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Posted by on Jan 29, 2014 in Customer Profiles | 2 comments

Conquering Fear and Building Businesses: A Shoeboxed Success Story

Conquering Fear and Building Businesses: A Shoeboxed Success Story

With Shoeboxed, there has never been one “best” way to use our service to stay organized. And after processing over a billion dollars of expense data since 2007, we say that from years of firsthand experience!

Shoeboxed takes enormous pride in serving clients from around the country and across the globe, all of whom use our service in a myriad of ways to fulfill a whole host of organizational needs in both their personal and professional lives.

amanda larrinaga ambassadorIntroducing: Amanda Larrinaga

Profession: Owner, Modern Entrepreneur

Location: Denver, CO

Website: www.modernentrep.co

Twitter: @AmandaLarrinaga

LinkedIn: Amanda Larrinaga

“The biggest pain point for me was having to go through my receipts to scan and organize them in a way that was manageable for my accountant. Shoeboxed makes it super quick and simple; it’s such a great value.”

-Amanda Larrinaga

Shoeboxed: Hey Amanda! Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us. We’re thrilled to be interviewing another Shoeboxed Ambassador as part of our User Success Series. So, let’s get started! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Amanda Larrinaga: Absolutely! I grew up in Boise, Idaho, and have lived all over the west, from Bozeman, Montana, to San Francisco. I now live in Denver, Colorado. I went to Montana State University and studied health and human development.

SBX: Interesting– that seems pretty different from what you’re doing now! Can you share a bit about what you do?

Modern EntrepreneurAL: Sure. A year and a half ago I founded a company called Modern Entrepreneur; we help entrepreneurs make their dent in the universe. We help them bring more of what they’re doing into the world. So for us that means finding a pain point that we can help solve and implementing solutions, whether that’s identifying new sales channels, or diversifying their marketing strategy, or finding potential partners for the business.

SBX: That’s a new way to describe the role of a consultant, but I think it’s awesome! So what kinds of businesses do you work with?

AL: We work with a lot of startups and growing businesses, most of which are under 3 years old. A lot of the time it’s in their first year of business. Since I worked in startups for almost 10 years and have helped a number of companies go through launch, it’s the perfect fit for me. I’ve been the first employee or contractor for a lot of these businesses; I’m the person they bring on board to help them really get off the ground. I like to meet with them and identify pain points, point them to some things they should check out (like Shoeboxed!), and then cultivate the relationship from there.

SBX: It must be exciting to work with companies in their early stages! How did you get to this point in your professional life?

Amanda Larrinaga 1AL: I was going to school in Montana, and I liked what I was studying, but I was having trouble seeing the kind of work I would want to do after college. I would be sitting in a class with a teacher who was jaded from doing social work, trying to teach us about a field they had left. That just seemed backwards to me. I needed something that I could really get excited about. Overall I just loved learning, so any opportunity I had to go and try something new, I jumped on it. Anything I could get my hands on, from AmeriCorps to volunteering in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

One thing that really stuck out to me was that the oldest publication in Montana was going to be shut down because of mismanagement. And I was like, “There’s really no way to solve this? It can’t be that hard!” Keep in mind that, at this point, I was still in school and had zero business experience, zero writing experience… but I applied to be the editor-in-chief. They figured it was a no-lose situation for them, and I got the job. Since the company had been so poorly handled for decades, it was basically like rebuilding a business from the very beginning. From hiring and training staff, to learning and improving the whole process of taking the publication to print, to learning what to sell and for how much. The whole thing was just a big, complex problem to solve, and I loved just figuring it out. I wasn’t even 20 yet and I had sixty employees! It was awesome. So after that, I got a job at a startup in Montana, then moved to Silicon Valley and now I’m here outside of Denver.

That experience taught me that solving puzzles is what keeps my attention, so now I try to take on projects that are exciting and interesting to me. When I’m deciding if I’m going to work with a prospect, mostly I look for a solid mission and strong leadership.

SBX: That sounds like a solid strategy, and it’s obviously paying off! Your business is growing and runs mostly on referrals, right? That must mean you have some pretty happy clients. Why don’t you tell us a bit about what your experience getting Modern Entrepreneur off the ground has been like?

AL: I actually have a recent experience that sums it up pretty well. I’m currently working with a copywriter on an email campaign based on a blog post I’d written about fear, and how you have to go ahead and put yourself out there. Part of the message came out something like, “I’m not scared anymore,” but I’m actually terrified. However, once you’ve done it a few times, it gets easier to cope with the fear, the anxiety and the uncertainty. Making the commitment and finding success can make you brave, and it empowers you to take on new problems you face, like how to grow and scale. Always having new puzzles to solve keeps it interesting and exciting. Like I said, I just love figuring out complex problems, and growing a business is certainly one of them. It’s a constant learning experience. Every client we meet, every project we work on, there are foundational similarities where we can apply things we’ve learned in the past; but since every business is different and faces different challenges, that’s where our custom solutions come in. Everything from the technology we recommend, to the kind of people we need to hire. I get really bored doing the same thing every day — which is why I moved away from being a startup employee to consulting. And I’ve never been happier.

SBX: Those are some really inspiring words! Thank you for sharing your story with us. So, when did Shoeboxed come into the picture?

AL: I’ve been using Shoeboxed since Modern Entrepreneur launched, so about a year and a half now. I knew I needed a solution right as my business was getting off the ground. As an entrepreneur myself and after working for startups, I knew that keeping receipts and accurate records was important. So I would keep my receipts, but the pile inevitably got bigger and bigger. When I had to do taxes or my lawyer needed a particular document, it was a total nightmare. I had tried to scan the receipts myself, but it was so time consuming, and I am not detail-oriented enough to make sure that everything was sorted properly.

I remember asking one of my assistants to help me find a solution that would be mobile and super easy to integrate into my existing workflows. We found Shoeboxed, and I have never looked back. We started using it during tax season to be sure that we had digital versions of everything. We later decided to transition our office to be completely paperless, so Shoeboxed helps with that as well. Shoeboxed allows me and my team members to have access to everything we need, anywhere we are.

SBX: That’s awesome! It’s great that you’re using us for taxes, as well as for going paperless. We love to hear it when users find our service useful for more than one end goal. :) Can you tell us about how Shoeboxed fits into your workflows?

AL: Sure! I love taking pictures on my phone, it’s quick and something I can do right then, instead of waiting until later to take care of it. I’m notoriously bad about how often I send in my Magic Envelopes – I’m working on it! – but I do use them to digitize other important documents for my accountant or just things I need to keep. I also use the integration with Wave since we use their accounting platform; it’s super simple to have all of your receipts pulled into Wave where you can easily take advantage of all the features they offer.

SBX: That’s great. It sounds like you’ve found a solution for every type of paper you have to handle! So how would you describe the value that Shoeboxed brings to your business?

AL: Shoeboxed provides enormous value, both for my small business and for my sanity. Ha! But honestly, it helps me save money on my taxes by ensuring that I never miss a deduction. Also from an audit perspective, knowing that you have a digital version that you can find and access so easily, that gives me great peace of mind.

The biggest pain point for me was having to go through my receipts to scan and organize them in a way that was manageable for my accountant. Or if I didn’t do it, I’d have to pay and arm and a leg to have them do it for me. That’s not a good use of my time or money, or my accountant’s time either, honestly. Shoeboxed makes it super quick and simple; it’s such a great value.

When you’re running a startup, managing receipts is just one of hundreds of things that falls on your plate. You know it’s important, but it’s not a good use of your time so it always falls to the bottom of the list. It’s a source of stress, and it makes you feel guilty that you haven’t kept up with your receipts and expenses. It may seem like a small thing, but it was a huge weight off my shoulders to be able to do it in a few seconds here and there by stuffing an envelope or taking a photo. Now, if my accountant has a question about something, he can access my receipts almost immediately after I send them in. What’s even better is that I write notes on each receipt about what the expense was and he can then code it correctly without having to ask me. My accountant gets almost all of the information he needs without taking up any of my time. I love it and recommend it to everyone I know!

SBX: That’s why you make such an awesome Shoeboxed Ambassador! :) So, switching gears a little bit, what do you do when you’re not helping small businesses be successful?

Amanda Larrinaga 2AL: I love to travel, especially to explore my Basque heritage. My favorite trip was backpacking through Europe. I made it a point not to stay in hostels; I stayed with friends, family, strangers. I’d been to Europe a couple times before that trip, and I knew there were things you didn’t see if you were stuck on a tour. So this time around, I decided the best way to understand the culture and the people who live there was to stay with locals or rent an apartment instead of a hotel or hostel room. So now I’m a total travel addict. I travel pretty frequently to places where we know people, even if it’s random places. It’s just so much more fun and interesting doing it that way. You get to see everything from hole in the wall restaurants to places only locals know about.

SBX: That’s awesome! It’s so important to take a break from work and get out of the office, so traveling is a great way to do both of those things. To wrap this up, give us your best time saving tips and tricks! This is kind of what you do for a living, right? ;)

AL: Absolutely! To start, stay out of your inbox. Business owners and small business employees end up spending so much time in their inbox, going back and forth sending emails exchanging minutiae and details. It’s incredibly inefficient and not a good use of your time. To combat this, we use Asana for everything– even small things, like moving to a new file naming convention. Every item has a name, a due date and all important details go there. You can even ask questions about projects and answer them through the tool, allowing me to knock them out right then and there without clogging my email inbox. I can see the status of all the projects, all the files that go with it, and the timeline all in one place. It’s great.

Another tool I would highly recommend is Fancy Hands. They’re a great one-size-fits-all solution, unlike some virtual assistants. The assistants at Fancy Hands can basically handle every task you don’t have time to tackle. They can schedule and move meetings and appointments, coordinate travel, even wait on hold for you– all for an incredibly affordably price point. For example, if I have to call my bank or PayPal with a question, then they will sit on hold for me and then patch you through once an actual person answers. How awesome is that! They also have a great iPhone app, so I can quickly create a task as soon as it pops into my head.  They keep track of how much time you saved using them. Right now, in 60 days, they’ve saved me from sitting on 111 calls, 12.2 hours on the phone and saved 2.3 days overall. It’s an awesome tool for busy small business owners, and they’re all trained and based in the US so that the time difference and quality is always there. They also have fantastic customer support, just like Shoeboxed, so I love them.

SBX: That’s an awesome compliment – thank you! We really appreciate you chatting with us and sharing your productivity secrets; I’m sure all of the small business owners reading this will find it really helpful.

Are you a Shoeboxed user who has a success story and would like to be featured on our blog? Then we would love to hear from you! Please reach out to Emily at emily@team.shoeboxed.com for more information.

Until next time, stay tuned… and stay organized!

Meet Emily Farrar


At Shoeboxed, Emily focuses on keeping our users happy and engaged. She is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in Public Relations and an avid Tar Heels fan. She enjoys traveling, staying active and spending time with her six-year-old Maltese, Madam.

  • Kyle

    This is really awesome! How does it organize (or make it easy for your receipts and documents them to be organized)?

    For example, if you have a couple years worth of taxes to catch up on… should I have the years separated, or is this just a waste of my time? (Note: obviously having the hard copies in a separate files for me is valuable), just curious how you guys do this?

  • Emily at Shoeboxed

    Hi Kyle,
    When we receive your documents, we’ll scan them and extract all the crucial information from them — for receipts, that includes vendor name, date, category, payment type and last 4 digits. So there’s no need to separate the documents by year or sort them in any way!

    Your documents will then be added to a secure online account that you can access anytime, anywhere. In your account, you can filter by date, payment type, etc. so you can find the receipts you need in seconds.

    Let me know if you have any more questions & I’ll be happy to help!

    Stay Organized,
    Emily