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case study:

How to start selling to a global customer base

Paytron made it simple for Romeo to send and receive online payments, replacing the clunky and frustrating banking processes he was used to.

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About Romeo

Romeo Kekic is the co-founder of Tvati, a Cook Islands-based business that specialises in traditional plant-based Maori medicine for the treatment of bone, cartilage, and soft tissue injuries.

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His goal

Tvati needed to replace clunky and frustrating banking processes to address challenges around cash flow, customer service and margins.

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Tvati now pays its suppliers in their preferred currency from the comfort of a laptop or tablet. They also receive payment before its goods are shipped to its customers, reducing their risk and making cash flow easier to manage.

“We have to shift our mindset from traditional banks. They don’t provide the ease of use that eCommerce businesses need. They’re nowhere near as flexible as Paytron.”

Imagine this:

Your customers buy your products.

You ship tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of your goods to them.

And then you hope their payments will arrive in your bank account.

A lot of risk, and a lot of challenges to cash flow, and an almost “nightmare scenario” for a small eCommerce brand right?

For Romeo Kekic, this wasn’t make-believe.

Romeo is the co-founder of Tvati, a successful business that specialises in traditional plant-based Maori medicine for the treatment of bone, cartilage, and soft tissue injuries.

Tvati’s products are popular. The company ships to customers around the world from their base in the Cook Islands, a beautiful small island state in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean.

It’s an idyllic tropical retreat famed for its natural beauty.

But for Romeo and his colleagues, its paradise-like calm came with one major headache.

“We simply couldn’t get paid.”

Tvati website homepage, man running on treadmill

“It all stemmed from the fact our bank in the Cook Islands had difficulties accepting payments from our overseas clients,” he says.

“We had trouble receiving funds transfers from overseas bank accounts because our Cook Islands account number, believe it or not, had letters and numbers in it – a format other banks don’t recognise.”

This made it impossible for Tvati customers to pay them online.

“And our bank couldn’t accept credit card payments from our customers."

“So, to get around these problems our clients would have to visit a branch of their own bank, ask to make the transfer in-person, and then explain to the bank teller that our bank account ‘number’ in the Cook Islands had letters in it."

“You can imagine how this went down with our customers!"

“How many people go to a bank branch to pay for something they just bought on a website?! And in the middle of a global pandemic!”

To cap it off, it wasn’t uncommon for Romeo’s local bank to reject incoming overseas payments.

“We looked at every different payment solution,” he says.

“In the end, the only workable business banking service we found would have required us to fly three hours to New Zealand, open a bank account for our company in the Cook Islands, and then get a payment gateway."

“But during the COVID-19 pandemic, nobody could travel in or out of the country.”

Romeo’s payment problems were a nightmare.

And it was having real effects on his business.

“It was almost funny: our biggest customer complaint was ‘How can I pay you?’"

“Here we were, a business with in-demand products with customers around the world, and we’d spent 10 months trying to find a payment solution.”

Tvati's product is grown, harvested, processed and packed in the Cook Islands

It's the result of a decade of research and development of the traditional plants used to treat bone, cartilage and soft tissue injuries

Tvati traditional cream product with coconuts in the background

“It was affecting our cash flow and upsetting our customers.”

For Romeo, the situation was easy to sum up.

“We simply wanted to get paid when our clients bought our products,” he says. “And we wanted to stop funds getting rejected by our bank.”

It wasn’t too much to ask. But the search for an answer was difficult.

They tried wire transfer providers, but their daily transfer limits were too low.

They tried other local banks, but they all had different obstacles, such as not being able to accept payments in US dollars.

They even thought about personal PayPal accounts, but that would have concerned customers.

The root of Romeo’s problem was simple – but unmovable.

Cook Islands palm trees on tropical beach

“The Cook Islands is basically still a cash society,” he says. “It’s a small population. And a lot of the systems that drive the banking functions everyone takes for granted haven’t been set up here.”

Romeo and his team needed a solution, and they needed it fast.

“I was introduced to James at Paytron through my co-founder, ” he says. “He was fantastic to deal with.” That meeting with James dislodged the first boulder for Romeo.

But after everything he’d been through, he was cautious.

“We’d been so battered and bruised trying to solve this. Doubt crept into anything to do with payment solutions so I wondered if this was going to be another rabbit hole.”

Romeo quickly discovered it wasn’t.

“As soon as James said he’d checked with the correct regulatory bodies and confirmed he could set up a bank account in the Cook Islands, Paytron was a no-brainer.

“That was it. We were underway. And I almost couldn’t believe it.”

So, what was it like when he started using Paytron?

“Its simplicity was amazing,” he says. “The set-up was easy.”

“All of our verification paperwork was submitted online.”

“It even integrates with Xero, which helps simplify our accounting.”

Paytron was quick to show what it could do, and Romeo even has a memento to prove it.

I still have the SMS message from my partner when he used Paytron the first time

I just sent 2x $100 to the Paytron account. One from _____ account and the other from _____ account. Very easy. Just like a local transfer.

“And the balance changed within a minute!"

Romeo’s day was about to get even better.

“Then one of our customers sent us a significant amount of money."

“It sounds silly but seeing their funds hit our account so quickly was such a surprise.”

Romeo and Tvati had come a long way in a short time.

“Prior to this, a payment from overseas could take days to appear,” he says. “And if it didn’t appear you had to manually chase up the bank and the customer in a tiring back-and-forth…”

Paytron was a turning point for Romeo. And it let Tvati take some huge steps forward.

For Romeo, there was one special benefit.

“Being able to pay an overseas supplier in a foreign currency,” he says.

“It meant not having to go into a bank branch. And not having to convert New Zealand-dollar amounts into US-dollar amounts. And not putting up with all of the fees and exchange-rate hassles.

“Now, I just log on, enter the information to make a payment, and send it.”

Paytron’s had a lot of positive effects for Tvati.

“We can now get paid before our goods are dispatched, so we no longer have that financing risk."

“Our customers can pay us in their local currency without having to make an international bank transfer, which previously didn’t always work."

“And our payments are visible either instantly or by the next day, which makes reconciling them easy and fast.”

There’s more, two of which stand out for Romeo:

“No more asking customers to visit their bank branch for payment. No more rejected funds."

Now that Paytron’s given Romeo control over Tvati’s payments, what’s next?

“Now we’re just focused on growing our business”

“Paytron’s taken out bottlenecks for us, the kind of problems other businesses typically don’t face."

“And it lets us concentrate on our customers.”

For Romeo, solving Tvati’s payments system was a huge win. And his advice to others is simple.

“Don’t waste your time,” he says, smiling.

“Just go ahead with Paytron and leave your payment issues behind you.”

Romeo used Paytron to escape a payments nightmare that caused cash flow issues for his business and hassles for his customers.

He now has an easy-to-use, almost instant payment system that lets him transact online with countries around the world.

Get in touch to see how it can do the same for you.

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