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The Mom Connection

SMB Retail by Angela Diffly
unspecifiedFashion For Moms

With 65 stores in the U.S. and plans to open five to 15 stores every year, Evereve – a clothing boutique catering to fashion-loving moms – is experiencing the kind of growth that requires scalable technologies. The company opened its doors 12 years ago on a mission to empower moms with uplifting in-store, online and stylist-enhanced shopping experiences. It all started when founder, CEO and new mom Megan Tamte went shopping with some girlfriends. She found stores lacking in fashion to fit her new body, and none of the retail spaces were inherently accommodating to moms. Back in March, she told The Huffington Post, “I didn’t feel like the retail world understood my needs anymore. My body changed, I had kids with me, and fashion wasn’t my priority. A lot changes when you become a mom.”

Scaling The Business

Apparently, moms across the country could relate; they embraced her concept, and the business began to flourish. As new stores opened, whatever was needed to run them was added at random, resulting in an eclectic mix of consumer-grade disparate technologies chain-wide. “When I joined at store 60, we had just signed the lease for store 70,” commented Anthony Hoang, Evereve’s CIO. “I inherited a very heterogeneous infrastructure at the network level. They were opening these stores themselves, going to Best Buy to get whatever was on sale, installing whatever they could find to get the network up and running.” With the goal to double the size of the company, Hoang began evaluating what the company had, and how they could scale securely. At the same time, he had to deal with the day-to-day operational reality of stores losing Internet connections and being down for up to a full day before the issue could be properly diagnosed.

Evereve needed a reliable contingency solution for connectivity, but Hoang wasn’t confident that LTE (Long Term Evolution, the standard for high-speed wireless communications for mobile phones and data terminals) could keep pace with terrestrial landlines. He was surprised when he tested Cradlepoint’s all-in-one platform to find that it simplifies network infrastructure while offering cloud-based primary LTE connectivity three to four times faster than his legacy wired WAN service. “This has got to be an industry ripe for change. We can’t be the only tenants in these malls experiencing connectivity issues. We’re not doing anything particularly demanding from a network perspective. When you don’t have any other options, LTE is really a saving grace. I can’t always rely on the mall to provide an ISP (internet service provider) before I open a new store.”

unspecified-3Opening Stores

Traditional service providers can take days or even months to supply connectivity to a new store, which leads to major delays and downtime for grand openings. “Opening a store and rebuilding it is stressful enough,” Hoang told us. “Not to be able to configure your machines and your gateway for credit card processing is something we just can’t deal with. I have this fallback now. I can use the LTE connection, which allows us to open the store on time.” Evereve relies on connectivity for its point-of-sale (POS), enterprise resource planning (ERP) connecting to supply chain, payment gateway, traffic counters, internet applications to communicate with staff in the field and voice-over-IP (VOIP) which is used for communications from its home office to store and from customers to stores.

Evereve wasn’t looking for cloud connectivity, but embracing it has allowed the company to scale its operation. “To put it into perspective, I can monitor the stores remotely, and I get an alert if something goes down. I can get them back up and running without them ever knowing they were offline,” Hoang said. “It’s remarkable. It’s not what I was looking for, but it makes everything so much easier.” Hoang told us his LTE service plans are pay-as-you-go, meaning they charge you when you use them rather than a flat monthly rate. For this reason, knowing when a store’s primary connection is down, and relying on LTE, allows Hoang to act quickly to rectify the issue – minimizing LTE usage, adding up to significant savings.

unspecified-1A Road Trip To Remember

To migrate every store to the new Cradlepoint solution, Sonja Peterson, Evereve’s director of systems implementation, hit the road for an 11-day road trip, taking on the company’s three largest markets first, Minneapolis, Chicago and Denver. She visited 25 stores in all, spending about three hours in each store, switching out devices, configuring the network, and meeting with company managers. Creating an image of what the Cradlepoint configuration should look like made the rollout seamless. When she was finished at each store, she took pictures of the network closet to make sure everything was refreshed and labeled properly, and then moved onto the next location. “It’s more work to physically get it wired into the network closet than to configure it,” Hoang said. “That’s a huge selling point. I wanted to procure a technology to uphold my commitment – that I would install infrastructure capable of supporting the company at double its size. The Cradlepoint solution is scalable, without having to train some high-end network engineer or complete a certification. That’s empowering for retailers of our size.”

Peterson’s adventure proved uplifting for the company. She updated colleagues on Facebook at every stop, documenting her journey, highlighting stores visited and missions accomplished. “It was so energizing for us as a company. When she came back, we were all waiting for her in the parking lot with this checkered tape. When she crossed the finish line, we cheered her on. When I opened the trunk of the car, there were all these old, consumer routers.”

Staying Connected

After all of Evereve’s stores were updated with the new technology, Hoang turned his attention to building a secure network. Before Cradlepoint, Evereve didn’t have a VPN (virtual private network) between its home office and stores. Now, Hoang can remotely manage the hundreds of computers throughout the field, administering patches, updating its POS systems, etc. “This is a huge benefit. I started out just wanting to reduce the amount of ISP outage calls I got per month, but we continue to extract more value as we go along.”

Evereve migrated from random, consumer-grade routers and intermittent connectivity to a standardized, securely connected network infrastructure across its operation. “The company entrusted me to prepare us for expansion. I feel very confident about where we are – and where we’ll be this time next year,” said Hoang.