Etsy + QuickBooks + ProAdvisor: Empowering Employees to Become Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs need a strong financial base to get from idea to end goal, which is why QuickBooks® and Etsy have partnered to invest in the success of Etsy sellers. We also know that businesses are more successful when working with an accounting professional, but investing in financial advice and guidance often seems out of reach.
At the 2016 Etsy Up Conference, we announced a new integration between the Etsy seller platform and QuickBooks Self-Employed, and also held a drawing to connect one conference attendee with a QuickBooks Certified ProAdvisor®, an accounting professional who specializes in helping entrepreneurs and businesses succeed. When Anna Abramzon found out she was the winner, she told us she was hoping that she’d won the furniture from our booth that was also in the drawing. She had no idea what a ProAdvisor could do.
When we met with Anna to understand her needs and find the right ProAdvisor, she had one goal that stood out: to quit her day job. For years, she had worked full time while running her “side hustle” of creating custom Ketubahs to support her family. She had a degree in fine art and always dreamt of being an artist full time, but didn’t know how to truly go from “employee” to “entrepreneur.” With that goal in mind, we set out to find a ProAdvisor who would help her get her finances in order and empower her to quit her day job.
Matching Anna with ProAdvisor Caroline McAbee was the start of something amazing. Over several months, the two worked together to increase revenue, find ways to reduce expenses, forecast out Anna’s earnings and grow her business. Spoiler alert: Anna was able to quit her day job and is now thrilled to call herself a full-time artist.
Based on this success, we are running the Grow Your Etsy Shop Sweepstakes* from Feb. 12-26, 2018, to connect three more Etsy Sellers with QuickBooks ProAdvisors. Winners will receive $5,000 for accounting services from a ProAdvisor to take their Etsy Shop to the next level.
Check out Anna and Caroline’s story below. Learn how Anna was able to quit her day job and be inspired by the magic that happens when entrepreneurs and ProAdvisors work together.
Anna and Caroline started working together in October 2016, and after six months, Anna was able to go all in on her business and quit her day job. Since then, the duo has presented at QuickBooks Connect and continue to work together to turn Anna’s passion for art and her clients into a thriving business.
Michelle Berg: Anna, when we started this journey, you said your goal was to quit your day job. Can you tell me more about that?
Anna Abramzon: For years, my mantra has been “quit your day job.” When I won the contest, it was my dream end goal, but it felt like a pipe dream. I didn’t think it would really happen.
Caroline McAbee: I knew it was going to happen because I knew she had the passion to make it happen. And, it did.
AA: Before all this, it was so hard juggling everything, between the job, the business, the kids and everything else. Now, I wake up happy every morning and think, “I'm my own boss.” I know what I need to do, I make my own schedule and I make my own time.
When I was juggling a job and my business, doing the art almost felt like a chore because I never got to really feel creative, as I didn't have enough time to get into that creative mode. Now, I get to spend my time actually being an artist and I can't wait until I get started each day. It's so, so great.
MB: We’re so excited for you, Anna. Now, let’s take a step back to when you found out you’d won this contest. What was that like?
AA: I have to tell you I was not nearly as excited as I should have been. I remember you were raffling some really cool looking furniture made by Etsy vendors. I didn’t even register the part about financial advisory because I didn’t really know what that meant. At that point, I could not have possibly imagined all that Caroline could do for my business.
When I started to think about what I wanted from an advisor, I decided that I needed to get my books in order and get everything more official, such as having a separate bank account and all that kind of stuff – things I knew I should be doing but didn’t know where to start. That's really all I could think of because you don't know what you're looking for when you don't know what you need.
I read this memoir in which the author described looking at the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel; she said all she could see was one little piece of it. She was a little kid at the time and said that everything else was just too big for her to grasp, so all she could focus on was this one little corner. That's sort of how I feel about the whole thing. I don't think I could have pictured everything that was possible and everything that Caroline made happen. She completely revamped everything, including my thought process.
CM: That’s so sweet. For me, prior to meeting Anna, I did a lot of research because I was unfamiliar with what Anna’s art, and main product, Ketubahs, were all about. I saw the work on her website and was very impressed. When I met Anna, I got even more excited because she was so open to new ideas and learning. She had great ideas and we could really brainstorm all the possibilities.
MB: Finding the right accounting professional for your situation is really important. How did you know that Caroline was the right match?
AA: I wanted somebody who understood what it's like to be a one-woman show and do everything –someone who could understand the limitations in my time, but also my desire to grow within the construct that I had. Caroline’s also a one-woman business, a "fempreneur." That's inspiring for me because we're both coming from the same place.
Also, when I met Caroline, I was so impressed because I felt like she asked all the right questions – those I would not have asked myself – and made me think about things that I hadn't really considered. For example, she asked how many products can I produce, is there a limit to how much I can do so that she could analyze if it's cost effective and if my goals are even possible. Then, she talked about product development. She clearly had a very comprehensive understanding of small business.
MB: A lot of people are nervous about opening their books and financials to someone else. What was it like for you?
AA: It was really embarrassing.
CM: What, really?
AA: Yes, because it was such a mess, and you don't really realize what a mess things are until you see it through somebody else's eyes. I remember you asked me, how much do you think you're putting in and how much are you making? I had all these numbers in my head and they were so wrong. When we actually went through and did the numbers, I was devastated. I thought, “I'm netting half of what I thought … my expenses are literally more than twice what I thought they were,” and I was like, well no wonder money is so tight all the time.
CM: Even with the real numbers, I'm still very impressed with what she was making from her art, all while having another job. I’m used to getting into people’s finances, but it was hard for me to give her the report. I didn’t sleep the night before. It's really hard for me to champion, “Hey, quit your job,” when expectations were so different from reality.
MB: That sounds like an emotional rollercoaster. What happened next?
CM: Once we did the level setting, we could start solving problems. We broke everything down, from shipping to printing, and found out that Anna was spending 16 percent of her revenue on printing – and we really needed to talk about that. We looked at all the options and decided to invest in a professional-quality printer. She was afraid of making such a big investment, but even with the cost of the equipment, it brought the printing expenses down to 6 percent. She changed her shipping methods, too. Shipping was 7.5 percent and now it’s down to 0.64 percent. Those were just two of the changes we were able to make because we understood her numbers.
AA: Going through the numbers, we also learned that I’d set up some of my advertising wrong and was getting charged twice what I thought, so we fixed that right away.
CM: Things like that happen because you're so busy trying to make money. If you don't have real numbers, it's so easy for those things to happen. That’s why we really made sure to get a solid start and set up Anna’s QuickBooks so she could always have insights into these important details.
MB: Well, we know that it all turned out beautifully in the end. How did you approach the goal of quitting your day job?
AA: At first, it was really, really scary because I didn't believe that I could really quit my job; I have kids, a mortgage and a whole “grown up life” to pay for, so I was taking on this huge workload, rolling out all these new products and was afraid that it would all be for nothing in the end. Making changes wasn’t easy – there was a learning curve and I definitely made some mistakes. But, after a few months, I would look at the numbers and see how much less I was spending – and that was money I could pay myself. I couldn’t have done it alone.
CM: When we came up with a statement of work, I shaped it into a commitment to our shared goal. I couldn’t ask Anna to commit to the plan if I wasn’t willing to commit as well. One of the things Anna had to commit to was spending at least two full days a week in her business. In life, especially as a business owner, things might slide if people aren't holding you to them. As an advisor, I saw my role as keeping her accountable and offering help when needed.
I knew Anna was going to achieve her goal of quitting her day job, but I thought she would hold onto it for as long as she could. When Anna made the investment in the equipment and rolled out her new logo, website and branding, that was monumental for me. I saw that she was making the investment in herself. When we were a couple months out from the deadline we’d set for her quitting her day job, we started talking about it more and ironing out what she’d need to do to make it happen.
Then, on one of our calls, she exclaimed, “I put in my notice!” I couldn’t believe it. I was so taken aback because it was ahead of schedule.
AA: You were like, "You what?!" The truth is I just couldn't do it all anymore. Putting all this extra time and energy into the the business and Etsy store had caused more and more sales, and suddenly I was getting more orders than I had ever gotten before. I just couldn't keep up with the orders and the job anymore. I felt like I was losing my mind. I didn’t have time to sleep, I didn’t have time for my family and I was incredibly stressed out. I felt like I there just weren’t enough hours in the day for me to do well at both the business and the day job. It became obvious that I had to choose – and the choice in my mind was clear.
MB: Did you hit the point where your income from your business was matching what you needed financially?
AA: Yeah, at this point, it is. Knock on wood. Is that right, Caroline?
CM: Definitely. We're definitely on track.
MB: So, what’s next?
AA: I’m branching out in terms of inventory and products. I used to be only focused on the Ketubahs, but now with my new equipment, I can experiment and can try listing different things to see what sells. With more time, I can paint more new things. I started selling products for other occasions, such as art gifts for new babies, holiday gifts, other big life moments, wedding guestbooks and now, even Christmas ornaments! Caroline even helped me figure out how to make chuppahs. I had been trying to expand to chuppahs for years because they’re a natural pair for a ketubah. Caroline did all that research to help me make it happen. It's been really exciting.
MB: I know your story will be inspirational to entrepreneurs and accounting pros alike. What are the three most important things the other person did to make this a success?
CM: First, Anna was open to anything. Second, she believed in herself. Third, she’s an amazing artist. She had it and she worked hard. I think that that is huge. I really do.
AA: I don’t know where to start. Caroline really went above and beyond. She advised me on everything, from finances to marketing. She looks at the business as a whole and really analyzes and audits it, but not just financially; she audits every part. Then, after every meeting, she would ask me, “What do you need from me this week?” She's so empathetic, so patient and so thoughtful. Yeah, I don't know about three things. There are like one million things.
MB: Now, think about yourself before you won the contest, not knowing the impact a ProAdvisor could have on your business and life. Anna, what would you tell your former self?
AA: I would tell myself to get a financial advisor and to get my books in order because, like I said, I didn't even know what I needed to know. All that I’ve learned is invaluable. This whole process has whipped me and my business into shape. The truth is that had I gotten financial help earlier, I probably could have quit my job years ago and saved myself a lot of stress. I would highly recommend that anybody who needs help growing their business find a ProAdvisor.
MB: How do you feel now that you reached your goal?
AA: It's always been my dream to do art for a living – to work for myself and to be my own boss. I just feel so proud of myself that I'm doing it and so grateful. I'm out on my own and I'm making it work.
CM: You're living the dream.
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