Too often in our society, people picture men in their heads when they hear words like, “boss”, “entrepreneur”, or “CEO”. Being a small business owner has put me in touch with so many successful female business owners and entrepreneurs that when I hear these words, I often picture a woman or I just don’t assume anything at all. Women are obviously just as capable as men when it comes to the business world and it is high time that women business owners and entrepreneurs are more visible in the media in our society. This is where the idea for Women in Business was born. Women in Business is a bi-weekly feature that highlights female entrepreneurs and business owners. Not only is it a fantastic opportunity to learn more about small businesses in various fields, but it is a great shopping guide for supporting small businesses.
An Interview with Michelle from The Holistic Wallet
Tell us a little bit about The Holistic Wallet. What exactly do you do and what is your favorite thing about doing it?
The Holistic Wallet is my personal finance strategy company where I help creative-minded professionals pursue their passions in the most fiscally responsible ways possible. I’m a conscious capitalist and values-based spending enthusiast and I believe in the power of the wallet to create meaningful change in the world. I help ambitious idealists set strong financial foundations by tidying up their financial lives, mapping out goals and strategies to reach them, and creating sustainable systems to carry it all out. My favorite part used to be the actual number crunching (not that I’m not still obsessed with that!) but now I really appreciate the reaction I get from clients when they receive their plan and realize “Wait, I can actually do this!” That feeling of empowerment is contagious! That, and I dance in my home office often.
What are three things that someone can do now to have a more financially stable future?
First, setting goals is critical. It’s the fuel to your financial engine. Our goals may change throughout our lives, but pinpointing what you really want to work towards (what you really want – not what you “should” want) sets organic boundaries in your spending. Second, track your spending. Being conscious about your spending and expenses is a more effective way to save money than just buying stuff on sale. And, third – keep a budget! Budgeting is not a bad word – it’s a really empowering way to assign your money specific purposes. Those three things are so basic but they’re really all you need to turn personal finance into a happy lifestyle choice.
Do you use any apps or programs that help with budgeting? Which are your favorites?
My monthly budget is written on a sticky note in my planner next to another sticky with my financial goals – that’s my favorite! But I’m also borderline obsessed with YNAB (You Need A Budget). I don’t balance it well because I’m always testing out apps and programs for clients so my personal budget is in 10 different places at once (I definitely don’t recommend that kind of consciousness overload!), but YNAB is my favorite spending tracker. It costs $60 but I’ve never met anyone that regretted the purchase because it really changes the way you interact with money. I don’t like sites like Mint because the automation is too mechanical and rarely syncs up properly. Everyone wants to use Mint but I’ve found that conscious manual entry is the most effective route towards financial well-being.
Have you always been great with finances or is it something that you had to learn over time? How did starting your own business change your views on finances? (If at all).
Absolutely not! It’s all totally learned. And if I can do it – anyone can! I grew up believing that being wealthy was greedy and I eventually graduated from college with $50,000 in student loans, credit card debt and an auto loan (like it was my personal responsibility to maintain the American economy!). At the most basic level, I didn’t know how to control my spending and I realized that I was far from alone in that struggle. I’m an innovative problem-solver at heart so I entered the personal finance industry mostly for selfish reasons – I couldn’t find a financial planner I liked! It took me a whopping 5 years to pay off all the debt and stockpile some solid savings/investments on my own, but I’m most proud of the way I transformed my outlook on financial empowerment and the way I interact with money daily.
After all that, starting a business was a huge shift in my financial life. I’m definitely not much of a financial risk taker and starting a business was a huge risk, but I’m really passionate about revolutionizing the personal finance industry, so I bit the bullet anyway. I did it in a way that felt safe for me – planning well and not taking on any debt or dipping into my emergency savings. Plus, I’ve found that employing yourself is more stable and dependable than being employed by someone else. I don’t have to worry about laying myself off… I don’t think… but not getting a biweekly paycheck took a little getting used to. Now I pay myself a fixed salary every month so that’s getting better.
What is your favorite social media platform that you use to connect to new clients and why?
Social media is really new to me because I started building my business locally (in person). I like Instagram because it’s pretty and I can use ironic hashtags and post a plethora of puppy pictures and WordSwag quotes. But I’ve really started coming around to Twitter. I get really, really giddy each time I get a retweet or a mention – see what I did there? I used the right terminology! I used Facebook and Pinterest also but they don’t feel very business-y when I’m there.
What has surprised you the most about being a small business owner?
Hands down – the supportive communities of fellow small biz entrepreneurs! I spent 8 years in the corporate finance world where we competed for business and celebrated the failures of other institutions throughout the financial collapse. Heck, corporate can be dog-eat-dog internally at times and that mentality is whack! I’m not a competitive person and I don’t feel good winning at someone else’s loss, so I was afraid I wasn’t cut out to start a business. Luckily, I’m part of entrepreneurial communities where we lift each other up and are comfortable in our expertise and talents to know that there’s enough business out there for all of us.
What goals do you have for your business over the next five years?
Generally, my goal is to revolutionize the personal finance industry and make more people realize financial empowerment. Ya know – just because I think it’s good for the economy! I’m going to be expanding The Holistic Wallet’s reach and releasing more educational products and programs that are scalable enough that I can still work one-on-one with clients. Also, I’m switching from local roots to location-independent so I’d like to finish that transition and leave NY in the next 5 years. I hate NY. Well, I love it, but I hate it.
How do you define success as a business owner?
Success is the freedom to take time to toss a rubber squeaky chicken around my backyard with my dogs, hah! But seriously, it’s being sustainably profitable with a work/life balance. I come from the corporate world with exhausting 60-hour work weeks, uncertain employment, and the occasional mean-spirited colleague. Now I’m doing what makes me happy, networking with like-minded folks and I have the freedom to put my time and money where my heart is. I probably work a 60-hour work week anyway but it doesn’t feel like work.
Do you have any upcoming workshops, webinars, or e-courses that readers can look forward to?
I host a free 7-day challenge to Get Fiscally Intentional (http://www.theholisticwallet.com/free-stuff) because getting clear and honest on what you want to do with your money is essential to setting a financial foundation and sticking to a money plan. I don’t have any webinars scheduled at the moment, but I usually announce one every couple months to my mailing list (sign up at http://www.theholisticwallet.com) when the inspiration strikes! What I’m really, really excited about is a self-paced money e-course I’m launching this summer. We tend to be very private with our money so I want people who are fiscally shy to be able to benefit from the approach I take with clients and DIY their own financial plan.