I was in my second semester as a microbiology at UT taking electives in everything from photography to swimming when after one particularly interesting “Intro to Advertising” class, I called my mom and declared that I was ready to double major. I knew that my science minded family would be hesitant so I eased into my pitch to her. “I think it’s a good idea to fall back on something a bit more general in addition to microbiology in case I don’t make it into a PhD program or get burned out” (a PhD takes 5-7 years...if you are lucky). My mom, an undergrad in biology with an MBA herself was open to it. “That’s a great idea! What are you thinking? Something like accounting? Accounting or Finance makes so much sense it’s stable and….” This went on for about 15 minutes.
Communications is the Key to Everything, Right?
I interrupted her finally and said “actually, it’s advertising, which isn’t even in the business school….it’s in the school of communications.” There was a long pause and my mom finally said quietly “but you aren’t artistic and you certainly can’t draw. I drew all your school projects for the last 12 years” (Did I forget to mention before her biology and MBA background my mother was an artist? Talk about big shoes to fill). As any respectable 19 year old does, I argued with my mom about how things are different now and what does she know as someone who doesn’t have a clue what it’s “really” like to be in advertising (yes, I still cringe at that now).
Now as I work on starting this “thing” is that I thought it was going to be all makeup, launch parties, donations and social media, the reality has been far different. My first month is focused on tasks that I would understand if I had listened to my mom and majored in Accounting or Finance. Or for the love of god, at least paid attention in intro classes I did take and not bemoaned it as something that I’ll never use again (companies hire someone for that right?). So what’s this first month looked like exactly?
Mo Money, Mo Problems
Here’s a sample list of all the things I’ve focused on over the past month:
- Setting up business checking and savings account and separating all my personal and business assets (which is VERY blurry)
- Creating a budget for my operating costs, both one time and ongoing costs (I recall this being a whole chapter in accounting...too bad setting up my ACL lineup that week was more important)
- Budgeting my personal life so my husband and I can at least eat Ramen and turn the heat on for special occasions (Happy Birthday babe, I raised the thermostat to 66!)
- Learning the difference between an LLC, sole proprietorship, etc.
- Filing my business with the secretary of state and in which state to file everything in since I split my time between states.
- Financing my start up costs with personal money, evaluating loans and talking to various prospective investors and the pros and cons of various funding options.
- Choosing which tools I’ll need to manage the day to day operations from the website to vendor invoices and the costs associated with each
- Talking to lawyers, banks and real accountants and general business geniuses
I could go on for pages of all the things dealing with taxes, money, business liability and legislation I have done and not even cover half of what I should be doing. But it’s safe to say, that listening to my mom would probably change those nights I wake up at 2am freaking out about how to track my expenses and prove my earnings.
We Were Both Right
The strangest part about all of this is...I’m really enjoying it. I found that I have an aptitude for numbers and more importantly, I know some freaking brilliant people. The advice I have gotten from friends, former colleagues, mentors and family is crucial to my motivation. I can’t imagine starting a company without having that support system not only emotionally, but intellectually. And, now that I’ve gotten some of this in progress, I’m off to Austin to focus on the things I know how to do like creating my branding and marketing assets (thanks advertising degree)! In fact, as my very supportive mom now points out (even though I still don't always listen to her), I have my own coveted set of skills that I’m even using for trading with other professionals. So for now, I’ll be I’m not really a founder or CEO but the lead “sponge”. Learning anything and everything I possibly can to push through this “thing” until it’s finally a real like company and realizing it’s not what I majored in but rather what I’m willing to learn.