NEXMachine Helps KidKnits Address Global Poverty with The Cloud

KidKnits was founded in 2010 by nine-year old knitter, Ellie, who believed that “You’re never too young to change a life on the other side of the world.”  Through the fair trade import of handspun yarn from women living and working in developing countries, KidKnits offers a simple craft kit for students that is integrated with a comprehensive service-learning curriculum.  KidKnits is dedicated to two separate, yet uniquely connected goals:

  • To support dignity and sustainable employment for vulnerable families living in poverty in developing countries.
  • To honor our founder’s original belief and inspire American youth to help change lives around the world.

 

Through this innovative model, KidKnits has been able to impact hundreds of lives around the world, including families in Rwanda, Kenya, Chile, Mexico, Liberia, and India.  However, as this small, family-run business was growing, the logistical challenges of managing the supply chain, inventory, and customer challenges continued to mount.  This is where NEXMachine stepped in to allow KidKnits to continue to scale their global impact.

 

Members of the NEXMachine team helped to create a custom solution for KidKnits, built upon the ten free licenses that salesforce offers to all non-profits.  This solution allows KidKnits to stay in close communication with their rapidly growing list of customers and partners across a variety of channels.  For example, school teachers represent the largest portion of KidKnits demand, as they implement the program inside of their classrooms.  KidKnits is able to stay in close communication with the teachers to ask any questions that may arise about the curriculum, can provide additional yarn to any students that are interested in knitting additional hats outside of the classroom, or can stay in touch to offer the KidKnits project the following year as a new group of students comes through the teacher’s classroom each year.

 

Another key sales channel for KidKnits is their ecommerce site, hosted by Shopify.  Because KidKnits uses salesforce both for managing the customer relationship as well as managing inventory, it became critical for KidKnits to have an integration between Shopify and Salesforce.  While many off the shelf integration tools exist, none of them met the specific needs of KidKnits.  Because of KidKnits’ interest in tracking product inventory, passing customer information to salesforce is insufficient, rather the details of individual order items must also be passed to salesforce.

 

The NEXMachine solution for KidKnits allows us  to capture purchases on Shopify in the recently introduced Order object in salesforce.com.  In addition, KidKnits is also participating in the Orders trial program through salesforce.com which makes it possible to immediately convert opportunities into Orders.  We can now take orders through any channel, convert them to orders and manage our inventory.

 

The Cloud makes it possible for organizations like KidKnits to have the same features and capabilities that are enjoyed by the largest, most sophisticated enterprises in the world, including the Fortune 50 company located in Ellie’s home town.  This means that KidKnits is able to integrate their sales and marketing, eCommerce which is on Shopify and ERP—Quickbooks Online, to create a single platform upon which to manage her enterprise…. her global enterprise that keeps nearly 100 people outside the US working.

 

If you’d like to learn more about how you can help address the issue of global poverty or are interested in getting your hands on your very own craft kit, visit www.kidknits.org.

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Help Dream Center Peoria Provide Backpacks to Kids in Need

At the Spring Central Illinois Salesforce User Group (CISUG) meeting, Matt Larson, the executive director for Dream Center Peoria (DCP), discussed how the Cloud is changing the lives of kids in the Peoria area who desperately need help.  Now, Dream Center Peoria urgently needs your help.

 

Before I get into what Matt needs from you, let me tell you a little about his organization.  Dream Center Peoria’s mission is to impact families living in poverty, starting with kids.  During Matt’s presentation, he painted a very vivid image and gut wrenching juxtaposition of the experience of an 11-year-old boy and his younger sister, currently clients at DCP, living in poverty vs the experience most of us had growing up.

 

While, as kids, we rode our bikes through our neighborhoods, lived in safe homes and ate three meals a day, children like this 11-year-old boy and his sister oftentimes spend their days wondering when they will eat their next meal, and where they will sleep that night. Moving from home-to-home. Living with relatives or whoever will take them in, sometimes living on the street.

 

I’m sure the question you are asking is “why the Cloud?” for children and families in such desperate situations.  Don’t they have other, more fundamental needs?  But, Matt saw things differently, as every innovator does.  He and his team work with Becky Steinlage, Director of Social Mission for NEXMachine, to develop a curriculum and teach the Dream Center Peoria kids how to become Cloud consultants and administer Salesforce.com.

 

The goal of this program is to expose these kids to the opportunities in life that lay ahead of them. To inspire them to break the cycle of poverty they are living in and see a future that is prosperous, a future that does not leave them searching for food and shelter, but instead for ways to help the next generation of kids. Hopefully, we create a generation of entrepreneurs and business people whose success will inspire the generations that follow them.

 

For those kids who decide to work hard through high school, attend post-secondary education, and pursue a career in the Cloud, there will likely be a good job waiting for them. Careers in technology tend to pay well.  Combine that with the growth in Cloud computing and I can only be optimistic that some of these kids may come to work for me some day. Possibly even become my competitors. Or, even more inspiring, I may work for one of them.

 

First, we need to help Matt and his team continue their work. They are in urgent need of money for Backpack Peoria, a program designed to provide Peoria’s impoverished kids with the things they need to start the upcoming school year.  Backpack Peoria helps kids start the school year right, which will help to keep them in school and to keep them motivated to stick with their education.  By helping now, we hope to create the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.

 

To help Dream Center Peoria help these kids, please find it in your hearts to contribute to Backpack Peoria today… now!

 

The future of integration

The Cloud is once again liberating us from the complexities and costs we see from traditional technology platforms. For a long time, integrating with the Cloud was seen as being complicated.
Integrating with apps in a business’s four walls was hard enough, but integrating with a platform that is in the Cloud? Come on!

Time and the tremendous growth of Cloud-based apps has shown everyone that it is far easier to integrate with Cloud applications, such as Salesforce.com, Amazon and Google Apps, than it is to integrate traditional technologies from SAP, Microsoft and IBM.

What has been traditionally known as middleware is becoming Integration Platform As A Service (IPAAS), a new term in the lexicon of all things Cloud. In many cases, existing middleware vendors are migrating their tools to the Cloud, as is the case with Informatica and Tibco. The Cloud has also created opportunities for disruptive service providers, such as Talend, Jitterbit and Boomi (acquired by Dell) to emerge.

Then, there are those innovators that are pushing the envelope like Zapier and Cloud Elements whose mission is to make it possible to integrate everything using prebuilt connectors and a declarative interface for configuration.

While these applications and tools are making our lives easier, the real revolution may not be in tools that simplify integration, it’s is likely to be that the Cloud is changing the way applications themselves are being architected and built to create seamlessness without a middle. More and more, the lines between enterprise applications are becoming blurred. Take for example Salesforce.com CRM and the ERP and general ledger applications Kenandy or Financial Force. Users and even developers have difficulty in knowing where one app ends and the other starts.

The middle that middleware occupies is shrinking as the Cloud brings apps together. But there are still plenty of legacy applications being used to make everyone’s lives a little more interesting and challenging. In fact, there are companies who pride themselves in their ability to unravel the mystery of these archaic systems and have turned this wizardry into their own intellectual property.

In the evolution of technology and the Cloud, the goal is to shrink and even collapse the middle that exists between applications. Where this is not entirely possible, it’s to simplify and squeeze out the unproductive complexities using disruptive integration tools. And, for those companies who thrive on guarding your knowledge of integrating the complex and the archaic, good luck. You are basing the value of your company and your future on a dying legacy.

Integrare in nube