As a business owner, a common question I’m asked is how and why I started my business. Owning a business isn’t a goal for everyone, but it has been mine for a long time. I want to share my start-up story with anyone who’s curious about starting their own business, or intrigued about how City Girl Savings came to be the business that it is. My financial coaching business is only 3 ½ years old, so who knows where my story goes from here!
First, a little background about me…
I was born and raised in Austin, Texas. My father started his own oil company the year after I was born. My mother worked hard all her life, and took a frugal approach to money. Growing up, I never felt deprived. However, I also never got everything I wanted. I was taught that you work hard and earn the things you want. In order to get a new Playstation, I had to get good grades in school. In order to get small things here and there, I had to do chores. When I was 8 years old, my mom took me to open my first bank account. The bank was bought out by Wells Fargo years ago, but my status stayed. The longer you are with a bank, the more perks you get!
My first form of income was through babysitting - pretty typical, right? I was 10 years old, making $5/hour babysitting children in my neighborhood. I spent any money that I made. Once I reached high school, the babysitting stopped because the extracurricular activities started! For my 16th birthday, my dad gave me his company’s car to use. Unfortunately, in my first month of having the car, I got a ticket, got in a small accident, and got in a big accident. After that big accident, the car was no good. I thought I would get another one. That didn’t happen. I had to start saving for my own car, which meant I had to get a job.
Throughout the rest of my high school career I worked. By my senior year of high school, I had saved up over $5000 and bought my own car. I had to make monthly payments on the car, which meant I always needed to be working. It was my first major financial responsibility. I was so diligent about my money that I used an actual check register to track my spending!
Bye Bye Austin
When I graduated high school, I was moving to Los Angeles for school. I wanted to be in a big city and truly live life. My mom had paid off my car as a high school graduation gift, so any money I made over the summer before college was mine to save. When we were young, my dad had invested a lump sum of money in the hopes it would cover our college tuition. It did. My first year of college was the most expensive, thanks to out-of-state fees, but everything was fully covered.
In college, the only thing I had to cover was my discretionary spending. I didn’t have a car my first year in Los Angeles. That was tough. However, it helped stretch all the money I saved. With the exception of birthday and holiday gifts, was able to live off of my earnings from high school and the summer before college all through my first year. I continued to track all of my expenses in a check register, and I applied for my first student credit card. I knew I had to start building credit, so a student card (with a $300 limit) was the best way to go!
I made all A’s my first year of college. When you don’t have a car, all you can do is study! I came home for summer break and took the same job I had in high school. I worked all summer and saved even more than I had before. This time, I was going to LA with a car! My 3.9 GPA landed me a fully paid-for new car. Road trip time!
My second year of college, I got a job in Los Angeles. I had to – since I had a car, I was doing a lot more driving and a lot more spending. My savings was gone the first few months of school starting back up. I overspent and only had clothes, shoes, and dinner receipts to show for it. This was when things started getting tight. I worked in retail, with a killer discount. So, as you can imagine, most of my paycheck was going to clothes and lunch breaks. The “manage your money” lectures from my dad started. I had no major expenses, so I wasn’t worried.
The bad spending habits continued until college graduation in 2010. Things changed. My “full ride” lifestyle in California was over because school was over. I had to start paying my own rent, bills and utilities. I had to get a better paying job. Plus, I had no savings. About 3 months out of college, with a degree in finance, I started working the night shift for a major bank. It took 1 ½ paychecks to just cover my rent, and I only got 2 paychecks a month. Life was rough. This is when I realized that clothes, shoes, and thoughts of nice dinners meant nothing. You can't live in your shoes! I broke out the check register again (this time in spreadsheet form), and got myself on a budget.
Where it all changed…
I monitored my spending down to the penny. I was so diligent with my own budgeting that my coworkers were asking me to create budgets for them! I did it for free, but that’s when I realized I was onto something. I came up with a business named Budget on a Budget. I would provide low-cost budgeting services to people who signed up over the website.
Work got busier and a boyfriend came into the mix, so my business idea was tossed to the side. Thankfully, I was earning more and working more. Rent was now covered with ½ a paycheck! I was finally to the point where I was saving $500 every month.
Back Where it all Started
Then it all changed, again…
In June of 2013, I lost my father to a drunk driver. He was on the way home from the oil fields and was struck at 4:45pm in the afternoon. It was by God’s grace that I was home and got to spend time with him just 4 days before the accident. After news of his passing, I immediately flew to Texas. It turns out he had a lot of unfinished business. He had put my name on corporate documents for a smaller company of his, and that company was years behind. I had to make a choice to move back to Texas or stay in California.
I moved back to Texas in August of 2013 and started working for the company. I was making good money, and had no expenses because I was living at home with my mom. I still practiced budgeting and expense tracking, but now I had a lot more discretionary income. I realized that if I hadn’t gotten my act together when things were tight, I would have spent everything I was making in Texas.
City Girl Savings is formed…
About a year after working and saving, I realized I wanted more out of life. I wanted to help people and make a difference. I started thinking about Budget on a Budget. After researching how to start a business, I realized it was a very broad idea. How can I make the power of positive personal finance habits more impactful?
Well, I loved all of the things most women love. Travel, shopping, new experiences. However, I knew that indulging in those things the right way was a skill that had to be mastered. I lived the “City Girl” lifestyle and it was tough financially.
Aha! A personal finance website for women that also features fashion, beauty and lifestyle! I would make finance fun by incorporating things women loved most! I would draw them in with the fun stuff and then start preaching the power of personal money management! The idea came near the end of 2013, and by 2014 I had hired a web developer to create the website.
I knew I wanted to reach as many women as possible, so an online business seemed like the best way to do it. The website would contain a membership forum, blog articles, and the ability for women to get a budget plan. The site launched on January 1, 2015.
A blog and business are two different things…
The membership forum of the website was free, so I had a huge influx of signups after launch. I had set up all of my social media channels and was ready to go! Traffic my first year averaged about 4,000 page views a month. I was closely watching my Google Analytics to check on traffic. I thought traffic meant sales. I was wrong. I realized that a blog and a business are two different things. People were coming to the blog, but they weren’t getting a budget.
In August 2015, I received my first budget inquiry. Finally! I was excited, until the individual said she thought the budget was free. Instead of turning it into a negative experience, I told her that I would happily create a free budget for her, in exchange for a review. Sold! 8 months after launching, I sold my first product – for free!
The power of testimonials…
I created the budget for an Alabama-born college student, and she kept her word. She posted the following on Twitter:
Immediately after she left her testimonial, I shared it on all social media platforms. I instantly got budget sales from followers on LinkedIn. I advertised the review and got even more budget sales! I sold a total of 10 budgets my first year in business, and I had just over 45,000 page views.
Learning and growing…
Obviously, 10 budgets in a year was not anywhere near enough money to live off of. I had to have a strategy to become more visible as an online business and help more people. I started 2016 with a promotion on budgets, and it did really well. I also started offering free phone consultations. This allowed me to speak with potential clients directly and hear their needs and financial frustrations.
I also expanded my services to include one-on-one coaching. After consulting with so many women, I realized that there were women out there who really needed accountability. They needed more than a budget in front of them to control their spending. I was no able to provide guidance, accountability and support to women working through financial setbacks.
2016 was an astronomical year. Sales literally went up by 4000% - obviously when you're starting small, drastic growth occurs. City Girl Savings really felt like a business. Not only were we helping women in a variety of ways, we were making money to reach and, ultimately, help even more women. More reviews and testimonials came in from women whose financial life had been changed with the help of City Girl Savings. You can read our 2016 goal progress.
2017 was even better
2017 was another great year. Growth was not as drastic as 2016, but sales did improve by nearly 89%. We also expanded into the online training area with a new online course called 28 Days to Becoming a Super Saver. Thanks to word of mouth, business continued to go well. Not to mention, strategically changing our social media branding to be more aligned with the true City Girl Saver.
2018 and beyond…
The mission of City Girl Savings is to “teach and empower women to budget better, spend wisely, and stay disciplined to reach their financial goals.” That’s a big statement, and it requires a lot of work. While that may be true, it’s worth working towards! Throughout my time with City Girl Savings, I’ve learned that people take in information in a variety of ways. There is no one learning style. What strategy works for one woman may not work for the next.
I’ve used my experience to expand the business to provide services that cater to every learning style. City Girl Savings started with knowledge-building blog articles. Then, we moved to personalized budget plans. From there, we moved to one-on-one coaching. Next up were DIY kits and guides for self-paced financial success. Now, City Girl Savings is launching its second online course! Our mission still holds strong, so growth is a necessity!
I started City Girl Savings because I truly believe women can have it all. Hard work, sacrifice and proper money management will get them there faster! City Girl Savings is designed to be that inspiration women need to really make a change in their financial life!
I hope my start-up story encourages you to make your own story! If you are thinking of starting a business, or trying to get on financial track, take action! Don’t be afraid to seek help or guidance. I have sought the help of many while on this journey, and I’m much better for it.
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