After Gugu Guru founder Monica Banks made the transition from solo consultant to entrepreneur, she realized she needed new tools to manage the complexity of running her business. She found exactly what she needed in QuickBooks. Recently, Monica shared what it was like to take the entrepreneurship leap and how QuickBooks has helped her along the way with HeyMama.
So tell us about your background before starting Gugu Guru. How did the work you were doing back then spark your idea for Gugu Guru?
Monica: I worked for many years as a branding and marketing consultant in the mom and baby space. First, I was with a leading agency where I worked with global brands and then subsequently on my own when I started my consulting firm, where I worked with mostly new and emerging baby brands. When I started my consulting business, I happened to be pregnant with my first child, so I was in the unique position of being the target customer of the brands that I was serving. I identified a big challenge in the industry that wasn’t being addressed: first time parents are completely overwhelmed with the amount of product choices. Choosing products for your baby is research-intensive and intimidating enough as it is. When you factor in that the category is exploding and there are new products and brands entering the market daily at a seemingly endless pace, it becomes extremely overwhelming very quickly. All of this is happening at a sensitive time when new and expectant families should be trying to cut extra stress out of life.
I knew that there needed to be an easier way for parents to receive personalized and pared down product recommendations. Gugu Guru uses a proprietary algorithm to offer parents unbiased and highly personalized product recommendations based on their answers to a fun lifestyle quiz.
What were the first steps you took once you had the idea? What has Gugu Guru evolved into since then?
Monica: The first thing I did was seek out someone who could help me get me on the right path and avoid pitfalls. I contacted a friend, Caren Sinclair-Kay, who had successfully founded and exited her own tech company. It was kismet because she was just starting to mentor and consult for entrepreneurs at that time and she immediately took me on as a client. She was instrumental in helping me understand the notion of the “lean startup” and how to quickly and effectively build a minimum viable product. I also hired an attorney who specializes in tech startups. Lastly, I validated my concept by building a mock-up using Survey Monkey and then driving all around New York showing it to and getting feedback from pregnant and new moms.
Since its launch in 2015, Gugu Guru has grown rapidly. We’ve helped tens of thousands of parents understand what products are the best fit for their lifestyles. Gugu Guru has partnered with retail giants like Bed Bath & Beyond and Walmart’s Jet.com. It has served as the platform for Domino’s Baby Registry, and it has received press and accolades from celebrity clientele such as Whitney Port, Cameran Wimberly, Ryan Lochte, and Shenae Grimes-Beech.
When did you begin bringing in revenue? When did hiring contractors become part of your strategy to earn more revenue?
Monica: We started earning revenue about 5 months after launching. I hired contractors probably about a year into the business when I realized that I was doing everything—social media, sales, operations—and that I could hone our business model if I hired people that could bring more value than I could to those of the other parts of the business.
How did you manage Gugu Guru’s finances early on?
Monica: For the first two years of running Gugu Guru, I did everything from an Excel spreadsheet. I quickly realized this was an inefficient system that took a ton of time and often resulted in errors and inaccuracies. I soon saw that I needed to develop a better system to ensure I was staying on top of my finances.
When did you realize you needed to make a change?
Monica: I didn’t really know what I was doing because my background is marketing, not finance or bookkeeping—so what I was tracking was often short sighted or incomplete. As the business became bigger and busier, it was becoming obvious that I was not staying on top of the numbers the way I needed to be. I actually think my dad, who is a CPA, was the one who said, “you need someone to help you with your books at this point.”
What factors went into your choice to go with QuickBooks?
Monica: I wanted to see if this was something I could manage myself. I decided to do a free 6-month trial of QuickBooks. It was so simple to use and almost immediately I started to get a better picture of what I was missing all along. It was eye opening and at first a tough pill to swallow. For example, before QuickBooks I had a number in my head of where we were going to end the year revenue-wise. When I started using QuickBooks to track revenue and expenses, I realized that I was way off.
How did moving to QuickBooks help you make the best business decisions? Did you uncover ways to increase your revenue?
Monica: All of the powerful and invaluable information that QuickBooks provides has allowed me to make informed decisions about my business, where I should spend less and where I should add financial fuel to the fire.
When did you begin working with an accounting professional? How did QuickBooks factor into your decision?
Monica: I knew I needed to hire an accountant when I met with a business consultant to help me get my act together from a financial and operational standpoint. I could not answer some of his basic questions about my numbers, and realized that even though I was much better off than using an Excel spreadsheet, I still needed help with QuickBooks setup. Through the consultant, I was introduced to an QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Lisa Pierpoint of BottomLine Consulting. Lisa and her team are incredible at not only getting your numbers and books in order but also helping you understand what you’re seeing and where your business is heading.
How does the QuickBooks accounting professional you hired help you make even more effective business decisions?
Monica: I can now at any time tell you exactly how much money we have coming in, how much money is going out, where I am spending the money, how I am doing compared to last year, etc. In 2019, we are set to be profitable and I have to say that I owe a lot of this to QuickBooks and the team at BottomLine Consulting.
What is your best advice for mamas starting a business, particularly when it comes to managing finances?
Monica: Track everything right from the beginning. Every single cent. Even the little costs add up, and it’s important to know what your basic monthly costs are so that you understand what’s coming in, what’s going out and the minimum you need to make to cover those baseline costs.
Be patient with yourself in all aspects of life–give yourself time to figure it out.
Don’t compare yourself to others.
Let go of the past and focus on the now.