After her employer filed for bankruptcy, Chelsea Marks was laid off and out of work. Instead of wallowing in despair, she and her future partner teamed up to create Paynes Gray, an online décor and furniture company.
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However, since Marks and her friend had extensive backgrounds in interior design and the online retail world, they made a leap of faith. In May 2018, they became partners and the duo launched Paynes Gray.
“We decided to start our own business because we liked what we had been doing and the idea of starting something that was ours felt really exciting,” says Marks. “Our business developed quickly because between the two of us, we had so much experience and many strong relationships within the home furnishings industry. I won’t say it was easy because it’s been a lot of hard work, but the process of opening the company has been rather smooth. It feels like all of this was meant to be and that my career has been preparing me for this moment.”
Now, just one year after launching, the company is flourishing – and Marks is putting a credit card to good use to make sure the success continues.
What was the initial startup process like for you and did anything catch you off guard?
We had all the typical hardships of starting a small business. Timing, finances, business relationships, marketing, the list goes on and on. The aim was to get our business to the point that it was paying for all of our overhead as soon as possible. We gave ourselves a goal of six months and we were able to meet it.
You can’t predict everything in business, though. I would say the one thing we didn’t anticipate was lawyer fees. That was an area I didn’t realize we had to utilize as much money as we did before our site launched. But the rest of the expenses we expected and incorporated in our business plan.
What role do credit cards have in your overall business plan?
Fortunately, we were able to cover the launch of our website without having to use credit cards, as we had enough savings and investments. But now we heavily rely on a credit card for almost all of our transactions. We use the Ink Business Cash Credit Card from Chase because we researched the best cards for small businesses before our launch and that was the one that kept coming up. It has great rewards – 5 percent cash back on the first $25,000 spent at office supply stores (and many utilities) annually and 2 percent cash back on gas and dining on the first $25,000 combined spending annually. We appreciate the cash back because we can put it back into the business. After a few months of use, we were able to easily increase our limit.
We made it a point to always remain debt free and we usually are. The only time we encounter credit card debt is when we are planning different marketing initiatives. We may decide to overextend ourselves when we’re likely to get a major return.
As for our operating costs, they are pretty normal for an e-commerce store. Since we offer free shipping on Paynes Gray, that’s our largest major expense.
Where you are now with the company and where is it headed?
We are still a young business and are continuing to grow our offerings in order to secure more customers. As such, we consistently add new brands and products to Paynes Gray.
Our plans consist of bringing on more quality and on-trend home products from brands like Bungalow 5, Noir and Regina Andrew. We’ll also keep expanding our customer base through holistic marketing initiatives including public relations, digital marketing and social media.
As a business owner, what have you learned about borrowing money along the way?
Borrowing money gives you the opportunity to do so much with your business, but I’ve learned that it’s all about timing. Just because you can borrow funds, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
I think the main priority should be sticking with your business plan and letting things in your business develop organically. I’ve learned that investing more money into the business doesn’t always get you the results you want.
What is your advice to other business owners who are just starting out?
Starting a business has been one of the most fun things I’ve ever done because every day is a challenge. Once you realize you’re capable of accomplishing more than you imagined, those challenges come with a ton of rewards.
I would say to do something you love but make sure it’s profitable. Have a plan and execute it. Don’t be afraid to hear “no,” because it will happen. Use the rejections as fuel to accomplish your goals!