I did what social media dreams are made of.
After nearly a decade of corporate misery, I quit my full-time job and became an entrepreneur. I started a local clothing store based on an idea I had in business school, and my customer base grew quickly. I’ve even been featured on local news and TV.
After three years of running this business, I closed it. I was on the road to profitability, but I was exhausted and working at an unsustainable pace. It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life. After looking like a success, now everyone would think I was a failure. What would I do next? Do I have to start working regularly from nine to five again?
I decided to start my second business, and this one was sure to be a success. This new venture would be entirely based on traveling as a speaker in front of a large audience teaching others how to pay off debt, the same way I paid off $300,000 in debt in three years. What could go wrong?
That’s what I thought in January 2020. When the pandemic hit, I quickly had to learn to pivot to an all-virtual model.
A little over two years later, Crush your money goals made over $250,000 in net revenue with over 2,500 students attending my programs. This small business has helped me achieve my goals of financial independence much faster than I expected, as I have seen many of my peers go into debt or close their businesses during the pandemic.
As I have shared in other articles for this column Mess to Million, I went against some conventional financial advice. Yet I was able to build a six-figure business from scratch during the pandemic.
This is the fourth column in a 5 part series by Bernadette Joy. In “Mess to Million”, she shows that you don’t have to be perfect to get rich. To follow @nextadvisor on Instagram for updates and live Q&A with Bernadette.
#1: I’ve never written a formal business plan
I have an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in commerce, and the first thing I learned about starting a business was to write a business plan. One of those spiral-bound, phone book-sized documents full of charts and calculations on how you’ll do your marketing, operations, finance, and technology.
You may need to show this business plan to a bank or investor to get approval for a loan or start-up capital. And certainly, if you were to leave a current, stable job, you should have a documented plan in place. But so many aspiring business owners I’ve taught over the years hear this and never start that business because coming up with such a comprehensive plan can be incredibly daunting.
Well, I never did.
But I waited until I had my personal finances in order and my debt paid off before I started.
Many people are surprised that I have never written a business plan for any of my business ventures. I had decided that I would always be my own investor, so I never had to apply for a loan.
Becoming debt free was perhaps the most important business lesson I ever learned that allowed me to start a business without a full fledged plan. First, paying off my $72,000 in student loans took a huge amount of pressure off of how much I would need to earn each month just to cover my loan repayments. Second, consistent budgeting over the years has taught me to think more creatively about covering business expenses, the same way I was creative with my personal expenses to pay off debt.
Looking back at how 2020 went, whatever business plan I wrote would have disappeared anyway!
I credit this financial decision alone as the basis of my business plan
The best thing I’ve ever done to prepare for starting a new business in 2020 was paying off my house in 2019 – a decision most of my family and friends disagreed with.
With no more student loans, auto loans, credit card debt, and not even a mortgage, my personal expenses were low enough to manage if I had to take a lower-paying job to get by while I figured out how to grow. my company. weather.
Obviously, paying off your entire house is a tall order, and I’m not saying you have to do that before starting a business. But I strongly encourage those starting a business to pay off as much of their consumer debt as possible, because it creates a lot more room to breathe and make the inevitable mistakes along the way when starting a new business.
#2: I did NOT follow my passion
The number 1 tip I’ve heard time and time again, whether from Oprah Winfrey or local entrepreneurs featured in my town’s newspaper, is: “Follow your passion!” Do what you love and the money will follow.
I mean, if Oprah said it, that must be good advice. And with my first company, I did. I started a business for women to rent dresses for special occasions because I loved fashion, shopping and parties. I’ve always loved how clothes can boost the confidence of people who wear them, even as a little girl.
It was awesome for the first year after being stuck in a cabin for so many years. I couldn’t believe it was my job to dress up for fun. But here’s what I didn’t expect: trying to monetize something that was once just for fun has resulted in pressures that have made it a chore. Over time, what was a creative and social outlet for me turned into something I HAD to do almost every day, even on days when I felt like I wasn’t up to it.
Instead, I found a valuable problem that I love to solve and left my passions alone.
Now that I run a business teaching financial education, people say, “Wow! You are so lucky to have found your passion!
But the truth is that money is not a passion for me at all. I see money as the tool that helps me explore my real passions: traveling and finding scenic views, seeing live music from country to K-Pop, and having hour-long conversations with people I care about. These are the things that make me come alive and make life worth living, and no, I don’t need to figure out how to monetize them
However, I really enjoy helping my students learn how to manage their money better, and I’ve found ways to make it fun and valuable for me and my clients. Finding your passion is great and an important part of who you are, but I’ve spent too many years confusing what I do for money with who I am as a person. When I worked in corporate human resources for many years, only to realize that I didn’t like it, I thought that meant I was lazy.
When my first business failed, I thought that meant I too was a failure and a less valuable person. I decided that this time around I would keep my passions and income streams separate, the same way I practice now keeping my net worth and self-esteem measured separately.
#3: I didn’t try to “grow” into a multi-million dollar business
An entrepreneur I worked for often told me that sleep is when you’re dead. And for a long time, I internalized that mindset, especially when I was working full time, going to college next door, and trying to grow my dress rental shop on nights and weekends. This is actually what led to the ultimate demise of my first business: I completely burned out and decided to shut it down, even when I was on the path to profitability. A business that requires you to work 24 hours a day is neither sustainable nor healthy.
My income goals are aligned with what I really need to retire
One of the wonderful side effects of growing an online business like Crush your money goals is that people have been incredibly supportive and excited about the value this can bring. Even complete strangers will message me and offer ideas and suggestions on how I can turn this into a multi-million dollar business. Evolve and grow, then become a billionaire: isn’t that what becoming an entrepreneur in America is all about?
But the truth is, I don’t have my eyes set on growing my solo business into a full-scale corporate entity with a ton of employees. I’ve worked for these companies for many years and have no intention of returning, even if it means I’m the one at the top of the org chart. My goal in growing this business, in addition to helping others on their own financial journey, is to end my own journey to financial independence.
And for me, that means reaching my FIRE number (financial independence, early retirement) and pursuing the passions I mentioned earlier, or maybe exploring new ones. It started with calculating my FIRE number and keeping my current living expenses relatively low, despite the huge increase in income over the past two years, so that I could invest for the long term to achieve my FIRE goals.
In my last episode of Mess to MillionI’m going to share how I reached this FIRE number recently and what’s next.