NY Sun Works, a non-profit organization that builds innovative science labs in urban schools, is focused on using hydroponic farming technology to educate students and teachers about sustainability. That’s why the company started the Greenhouse Project, which is dedicated to improving science education from Kindergarten through 12th grade by offering students the opportunity to grow food while learning more about science, nutrition, water resource management, sustainable development, and more. Since its founding in 2004, the company has gone onto build these science labs in over 129 schools, which far exceeded its original goal of 100.
One of NY Sun Work’s goals is to grow within the New York City market and eventually expand outside the metropolitan area. For this type of expansion, Margarita Rosas - who handles Finance and Operations at NY Sun Works - knew they needed to invest in a platform that could support their growth as they continued in their journey.
“We struggled with controlling operations,” Margarita recalls. “In the past, we had issues with the staff billing on time. Sometimes they would bill really late two to three months in a row. We didn’t have a good handle on it and couldn’t keep track properly.”
In addition to staying on top of billing, the company knew they needed help with managing and controlling the relationships with the schools they served. Margarita found that there was a disconnect between the client team and internal team members. Often, emails would get lost and updates wouldn’t be communicated, which led to project delays. Margarita also noticed that without having all of the information available at her fingertips, it was difficult for the company to learn from their mistakes and the disconnect only grew larger.
A lack of control over operations also led to a breakdown in communication between the proposal, the invoicing and the delivery of services. There wasn't a way to link the three processes yet, which led to the company doing more for the school than was agreed upon or a disconnect as to whether or not an invoice had been sent out in time.
Margarita played a huge part in the search and implementation of a new platform. She had previous experience with Accelo from when she worked in an IT consulting company that leveraged the system for their operations management needs. Given that IT companies are careful with the software implemented, she was confident that Accelo would be a strong fit and help solve their major pain points. When the time came for NY Sun Works to look into new platforms, Margarita knew Accelo had to be considered. The process was a thorough one. Margarita and the team sat down to discuss key performance indicators and to create a list of core functionalities they required of the platform.
“We explored multiple different systems,” Margarita said. “And out of the core systems we looked at, we thought Accelo was the best. Our team did a thorough evaluation, estimated the cost, and looked at the different tools we could use. After all of that, I was confident that Accelo was the right choice.”
Since implementing Accelo almost two years ago, NY Sun Works has noticed a positive change in several key areas. Before Accelo, the company spent up to 20% of their time doing manual, administrative work. Now that they invested in one system that tracks the entire project cycle, the team always knows the project status and ownership. Previously, there was no way to integrate information, so employees would spend time combing through previous communications, including email, or would need to reach out to an employee when there was an issue or confusion around a project. Now that all emails are automatically captured in Accelo, Margarita and her team have a way to better track progress and ensure that a project will be finished on time.
Accelo has also decreased the amount of time spent on billing. Previously, a client would send invoices created in Excel, and the accountant was responsible for manually getting that information into QuickBooks, which normally took hours. Now, the team leverages the QuickBooks and Accelo integration by logging time and creating invoices in Accelo. The information is then pushed to QuickBooks, allowing the company to see what's happening in real-time. This entire process only takes 30 minutes.
All of the time saved through tighter processes means that employees have more time to dedicate to nurturing and strengthening client relationships. They are able to instill more confidence in their capabilities by investing time into learning more about the needs of the schools.
“One way Accelo helps enhance our competitive advantage is through strengthening the relationships we have with our schools,” Margarita said. “We’re more organized, have more insight into what’s happening on a daily basis, and having that knowledge on hand has helped us serve them better.”
After witnessing Accelo’s capabilities, Margarita is confident that Accelo can aid the company in its expansion to the New York metropolitan area and beyond. The platform has helped solve the biggest pain points thus far - information integration, controlling operations, and ultimately, nurturing client relationships.
"In order to expand the business, we had to grow in our level of organization and be more aggressive," Margarita said. "We needed to have better control of what we do, and we didn't have that before Accelo."