Hospitality is a passion for John and Sue Elliott, owners of Davidson Chocolate Company.
The couple originally left their corporate jobs intent on becoming bed and breakfast hosts. But a twist of fate led them to a little chocolate shop in the mountains of North Carolina.
“It had been closed for two and half years. The chocolate was still wonderful, and the hundred-year-old recipes were still great. The business itself looked horrible, but we couldn’t see how we could fail,” said Sue. “We had a lot of reputation to repair and rebuild, but in five years it grew dramatically.”
With the store doing well, the couple kept brainstorming on how they could grow their business. The answer came when their son invited them to consider moving the business to Davidson, just outside of Charlotte. The couple agreed, and in 2008 opened their first Davidson Chocolate Company store.
Within the first year of business, the Elliotts decided to seek a local credit processor. “When we got here we felt local connections were really important in a small community. Everybody goes local. There was a brand new bank across the street, so we decided to go with their processing,” Sue said.
Sue, a former accountant, had used Excel spreadsheets for bookkeeping in their small mountain store. But the new shop afforded her less time, so she picked up Sage Peachtree accounting software.
“I knew about them and loved the detail Peachtree gave to me. I felt very comfortable working with it,” she said.
It later tuned out that one of her customers worked for Sage in media relations. Through this connection, the Elliotts were invited by Sage to its Atlanta office to speak to its staff about the impact of Sage Peachtree on their business.
Around this same time, however, the Elliotts started having issues with their bank’s credit payment processing.
“All of a sudden our rep who hadn’t come in very often, started coming in and saying ‘This is going up and that’s going to go up, and talked of all these new rules and regulations.’ We already felt our rates were extremely high,” said Sue. “At the same point she discovered they had charged us the wrong rate. I said, ‘Ok, then you need to credit us this whole year,’ and she said, ‘Oh no we can’t do that.’”
Since Sue had recently received an email introducing her to Sage Payment Solutions, she felt it was time to consider another processing service.
“We went through the quoting process and Sage came back with all the right answers . . . everything they told me has been true. We said okay. You get to the point when you feel comfortable with a person and they’ve answered all your questions correctly. You have to reach some point of trust. And because of our experience with Peachtree we decided to give it a go,” she said.
The Elliotts worked with a Sage Payment Solutions agent to switch over and described the process as “seamless.” Last September, when they opened a second store in Dilworth, another Sage agent worked with them to get the store’s credit processing up and running.
“Any issues I’ve had since, I’ve called customer service and they bend over backwards to help me. No matter what time of day or night I’ve had to call. It’s always like there’s nobody more important than me—and that’s a fantastic feeling,” Sue said.
As a Sage Payment Solutions client, the Elliotts qualified for a free upgrade to Sage Peachtree 2011. According to Robert Bertke of Sage Payment Solutions, the two products now provide tighter data integration.
“The fact that we can process transactions directly within Peachtree I think is something businesses might wish they had,” Bertke said. “At the end we want small companies focusing on their business, not worrying so much on going into the back office and keying things in.”
Mobile payment processing is another feature Sage Payment Solutions offers, something Sue is excited about as the couple makes plans to venture into farmers’ markets.
The Elliotts are in the thick of preparing for upcoming Mother’s Day. They anticipate selling about 1,500 pounds of chocolate, double what they did last year. If all goes well, there will be a lot more card swiping this time around.
By Joseph Mutidjo, Reporter, Smallbiztechnology.com