Bento Systems: How we got started

Operations 101

I started working in Operations about 8 years ago. It was a brand new non-profit in the Nashville, TN area, and I was their third hire. Let’s get to work!

I was young and wicked nervous. This was my first contract like this and they were taking a chance on me. There were growing pains for sure, but it was exciting. I was helping build a system to track orders of books. At first we used spreadsheets, then quickly moved to shared spreadsheets. It worked for a bit until we decided to allow orders to come directly through the website.

Wufoo to the rescue!

If you don’t know anything about Wufoo (Wufoo.com) please check them out. Very cool product if you don’t code and need to build a complicated form (I’m not affiliated with them in any way, just a really good product.).

So I built a form in Wufoo to start taking the orders, and it worked! So now we had this online system to view our orders in real time. We could comment on them and do some basic reporting. It worked for us for a little while until other business pressures caused a change in our order processing procedures. We needed to spend a little more time with each order and hired a small team to facilitate that. They needed a system to process these orders and unfortunately, Wufoo just wasn’t enough anymore.

Is that a skyscraper? No just a Highrise.

Highrise is another cool product. It’s a CRM that has some basic deal management features. It also has a really nice tagging feature. Like Wufoo, I’m not affiliated with them, but definitely a cool product.

So we started a Highrise account and through an integration, linked Wufoo to Highrise. We had to do this because Wufoo’s primary offering was still valuable to us, the form builder. It was the CRM functions that were lacking. Highrise filled some of those gaps. I say some because the integration never functioned exactly the way we needed it to. That caused some messy data entries in Highrise. Highrise didn’t really do everything we needed it to either. Producing total order value reports was tricker than it should have been. Most of that data was still in Wufoo, but some additional data was now in Highrise. Highrise wasn’t really built for ‘orders’ as much as it was for sales ‘deals.’

So we needed a new solution. All along the way I had been developing my coding skills, also with other clients and projects I had going on. By this time, building a custom solution was a feasible idea, so that’s what we did.

The custom era

Building customers solutions started out okay. We gave up a lot in polish and additional feature sets to bring everything in house. On the flip side, we gained a lot in control of the data. It was much easier to build accurate reports and dashboards, and integrating with third party services resulted in much more clean data.

I was the sole developer working on the project and still fairly green to a project of this size. It was hard but I learned a lot from it. Building dashboards that worked with third party APIs was relatively easy. Building an actual CRM system was not. I learned a few things through that experience. Building a solution that solves real life problems was fun, and I knew that if I could refine my craft, I would be able to build a system and turn it into a business.

Bento.Systems

Honestly that’s it. That’s how Bento Systems was born. Just a simple idea to bring all of the different software required to run a modern-day small business, under one roof … one platform.

Now, the idea itself is simple enough, sure, but the implementation is a little more tricky. Through our company, Voltz Software, my brother and I have developed an application platform that we call Pagoda. This framework is what powers Bento Systems. It’s built to scale and makes it super easy for our team to add new features. The Pagoda framework is what allows us to offer Bento Systems at a price that makes sense for small businesses. And that is our goal, to put powerful software in the hands of small businesses at a price that is reasonable.


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