relationship manager
Stripe Stripe Payment processor

How Vanessa Automatically Manages Payments, Contacts, and Courses

At the heart of Vanessa's business, naturally, are her students. In order to learn a language, they have to sign up for specific courses. Both the free and paid courses are housed in Teachable, so when a student creates their Teachable account, Vanessa has them added to ActiveCampaign with a Zap. In ActiveCampaign, Zapier creates a contact and adds tags to the new contact, which in turn makes sure the new student is added to specific email lists and campaigns.

The same thing happens when a payment is made through Stripe: When a student purchases a new course or lesson, Zapier creates a contact in ActiveCampaign or, if a contact already exists, Zapier finds and updates the contact with the new purchase information.

It'd be a lot of work to do by hand, each time a new student registers or pays. In fact, it might not get done at all:

"Thankfully, I found Zapier when I first started my business, but if I had to do all those tasks manually, it would take me several hours per week," says Vanessa. "And honestly, I probably wouldn't do them because I don't have time."

The Workflow

Three simple Zaps power the bulk of Vanessa's work. First, Zapier brings new students into ActiveCampaign and adds tags—these tags play a big role in what emails and marketing campaigns each student is exposed to. By automating this, no student misses out on vital emails about new courses or missed payments, and Vanessa can focus on course content and her community.

Similar Zaps run for Stripe payments, either creating contacts and adding tags, or searching for a contact and then adding tags and payment information.

Give these a try for yourself and see just how much time you can save by automating manual work:

You don't have to be a tech expert to run a successful online business by yourself. If you follow in Vanessa's footsteps, you just need energy, passion, a great idea, and the right tools.

All images courtesy of Speak English with Vanessa.

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