Serial entrepreneur Susie Carder has been part of the business world since she was 16 – and shows no signs of slowing down.
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While other 16-year-old girls were shopping, serial entrepreneur and San Diego resident Susie Carder was dipping her toes into the business world and selling flowers at the mall. She continued to flourish as a young adult when she started a successful women’s entrepreneur group called Women’s Impact Network, then went on to open a profitable salon and health spa.
“As a hairdresser, I made $250,000 by working just three days a week behind the chair,” says Carder. “I wanted to teach other professionals how to do the same, so I started a training and development company.”
Soon she was traveling all over the world, working with high-end salons and spas on their business building strategies, profitability and productivity. After launching an online portal for salon owners that grew into a million-dollar membership site, Carder sold the company for eight figures to Cengage (formerly Reuters and Thompson Learning).
Today, she’s the author of multiple books and owns Susie Carder Profit Coach. “I work with women who want to make more money and leverage their skills and talent,” says Carder. “I help them find the funds and show them how they’re leaving money on the table.” Carder understands what it takes to start, grow and maintain a business — and how credit cards fit in to the plan.
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What was your credit like when you first started out, and how did it affect your ventures?
“Fund your dream with other people’s money.” We’ve all heard this saying; I know I did. The challenge, however, was I didn’t know anyone with money so didn’t know how to do that. Too often entrepreneurs don’t maximize all the assets they have around them! One major resource is using the power of your credit.
My first year in business, I used $30,000 from credit cards to fund my dream. I made a commitment to myself that I would only invest in things that would offer a return. For instance, I would create a digital product and for each product I sold, I put 50 percent back into the card’s balance. The rest was for operating capital. Doing this kept my credit rating high. I was using the funds from the card, paying it down and borrowing again.
I paid the entire debt back in a little over a year because I was committed to protecting and leveraging my credit. The interest I paid during that time was worth every penny; I couldn’t have grown my company without it. In the end, that $30,000 turned into an enterprise worth $5 million.
Did you experience any challenges with scores or access to credit?
You can say my credit has been a journey ̶ I had been in a previous relationship which ended in divorce, and that prompted a bankruptcy. I had to learn how to use cash for everything. I didn’t value credit before that, I took it for granted.
It took me years to rebuild after the bankruptcy. Eventually, I got a credit card that I could pay ahead of time and borrow against it to rebuild my credit score. It was the right strategy. I had to be patient. It takes a while to rebuild trust after ruining your credit.
I got an American Express charge card in 1985 while I was rebuilding my credit, and have been a member ever since. Because I had to pay the entire balance down every month, it taught me that if I can’t pay for it, I can’t have it. Now I have a Visa from Navy Federal Credit Union for my personal use and The Platinum Card® from American Express for business. That American Express card is practically limitless, but I still have the discipline of “If I can’t pay, I can’t play!” This philosophy allows me to make strategic decisions versus emotional buys.
Now I guard my credit, and always check to make sure nothing is on my credit report that is inaccurate. I need to keep it ready for when I’m ready for my next business growth spurt.
In which way are credit cards helping you and your business become successful?
My credit cards give me freedom! I get to choose what to invest in for my business and my personal life. If I have access to $500,000 in credit, I can do some serious promotions and launch programs. I don’t have to worry about burning through cash so it allows me to plan for when funds come in or when money is tight.
I also use my cards for everything in order to accumulate points! I pay for all of my teams ̶ public relations, social media, and marketing. I use the cards to buy my groceries and anywhere else that takes them, then I pay it off ASAP.
Using my credit cards this way has resulted in a lot of rewards, and I have to admit, I am a points hoarder. I primarily use them on travel for myself and my family.
What lessons have you learned about borrowing money along the way?
Be strategic about what and why you are borrowing. If you get behind, communicate that to the organizations; I find they are amazing ̶ especially if you have been a good customer. Look for cards with low or no interest so you don’t get caught in overpaying for what you charge. And if you do get in credit trouble, get help fast ̶ don’t wait until you are in over your head.
My word of advice to other entrepreneurs regarding credit is risk equal rewards when you’re a small business. It’s hard to cash-flow everything. But if you plan and look at how the money you borrow will help increase revenue, it’s worth the risk