A powerhouse of expertise and intelligence, Dr. Roshawnna Novellus helps other women entrepreneurs connect to the investors they need to start their businesses. Here’s how a business credit card helped cut her costs in half so she could focus on helping others.
Dr. Roshawnna Novellus
For Dr. Roshawnna Novellus, helping women become successful entrepreneurs is not just a passion, it’s a business. Novellus is a gender equality advocate who promotes economic empowerment and inclusive growth through her company, EnrichHER.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, the debt investment platform connects female business owners with interested investors. The company has been able to aid in the funding of over 160 businesses with loans ranging from $50,000 to $75,000.
“There is a huge gap in access to capital for women,” says Novellus. “I wanted to provide that money because there is substantial bias against women in business. We step in and value the qualities that many women exhibit but others may not look at – such as grit.”
As founder and CEO of EnrichHER, Novellus knows what she’s talking about. She also holds a Ph.D. in systems engineering, a master’s degree in information technology and two bachelor’s degrees – one in business management economics and the other in computer engineering. Her expertise speaks for itself.
Novellus also served on the Atlanta Commission on Women and was honored as one of the Women Who Mean Business by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. PItchBook also named her as one of the 27 black founders and investors to watch in 2019.
As a startup, getting the word out about the business is integral to her Novellus’s success as an entrepreneur and her travel card is getting her there – at an incredible discount.
See related: Startup vs. small business: what’s the difference, why it matters
What was the beginning of your business like?
Beyond the fact that many people don’t believe in providing resources in underserved founders, our biggest problem was obtaining support for our team. We sought out community and financing support to start off the business.
I started the company in Atlanta and there was a lack of understanding about what I wanted to do along with what the problem many women, especially women of color, face. But I had faced the same challenges.
People would ask me to come back when I found someone technical to join the team – and I have the education and experience! In fact, I had to move to Washington D.C. so I could get enough support and get EnrichHER off the ground.
What kinds of costs hit you hard when you first started?
The biggest surprise was the impact of regulatory compliance with the launch of our debt-based securities platform. It was about $250,000!
We figured that all we needed to do was submit all the qualifications in order to launch our platform – but that was not the case. The regulatory agencies have their own timeline when it comes to approval and processing applications. They can ask for anything, whenever they want, without a care for our company budget. Honestly, I didn’t know they could drive so much work without consideration of if we could do it financially.
How have you been using credit cards for the business?
In the very beginning, I got a $5,000 business loan to start building our business credit. That was useful since it enabled us to qualify for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card. We use it to charge software tools, supplies, recurring memberships and for ad spends, such as Google ads. This card enables our team to travel to training classes, too.
We charge about $15,000 a month, which results in a huge amount of points. We were able to qualify for a Companion Pass fairly quickly – and that has been incredibly helpful. Every time I travel, I take someone else for free and it has vastly reduced our costs. So far this year, I’ve flown 54 times.
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That’s a lot of card activity – how do you manage the account?
I make sure I categorize all transactions every week. We also link our transactions to key performance indicators (a value used to monitor and measure a company’s effectiveness). Then we adjust our plans quickly, as necessary. We pay off credit cards in full every month.
Do you have any regrets – anything you’d like to do over?
Not about credit use. That’s been great. But I do wish that I had been quicker to let people go from my team who didn’t have the required worth ethic. I learned that some people take up too much space, time and energy. It’s very important for team members to be all in. They need to be part of your army!
What are the future plans for the business?
Our goal is to help 100,000 women-led businesses get the business financing and resources they need to grow. I plan on this goal taking five years. To get there, though, we need more people to know about us.
As an owner, what have you learned about borrowing money along the way?
Before borrowing money, you need to have a strategy. Not all debt is bad; some is very good. The reason we obtained the Southwest Rapid Rewards card is that we wanted a companion pass as soon as possible, so that’s what we worked toward.
Our travel costs had been astronomical, so I figured out how to reduce it by half. You have to do the math but also think ahead. Your plan may not go as expected and then you’ll find yourself overextended. That’s OK, just start a new plan.
Don’t get caught up in not staying with your original goal. Things change. My advice to entrepreneurs is to stay on top of your financial options at each stage of your business. You don’t have to stick to one strategy indefinitely.