Focused on providing productivity systems that consistently motivate people toward their goals, inkWELL Press has gained national recognition with its unique planners.
Sometimes an entrepreneur’s path to the right business has many twists and turns. Such was the case for Tonya Dalton, whose first career was a schoolteacher. When she and her husband John had children, she became a stay-at-home mom.
But she began to miss work, and she started a side business. Eventually, her husband quit his job to join her. A few years later, she lost her passion for the venture. What now?
“Quitting was scary because it was our sole income, but I was more afraid to stick with a job I didn’t love,” says Dalton. “I knew two things: I wanted John and I to continue working together and I wanted to do something that lit a fire within me. We knew we would have to make a huge leap of faith, but that’s what we did.
“I spent time soul searching to find my passions and I found them: empowering women, teaching and organization. Out of those three seemingly unrelated passions, I built my personal mission statement and used that as the springboard to launch inkWELL Press – a company centered around teaching women about productivity and providing them the much needed tools.”
Headquartered in Asheville, North Carolina, inkWELL Press is centered around Dalton’s true passions. Because of that, the company has become more successful than Dalton ever dreamed. At the initial launch in 2014, 500 orders poured in. The company has continued to flourish since then, and it’s now a seven-figure business.
“I’ve now expanded my mission to include a podcast and courses centered around productivity so I can help other women find the life they love,” says Dalton.
Dalton’s story wasn’t an easy one. A costly mistake almost doomed the business before it could even open its doors. But by using a business credit card, Dalton was able to carry on and overcome the wildly expensive blunder.
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What was the beginning of your business like?
It was the fall of 2013 and I had just closed my thriving business to start inkWELL Press. I had planned out what I needed to do to successfully navigate months with no income for my family – but sometimes the best laid plans don’t really pan out.
My family had to financially tighten our belts and scrape together all our pennies to get the business off the ground. There were no social outings, no after-school activities; we were down to one car – a gray minivan with one long scratch down its side that had racked up about 100,000 miles.
Then, unfortunately, we partnered with a vendor who didn’t seem to have the same goals as I did. When it came time to receive my product, delays pushed the deadlines back to a breaking point. I remember pacing the floors so much that I was shocked I hadn’t worn a trench into the hardwood. My business was at a precipice where it could possibly fall off a cliff to failure.
I reached out to the vendor and insisted I needed the product immediately and he said he would air freight it to me, but it would cost me “four to five thousand dollars.” I didn’t really have the money, but I had to take a risk and find a way to cover that investment – so I said OK. The product arrived along with a shipping bill, but not for four to five thousand dollars – it was $45,000!
That’s horrible! What did you do?
I’ve always prided myself on never having a debt so I didn’t know what to do. I stood at a crossroads. I could refuse to pay and essentially close my business before it had any chance of starting, or I could swallow the bitter pill and put it on my card, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.
Before I did just that, I made a conscious choice: I would use this mistake as an opportunity to pivot and light a fire under me to make that money back – and create the biggest launch possible.
Ultimately that $45,000 error was the best thing that could have happened to me. It pushed me to create a series of Facebook ads, and I did it on my shoestring budget. Without my mistake, I might have never thought outside the box enough to create a dynamic campaign that built my email list so quickly.
Within a few months, I had covered my debt and 24 months later, my products were in national retail chains.
How have you been using credit for the business now?
We use the American Express card to pay for almost everything, as it makes keeping finances organized even easier. We can pull our information into reports, which helps us to budget and plan. We use it for our shipping costs, which runs in the six-figure range, so we accumulate a lot of points quickly!
I initially chose this card because of all of the extra benefits that come with American Express, including access to lounges in airports along with upgraded hotel memberships.
We run as a debt-free company as much as we can. When we take out the occasional line of credit, we generally pay it back quickly.
Looking back, is there anything you’d like to do over?
I wish I’d known that business was in my future because I never took a single business course in college. I now encourage anyone heading to college to take a course or two because the knowledge you would gain applies to all different industries.
At this point in my career, I feel like I’ve earned my MBA through hard work and lessons learned. It would have been nice to gain some of that knowledge in a classroom instead!
What have you learned about borrowing money along the way?
Handling finances as a business is vastly different than what you do in your personal life. There all kinds of costs of doing business that require you to pull funding. Having a good line of credit through banks and credit cards can help see you through.
Any advice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Forget balance – it doesn’t exist. Balance makes it sounds like all things can be equal, and they can’t.
Anytime we are working towards something big, whether it’s a work goal or a personal one, we need imbalance to move toward that achievement. I believe it’s about finding harmony – and understanding that not every day is harmonious.
We have to stop looking at our days as being 24 hours and instead start thinking of our weeks as being 168 hours. It’s shifting your mindset to make our weeks achievable. Doing that will help you find harmony overall.