When Adrian Zhang's wife Justine first picked up a crochet hook, she never expected that it would lead to building a thriving ecommerce business. Yet, her newfound hobby sparked an idea that became The Woobles—a company on a mission to spread confidence through teaching crochet skills.
Nestled in North Carolina, The Woobles makes crocheting approachable and fun through its brightly colored yarn bundles and straightforward patterns. But the brand had bigger goals, beyond selling kits to crafters. As founder Adrian Zhang explains:
"We care about how people learn, and we believe something magical happens when you learn a new skill," says Adrian. "Often, the word used to describe this feeling is 'fiero'. Fiero is that feeling you get when you achieve something you once thought was impossible. You get this special joy and confidence when you achieve it."
The Woobles, a Shark Tank brand, aims to recreate that feeling by making crochet accessible and fun. Each kit breaks down stitches into simple steps so anyone can experience the satisfaction of crafting their first scarf or hat. It's an uplifting reminder that we all have an inner capacity to learn and create.
Adrian says, "We want to focus on how we can teach this physical skill so that our customers and fans can experience this feeling of fiero—get this profound sense of joy and confidence that hopefully spreads to other parts of their lives."
The kits struck a chord with crafters of all skill levels. Within a few years, The Woobles amassed a small but mighty community across the United States. Business was booming, but so was the complexity of their sales tax obligations.
Managing sales tax became an obstacle to The Woobles' easier learning path. As they reached customers in more and more states, tracking tax rates and reporting requirements became burdensome. For Adrian, it detracted from the work he loved—building an uplifting brand.
Challenge: The proverbial sales tax headache
At first, Adrian relied on standard CPA spreadsheets to calculate sales tax and figure out what they owed in the few states where they had customers. As a former trader, he was no stranger to crunching numbers. And with just two or three states to worry about, DIY tax filing was straightforward.
But as they scaled across the country, the complexity of sales tax filings became evident. Adrian found himself bogged down managing deadlines, permits, and reporting for over a dozen different state and county jurisdictions.
"Every state is different in how they take in the data," Adrian explains. "Some even require you to type everything in manually. It just became tedious."
Suddenly, Adrian's calendar brimmed with tax deadlines instead of creative meetings. His custom spreadsheets, once simple, now spanned dozens of tabs to accommodate various county rates and exemptions. Each return required hours of double-checking—even then, the risk of costly errors loomed large.
"It quickly became clear this would be a full-time job—building spreadsheets to pay sales tax for all these states," says Adrian. "As a founder, I'd much rather spend my time growing our business than calculating tax."
Adrian knew he needed to find an escape route from this sales tax knot before it squeezed the life out of his growing company. He tested popular tax automation platforms like Avalara, hoping to finally cut through the compliance chaos.
However, Avalara still required heavy lifting from Adrian's end. When discrepancies arose in the numbers, he found little support to identify the root cause.
In Adrian's experience, "Avalara is not set up for someone who wants to say, dig into this and tell me what went wrong.' It needs you to go find where things are going wrong."
As Woobles' orders continued scaling, even minor reporting errors risked significant fines. Adrian hesitated to trust such high stakes to a tool offering little guidance.
"It was still our account, and we were responsible for ensuring the numbers were right," Adrian explains. "Things would go wrong, and you'd have to spend time digging in to find the issue."
While Avalara provided some relief, Adrian knew there had to be a better solution that delivered both automation and attentive support. The Woobles needed more than just another software tool—they needed a tax partner.
Although Adrian started using Avalara, he quickly realized that the onus was on them to figure out sales tax compliance. Avalara won’t dig in and tell them, “Do this and not that.” Adrian concluded that they wanted someone to take ownership of sales for The Woobles.
Solution: Discovering Numeral—Their True Sales Tax Ally
With tax eating more and more of his bandwidth, Adrian went searching for solutions that could manage sales tax compliance. Through conversations in the ecommerce community, Adrian came across Kevin, co-founder of Numeral, a YC-backed company taking a different approach to sales tax management for DTC brands.
Numeral's emphasis on combining automation with hands-on support appealed to Adrian's needs.
"We wanted a solution that offered a bit more hand-holding because we just don't want to think about sales tax at all," Adrian recalls.
Beyond just software access, Numeral promises proactive insights and investigation to resolve any errors or discrepancies if they occur. For Adrian, having real experts double-checking the numbers provided peace of mind as The Woobles scaled into more states.
Adrian also appreciated Numeral's intuitive platform, which requires minimal upkeep. "You want as little interaction with the software as possible," he says. "You just go in monthly, make sure it looks reasonable, and you're good to go."
He also appreciated Numeral's clean, intuitive interface requiring minimal upkeep from internal teams.
After vetting Numeral's offering, Adrian felt ready to cut ties with Avalara and hand over his sales tax headaches to Numeral.
"Our dream scenario is it's kind of set it and forget it," says Adrian. "Which, at the end of the day, is what any founder wants."
For Adrian, Numeral checked all the boxes Avalara lacked:
- Hands-on support: Adrian can rely on Numeral's team to investigate and resolve discrepancies, not just provide software access. "There's always going to be something that looks off," says Adrian. "But instead of me having to figure it out, Numeral will solve it."
- Proactive maintenance: Numeral handles tedious tax tasks like applying for permits so Adrian can focus elsewhere. "You can spend hours trying to get sales tax set up properly in each state," he explains. "We save tons of time not having to do that ourselves."
- Pricing: Numeral's fees align with Woobles' simple sales tax needs, unlike other solutions catering to more complex SaaS companies. Adrian maintains, "The pricing is great for D2C ecommerce like us."
- Clean interface: The dashboard provides just the essential sales tax data Adrian needs as a D2C founder without overly intricate features. "You glance across and make sure exclusions are accounted for," he says. "It's set up for ecommerce, not enterprise companies."
By August 2022, Numeral was handling The Woobles' sales tax across multiple states without a hitch.
Adrian raves, "Numeral is one of those things where you want as little back and forth as possible. We've very much experienced that dream scenario."
Measuring the Numeral Impact: Time and Sanity Saved
Since outsourcing sales tax to Numeral, Adrian reclaimed hours once occupied by complex calculations and paperwork. Freed from this financial grind, he now devotes more time to developing Woobles' crochet course content and expanding the brand's positive impact.
"It's truly just time savings," Adrian reports. "There's no hard number and I don't think we can come up with one, but it's truly just massive time savings."
More importantly, Numeral has entirely lifted the mental burden of tax compliance off Adrian's shoulders. He trusts Numeral's automation and support to correctly handle all the nitty gritty details.
"It's kind of set it and forget it," says Adrian. "At the end of the day, I'd much rather spend time growing our business than worrying about sales tax."
That peace of mind is invaluable to Adrian as The Woobles charts its next growth stage. He hints at big plans, including a company focused on helping working parents cultivate closer family ties through easy, engaging activities.
"We love Numeral," Adrian declares. "I don't know how you squeeze a number out of it, but I'd give working with them a 10 out of 10."
He believes the flexibility and support Numeral provides will prove just as invaluable through Woobles' future endeavours.
The Woobles has come a long from its origins as a humble crochet shop.
Numeral's reliable tax solution gives Adrian the freedom to think more significantly—and the confidence to turn those dreams into reality.
By the Numbers
- 10+ states managed by Numeral
- 10/10 rating of Numeral by Adrian, founder of The Woobles
- Hours saved weekly by outsourcing sales tax to Numeral
- $0 in fines or penalties since using Numeral's tax automation
Numeral is the most comprehensive sales tax compliance solution for ecommerce brands. Top brands like Obvi, Muddy Bites, Crossnet, and Graza spend less than five minutes a month on sales tax. Can we do the same for you?Schedule a demo