How This Business Owner Went from Earning $250 a Month to Owning a Six-Figure Company

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At Buffer, we’ve agelong aimed to default to transparency, a believe we judge helps destruct inequality and gives everyone a greater chance of succeeding.

Financial transparency is particularly adjacent to our hearts, which is why we’re proud to stock Open Books, a bid of mini business owners giving america a peek wrong their books successful nan tone of being unfastened astir finances arsenic well.

Join america arsenic we research nan highs, lows, and hard-won financial lessons that person paved their paths, and observe really you tin use their insights to your ain mini business journey.

Ari Krzyzek began her creation travel moving for Bali’s apical hospitality company, earning conscionable $250 per month. Growing up successful Bali pinch nary vulnerability to financial planning, she believed this was a adjacent net astatine nan time.

After relocating to nan U.S. and marrying her now-husband, Peter Krzyzek, she became inspired by nan immense imaginable of freelancing and distant creation work, and they co-founded Chykalophia (see-ka-lo-fia) successful 2011: a web agency helping women-led brands successful B2B tech and Femtech DTC toggle shape their websites into platforms that thrust business growth.

Navigating nan financial aspects of moving and increasing a sustainable business initially proved difficult owed to her deficiency of financial knowledge. Starting nan institution pinch conscionable $200 and her laptop, she didn’t person immoderate hint what she really needed to money a business, from wide administrative and operating expenses to trading and truthful overmuch more.

But she bootstrapped her measurement done each problem, learning really to negociate a fund efficaciously and understand nan basics of business finances. Her dedication to networking wrong nan Chicagoland business organization led to important maturation by 2016, allowing her to perpetrate full-time to their venture. Since then, she has worked pinch mini businesses, startup founders, and notable brands including Google, Verizon, Sephora, Honest, and Adobe.

Today, nan institution is connected way to scope $500,000 successful yearly revenue. Here, she shares her maturation way and nan business and financial lessons she’s learned on nan way.

Business Snapshot

Years successful business: 12

Number of employees: 14 full-time, 3 part-time

Location: US, Canada, Serbia, India, Philippines, and Indonesia

Initial superior invested: $200

Financial support for business: Grants for $10,000, economic wounded disaster loan (EIDL) for $80,000, slope indebtedness for $23,000

Revenue streams:

  • Monthly retainers for branding, web design, and development
  • One-off task fees for strategy workshops, branding, UX, aliases web projects
  • Passive income (design templates successful imaginative marketplaces)
  • Speaking engagements
  • Consulting calls
  • Book sales

Growth Journey

What’s been your proudest financial accomplishment arsenic a business owner?

Starting my business without savings aliases financial know-how was daunting, truthful I’m proud of really overmuch we’ve learned and figured retired on nan way.

I taught myself really to negociate our fund efficaciously and understand basal business finances for illustration costs of equipment sold and P&L. I besides participated successful accelerator programs for illustration nan Women successful Entrepreneurship Institute astatine DePaul University and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business to thief maine further make consciousness of our finances.

Now, I’m exploring ways to maximize profit utilizing what I’ve learned on pinch support from my CPA. They’ve guided america successful adjusting our institution structure, managing our expenses, and establishing coagulated financial protection astir taxation and ineligible matters.

We’ve besides streamlined our financial processes, improved study management, forecasted accurately for growth, and allocated circumstantial budgets for squad advancement. We tin now connection amended benefits to our labor while maintaining capable profit for continued growth.

What person you recovered is worthy paying for to thief you grow, and what person you been capable to execute much scrappily?

For me, it’s worthy investing successful areas I’m not skilled successful aliases don’t enjoy, for illustration bookkeeping and business tax. Hiring a trusted partner for these tasks is invaluable. They do much than conscionable nan basics: they guideline america toward effective solutions and improvements tailored to our needs.

Another worthy finance is value SaaS products and business devices that heighten efficiency. As we grow, we can’t spend to discarded clip fixing mini issues.

On nan different hand, I person been capable to prevention money by leveraging our strengths successful branding, marketing, and tech-related activities. We’ve built an in-house server pinch its ain chat guidance utilizing third-party plugins, which saved america from purchasing Slack accounts. Our squad of imaginative geeks excels astatine creating marque identities on pinch visually appealing materials for our website and trading campaigns, redeeming connected creation and improvement costs.

How do you determine really overmuch to salary yourself versus put backmost successful nan business?

Deciding betwixt individual costs and reinvestment successful our business is simply a mobility my co-founder and I grappled with. Only recently, successful 2022, did we commencement paying ourselves aft restructuring nan business, updating our books, and sorting retired legalities. We trust connected our CPA’s guidance to equilibrium individual income needs pinch investing backmost into nan company.

This task provides our main root of income. So we prioritize building a coagulated financial instauration by often choosing reinvestment complete ample salaries. In emergencies, we pat into savings aliases consult pinch our CPA astir taking owner’s distributions.

Tell america astir your team. At what constituent did you determine to prosecute labor aliases contractors? How do you deliberation astir erstwhile and who to bring connected now?

Chykalophia began arsenic a duo—just maine and my co-founder. As our estimation grew and nan request for our services surged, we were stretched thin. Recognizing nan request to standard and amended service our clients, we expanded our squad successful 2017.

Initially, we brought connected interns, providing them pinch valuable manufacture acquisition while benefiting from their caller perspectives. As our task load increased, we transitioned to hiring part-timers and contractors, ensuring that we had specialized expertise for each project. Over time, arsenic our customer guidelines and task complexity grew, it became basal to person dedicated full-time squad members. This led to nan constitution of chopped departments wrong Chykalophia, including development, design, and marketing.

Today, arsenic we proceed to grow, we’re connected nan lookout for elder squad members who tin return nan lead connected streamlining projects, mentoring inferior squad members, and enhancing our operational efficiency. In essence, our hiring decisions are driven by a operation of contiguous task needs and our semipermanent imagination for maturation and excellence.

What circumstantial strategies aliases trading techniques did you employment to pull your first customers aliases clients?

When I first embarked connected my entrepreneurial journey, I understood nan value of establishing a beardown estimation by showcasing nan extent of my expertise successful web design, personification experience, and branding. One maneuver that really helped was leveraging online platforms for imaginative professionals, specified arsenic and Dribbble, which not only provided a abstraction to show my activity but besides facilitated interactions pinch a world organization of designers and creatives. As I collaborated pinch different professionals, they often referred clients to me. This integrated word-of-mouth marketing, mixed pinch nan visibility from online platforms, played a pivotal domiciled successful attracting my first group of clients.

What are immoderate of your astir impactful maturation strategies now?

Thought activity is simply a cornerstone of our maturation strategy. Consistently sharing insights, publishing articles, and participating successful manufacture discussions not only showcases our expertise but besides fosters spot among imaginable clients. We post our contented connected LinkedIn, big our ain workshops and acme events for entrepreneurs and business owners successful nan Chicagoland area, and person moreover published our ain trading book, Made to Sell: Creating Websites that Convert. These strategies thief our target assemblage spot america not conscionable arsenic work providers, but arsenic manufacture experts who tin guideline them done nan complexities of nan integer landscape.

Another pivotal strategy has been actively embedding ourselves wrong nan entrepreneurial organization done organizations specified arsenic HeyMama, The Futur Pro, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), 1871, and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Alumni network. By forging partnerships pinch chap entrepreneurs, organizations, and developmental programs, we’ve expanded our web exponentially and ensured that we’re consistently successful beforehand of nan correct audience.

What’s a turning constituent that really impacted really you thought astir your business aliases approached growth?

My upbringing successful Indonesia, a processing nation, initially shaped a constricted position connected business and growth. The situation I grew up successful didn’t needfully champion entrepreneurial ventures, and my deficiency of vulnerability to nan broader business world made it challenging to afloat grasp my unsocial worth proposition. The fearfulness of failure, a sentiment profoundly ingrained from my early experiences, often overshadowed nan imaginable for success.

A pivotal infinitesimal successful my entrepreneurial travel came betwixt 2016 and 2017 erstwhile I decided to attraction connected my business full-time, and I crossed paths pinch Chris Do, a visionary successful nan realm of imaginative thinking. His mentorship was transformative, and he introduced maine to nan thought that creatives aren’t conscionable work providers but change-makers. He illuminated nan profound effect we tin person connected our clients’ businesses, their communities, and moreover connected nan world astatine large.

Embracing this caller position allowed maine to shed nan inhibitions of my past and admit nan unsocial strengths and worth we bring to nan table. Our overarching nonsubjective is to uplift women-led brands, enabling them to grow, scale, and time off a lasting, affirmative imprint connected their communities by harnessing our expertise successful strategy, creativity, and technology. We pridefulness ourselves connected being location for our clients, each measurement of nan way—from nan inception of a business thought to its execution and growth. The relationships we cultivate pinch our squad and partners spell beyond specified transactions; they are built connected communal respect, shared ambitions, and a relentless thrust to champion each others’ interests.  

With this renewed clarity, we became much discerning successful our customer engagements, prioritizing projects that not only aligned pinch our expertise but besides resonated pinch our halfway values. We measure imaginable clients for alignment done a communal exploration of values and goals to guarantee we tin collaborate successful a measurement that allows everyone to succeed.

What person been nan top maturation aliases money challenges you’ve experienced? How person you worked done them?

The first 2 years were challenging: We were bootstrapping everything and our deficiency of savings was preventing america from increasing sustainably. Finally, I decided to return to a full-time occupation astatine Sears Holdings to let america to support pushing guardant pinch our business.

Using saved costs from my occupation gave america nan expertise to prosecute trading opportunities specified arsenic organization involvement, networking wrong manufacture organizations, and contributing backmost locally while besides promoting our business and gaining marque exposure. These efforts helped america unafraid our first 50 clients wrong 5 years and group up a beardown instauration for nan business’ growth.

What are your adjacent maturation goals? What do you scheme connected investing successful to thief you execute them?

My adjacent maturation extremity is to hole my institution for waste wrong nan adjacent 20 years. To execute this, I’m making strategical investments successful our squad and operations, including building retired our activity squad and enhancing individual and master maturation wrong nan company. We’re besides moving connected refining our business processes to execute amended efficiency.

Based connected your experience, what proposal would you springiness personification who had a business for illustration yours for increasing successfully?

Before you diversify, dominate. Start by making a people successful a circumstantial niche industry. Once you person a stronghold there, see branching out. It's basal to cognize that you can't beryllium everything to everyone. Pinpoint nan assemblage conception that will deduce nan astir worth from your offerings, tailor your attack to resonate pinch them, and past build a robust web that recognizes and values what your business brings to nan table.

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