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A sportswear side hustler-turned e-commerce entrepreneur on £22k

Money Matters

A sportswear side hustler-turned e-commerce entrepreneur on £22k

Welcome to The Money Diaries with Sage, where we dive into the finances of business owners and discover how they deal with money matters on a daily basis.

We’re asking entrepreneurs how they’re managing their finances over a seven-day period, to give you a picture of what incomes and outgoings really look like from their perspective. 

Today is the turn of a sportswear side hustler-turned e-commerce entrepreneur.

And make sure you check out Reader’s Response at the end of this article, where accountant and best-selling author Carl Reader reveals his thoughts and shares some top tips for our entrepreneur.

Here’s what we cover in this article:

Meet our entrepreneur and check out their Money Diary

Final thoughts on the week

Reader’s Response

Meet our entrepreneur and check out their Money Diary

Industry: Online retail (sportswear).

How long you have been an entrepreneur? Three years.

Day job: The business started as a side hustle around my full-time job as account manager in a graphic design studio. It has been my full time job since October 2020.

Location: South Wales

Salary: £22,000

Household: I live with my husband, two daughters, two cats, a dog and two rats. It’s a happy, crazy zoo.

Money Diaries day 1

Day 1 – Monday

Opening balance at the start of the week: £2,439.88

OK, so not the most productive start to the week but a very important one none the less.

As well as being a business owner, I’m also a mum and today our youngest was heading off on a residential trip with school.

Most of the morning was spent finishing her packing and popping to the supermarket to get enough treats and snacks to feed the whole dorm room.

She is one of the main reasons I work for myself.

Two months ago, after a seven-ish-year journey, we finally got her diagnosis for autism, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and mild ODD (oppositional defiant disorder).

She’s a superstar and a brilliant kid who makes me laugh every day.

But some days are harder.

When I worked full time, she had to go to breakfast and after school club, and she didn’t cope very well with that.

When the business started, I had hope that by the time she made it to high school I will have built it up enough for me to work from home.

And that’s where we are now, two years later!

Kiddo was dropped off at school with a fully packed suitcase at 11am… time to start work. I’ve been feeling ill all weekend and I’m never ill.

There’s no time for that, so I took a few hours to catch up on admin and figure out a plan for the week.

I needed to escape the house to avoid the distractions of the washing machine and the dishes in the sink, so my canine assistant and I packed up the laptop and headed to a local café to get things done.

It’s next to a car park where you can park for free for three hours, and I’d rather spend my pennies at independent cafes rather than the mighty Starbucks and Costas of this world.

This café is geared up for daytime workers and is dog friendly—win win.

Three hours well-spent ploughing through emails and a to do list which looked like this:

  • Chat to one supplier about an issue
  • Collate invoices to send to accountant ready for our end of year
  • Activate outstanding listings on new website (we’ve just switched from Squarespace to Shopify and its all been done in house by our web team… me)
  • Check in on production progress with our leggings manufacturer
  • Reply to customer emails/social media messages
  • Email companies to confirm giveaway collabs
  • Plan social media content for December
  • Also – new thing for the business: make contact with with buyers at independent retailers to talk about us going wholesale.

Worked slightly into the evening on the sofa sorting a few more things out on social media. I really enjoy having so much flexibility that I can work when and where I need to.

Incoming:

Online sales: £167.10 (7 orders)

Outgoing:

Badges order for stock: £5.36

Tea, Diet Coke and two Welsh cakes in the café: £6.70

Total in: £167.10

Total out: £12.06

Money Diaries day 2

Day 2 – Tuesday

Tuesday morning and full steam ahead.

I’m lucky enough to have a few friends who work for themselves and I think watching them do it over the years helped give me the confidence to go it alone.

Nat is one such friend and every now and then we meet for coffee. I say coffee, but it’s more of a business power hour.

We both miss having the accountability of meetings with colleagues that activated action points for the upcoming week, so we have these catch ups to do just this.

It’s someone to go over ideas with and put plans in place, chat about barriers, and figure out how to overcome them.

Today we were chatting about growth plans for 2022 for both our businesses.

One objective I have is to bring production of some of our apparel in-house as this will greatly improve our profit margin and open up the opportunity for us to look more seriously at wholesale.

It would also increase our efficiency since stock could be made to order and we would never be sitting on stock for longer than necessary.

All in all, a really important step forward for the business.

I left the coffee/meeting fired up with a plan in place to get these wheels in motion.

From there, I went to visit a supplier to discuss a printing issue and drop off stock, then headed back to the home office to pack orders.

Seventeen orders packed and all dropped off at the post office.

We use Royal Mail Click and Drop, which is super helpful.

There was a crazy time when we first started that everything was written by hand and done manually, and I would cause big queues in the post office.

After a few emails and some admin, I checked our new Christmas hoodies and tees and created the listings on the website so they’re ready to go.

I also spent some time promoting the new stock—everything is promoted on social media in the evening, when most people are online. We also send an email shot through Mailchimp.

I spent the evening designing a new medal for a virtual challenge we’re running for our customers this year, then contacted a supplier to get the ball rolling.

One of my favourite things about our new website is that whenever we make a sale, my phone makes a ‘kerching’ sound and everytime I hear it I get a huge smile on my face.

8.45pm – I’m clocking off to watch You on Netflix.

The Money Diaries with Sage

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Incoming:

Online sales: £423.74 (14 orders)

Outgoings:

Top up stock with embroidery supplier: £447.63

Coffee & Diet Cokes in the café: £11.80

Petrol: £20.00

Postage: £59.70

Total in: £423.74

Total out: £539.13

Money Diaries day 3

Day 3 – Wednesday

One of the things I’m trying to build into the business is flexibility as I spent too many years working for rigid companies who believed the world should work a certain way.

Once a week (or more if I can), I take my nana out—she’s 88 and an incredible woman.

She’s actually my husband’s grandmother but I’ve been lucky enough to call her mine for the past 18 years.

Anyway, this week I took her to the shops and it was a lovely sunny day.

She got a few bits that she needed, I bought a couple of bits I didn’t need (seriously need to stop buying books…) and we went for lunch in a cute little independent café where the staff were so wonderful and friendly.

I love being able to have time like this in my ‘working week’ as family is so important.

Hopefully one day when I have a team of staff, I’ll be much nicer than the people I used to work for. They will never miss their daughter as Mary in the Nativity like I did.

Time to head home and back to the office, and it’s straight to answering emails and packing up all the new customer orders.

We have an office at the end of the garden that we got in the first lockdown. Until then, the business had been run from my kitchen and the boxes of stock were starting to take over.

We’re fortunate in that being an online retail business, lockdowns had a positive effect on us rather than negative, so being in a position to buy an office was incredible and a huge step forward for the efficiency of the business.

Even though at the time I still had every intention of returning to my full-time job when furlough was over.

So, orders packed and taken to the post office.

A couple are being packaged and sent differently as Christmas is coming and a few gentlemen have asked me to remove any external branding to keep Christmas presents a surprise, which is a lovely thought and I’m always happy to help when I can.

Finally, an evening out with my teenager to another small local business—an independent cinema who were doing a clothes swap event.

I managed to get two vintage dresses from the 1960s—just beautiful.

Incoming:

Online orders x 6: £294

Outgoings:

Postage: £52.68

Total in: £294

Total out: £52.68

Money Diaries day 4

Day 4 – Thursday

Today has been a bit of a crazy day.

Last year, I was lucky enough to be selected for the #SmallBiz100 campaign that celebrates 100 top inspiring businesses in the UK ahead of Small Business Saturday in December.

This year the team are on tour, and today they are in Cardiff.

That means a Facebook Live interview at 10am before hopping on the train to Cardiff for an Instagram Live interview in the city centre.

It was great chatting to the team and such a cool opportunity to get our brand our there.

We spoke about small business and the story of how ours came about, and our plans for the future.

While out and about, I try to support small business whenever I can. If I stop for coffee at an independent café, I’ll share it on our Instagram Stories, post a few clips of lovely things spotted in independent shops, and so on.

Even if you don’t make a purchase, you can help in other ways.

Came home exhausted because I’m still not feeling 100% yet. It’s getting really annoying now, but I’ll carry on with a few emails and admin tasks.

I need to:

  • Chase suppliers
  • Chat to medal supplier to finalise details
  • Confirm orders sent
  • Check new online review software
  • Check eshot stats and social engagement.

Incoming:

Online orders: £175.25

Outgoings:

Parking: £5

Train ticket £10

Coffee and cake: £5.60

Total in: £175.25

Total out: £20.60

Money Diaries day 5

Day 5 – Friday

After my meeting with Nat on Monday—and after talking to my accountant—we decided to go ahead and bring some of the production in-house.

I was the only thing in my way, so why not?

That’s probably the biggest purchase today—a vinyl cutting machine and a heat press are on the way.

I’m really going to have to sort out the office and streamline the production area.

I think investing in things such as this is always a bit tricky.

It can feel like a frivolous spend but it’s important to remember that it’ll pay off in a big way long term. It’s another thing we can do to protect the future growth of the business.

The afternoon was spent prepping for a business mentor scheme I’ve applied for. It’s a project aimed at inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Incoming:

Online orders: £135

Outgoings:

£892

Total in: £135

Total out: £892

Money Diaries day 6

Day 6 – Saturday

Even though today is technically an day off, there’s always something to be done.

I found out that the review software we installed into the new website somehow synced orders from last May and has been auto-emailing the wrong people.

This meant I had to spend an hour chatting to tech support to try and get the issue resolved. It’s almost sorted now but I need to contact them again this week to confirm a few things.

I’ve also finalised our medal design for the annual challenge with our manufacturer in China.

It’s going to be beautiful and everyone signed up is really going to love them—I hope.

Incoming:

Online orders: £80.75 (four orders)

Outgoings:

£0

Total in: £80.75

Total out: £0

Money Diaries day 7

Day 7 – Sunday

What is usually a day off for most is not a day off for many self-employed people.

I haven’t worked ALL day but as with any other day of the week, I grab some time here and there to get things done and move the business forward.

Right now I’m in the living room with my youngest—she’s watching TV and I have the laptop out sorting out a few bits and pieces.

We’re launching our festive challenge today, which involves confirming the order with the supplier, uploading the challenge to our Shopify site, and getting the word out on all our social channels and via email.

My phone is merrily pinging away with sign ups and sales coming in.

One thing I find really helps over the weekend is to get a plan in place for the upcoming week, so I’ll do that before the day is up.

Incoming:

Online orders: £509

Outgoings:

£0

Total in: £509

Total out: £0

Closing finances

Closing balance at the end of the week: £2,708.35

Money coming in: £1,784.84

Money going out: £1,516.37

Final thoughts on the week

It’s been so interesting documenting the spending this week.

Looking at the month so far, it’s a much brighter picture than the snapshot of just this week and knowing we have invested substantially in equipment will mean profitability will increase in the future.

There are definitely good and bad things about running your own business.

Personally, the best part is being able to work around my family and life commitments.

This means that some weeks I work 25 hours, and other weeks I work 50, but it’s all on my terms so I’m OK with that.

The downside is that it’s just you, and you’re accountable for it all.

So if, like this week where I haven’t been feeling well (coronavirus test was negative—phew), there is no one to take over.

If things need to move along, you need to keep moving too. I could take a day off, but the wheels need to keep turning and the business needs to continue moving forward.

It’s exciting but its also scary—knowing that the business I run now pays my mortgage.

We try and keep outgoings to a minimum but the odd slice of cake is definitely an essential perk… oh and pretty notebooks, which I’m very surprised I didn’t buy this week for a change.

To any new business owner, my advice would be to be practical with your finances.

You often don’t need a premises or a rented office to get started. These things might make you feel more ‘official’, but the bottom line of your business might not have room for those things.

Having healthy cash flow is better than having what some see as the ‘image’ of success.

Reader’s Response

And to wrap up… what are Carl Reader’s thoughts on the financial habits of our e-commerce entrepreneur?

Check out the video below to find out…

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