Finding Focus and Clarity for Small 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.
Introducing: Sydni Craig-Hart
Profession: Digital marketing consultant & strategic advisor
Location: Emeryville, CA
LinkedIn: Sydni Craig-Hart
FREE Gift For You!: “35 Ways to Attract Ideal Clients & Customers to Your Business NOW!”
“At one point we got a scanner, and I thought, ‘I don’t need to pay Shoeboxed to do this, I can do this myself.’ And it took forever! And you still have to organize it after! So we came right back to Shoeboxed. It’ll cost you 15 times as much in productivity and time lost to do it yourself, so the Shoeboxed fee is well worth it.”
Shoeboxed: Hi, Sydni! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. Let’s start with you telling us a little about your business.
Sydni Craig-Hart: Sure! We offer coaching, consulting, and done for you marketing services. We have a very strong focus on content marketing, so our “done for you” services often focus on activities like email campaigns, email campaigns, white papers, blogging, social media, webinars, any type of content. We started our company in 2005 and officially launched it in 2006. We started as a virtual assistant service; so, before we were consulting and coaching people on what to do, we were actually were the technicians who would do the work for them, which is how we developed our experience. This makes us really good at what we do, because we’ve actually done the work with our own two hands, we have proven experience as to what works and what doesn’t.
We are based in Emeryville, California. It’s my husband, Wil, and myself who are the sole employees and business partners, and we have a team of contractors that work with us. We have worked with hundreds of businesses in over 50 industries, and our focus has always been to help our clients to attract clients of their own, to be consistent and effective in their marketing, and to increase their revenue.
At this point, we’re focused on working with small businesses, associations, and technology companies; those are our three sweet spots.
SBX: Sounds awesome! Have you always wanted to run your own business? How did you get started?
SCH: I am actually a fourth generation entrepreneur. My great-grandparents were the first African American real estate investors in Los Angeles in the 1950s. My grandparents had two businesses: to make and sell cheesecakes to restaurants all over LA, and they also owned a cleaning business together. My parents started a tax business the year I was born. Wil also comes from a family of entrepreneurs; his sister is a hair stylist and his brother has been a professional musician for many years. So, we both come from entrepreneurial families and have a lot of friends and family members that own and run their own businesses. We’re very invested in this space.
Surprisingly, I hadn’t always planned to be an entrepreneur. Despite my background, it had never really occurred to me to launch my own business. What really prompted it was that I was living in Washington, D.C., and I never really liked it there, so my husband and I decided to move back to California where I grew up. We came out to the Bay Area for a job and house hunting trip. I went on a number of interviews and met with a number of recruiters, I even had an offer. But I realized I didn’t want another job! Though I was working at a corporate job that I loved, I’d been working from home for two years, and I couldn’t imagine going back to an office from 8 to 5. It wasn’t a lifelong dream for me to start a business, but once I realized the opportunities that were available to me, becoming an entrepreneur was a no brainer decision!
SBX: Wow! That’s an awesome story. How did you make the switch from employee to entrepreneur?
SCH: I had been an executive assistant for many years. I’d been doing it for years and loved it. Because my boss traveled so much, I hardly ever saw him– maybe four or five days a month. In my last job, unbeknownst to me, I was doing virtual assistant work before I even knew what it was. The job dictated that I work all kinds of crazy hours, since he would travel all over the world, and eventually I realized that the job was taking over my life. After I’d been there a year, I asked if he would mind if I worked from home while he was traveling, and he said yes! So that was my first virtual assistant experience. I could do everything I needed to from home and didn’t have to schlep into the office. So that’s how I got started.
When I was getting ready to move, one of my friends that is an entrepreneur was working with a virtual assistant and suggested that I could do the same since I already had the experience. I didn’t even know what VA was at that time, but I did some research, launched the business and lined up 3 clients. A few months after we started the company, I took a training course, hired a business coach and within 6 months our practice was full! In fact, the first 10 months we were in business, we generated $75K in revenue. The next year, we more than doubled that number. We worked in the Virtual Assistant business full-time for three years, and by that time I was responsible for six or seven clients’ entire online business. It was just too much responsibility and time. I had learned so much, and people were asking me for consulting anyway, so it was just kind of a natural transition. The same clients kept coming back over and over again and that’s what lead us into coaching.
SBX: That makes a lot of sense. It sounds like you have a great, thriving business now that’s also manageable and scalable, so congratulations! Now that you’re established and running your business, what’s your favorite part?
SCH: My favorite part is helping my clients to find clarity. It does without saying that, to be an entrepreneur, you have a unique personality, and you’ve got to have a certain level of tenacity about you. Sometimes a client comes to me and doesn’t know what to do, but more often than not my clients are just overwhelmed and haven’t really taken the time or space to step back and look at what they should be doing to market their business. It’s a very crowded space full of ‘gurus’ promoting the next big thing, so it’s easy to get lost in all of that and forget what your definition of success is and make decisions based on that. So what I love the most is helping a person to reconnect with their vision and their goals for their business. I love helping them cut through the noise and find the three things they need to do for their business each week to reach their definition of success. It takes a huge weight of off them and allows them to be more effective, less stressed, and spend less money. Reconnecting with that clarity is priceless and in short order my clients enjoy a more profitable, successful and fulfilling business!
SBX: That’s a great answer, and I feel like your aims are similar to ours. Here at Shoeboxed, we love taking the work out of paperwork so our customers can focus on getting back to what’s important– growing their business. So we definitely identify with trying to cut through the noise and simplify complicated aspects of running a business. :) So, let’s talk a bit about the financial side of your business. What did you do with all your documents before Shoeboxed? How did you stay organized before using our service?
SCH: They were pretty much in a shoebox! It’s really great to touch on this because we were one of your first customers when you first started, and it’s been really great to be able to watch the evolution of your company as ours was growing as well. We’ve both worked out some kinks over the years and grown together.
But anyway, it’s a great (and kind of embarrassing story), but I think it’s one a lot of people can relate to. I took bookkeeping in college, so I know how to do it, so I knew I could do it when we launched our business. I bought a copy of QuickBooks and started setting up my Chart of Accounts(which I did wrong, by the way). At first I was on top of it, but as I got busier and busier, I wasn’t able to keep up with it. So we didn’t do our bookkeeping for two years. It wasn’t that we were trying not to pay our taxes! We just had our receipts stuffed into envelopes, and we literally just didn’t have the time.
So Shoeboxed really helped us get all that organized in a way that we could share it with our bookkeeper, and besides a brief interruption, we’ve been using it ever since. We didn’t stay organized before we had Shoeboxed, and our financial records were a mess. It cost us thousands of dollars to fix the mistakes we made and re-do all the bookkeeping and to get our taxes done. It was a very costly mistake.
SBX: Thank you for sharing that story! A lot of small business owners go through something similar when they’re first getting started, and we’re so glad we’ve been able to help keep you on track for the past few years. So how do you use Shoeboxed now?
SCH: We use it in two ways. First, I email a lot of our receipts, like invoices for monthly services and that kind of thing. I just forward them to Shoeboxed and it’s super easy, I don’t think about it anymore. Secondly, we’ve been in business for seven years, so we do have a decent amount of paper. We’re going paperless slowly but surely, and we’re constantly mailing in stuff to get organized. We’re currently on our 2010 documents! We’re using Shoeboxed to create a digital version of all of our documents, records and receipts to get rid of all the paper, and we’re using it for our receipts as we go. It’s also super easy to share all the information with our bookkeeper digitally.
SBX: That’s awesome! Going paperless is a huge undertaking, but we think it will definitely pay off in the long run. So, in closing, do you have any tips for other entrepreneurs or small business owners trying to get organized?
SCH: Yes! I always recommend Shoeboxed to friends and colleagues, and one response I hear often is, “Okay, I’ll check it out and think about it.” And I’m like, no! You need to sign up, get yourself some envelopes and start getting organized now! There’s nothing to think about– you’ll never do it. At one point we got a scanner, and I thought, “I don’t need to pay Shoeboxed to do this, I can do this myself.” And it took forever! And you still have to organize it after! So we came right back to Shoeboxed. It’ll cost you 15 times as much in productivity and time lost to do it yourself, so the Shoeboxed fee is well worth it.
Secondly, we are huge fans of Evernote. My whole life lives in Evernote. All of the stuff that you as a small business owner carry around in your head– passwords, ideas, to-do lists, URLs, all of it– put it in Evernote and keep your mind uncluttered so you can focus on what you need to do. It’s free, it’s accessible on every electronic device, and there’s no reason not to use it.
SBX: We love Evernote too, and that’s some great advice! Thanks so much for sharing, Sydni.
SCH: Sure! I’d also love to share a FREE gift with your readers. Every entrepreneur I know is always looking for ways to quickly increase their revenue, so I created a guide called “35 Ways to Attract Ideal Clients and Customers to Your Business NOW!” It’s available now at http://smartsimplemarketing.com/shoeboxed-gift/.
SBX: I’m sure our readers will really appreciate that! Thanks again for taking the time to chat with us; we really learned a lot, and we’re thrilled to have you as a customer.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Until next time, stay tuned… and stay organized!