Still an uneven ground, marketing on social media can be a murky endeavor. That’s where Deborrah Ashley comes in. With her online consulting firm, Thrivoo Marketing, Ashley has helped clients all over the world. Here’s how a personal credit card helped launch her business.
Just how can your company gain a competitive edge with online marketing? Deborrah Ashley, founder and president of Thrivoo Marketing, knows. While based in Tampa, Florida, her online consulting firm serves clients all over the world.
“Entrepreneurs and companies rely on my strategies to engage their audience, generate inbound inquiries and grow their brand authority on LinkedIn,” says Ashley. “They’ve come to disrupt the market or to create entirely new ones. They want to stand out above the noise. I help them identify untapped opportunities with high-profit potential.”
Ashley’s background includes two decades in brand management, marketing communications and business development. In 2011, she identified a new opportunity to better engage prospective customers: social media marketing.
“I was told, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ But the problem is we don’t notice the broken pieces until it’s too late,” says Ashley. “Just ask Blockbuster. Ironically, I was treating my career the same way – by sticking to what felt familiar. I was creating my own glass ceiling.”
So, in 2015 Ashley took a leap of faith. She left her comfortable career (with a six-figure salary) and started over from scratch. To be the change she wanted to see, she created Thrivoo Marketing.
Now she’s educating, inspiring and helping professionals and companies thrive online – as she continues to achieve even greater business success of her own. Along for the journey: a personal credit card.
What was the beginning of your business like? Any rough spots?
The biggest hardship that held me back was my own mindset and thinking everything had to be perfect to get started. I soon realized that no matter how much I thought I prepared, I didn’t really know what I needed until I just dove in and took action.
My own marketing was the biggest financial surprise. Although it’s my background, I fell into the “Build it and they will come” mentality. Well, I built it – and they didn’t come!
So, I had to spend money on building out a funnel that included a client relationship management system. I wasted almost $10,000 on Facebook ads in the beginning. I hired help from the start, but I should have also hired a great accountant because I was unaware of the enormous tax bill.
How have you been using credit cards for the business? Which do you have?
I used my American Express® Gold Card to launch my business. Today, I use the card for almost all my expenses – including marketing, advertising, operations, equipment (such as cameras, lighting and electronics) and a business strategist.
I now travel to speak and do trainings at events, so I put my flight and hotel on my card as well. In fact, I have about eight line items that are automatically deducted monthly on my American Express card. This way, I can maximize the card’s rewards.
Not only do I get the opportunity to build the points for each purchase, but I also get access to a year-end summary of charges, which gives me a breakdown of my annual spending.
Seems like you’re doing a lot of charging! How are you handling the bills?
I am leveraged but I try to pay down big chunks monthly. The business is very cyclical so I could have months where I have unexpected expenses and other months where everything is running smoothly.
Is there anything you regret doing?
I regret putting a lot of money into testing Facebook in the beginning without having a clear view of what my goals were – and what was actually needed for success. If I could have a do-over, I would bring in a business or marketing consultant right away to put together a strategy for me. It would have saved me a lot of money and time without having to figure it out on my own.
What are the future plans for the business?
I’ll be hiring two virtual employees and one local assistant. Most of my work is done virtually so I’ll benefit from having remote workers, which will save me the costs of having someone in-house. I’ll also be shifting 20% of my business to focus more on speaking and training within a corporate environment, so I’ll have a lot of upfront expenses that I have to cover.
As far as borrowing money, what’s your best advice based on your own experience?
I have learned to limit the amount of money that I borrow [if I don’t have] a plan to pay it off within a year. Things add up pretty quickly, so be careful!
Any words of wisdom for emerging business owners?
Being an entrepreneur is a journey. At times, you will plant a seed. Other times, you will water your seed. And it may be years before you reap the harvest. Be ready to take risks because behind every risk is an opportunity to learn. You’ll need to know what to eliminate and what to double down on – evaluate every step of the way.
Don’t listen to anything that’s negative. Understand the difference between feedback and criticism. Get feedback and ignore criticism – unless that person is where you’d like to be.
Don’t think your customers are your family and friends – they aren’t. If you do, you will be highly disappointed.
But do invest in yourself as much possible and be sure that you’re getting a return on that investment. Once you start to pay for consultants, it’s easy to think that just by listening to them, you’ll become as rich as they are. That’s not the case. It takes time and discipline to implement the new strategies you’re learning.