Small Business Profile: TrivWorks
Credit cards have given founder David Jacobson the peace of mind needed to grow his trivia-event business
Erica Sandberg is a prominent personal finance authority and author of “Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families.” She writes “Small Business Credit Profiles,” a weekly column featuring small business owners' journey with credit and credit cards for CreditCards.com.
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Those fascinating little factoids? That’s what David Jacobson specializes in. He is the founder and CEO of TrivWorks, a corporate entertainment and team building company that produces trivia events. It all began as a side business when he was living in New York City. The year was 2009 and the country was in bad economic shape.
“I wanted to provide cash-strapped companies with a means of rewarding hard-working employees who were overburdened and undercompensated,” says Jacobson. “Over three years, I slowly built up my client roster, and was able to take the business full-time in 2012.”
TrivWorks has since expanded to Southern California and to deliver events nationwide. In order to do so, Jacobson hired a whole slew of independent contractors. He established hosting partnerships with celebrities, and in 2018 introduced a downloadable do-it-yourself version of TrivWorks for both office and private party use.
The company has become the industry leader for these types of events and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, Entrepreneur and CNBC.com. To ensure the gaming company is always winning, credit cards are put into action.
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How did your credit history affect the way you initially financed your venture? Any challenges with scores or access to credit?
When I started my business, not only was I living in New York City during the height of the economic crisis but also working at a nonprofit organization making an incredibly low salary, saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
Fortunately, I have always prioritized my credit even when things were tight. I paid off my credit cards in full each month and never missed any other kind of payment, be it loans, rent, utilities, etc. As such, my credit score was strong when I established my side business, and I had no problem at all getting a business credit card. My startup costs were also very low, given it's a service-based business with no brick-and-mortar location.
I have always been cautious about not getting in over my head, so I don’t spend what I didn't have. I was also in the fortunate position of being able to cover my initial capital costs out of my own pocket, rather than seeking out a loan, angel investors or VC funding. There were times along the way where things were tight, but I never made any mistakes with charging or borrowing and not being able to pay my debts back immediately.
How are credit cards helping you and your business become successful?
Credit cards have been an invaluable asset to my business. At a bare minimum, they help keep my business and personal expenses completely separate, which is a huge help.
I also have the peace of mind which comes from having certain protections, which I wouldn't otherwise if I were paying for goods and services via check, cash or electronic transfer. Credit cards are also very convenient, especially because I can put some regular expenses on recurring autopay.
From a selling standpoint, it's also great to have the flexibility to accept payment via credit cards, as I want to provide my clients with as much convenience as possible.
What do I put on my cards? Anything business-related. I charge online advertising, website-related service fees, office supplies, materials for events, utilities, automobile-related expenses, business-related travel and meals, etc.
Can you tell me about the plastic in your wallet? Why did you choose the card you have?
I've used Chase Business cards for as long as I've been in business and that's almost 10 years now. I currently have the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card. It has an excellent small business program, and I really feel they take good care of me from both a banking and credit card standpoint, on the phone as well as when I’m inside a Chase branch.
I like the way my credit card statements can be broken out by expense category. They offer a lot of special programs and protections -- some of which I didn't even know about until I needed, such as when my laptop was stolen from my checked baggage on a business flight. Chase reimbursed me for nearly the entire cost. I wrote a blog post about the experience and the president of Chase Small Business read it, then invited me to meet her shortly afterward!
As for what I’ve done with the points, I typically just cash them out and use the found money to help defer operating expenses.
Tip: Business credit cards are a great tool to grow your business, but there are certain business expenses it's best not to charge on a business credit card. These may include business trip extras and payroll, but they are not the only ones. Read "8 expenses you should never charge on a business credit card" to learn more.
What lessons have you learned about borrowing money along the way?
The best lesson I've found is to avoid getting into trouble by not charging anything on my card which I can't pay for. This was especially true while I was paying off my student loans. Some months I could afford to pay more than others toward my loans, but I always made sure that no matter what, I paid something. At the same time, I always paid my credit card bill on time, and in full.
Also, I’ve since discovered that a great credit score can put you right at the top of the list when renting or buying a house and making other significant purchases. So, it's worth it to be constantly vigilant about paying your debts on time and in full.