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Using Pleo – Shellworks

How Shellworks manages 80+ invoices a month using Pleo

The challenge

Founded in 2019, biotech Shellworks is on a mission to create packaging that never becomes waste. The London-based team are the proud developers of Vivomer, a material made by microbes that consume plant matter and turn it into a plastic-like material in their cells (a bit like how our bodies store fat). Vivomer provides all the user experience of plastic except, once disposed of, it breaks down and leaves behind zero microplastics. Not only that, it’s also completely vegan and happens to be pretty easy on the eye.

Of course, in order to spread the word about the magic of Vivomer and get buy-in from the beauty industry, Shellworks needed to grow the team. More team members meant more expenses, which led Co-Founder Amir Afshar to seek out an all-in-one spending solution that would relieve the team of challenges such as:

  • A lack of tech stack

    For years, Shellworks had no tech stack or spend management solution in place. With no formal finance team either, this led to Amir – with the help of his Co-Founder and some external accountants – desperately trying to match up data between Excel, company bank accounts and piles of receipts held together by elastic bands. This was, unsurprisingly, a time consuming and manual process.

  • Out-of-control expenses

    Shellworks’ dedication to growing their team quickly led to them accumulating more expenses than they could handle. From their Sustainability Strategist paying for train tickets to a biomaterials conference to the engineering team ordering tooling for in-house developments, manual expenses became a huge headache for the business.

  • Declining productivity

    Before Pleo, productivity was taking a hit across the board. This was thanks to the team spending hours submitting their receipts (many of which got lost in the process), as well as Amir trying to piece together details from various spreadsheets. Time wasted on laborious, manual tasks like these meant less time Shellworks could spend on their ambitious mission of eliminating plastic waste.

The solution

A spending solution that streamlines Shellworks’ finances, freeing up time for Amir to collaborate with the rest of the business on working towards a world free from plastic packaging.

“It’s even more important for start-ups to track their spending at the moment. We need to make sure money is being spent on the right things to help us drive forward our mission.” - Amir Afshar, Co-Founder at Shellworks

The results

Growing tired of spending up to three days managing expenses each month, Amir was on the hunt for an easy to implement solution that could help him make sure money was being spent in the right way. 

Pleo came highly recommended by friends and other founders, so Shellworks signed up in June 2022 and hasn’t looked back since. These days, Pleo is an invaluable part of the Shellworks culture, and the team have enjoyed:

  • Huge cost (and time) savings

    Amir estimates that Pleo has saved the company up to four days’ of time across the team every single week. When you factor in the amount of time people spent on expenses before Pleo, this equates to thousands of pounds of savings – and even more so when you consider the cashback Shellworks is earning thanks to Pleo (£1,500 and counting!).

  • Better decision making

    Being able to track spending down to the minor details has enabled Amir and his Co-Founder to make smarter business decisions. He loves the fact you can tag purchases to specific projects, as it helps them see which areas they’re spending the most in and which projects are the most costly so they can limit any unnecessary payments.

  • Refreshingly simple invoicing

    When you’re paying and managing 1,000+ invoices, you want the process to be as slick as possible. Thanks to Pleo, Amir can handle every single invoice on one platform to make sure no payment goes unnoticed (the dropdown that shows him previous suppliers is a bonus).

  • Easy onboarding

    Pleo is so ingrained in everyday life at Shellworks that watching the onboarding tutorial is one of the first steps in every new joiner’s guide. All 16 employees are set up with a card featuring personalised spending limits, which alleviates a lot of time and energy for the team having to evaluate every single purchase. The onboarding process takes less than five minutes, and virtual cards mean employees can start spending before their physical card arrives in the post. Then, they feel trusted to manage their own workflows within the boundaries set by managers.

  • More time to focus on the mission

    Given he doesn’t have to spend much time managing company finances now, Amir can focus on what he’s trying to build. The team has already replaced 30 tonnes of petroleum plastic with Vivomer packaging, and Pleo is helping them have an even greater impact every day. 

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