Self-Funded

The other night I started watching this movie called The Women. Like I always do, I looked it up on Wikipedia and learned that it’s a remake of a film from the 1930’s. It follows a group of friends in NYC and touches on independence, infidelity, finding happiness in yourself + much more. Interestingly enough, not a single man appears in the movie. Not even an extra. It’s not a good movie, but something about it struck me. [Spoilers come next…if you care then you really need to chill out because this came out in 2008 and has a 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.]

The cast is comprised of Annette Bening, Meg Ryan, Bette Midler and Candice Bergen and ultimately Meg Ryan’s character (after rising above a cheating husband and losing herself), decides to launch her own line of clothing. Her mom, while recovering from plastic surgery, offers to fund it with her own inheritance.

OKAY YEAH SOUNDS GREAT! THANKS MA!

But really? REALLY? This story is told often. Women in NYC (or, anywhere really) with a disposable income. And if you let it, it can be discouraging. Charlotte helps Carrie buy her apartment by selling her engagement ring. Rory needs tuition (Prius, tuition again) so she gets it from her grandparents. As I grew my business, I started seeing similar storylines but in real life. I felt like I could never accomplish what other women were doing with such limited cash flow.

We’ve tried using credit for our business, but we just don’t like it so it takes a ton of work to save that buffer and to get ahead. I’m still running on computers that I bought 6-ish years ago. We work hard, freak out a little, feel triumphant, freak out again, gain some security, freak out even more, find our rhythm…

I wrote this post because I want all you other self-funded, female entrepreneurs to know that I know your struggle and your triumphs. I know we’re abundant. And strong. Keep at it. Help each other out.

Disclaimer: I don’t judge or look down at anyone with fabulous financial means. Anyone can have a work ethic. Rich or poor or in-between. Usually, there’s someone that worked really hard for that money. I don’t think it comes easy and I certainly don’t consider myself to be better.

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  • I’m glad someone had the guts to say this. People ask me all the time why I don’t just go out on a limb and work for myself. Currently I’m working an 8-5 desk job in marketing and creating when I can.

    My answer is “because I have bills to pay.” And while one day I hope that my art can cover my bills, I can’t do it without paying down some debts first.

    • I totally know how it goes! I worked extremely boring jobs before I quit in 2012. It was a great lesson in patience and I’m glad I didn’t just go out on that limb and then fall and break my arm haha.

  • Thank you for saying (writing) this. I’ve seen the movie, and while it’s entertaining enough, it’s not most people’s reality. I remember when I was starting my business, and I had to work two other jobs to pay the bills while I got it off the ground. I had one very uninformed man tell me that my business was just a hobby. That just fueled my self-funded fire more, and a few months later, I was 100% working for myself and have never looked back. In a way, the limited cash flow is a good thing. It means you’re not in debt to anyone! Good for you and for all of us self-funded entrepreneurs out there!

    • Me too! I was freelancing years and years before I ever did it full-time (but I managed to trick people into thinking I was full time on my own). Love that that guy fueled your fire.

  • I’ve been living on my own since I was 16. Right now I’m working out a plan to help MY mom pay off HER student loans. So yeah, the idea of someone else giving me money to help me along gives me sincere belly laughs.

  • Oh, I needed to read this today. I remember being in college and praying that I would be one of those kids who would open their little box in the mail room and find an anonymous check covering my tuition (yeah, that never happened). Now, I have my own family and business and while I wish Nate could quit the “normal,” non-freelancing job to join me full-time in the business — there are things like diapers and health insurance and good grief these tiny people need fed like 3 times a day! :) It’s hard, but I think ultimately, I would rather fall in bed at night, tired from a full day of work and chasing my kids around and knowing that I was growing and maturing as a person, business owner, mama, and wife — than to have everything handed to me on a silver platter.

    And honestly, over the past 5 years of marriage when things have been tighter than tight, and we didn’t know how we were going to pay for the baby formula and food for the week, let alone student loans and rent — God always, always provided for us. I never want to get away from that reliance on Him and that thankfulness that every good gift is from His hand.

    Still, if He wants to provide with an anonymous check, I won’t complain! :)

    • Lady – I slow clap for you! I think it’s so courageous to do what you love and work for yourself while also raising children. Your kids are going to become such amazing people because of who you are and what you stand for.

      But yes – anonymous checks would always be put to good use :) It’s amazing how things work out even in the midst of the hardest times.

  • This is such an important topic to discuss, and I think you really hit the nail on the head. It’s frustrating to work so hard every day for what often feels like very little progress. As I refocus myself yet again and make an effort to claim 2015 as the year I finally break free from the “day job” grind, or at least make some headway in doing so, it helps to be reminded that it’s not as easy as some can make it look, whether that ease comes from privilege or curation of one’s public image so that the struggle to get there isn’t as visible. I think the struggle, even and especially when it’s ugly, is worth sharing… it’s inspirational. I also think having a support system in place is so important. I’m struggling there a bit too, as I moved last year after a decade in another state and then went through some personal loss immediately after. Now I’m trying to figure out how to – in a sense – start all over again, meet like-minded people and build a collaborative network, and it can be overwhelming trying to figure out how to get off the ground amidst all of my regular responsibilities. But I keep trying, because standing still simply isn’t an option.

    • The public image thing is really important. Because I get wanting to display beautiful photos + inspiration but it doesn’t hit on the human struggle (and EVERYONE experiences this). I strive to balance the pretty and the not-so-pretty. Because we also don’t want to be a business owner who’s negative nancy all the time. No one wants to collab with someone like that.

      You’re strong and I love that you shared your experience.

  • I think you’re totally hitting the right note, Allison. It’s an aesthetically pretty post, while still totally honest and relevant. I went to the American Made Summit this year, and a lot of the speakers talked about how they initial funded their businesses. A lot of them said they’d started with what they had in the bank, and the occasional credit card, and not one of them had regrets about their method. These were big deal very successful business owners, and they all started just scraping by like the rest of us. But, at the end of they day they owned 100% of their business, and didn’t have any shareholders to answer to. It would be sweet if I could ask my hypothetical rich parents for money to start my business, but that’s not the reality I live in. Even if it was, I’m not sure I personally would feel comfortable with that…does it still feel like you’ve earned it if it’s not even your dough?! In any case, I hear what you’re saying, and I think a lot of use are in the same boat. I for one am okay with being here (most of the time).

    • I’m pleased to hear that the presenters/business owners spoke about stuff like funding/equity/etc. That’s often kept silent/hush hush. I once drove a car my parents owned and hated even THAT! I paid them off as quickly as possible so I could own it.

  • I totally agree. Being self-funded is incredibly hard. Every time I consider getting a small business loan I cringe.

    While it is critical to have the cash flow to efficiently run your business, it can be crippling to growth if it just doesn’t add up every month. I always say if I had more money, I could hire people that would help bring in more revenue and keep operations running smoothly. Only money doesn’t always solve that problem either, as it turns out.

    I remain optimistic after incorporating my business in January 2008 that one day the funds I always reinvest back into the business will eventually reward me in the near future.

    • ME TOO! Cash flow is so so so so hard. You have monthly recurring paired with bills that aren’t always paid on a set schedule. It can make my head spin. And I hope it will eventually reward you too! That’s awesome.

  • I haven’t been able to get this post out of my head. I used to envy the people who basically had stuff handed to them. I had to get a part-time job when I was 15, and then I worked my way through college. Granted, I still came out of college with a few student loans, but I’m now thankful for that. I’m the only one in my immediate family who got a bachelor’s degree, and I’m thankful to have a job right now doing what I love, and I’m also trying to start up a business with my husband. It all takes a ton of time, hard work, perseverance, and sometimes even tears. But it’s worth it! I’m glad I can look back and know that even in the seasons where I averaged 4 hours of sleep a night–if that, I wasn’t giving up on my goals and my dreams. I mean, things would be so much easier right now if my full-time job paycheck could go towards saving for a house, or a slightly newer car that doesn’t suck in the midwest winters, or towards building into a business…but I’m content working hard through this season, knowing that the degree was worth it. I can’t wait to finish paying off those loans though. They were worth the hard work and long nights. ::steps off soapbox of giving myself a “you should be proud of yourself” pep talk::

    • Definitely the tears part! You go girl! That’s amazing. You’ve accomplished so much. Also…midwest winters. I’M OVER IT. But don’t ever feel weird about being proud of yourself. That’s key.

  • YES! I’ve been working since I was 15, and usually more than one job at a time. Currently, I have six. SIX. And it’s still a challenge to make ends meet, much less save for things like vacations, a down payment for a house, dental procedures, and vet bills (all currently looming on the horizon).

    BUT! I have plans, and energy, and good health, and a massage (discounted at our local massage school) scheduled for this weekend. :)

  • I’m in a unique position because I am a child of a mutual fund/trust fund. It wasn’t massive like lots of other people I know—but it was enough to pay for almost all of my small & expensive liberal arts college education. I’m completely debt free, which made a difference in my ability to launch a business because the fear of failure was less, possibly. It’s hard to say because I’m a stubborn woman and want what I want. I’ll work hard to get it and that meant launching a business.

    I started at 0. I worked a regular 9-5 job for three years, bought a used car with cash, and landed a subcontracting job that completed the transition for me after talking about quitting since my first day on the job. I started my business with only a few thousand to tide me over and left my secure, government job. Nothing makes bootstrapping easier.

    Now with two employees and looking for an office space (which is a whole other issue!), it’s a lot of money dedicated to operating with constantly increasing costs. It’s hard to be able to invest thousands in new equipment, a location, and advertising but the truth is, we have to to grow. Without making that leap, it’s just not going forward anymore!

    My goal isn’t to just make money myself but to make a positive impact in my community by directly influencing the lives of my employees with decent pay and benefits. My biggest expense will always be my staff.

    My parents are entrepreneurs and while they didn’t invest any money in my company, their perspective was an investment. Instead of telling me to “go get a job” in the lean times when I was struggling, they told me to keep working hard and it would pay off. They were always there to lend a hand with advice and assurance that I was doing the right thing with my life. That’s been worth so much more than money.

    • I’m so glad you spoke up and shared your experience! I love hearing about those that work so hard. My husband had a full ride to college and that helped us SO much. And I can totally understand about all the overhead stuff. It’s scary to make the jump in order to grow. You seem to really have it together and I’m excited to dive into your site + learn about what you do!

  • Man, those movies can get me down at times. Honestly, I wish the funding came easier, but then I think, would I work as hard, would I have the same drive? Then I think, hell yeah! Cause, I would have the creative freedom. However, since that is not my current situation, I can only Pray that all this work I’ve put in will result in my triumph. Good Article!

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  • I can relate to this so well! I get discouraged sometimes, but I often realize how much it’s helped me. I’ve had to pay for everything myself…like have been working since I was 14 and have disgusting student loan debt…but it keeps me motivated. I’m actually not sure I’d have my business if it weren’t for all that. Thank you for sharing this! We do need to all support each other!

    • I wonder that too – like did NOT having the funding help me to be so driven? But dang there are times where it would be nice to have a bigger cushion to fall back on!

  • Allison,

    Thank you for writing this and thank you for creating the companies – brands – creative spaces – etc – that you have and will continue to do. I LOVE it when people are honest about how this business is not all just “breaking free from my 8-5 job and then it was complete peace and I loved every second of it and every thing was wonderful!”. Because I do not know if most people know this, but that is nonsense. So it is really nice to hear about the real deal because I am dealing with it myself. I am a photographer who is struggling to figure out ways to dive into a business which seems to be all about knowing the right people and being in the right place at the right time. I know it is possible and I know it requires a lot of work and I swear one day I will get there. But either way – it is so exciting and encouraging to know that there are truth speakers out there who create kick ass work, who work really hard, who are honest and who are willing to make it work.
    I hope to one day meet you in person and perhaps even work with you. I think it would be absolutely fantastic.

    • I’m so glad you resonate with this post! We have a videographer work out of our studio and we were joking the other day. I said “Kevin, would you recommend starting a business to anyone?” and he said “IF they’re already insane and crazy and don’t want a life most of the time….YES.” It was one of those days… LOL.