Ask Kelly about Entrepreneurship
Today we are doing a deep dive about entrepreneurship with our in house business owner, Kelly! Everyone can benefit from thinking entrepreneurially, even people who don’t want to start their own business. We’re going to ask Kelly about all the things that we are curious about and scare us about entrepreneurship.
0:00 / 0:00
Ask Kelly about Entrepreneurship
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Sanity.io is a platform for structured content that comes with an open source editor that you can customize with React. Sanity.io also comes with tooling that lets you build with structured content in React, Vue, and other frontend technologies like Svelte. It also has powerful APIs for reading and writing so that you can use the same content across any device, channel, or product. You also get powerful APIs for querying your content, you can even listen for changes in real-time, and use the write APIs to patch and make new documents from code. You can get started for free on the standard plan, and add a credit card to pay as you go for usage over the generous standard quotas. If you need advanced features like SSL and Single-Sign-On you can find all the prices and details on Sanity.io’s fully transparent pricing page. Listeners of the Ladybug Podcast get a extra special plan with double the usage. Go to sanity.io/ladybug or use “ladybug” where you fill in the coupon code.
Have you taken time off from your career as a software developer? Get back into it with Welcome Back by Shopify. If you’ve taken extended leave for sickness, parental, or personal reasons, Welcome Back by Shopify will help you re-enter the tech industry with confidence. Refresh your software development skills and get hands-on training with this immersive, 3-month paid program…built by Shopify’s Engineering team. Welcome Back also rebuilds context gathering, cross-team communication, and problem identification muscles to help developers reenter the workforce at a senior level. This program is available in Shopify’s Ottawa and Toronto offices but if you’re interested in visiting Canada and coding, be sure to apply! Who knows, maybe you’ll unlock a new career in a new country! Experienced software developers can apply before September 13th by searching Shopify Welcome Back or visiting shopify.com/careers.
We want to tell you about the JAMStack Conference, happening Oct 16-18 in San Francisco. So what’s the JAMstack? Chris Coyier got to the heart of it when he said the explosion of new APIs and tools are providing front end developers with full stack superpowers. We call this new approach the JAMstack.
Hear from Chris, Mandy Michael, Katie Sylor-Miller and more at this two-day event covering topics from web performance to static site generators to modern build tools and workflows. On day three you’ll have the option to join hands-on workshops about serverless functions, front end adventures and more.
Podcast listeners can save 10% using the discount code “ladybug” when you sign up. You are also encouraged to apply for a diversity scholarship by August 23rd. Hurry—the last two JAMstack events sold out. All the details are at JAMstackconf.com
0:34 Kelly’s backstory
1:35 What made you transition from freelancing to business owner?
2:39 How did you find your first clients?
4:23 How did you get into Shopify and the e-commerce space?
5:51 Do you think it’s important to have a specialization?
6:39 What’s the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone who’s afraid of starting their own business?
8:54 What’s the biggest thing you don’t like about running a business?
10:10 What are the different types of businesses you can establish?
12:04 Sole proprietorship or LLC?
13:08 What’s the biggest thing you wish you knew before starting a business?
13:58 Do you still get to write code?
14:32 How many hours a week do you work?
16:36 Do you always want to run your own business?
17:35 Can you explain the origin of The Taproom?
20:15 Do you have employees? If so, how did you hire them?
23:04 How do payroll and taxes work?
24:01 How do you foster healthy relationships with remote workers?
25:01 How much revenue do you take vs. re-investing?
28:10 What books do you recommend for those wanting to learn more about business?
30:17 What’s the hardest part about being a manager?
32:16 What does being a Shopify Plus Partner mean?
- Mitchell Pomery - Spoke at my first ever Meetup and got invited to speak at another one!
- Emma - Wrote my second blog in the Design Systems series
- Lindsey - This was one hell of a week for me, and I got through it with self kindness.
- Kelly - I successfully built out my first headless commerce solution
- Ali - Started #jokes on DEV
- Roam Innovation Workplace
- The Taproom
- Company Of One
- Profit First
- The Effective Manager
- Manager Tools Podcast
- Dev Jokes
Help us out
Emma [0:00] Today we’re doing a deep dive about entrepreneurship with our in house business owner Kelly, we’re going to ask Kelly about all the things that we’re curious about. And that kind of scare us about entrepreneurship. Everyone can benefit from thinking entrepreneurial, even people who don’t want to start their own business. So let’s get started.
Kelly [0:21] Welcome to the Ladybug podcast. I’m Kelly.
Ali [0:23] I’m Ali.
Emma [0:24] I’m Emma.
Lindsey [0:25] And I’m Lindsey, and we’re debugging the tech industry.
Kelly [0:33] Sanity.io is a platform for structured content that comes with an open source editor that you can customize with React. Sanity.io also comes with tooling that lets you build with structured content in React, Vue, and other frontend technologies like Svelte. It also has powerful APIs for reading and writing so that you can use the same content across any device, channel, or product. You also get powerful APIs for querying your content, you can even listen for changes in real-time, and use the write APIs to patch and make new documents from code. You can get started for free on the standard plan, and add a credit card to pay as you go for usage over the generous standard quotas. If you need advanced features like SSL and Single-Sign-On you can find all the prices and details on Sanity.io’s fully transparent pricing page. Listeners of the Ladybug Podcast get a extra special plan with double the usage. Go to sanity.io/ladybug or use “ladybug” where you fill in the coupon code.
Lindsey [1:23] So Kelly, I’m going to start with the first question. And that’s why did you get started freelancing.
Kelly [1:30] So let me give you a little bit of back history here. I taught myself to code when I was 11. And I took on my first freelance client when I was 14 years old. So the why I started freelancing started because my dad’s friend needed a website, and I’m the only person who knew how to build websites. So all that started, I got paid a t-shirt, and I still have the T shirt, it is not fit me, it’s my dad size. And now I I continue to freelance through high school and through undergrad and through grad school. And that’s the real reason why I started freelancing is because college is expensive. And I needed money to pay for my tuition and my living expenses and all that good stuff. So I started freelancing during college for that reason. And then I started freelancing full time in 2015, once my husband and I got married, and I can get on his health insurance, because I did not want to work for anybody but myself.
Ali [2:31] That’s super, super cool. So what made you decide to transition from freelancing to business owner?
Kelly [2:38] So I actually did not originally want to start an agency, I wanted to just do this full time freelance thing. And it’s kind of funny, I think back in 2016, MailChimp did an interview with me about it. And in the interview, I said, I like having this hybrid model of just working working with other freelancers. And I didn’t want to form like an actual agency, I felt it’d just be overkill. And it’s kind of funny, like maybe a month or two after that, I completely changed my mind. I found myself hitting a wall on the size of clients I could bring on with just being myself, especially when I wanted to work with larger businesses. But it sounded like being Kelly Vaughn creative, that I was just a one woman show, even though I had other people doing the design or SEO or content strategy, whatever it might be. So that’s why I made the switch from freelancing to actually starting the agency, because I wanted to form an actual team and sound like a more of a legitimate company.
Emma [3:35] That’s awesome. So once you got this established, like, how do you actually find your first clients?
Kelly [3:41] I found my first clients on Twitter, actually. So social media is a really great resource for getting your first clients. I was following a friend of mine who was already freelancing. And he’s like, hey, I have too much work. Does anybody want to take on some freelance projects, and I’m like me, please, I’m poor. And so we connected and it’s actually how I started really getting a lot more clients. And the hardest one, the hardest client to get is your first client. So once you’re past that hurdle, and you have some some work in your portfolio from actual paid clients, and you have a testimonial, then things just kind of take off from there.
Lindsey [4:23] Interesting. Yeah. I think that’s super cool to with, like, how you think about word of mouth and just connections and networking and being like, something I heard is a lot of freelance works comes from people who just can’t handle their freelance workload. Absolutely. Hey, friends, can you take on some of my work? Because I’m drowning right now. But a blog, that shared work mindset of freelancers, I didn’t even really think about that.
Kelly [4:49] It’s a very important part of it, actually. Because you know, now we’re in such like a specific niche of what we do. We do get requests for other other websites, like maybe it’s on WordPress, or maybe it’s just a static site. And we don’t do that work anymore. We focus only on Shopify. So having a network of freelancers or other small businesses, that I can refer the word out to potential clients is happy because they now have somebody else they can go to from another reputable source. And obviously, the freelancer or small business is happy because they have new work coming in.
Lindsey [4:23] Yeah. So you said you were focusing on Shopify? And of course, we all know that we, we know that you focus on Shopify, but how did you get into Shopify and the e-commerce space? Like what made you decide to focus on that?
Kelly [5:32] So this was back in 2014. And it’s it’s that same person who actually reached out on Twitter saying I have overflow work helped me was giving me my first project on Shopify. So that was my first kind of foray into it. And Shopify, it’s obviously evolved a lot since 2014. But I immediately love just the structure of building a Shopify theme and how all the template files raw separate in a really, really readable format. And liquid was really easy to learn real fast. Liquid is a Ruby-based language that Shopify uses to, you know, communicate with their back end to pull in the products and the collections and all that good stuff. So I started with Shopify because of that same person. And I just continue to try to find more Shopify projects because of that. And at that point, I was focusing about half my time on Shopify, and half my time on WordPress, which those are like two separate brains, like it’s really difficult going back and forth, like I start popping PHP into Shopify themes, and it would yell at me. And so finally, I decided to just completely cut out WordPress altogether and put all my eggs in the Shopify basket.
Ali [6:47] So Shopify is a pretty specialized niche. Do you think that it’s important to have that type of specialization?
Kelly [6:56] I think it definitely adds a benefit for you to specialize in something. You know, there are a lot of freelancers and a lot of different agencies out there and having having your specific specialty, it sets you apart from everybody else. So in our case, we can be like, Well, sure, I mean, we could probably build a WordPress site. But there’s somebody else out there who can probably do it better than we do, because that’s not our focus. But if you want a Shopify store, you are covered, you’re really good hands with us. So it you know, it sets you apart from from your competition, since there are a lot of freelancers and a lot of agencies out there trying to go for go after the same clients.
Emma [7:35] Yeah, that’s awesome. I have always wanted to start my own business. But I’ve been like, absolutely terrified to do so. So what would you like, what’s the biggest piece of advice that you would give to someone who’s afraid of starting their own business because they’re not necessarily like business minded.
Kelly [7:51] So I am not business minded, I had something I’ve I’ve had to learn and make mistakes over time, and just kind of figure it out as I go. And that’s actually one of my favorite shirts that I have. It literally just says, like, making it up as I go. So you ever seen me speak at a conference on freelancing, I’m probably wearing that shirt, because it’s the my, my whole vibe there. But the advice that I’d give somebody is, find another person who has already done it before, find yourself a mentor, who you can, you know, bounce questions off of, and they probably made this, they made a bunch of mistakes before and they’ve learned from it. And there’s no reason why you need to make those same mistakes. I have a second thing to mention here. As far as advice goes, learn to delegate, you do not need to do every single part of your own business. One of the most important people that I connected with was finding a CPA, I’m really big into like retirement and, you know, savings and budgeting. But when it comes to taxes, like I, my husband used to do his own taxes. And as soon as we got married, and I started this business, our tax form ended up being I think our last tax return, I think was like 90 pages long. So I no longer do my own taxes. And you know, finding a CPA was very, very important.
Lindsey [9:11] It’s so interesting, too, because like those two things are probably the hardest thing I would have to do is like I’m so used to doing things myself. So delegation would be really tough. And you know, also I feel like there’s just this random gate keeping of the business or not even gate keeping, but like internalize gate keeping up, like, I’m not business minded, when I think really the biggest thing that matters that you don’t make up as you go along is your passion for whatever that is. And being ethical, quite frankly, is like, you know, when you’re when you’re small, like getting returned clients and treating them? Well, it’s probably the best source of business. So
Kelly [9:49] absolutely.
Lindsey [9:50] So this is kind of a negative question. But what’s the biggest thing you don’t like about running a business,
Kelly [9:56] it can be very lonely at times, you know, especially when you’re the business owner, and you have a team of people working for you. They’re working for you. It’s not like you’re on equal footing as as co workers. And so there are things that you’re going to deal with in a business that you cannot talk to your own team about; things that they should, they don’t need to know. And you know, when you don’t have somebody like sitting right there where you can always like vent to or like talk to talk through a frustration or an issue you’re currently having, how do you solve it, it can be very lonely and and that kind of goes back to you know, finding a mentor, finding somebody who you can bounce these ideas off of, I have my I have one mentor who she’s, she’s amazing. And she runs a business herself. And it’s way more successful than mine. And I can talk to her about literally anything, and she’s a complete open book. And there are so many other people in the agency space, especially with Shopify, who I can ask them, you know, how much are you paying your employees? It’s like, what benefits should I be offering my employees? And they will tell me, they’ll tell me everything that I need to know. And does those kinds of connections make your life a little bit less lonely?
Ali [11:06] Going off of those kind of technical sides or technical questions about starting a business, what are the different types of businesses you could make? And what are the differences between them?
Kelly [11:16] So the two primary ones are going to be a sole proprietorship, and a corporation and there are different types of corporations that you can have, you know, you can have a limited liability corporation, you can have like a true corporation like Microsoft. So the differences between them you know, sole proprietorship is like, I am my own person. I’m just freelancing. I’m not working with anybody else. I’m not really…maybe it’s like a side project. I’m not making a ton of money from it, but it’s still a business. When you get into the the LLC side of things, that’s when you’re starting to…formalize things you’re going to you know, you have to pay for an article and organization through a state that can be you know, anywhere between 100 and up to $400. Depending on what state you’re in, it can get really expensive, but in a way it legitimizes you know, what it is you’re doing. And the most important part of that is actually separates your business liabilities from your personal liabilities. So all your income, all your revenue from your business is going to pass right through to you. But if you were to get sued, for whatever reason, your personal assets are safe compared to what’s part of your business. So as soon as you start hitting a certain point where you’re, you’re making a good amount of money, that’s when you really should start looking into, you know, starting an LLC. And the processes is honestly pretty easy. And there are a lot of resources online to help you kind of walk through that process. I’ve set up three in my life now including our podcast, LLC.
Emma [12:47] Yeah, I need to have you help me with my my LLC, but like, why wouldn’t you just create an LLC? Like, why would I even do a sole proprietorship? Like let’s say, like, I get sued?
Kelly [12:58] Like, what, what is the benefit of having an LLC?
Emma [13:00] No no like, why would I not just do an LLC? Like, what are the benefits of sole proprietorship? Like if I get sued as a sole proprietor like I’m responsible, right? So why would I even go that route?
Kelly [13:12] I would say not every project really warrants having an LLC, especially if you’re not really making money from it, if it’s just a project where you, you know, you just have some kind of small business, maybe it’s like an Etsy store, you’re not really making a lot from it, it’s more of a hobby, it’s mean, you know, may be not actually necessary to form that. That LLC. And the other thing about having a sole proprietorship, when you are just starting out is an LLC, obviously, as I said, you know, just the startup costs is anywhere between 100 and $400. And you have to pay an annual fee as well on top of that, and your tax situation gets a lot more complicated as well, there are additional tax forms that you’ll be required to fill out to. And you know, just a side note this, this might be obvious, but I’m only speaking on the the US standpoint, as far as our tax code goes, and what’s required, you know, your country probably has different requirements.
Emma [14:04] Yeah, absolutely. What’s like the biggest thing that you wish you knew, before you started a business?
Kelly [14:09] You should have a plan in place before you get going and make sure it’s kind of double sided on that though, you should have a plan in place. And that you know, where you want to go with the business and what’s going to be required of you to do that, you know, making your your list of everything you’ll need to set up like your, your EIN, which is your your tax ID. So you’re not having to give your social security number to a bunch of different people that you don’t know, and forming the LLC and making sure you know what you’re doing as far as your website goes and listing out all of the expenses that you’re going to have as parent as far as your operating costs go. But at the same time, leave some wiggle room in that plan, because things are inevitably going to change. Your focus might shift, you know, you have to be open to adjusting that plan on the go.
Ali [14:54] One question I think a lot of people have is that when you found a business, do you still get to write code?
Kelly [15:01] It’s honestly a personal preference. I know some agency owners, some business owners who started coding and as their business grew, they’re like, I don’t want to code anymore. I just want to focus on the business operations. And then you have people like me, and I’m like, I will delegate the stuff that I don’t want to do anymore. But if there’s like a project with a specific client is like, yes, this sounds really fun, I’m absolutely going to be the one who actually codes.
Lindsey [15:28] That’s awesome. I love that you still get to code because you know, sometimes, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, if you don’t want to continue to code. But being able to still nourish that side passion of coding is still really important to a lot of us. So speaking of code and side projects, and all that stuff, how many hours you work per week?
Kelly [15:51] That is a very good question. I work probably more hours than the average person, I don’t actually have a number to it. Because honestly, I never really disconnect from my business. I you know, I try as hard as I can, when I go on vacation to not check my emails, or, you know, let my team kind of figure things out as they go. But the reality is, this is my lifeblood. And I am really, really proud of this business that I’ve built up so far. And I don’t want it to fail. And so I will go to bed thinking about something business related, I will wake up in the morning and think about something business related. So even though I may not be like clocking in a certain number of hours per week, like 30, 40, 50, 60, I am always thinking about my business. But I will say there is a nice perk to being the business owner. And that that is if you are not having a good day, you can just go home and take a bath and drink wine and think of something else.
Lindsey [16:50] I think it’s a it’s really cool to think about that though. And something I think about when it in terms of balance and self care. And all that is not so much the amount of work you put in per week, but your active choosing to do things. So actively choosing to put time into something or actively choosing to go home and take a bath like for me self care and balance is way more about that then the number of hours you work, you know. So I think that’s super fascinating to me, because a lot of business owners do work a lot. But a lot of times they still there’s a good amount of them that still have plenty of time for their families and whatnot. But yeah, so I think it is really cool.
Emma [17:32] Awesome. So I am curious, like, do you always want to run your own business? Is this something that you see yourself doing long term? Or would you ever like if you got an offer from like a huge company or like a company that you’ve always admired, would you go work for them?
Kelly [17:46] I honestly don’t know if I could. So to give you a little a little additional background. So I finished grad school in December 2014. And I got my master’s in public health and masters in social work at the same time. And I ended up getting a fellowship at CDC. I was the only applicant because they were looking for somebody who had their master’s in public health who could also code and surprise it turns out that those are not two commonly found skills together. And that is the closest I’ve ever had to like a real full time job. And I lasted nine months. So I don’t know if I could actually go and work full time for another company because it would just be such a change in my life.
Emma [18:31] Could you also quickly explain, like you’ve said on on other episodes, like the origin story behind the name, the Taproom Agency, but also like, can you give us like a spark notes edition of your company? And and all of that,
Kelly [18:44] Like what we do? What the name of it?
Emma [18:47] Both.
Kelly [18:48] Okay, so here’s my little elevator pitch. So the Taproom is a full service marketing agency specializing in Shopify, where we work with small and mid-sized businesses, usually their annual revenue ranges somewhere between 1 million up to 10 million. And because we’re full service, we do everything from design to development, SEO, digital marketing, content strategy, you name it, we probably have somebody who does that. One thing that really differentiates our team from others is that we are a team of nine women and one man. And it didn’t actually… like that that was not an intentional path. But it has actually been a really great benefit for us. Because we we tend to specialize in lifestyle, apparel, gifts, home goods, those kinds of verticals, because we are the target customer. So we know very well how to market to ourselves, which end times could be really bad because the clients will give me money, and then I’ll give it right back to them.
Emma [19:47] And where did you get the name from? Because you’ve mentioned before that wasn’t it the domain taken by like a brewery or something?
Kelly [19:54] So it was not in use. It was it was somebody squatting the domain. So I came up with a name The Taproom when I was sitting at a Mikkeller bar and Copenhagen because all good ideas come from drinking.
Lindsey [20:07] Oh my God, I love that. By the way. I was I was at that same bar, by the way, when I was just reading, it’s so great. Sorry. No, that’s not relevant. But oh my God.
Emma [20:17] Good ideas come but poor decisions are made.
Kelly [20:21] So we, you know, I was sitting with my husband, and we were talking through it. And we decided, you know, when you were at a brewery tap room, it’s you know, people are just having a good time, this usually an exchange of ideas. As we said, a lot of great ideas come from drinking. And we just, you know, I like the idea. We’re also if you visit our website and go down to the bottom, there’s like a little beer icon because obviously we’re called Taproom. And you know, we we were crafting custom solutions at the time. So we went all out on going with a chat room name it since evolve. But we were so The Taproom. And it’s actually one of the things that we get a lot of compliments about is like, your name is so cool. And I’m like thank you. I paid $2,000 for the domain name.
Kelly [21:04] Before we continue on, we want to give a quick shoutout to a couple of our sponsors.
Have you taken time off from your career as a software developer? Get back into it with Welcome Back by Shopify. If you’ve taken extended leave for sickness, parental, or personal reasons, Welcome Back by Shopify will help you re-enter the tech industry with confidence. Refresh your software development skills and get hands-on training with this immersive, 3-month paid program…built by Shopify’s Engineering team. Welcome Back also rebuilds context gathering, cross-team communication, and problem identification muscles to help developers reenter the workforce at a senior level. This program is available in Shopify’s Ottawa and Toronto offices but if you’re interested in visiting Canada and coding, be sure to apply! Who knows, maybe you’ll unlock a new career in a new country! Experienced software developers can apply before September 13th by searching Shopify Welcome Back or visiting Shopify dot com slash careers.
Lindsey [21:57] This week’s episode of the Ladybug Podcast is brought to you by the Jamstack Conference, happening Oct 16-18 in San Francisco. So what’s the JAMstack? Chris Coyier got to the heart of it when he said the explosion of new APIs and tools are providing front end developers with full stack superpowers. We call this new approach the JAMstack.
Hear from Chris, Mandy Michael, Katie Sylor-Miller and more at this two-day event covering topics from web performance to static site generators to modern build tools and workflows. On day three you’ll have the option join hands-on workshops about serverless functions, front end adventures and more.
Podcast listeners can save 10% using the discount code “ladybug” when you sign up. You are also encouraged to apply for a diversity scholarship by August 23rd. Hurry—the last two JAMstack events sold out. All the details are at JAMstackconf.com
Ali [22:46] So your business has definitely grown. Do you have employees? And if so how do you hire them?
Kelly [22:53] Yeah, so we have at this moment, we have two full time employees and seven contractors. So I spend a lot of time on on both sides. So the hiring process for finding full time employees has also just been a lot of trial and error. Both of our full time employees are based here in Atlanta. So I hired locally I interviewed locally. However, the full time developer position that I posted back in November last year was actually a remote position. And we just happened to have a local applicant. And that’s how it ended up being the deciding factor. I’m like, oh, it actually be kind of cool to have somebody local working with me because I never see people. Okay, I see people I work out of a co working space. It’s called Roam innovative workplace, it is amazing. And if you’re in the Atlanta area, you should consider joining, it’s a free plug to my favorite co working space. And as far as the the hiring process, so there are a number of things that I would recommend doing. First off, if you’ve never hired a full time employee before it, consider a contract to hire situation first. So do like a three month trial as a contractor and then switch over to being a full time employee, because you’re learning as you go how to work with another employee. And chances are they’re also learning about your company, and it’s a good fit for them as well. So it gives you It gives you an easy out. And it gives them an easy out if it’s just not a good fit. The other thing is there a lot of legalities that come with hiring a full time employee versus using a contractor. When you’re using contractors, you tend to you know, you can hire anybody just work out of their, their own home in their own country, it doesn’t really matter. You just have to pay them at some point. But when you have when you hire, you know, actual real life employees, there are a lot of employee documentation and legal forms that need to be printed out. And I never imagined having an employee handbook, but it is 40 pages long. And it’s it exists. And I’ve used it as well to be like, hey, you’re not abiding by our, you know, our requirements, our policies, if you break these policies, you’re going to lose your job. And you know, it’s good having those kinds of materials available to you. And also when you have employees, you have to run payroll, which is a whole lot of fun. But there are tools out there that there are services that lets you know, they’ll run payroll for you, you just dump in what amounts they need to have that time. And they’ll often let you pay contracts with contractors through the same system as well. So I personally use Gusto for this.
Emma [25:35] Oh, that’s cool. Do they also like how do they automatically deduct, like a specific amount of taxes? Or is that something you used to do?
Kelly [25:42] They do it for you.
Emma [25:43] Oh, that’s awesome.
Kelly [25:44] So they choose when they’re when your employees are setting up their account, they’re going to you know, when you start a new job, you have to fill out that that form, it says, how many deductions do you want to include? They fill that out. And then Gusto will actually automatically calculate what it is that needs to be withheld both on the employee side and the employee in Gusto automatically will calculate what needs to be withheld both on the employee side and the employer side. So you just press a few buttons, and then the money disappears from your bank accounts.
Emma [26:14] The best part!
Kelly [26:16] It’s really fun, because, you know, I obviously have a bunch of business bank accounts, I have my personal bank accounts, and they’re both with the same bank. And I’ll see the money disappear from the business account, and then two days later up here back into one of my other account.
Lindsey [26:32] Very cool. So you, you said you had a couple of you have two full time employees and the others are contractors. And my assumption is that contractors are remote. Is that a correct assumption? Okay, so how would you help foster healthy relationships with those remote workers and your remote contractors?
Kelly [26:53] The most important thing when you’re working with remote workers is have that line of communication open and be as transparent as possible with them, if they have an issue, they need to be able to feel comfortable to come to you about that and not worry about, you know, there was a work status or whatever it might be. So having that open line of communication is key. We use, we use Slack to talk about, you know, our projects, and also random stuff and being able to have the random conversations that others would have at a water cooler, or whatever it might be in an office environment, it’s helpful to kind of build up that that healthy relationship ship as well.
Emma [27:31] Awesome. So I have a spicy question, series of questions. Because I think, you know, the whole idea of being a business owner sounds glamorous, you get to work for yourself, like you get to reap the benefits of all the money and all that stuff. So as you gain more revenue, as your business makes money, how do you decide what to do with it? So like, how much…how do you decide like how much you should make a year versus like reinvesting in your business? And how long did it take you to see profit.
Kelly [27:57] So the cool thing about going from freelancing to starting an agency is I already had low overhead costs. So I was able to keep that low, I was making more money. And as a result, we have always been a profitable business. Which is really, really great. So as far as figuring out how much of a cut I need to take, there are certain legal requirements for how much you need to pay yourself. So there is something called an S corp, which is basically as an LLC, your taxed an S corp, so in that case, I am an employee of my own company, and I have to run payroll for myself, versus just pulling money from the bank account and depositing into my personal one. And there are there are requirements around how much you pay yourself based on a fair wage compared to other no other businesses. So you know, if your company is making $200,000 a year, you can’t say I want to pay myself $1 and then take the rest as a distribution. And the thing with distributions when you’re an S corp is you basically pay half the taxes on them. And that’s why they have these rules in place. So you can’t game the system. So deciding how much to take a cut of it versus reinvesting in your business, I think really depends on your long term growth and your long term goals as well. Do you plan on continuing to scale your business? Or do you plan on selling it or stopping it after you know two years and focusing on something new, so obviously, the more you can reinvest into your business, the better. And also, the more money that’s in your bank account at the end of the year means you pay less in taxes, because you did not pay it to yourself.
Lindsey [29:34] Oh, that’s true. That’s super fascinating to I didn’t actually know that you are required to pay yourself a certain amount.
Kelly [29:41] So our yeah, and I don’t remember the actual, the actual numbers around it. But it’s also I had to change how much I pay myself over time as well to to keep up with the growth of our company.
Lindsey [29:54] That’s that’s pretty cool, though, because I think it’s really tempting when, like, I’ve heard this with founders and startups and stuff, it’s like, you know, sometimes the founders make a lot less than then their employees because they have higher equity or something. So they’re technically not really making that much. So it’s kind of interesting to even hear about how that kind of balances out and I’m sure it’s a different world, then then The Taproom, but it’s still, this is critical…
Kelly [30:20] It is kinda fun though, getting to decide what your salary is because I was on vacation in Puerto Rico. I was, you know, sitting in a bar, with my husband and I was like, I give myself a raise. And then I just went into Gusto. And I changed how much I was paying myself. And that was it. It was the easiest process ever. I didn’t have to convince anybody except myself.
Lindsey [30:40] That was pretty, that’s pretty cool. Just like educational question like, are there any good business books that you’ve read, that you’d recommend for people who are interested in starting a business or are interested in learning more about starting a business?
Kelly [30:54] Yes, so I have two in particular that I recommend. The first one is called Company Of One, it’s by Paul Jarvis. It is basically about staying small and not expanding to a really large company and why it can actually be a really great thing for your business, you know, people have this idea that my what I need to do is I need to keep on hiring if I want to continue to grow and hire more and more and more people. Oh, we have a new project coming in better hire another person. And when the reality with having a business is you’re going to have ebbs and flows in your in your income and your revenue. And you can’t count on always having the same amount every month, which means if you over hire, you’re going to have to fire. And that is always not a fun situation. Not that I’ve ever experienced that, thankfully, but from what I’ve heard it, you don’t want to you don’t want to do that. So Company Of One talks about, you know why you can have a very fulfilling business and fulfilling career without just continuing to grow and scale your team. The second book I recommend is called Profit First, and it is by Mike McCallum. And it is about how to structure your business financially. So you’re immediately starting to make a profit, you’re already setting aside money, a certain percentage of every payment that comes in. So you know, at the end of the day, at the end of the month, at the end of the quarter, whatever it might be, you’re always going to have that money set aside. And you know, it talks about if you’re familiar with, you know, the the different ways that you can save in like certain buckets, it kind of follows that same format. So you’re going to have your money in account, you’re going to have your expenses, your employee payroll, your tax savings accounts, and you just all these different accounts where as soon as the money comes in, I know X percent goes into this one, I know X percent goes into this one in every month, like every dollar you earn has a home. And it’s a really great way to structure your business from from the beginning. So you know what’s happening with your finances?
Emma [32:48] Awesome. So another spicy question, because I just cannot help myself. So you have you know, formal training in psychology and, and this, I assume, must have helped you a lot and being a manager and but what is the hardest part in your opinion of being a manager?
Kelly [33:04] The hardest part for me is knowing when to manage, and when to be a friend. And especially, you’ll see this a lot in not even running a business, if you are in a company and you move up from being on a team to now managing the team, that your coworkers are now direct reports and you are responsible for their job. So you you know, you can call the shots and it becomes a difficult balance to be like, What can I tell you? And how should I? How should I say it to you? And what do I need to keep to myself and having these difficult conversations with, with your employees and with your contractors, if something is not going right, it can be so difficult. But thankfully, on the same topic of books, there are a ton of resources on how to be a good manager. And one in particular that I really like is called Manager Tools. That might actually be the name of the website and not the book. But it is a podcast. Oh, it’s the book is called The Effective Manager. It’s by like a company called manager tools. So the book is great. They also have a podcast that’s free to listen to, you can learn so much about being a manager. And this has been really, really helpful for me, in particular, and thankfully, my husband was moving up into you know, becoming a manager at the same time that I was growing my team. And he’s really big on reading these books. So he read something important. He just like hand the book to me, we like Kelly read this paragraph that was always really helpful to having somebody else to you know, bounce these ideas off up to
Emma [34:39] Nobody wants to be the Michael Scott.
Kelly [34:41] So I don’t know, it could be kind of fun.
Ali [34:46] So you recently you had a big accomplishment, you became a spot Shopify plus partner. What does that mean?
Kelly [34:55] Yeah, so Shopify plus is the enterprise solution for Shopify, it’s it’s you know, your, your larger business, you have more requirements. As far as the everyday operations go for your company. And with being on Shopify Plus, you get a lot of you get access to a lot of really useful tools, such as, you know, being able to automate certain processes that normally you would have to do manually. Or you can have Shopify scripts, which will automatically apply discounts are rearrange our shipping rates or change what products are in your cart, all kinds of really cool things that only Shopify Plus merchants get. So being a Shopify Plus Partner means that these are the merchants that we get to focus on. And it’s a very small group of of agencies that are Shopify Plus Partners. So I was considered a Shopify Plus Solutions Partner, we are an agency that’s not, you know, gigantic. And we also don’t do apps. So there’s shopper plus agency, partner solutions partner, and then tech partner. And there are I think there are 47 or 48, Shopify plus solutions partners in the United States. So to you know, put some frame of reference over, you know, how how small this group is, I think there may be three or four in the southeast, and we are the only plus partner Atlanta.
Emma [36:13] That’s amazing.
Kelly [36:14] We’re really excited to you know, we’ve been working with these merchants for a while, but there are requirements that you need to hit to become a plus partner. And we finally, you know, hit that and I found out where a plus partner at the at Shopify Unite, which is the big partner conference, and it made it made my life.
Lindsey [36:33] Super, super cool. Super cool. Thank you so much for sharing all that with us. It’s been really fun, like getting to know a little bit more of a deeper side of the Shopify experience, the entrepreneurship experience. And yeah, so thanks so much, Kelly, for answering all those questions.
Kelly [36:49] Yeah, absolutely. And I will say, for anybody who’s listening, if you have additional questions, just send me a DM on Twitter. And I will tried my best to remember to reply.
Lindsey [37:00] That’s awesome. So now we’re going to transition into wins. So first, we’re going to speak about our listener win. So Mitchell got his first ever meet up speaking opportunity and got invited to speak at another one because it went well. So that’s awesome. Congratulations, Mitchell. So Emma, what about you? What’s your one this week,
Emma [37:19] I started a series for design systems on my blog. And I published my second one, and they both got excellent reception. So that was really cool to see that it seems like people are really interested in design systems. And there’s not too much literature out there. So that was really validating. What about you, Kelly?
Kelly [37:38] So I recently, in lieu of I think last week, I said that we I built my first online store for myself, I took that as an opportunity to build up my first headless commerce solutions. So everything that you see from a Shopify store standpoint is actually on a Gatsby site. So I separated the whole concept of headless is separating the the front end from the back end. If you want to know more about that I have a ton of things that I’ve written up about it. I’m not going to go super into detail about it. But I successfully built on my first one, and I’m very excited about it. Lindsey?
Lindsey [38:11] So yeah, my win today is more of a mental health win. It’s been one heck of a week for me very, very stressful mental health wise. But I got through with kindness, I was able to take steps back and you know, just evaluate the situation. And, you know, it shows how much I’ve grown in as a person in the past few years. And I’m just really proud of that. So another mental health win this week. So, Ali, what about you?
Ali [38:38] So mine’s a funny one. But I started the jokes tag on Dev so people can share the funny things that they’re thinking and posting about and Kelly’s actually a mod, so I am
Lindsey [38:51] Very fitting.
Kelly [38:53] I’m really enjoying it personally. So keep on posting on there.
Ali [38:56] Yeah, super fun. like to see your jokes.
Lindsey [39:00] Before we conclude today, we want to give one last shout out to our sponsors: Sanity, Shopify, and JAMStackConf. Sponsors allow us to continue giving you this show for free, while showcasing some incredible technologies and opportunities. Thank you again to our sponsors.
Ali [39:15] So if you liked this week’s episode, go ahead and tweet about it. We’ll select one person who tweeted about the episode to win Ladybug stickers. They’re super cute. So you definitely want one and we post new podcasts every Monday. So make sure that you’re subscribed on your podcast provider of choice to be notified and also leave a review. We like reading them. They’re nice. So have a great week, everybody. See you next Monday.