We’re doing another btichin’ panel on Monday, March 25 here at Rebelle. We’ll be talking about money. Nobody likes to talk about money. We’re trying to do more of it.
I’ll be moderating our next talk, which means you can expect really provocative questions! Since the rest of the ladies will be sharing their stories, I wanted to share mine with you through this medium, to preview the kind of conversation I want to drive at the panel. Hope you’ll be joining us! Tickets are available here.
According to my early records, it cost me $3,376 to start Rebelle, spent from the time I started testing recipes (my first expense was a baking stone from Amazon) to our first pop-up on January 22, 2017. I know this because I tracked it all religiously on a Google sheet.
I had $3,376 because of my prior job, where I made a salary that is still to me a lot of money, over $100,000 per year. (Ugh it feels really gauche to put this so openly. Let’s get over this icky feeling when talking about money.) I have never had a lifestyle to match that salary. We eat out regularly but don’t have expensive taste. We drive “normal” cars and didn’t buy new ones when the old ones were paid off. I travel on a budget. I only started buying clothes at full price recently.
When I had my corporate job, I was saving about 40% of my take-home pay every month. After 2 years, I had about $70,000 in a savings account, plus various other smaller amounts scattered among brokerage accounts. (I thought I could pick stocks. That’s funny. Don’t try picking stocks.) I wasn’t saving with a goal in mind; I just didn’t see a reason to spend the money and I knew one day I could use it for something, I just needed to find the right “something”. Maybe I’d decide I really needed to travel and see the world, and I had this pool of money. Maybe one day I’d hate my job. Maybe I’d need an escape hatch out of my life. Money is a powerful tool to have.
I used this money when it came time to build our storefront. In April 2017, I signed my lease for the Doyle Ave space and drew up a budget for a buildout. Darcy (then my boyfriend, now my husband) and I sat at the kitchen table before we signed the lease, tallying up how much money each of us had in various accounts. We wondered if you could build a store for that much money. We put accounts in “buckets”: money we feel very comfortable gambling on this; money we’d rather not lose but we’ll survive if we do; money we can’t afford to lose under any circumstances.
We came up with $135,000 as our budget for building and opening this store. That had to include everything, down to paper napkins. Looking at our books today, we pretty much nailed it down to the cent. But there were a lot of compromises made to stick to that budget.
We pieced together that amount through selling off stocks to liquidate some brokerage accounts, Darcy loaning the business some money (I was hell-bent on owning 100% of the company and not taking investors), me opening and maxing out a business credit card, help from our landlords and $27,000 raised through Kickstarter.
(Some Internet trolls like to throw our Kickstarter campaign back in my face and say I didn’t grind it and sweat it out to start this business, that I asked for handouts and I don’t have any merit as a businesswoman. People on the Internet are jerks and also really stupid. This angers me a lot. People see you succeed and just want to tear you down at any cost. Building a restaurant costs a lot more than $27,000. Ask me how much I paid for my hood alone, I could have bought a brand-new car.)
I had to make a lot of compromises to build and open my store because I had a relatively small budget. (Nice places spend about twice my budget for a similar size space.) We have vinyl floors because I had no money to rip up the floors and rebuild them. I don’t like our floors but I am stuck with them and we make it work. (And I anxiously await the day I won’t wince at a quote to rip them up and replace them with tile.) We couldn’t afford to hire a design & build firm, so my contractor and I designed it together as well as we could within my budget, I got a bit of help from Maddie Ballon on interior design, we made creative use of IKEA products, and I did a fair bit myself (painting, finishing counters and decorating). We still do a lot of DIY. Sometimes I feel self-conscious about it and wonder if we should spend more money on things made by professionals. But I also really like to look around the room and admire what we have literally built with our own hands. There is a little piece of me in everything here.
Now we’ve been generating a nice profit and we run the business like a tight ship. I look at our financials obsessively. There’s very few things you can ask me about the performance of my business that I don’t know the answer to. I have the best accountant/business advisor (Dean Weinberg is ya boy) and he’s helped me make smart decisions along the way. By some combination of brute force and compelling persuasion, the whole team has adopted our approach of reducing waste in all forms: we don’t waste food or time or money. I pay myself less than half of what I used to make in my old job; my lifestyle hasn’t changed dramatically, and I would rather re-invest the profits into the business and keep this baby growing. Once again, I’m hoarding cash and waiting for the next opportunity.