Let’s just put it out there: Starting a business is time consuming, stressful, expensive, and hard. It’s satisfying in the way that finishing a Jillian Michaels workout video is: you’re super proud of yourself, but you’re also lying in a sweaty ball on the floor.
I’m the founder and CEO of Bravely, a company that aims to connect women and money. Bravely will provide online tools, resources, education and success stories, as well as in-person events, that will help women take control of their own money. Bravely *officially* launches January 18th, and to date, I have no investors, no grants, and no partners. Bravely is 100% funded through money I have personally saved.
A few months ago, a commenter on another TFD article mentioned that they wanted to hear more stories from women who were the sole providers in their families, women without financial partners, or women who out-earn their partners. Well, hello: my name is Kara Perez, and I am the sole provider in my own life. I’m the only one paying my own bills, and I’m the only one funding my company.
I first got the idea for my business last March. At the time, I had about $4,000 in my emergency fund, had just maxed out my IRA for the year, and was bringing in about $2,700 a month as a freelancer. I was working my ass off for that $2,700 (30% of which went to taxes) and I felt anxious at the thought of that lifestyle being the rest of my life.
Due to my anxiety, I was binge-reading stories of female entrepreneurs. Reading about women who had managed to claw their way to the top of the business world were like my crack. I wanted what they had — a business that provided for me, and the lifestyle I dreamt of living.
Much as I read, I found that all the articles left out the same crucial piece of information: how did these women fund their business ventures? Where did they get the money to pay rent while they ran their clothing empire out of their bedroom? How much upfront cash did it take to start that baby product company, and where did that cash come from?
That’s how my company started: I wanted to create a platform where women could learn from other women in business. I wanted a place where a woman could go to find the hard numbers on what it’s like to start a clothing company, as well as tools to pay down her student loans. I wanted to see actionable advice for women to get their money right. I felt like it didn’t exist anywhere and so I figured: I can do that.
Now let’s remember — last March, I was working as a freelancer and part-time caterer. I’m still in both of those positions as I start Bravely. I didn’t have to walk away from a high-powered, well-paying job to start my company. I didn’t have to uproot my life to start my company. I needed an LLC, a new website and domain name, and a name for the company.
I live in Texas, where it costs $308 to start an LLC without a lawyer’s help. I had a personal finance blog that I’d written for two years. I sold that blog for a few thousand dollars, and used that money to start my business finances. I also saved an additional $1,500 into that business account. I use my old hosting plan to host my new website, which I paid for last year. In total, my start up costs were around $550. (I don’t include internet as a start-up cost, as I would pay for that regardless.)
In order to provide full transparency, I’ll tell you that I have a long-term boyfriend whom I live with. We don’t share money, and split all costs 50/50. I have to meet my half of rent and utilities each month — he won’t be covering any expenses for me as I pursue Bravely. I also don’t receive any support from my mother, or any other family member.
In 2015, I paid off all my student loans, so I’m debt-free. This makes things a little easier. Still, my personal finance priorities sometimes feel in opposition to my business finance priorities. I want to contribute to my retirement accounts (an IRA and a solo 401k), but each time I sock a dollar away there, I’m taking a dollar from my business. Building a financial cushion while also building a company is very difficult.
Remember how I said starting a business is hard? It’s these kinds of decisions that really leave you stressed. Am I shooting myself in the foot by saving for retirement instead of building my business cash reserves? Am I crazy to start a business by myself, when I still have to cater to pay my bills? Am I taking my earning potential and throwing it down the drain by striking out on my own, instead of finding a traditional job?
Ultimately, I’m doing something that I love, and that I believe in. I want to pursue this, and if it means working part-time as a caterer for another year, so be it. I am balancing my business and personal finances as best as I can for the moment. It’s not easy, but it’s what I’ve chosen for my career and for my money.
Image via Unsplash