How Indie Beauty Brands Manage Cash Flow

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 25 brand founders and executives: How do you manage cash flow?

Jennifer Edwards Creator and Chemist, Refinne Skincare

Build the plane and fly it at the same time baby!  Seriously, managing cash is an ongoing challenge. Scaling and building has not meant going into debt for me. So, we have to have a methodical approach to reinvesting our profits. I got clear on how much it truly costs to produce and fulfill each order, and ensure I engage in partnerships that maximize our reach, offer meaningful discounts and still generate further profits. Don’t forget to set aside funds for taxes and shipping. All this affects the bottom line.  A solid accounting software is a must, even if you use Excel as a starter. Quickbooks is a helpful tool as you grow.

PATRICK KELLY Founder and Perfumer, Sigil

We use a form of bank-balance accounting for day-to-day cash flow management (I know, CPAs around the world are screaming), and we are on a twice monthly calendar of target allocation percentages across several accounts: taxes, comp, operating expenses and profit. We always pull our profit out first. 

As a small business, it’s so tempting to roll everything back into the business, but behavioral psychology shows if we have 5% or 10% less money, we find ways to make it work. If your benchmarked allocations to operating expenses aren’t enough every month, that’s a good sign to look at what you’re spending, where you’re over budget, or (at worst) whether your business model and margins are working for your scale and operations.

JAMIKA MARTIN Founder, Rosen Skincare

This is huge for me right now. If you're reading this, get on your cash flow now! I am a bootstrapped founder, so managing my finances in a way that doesn't blow through too much money is essential. Unfortunately, it took me quite a while to realize that and quite a few bad decisions that all tumbled down at once.

I recently began working with a fractional CFO that I found on Upwork to get our cash flow in the right place and help me make financial decisions that I didn't base off of how many sales we did the day before. I wish I would have done this a year or two ago!

GARONNE DECOSSARD Founder, The Ronnie Shop

I use Quickbooks to pool all the financial information for my business in one place. It allows me to run reports to understand what I am spending and taking in. I also constantly learn the cadence of sales and production so that I am keeping up with customer demands while keeping cash on hand to pay myself and reinvest in the business. 

For example, when I introduce a new product, I do a beta launch where I only purchase supplies to make a limited amount of product. I keep that cadence until sales start picking up and then I start investing in bulk production. This has been the case with my Hair and Wellness Tea, and Fleeky Brow Serum. I do sell out fast, but I have timed it perfectly that I can keep production going.  

ROCHONNE SANCHEZ Co-Founder, Eossi Beauty

As a self-funded startup, we’ve had to be very strategic with how we manage our cash flow, especially as we’ve worked towards our launch over the past 18 months. Thankfully, we’re very detail-oriented women and, through a system of spreadsheets, projections and sheer determination, we’ve been able to get ourselves to launch with capital to spare. As we were building, we made sure to fully integrate our website, inventory management system Cin7, merchant processing and Quickbooks so that all systems speak to one another to give us a full picture of our cash flow on a daily basis.

Khadidja Toure Founder and CEO, Kubra Kay Skincare

One of the biggest mistakes I made is underestimating how much goes into marketing, especially financially. Having a good product is not enough for the word to spread. You need a proper marketing strategy, and this requires a budget. Components like product shots, ads, video shoots, PR need to be considered when pricing your product/service.

WENDY MAY REAL Founder, Pure Bloom

Sustainable cash flow is vital to all businesses, especially small, self-funded indie brands. The most valuable lesson our team has learned is to lean into your expertise, adapt to evolving conditions and pivot when necessitated, but, most importantly, know your numbers. This lesson has never been more important during uncertain times when cash flow can be significantly impacted by unexpected factors.  

Every other week our team holds a Financial Friday strategy meeting. During this meeting we analyze revenue reports from our online sales and retail partners as well as total expenses from all operating activities (burn rate). Knowing these numbers and financial KPIs (key performance indicators) has helped us achieve and manage healthy cash flow even during more challenging times.

NIKITA MONTGOMERY Owner and Founder, Hazel O. Salon

We have an outside accountant and tax firm that manages our books. Considering everything we have to manage day-to-day, this was the best decision. I have found our booking software Booker to be helpful in keeping track of our sales benchmarks so that we can establish appropriate goals. I'd recommend anyone who has an active role in the day-to-day operations of their business, especially if it's a salon, to seek outside help. 

Jessika Carter-Ross Owner and Founder, Madam J Beauty

My undergraduate degree is in accounting, and my master's degree is in business administration. I pay close attention to different metrics to help manage my cash flow. For new business owners, it's very important to have a separate business and personal account. While this may seem unnecessary when you're just starting out, it's going to be worth it in the long run. I compare the current month to the previous month, and also the current and previous year. 

Over time, each year should be better than the last for your cash flow. I ensure my prices fit within the market range, but also allow me to receive a profit. I set goals throughout the year and sort out the inventory needed for each location and online. The best thing you can do for yourself is stay on top of everything. Either an accountant or someone like me familiar with accounting software is definitely necessary to help you manage your cash flow.

DANIELLE GRONICH Co-Founder, CLEARstem Skincare

We have a few tools like the cash conversion cycle worksheet from the Scaling Up book. We also budget each month and are constantly reevaluating where our money is performing best. We stay focused on the phase that we are in. Right now, we need to increase distribution, so are pivoting away from PR retainers to focus on retail consultants who can guide us into this next chapter. Reallocating constantly is key for us.

ADODO ROBINSON Founder, Delali Robinson Cosmetics

We use Intuit software to manage our financials. It allows us to create a profit and loss spreadsheet, which has helped us stay on track the last few years. I learned not to spend every dollar I make, and to have a yearly and quarterly budget plan.

BEATRICE DIXON Founder and CEO, The Honey Pot

Cash flow is an ever-evolving process and one we're still working on internally. It's about checks and balances, and really understanding what your costs are and where the money is being spent and why, ROI and lead times for manufacturing versus accounts receivables. It's a very intricate web that has many layers to it, but I believe in understanding every aspect of my business, especially finance and capital.

MARY-ANDRÉE ARDOUIN-GUERRIER Founder and CEO, Loving Culture

I love Intuit Quickbooks for managing my cash flow. I also attended a few seminars that were hosted by our small business development center at the Columbia University Business School. It was then that I started working with a business advisor that helped me to readjust my cash flow management strategies.

YOKI KIVA HANLEY Owner and President, Itiba Beauty

I am truly fortunate to have great business partners who help to keep the company and myself focused on our collective goals. We talk and review what is the best avenue for the dollars that we have available, especially during this global pandemic. We are reviewing what brought in dollars or helped with exposure that turned into sales and seeing how we can replicate that. Like most companies, we have had to look at what we are doing and adjust. Resources have become scarce, so it is important that we really pay attention to the top sellers and allocate accordingly. 

Another thing that I do is, depending on the time of year, I will make sure I have more of a specific product on hand as I know that is what many of my customers will be purchasing at that time. For example, it is summer now and, not only do we have fresh fruits in season, but it is ridiculously hot, and a lot of people want cool, refreshing fragrances. So, I concentrate on the Carib Lime line of products because of its citrus scent, and that it is also used as a natural insect deterrent. Our Mango Line is extremely popular during the summer months as well, especially the cold-processed soaps. I incorporate all the fresh mango fruit into the soap bars and that is a customer favorite.

Michael CANEPA Co-Founder, Kidskin

One of the most important aspects of our business, or any business for that matter, is inventory control. Trying to find the balance between having too much in stock or not enough is challenging. Luckily, there are some apps that help with that on our website and Amazon has a very good inventory planning section. Having a good bookkeeper and accountant is also very important. Knowledge is power. The more we know about our finances, the better decisions we can make.

Jasmine Lewis Founder and CEO, Vie Beauty

I monitor it everyday. I have Quickbooks and also do some things the old school way for checks and balances. I write everything out and cross reference it to make sure I haven’t missed anything. I recently started to implement a cash flow plan that helps to plan for the next six months. Negotiating rates to and percentages with vendors also helps to keep cash in-house.

Shani Darden Founder, Shani Darden Skin Care

I’ve always naturally been very budget-conscious. It pains me to throw something away or see something go to waste, so I look for this quality when hiring every member of my staff. My team came from other high-growth startups and, not only know how to stretch a dollar, but have been able to build a well-thought-out budget and forecast despite the business changing so quickly. This has really helped us manage the rate at which we buy our inventory and manage our cash conversion cycle.

Eonica Smith Owner and CEO, Onie Organics

In order to get a handle on your business's finances, you must know that cash flow is king and one of the largest factors in growing your business. Make sure you have some type of software such as Quickbooks or Square to help you stay organized. You also want to have the apps downloaded on your mobile devices. That way you can always monitor what's coming in and what's going out. 

Stay on top of invoicing. This is huge! Make sure your invoices are easy to read and very detailed. I highly recommend you e-mail your invoices in addition to mailing them so that you always have a paper trail. Tally up your monthly cost, and figure out ways that you can cut cost. Things you don’t need such as subscriptions that aren’t doing anything to help your business, you should get rid of. When I first started out, I was very unorganized. The way I kept up with my cash flow was also unorganized, and it unfortunately affected everyday business.

Kim Wileman CEO, as|if by Nassif and Cobuna Brands

As a startup, there are always key lessons, especially when you are managing investors and cash flow. We started as a technology and AI attribution platform first, combined with an organic community of nano-influencers. One of our earliest learnings was that we needed to reallocate our cash and use a larger percentage of the investment to capture our nano-influencers and followers through a much more engaging and social platform. 

Launching a brand in the middle of COVID-19 has made our team resourceful and adaptable in regard to cash. We have found that the fundraising process has taken longer during this period of time, so we’ve needed to reallocate funds for the essentials. We’re delaying some enhancements until fall and refocusing on essential marketing programs and leveraging our focus on our nano-influencers to generate revenue. One of our reallocations was to dedicate funds toward a TikTok program to introduce the brand to our target market.

Paayal Mahajan Founder, Essential Body Couture Skincare

It has been so important to remain fluid during this time. I revisit my accounting books twice a month. I personally review every sale and transaction, even if my accountants and bookkeepers have done their work. It is important for me to know how every penny is spent, where it is going and where the returns are coming in.

Marc Ronert Co- Founder, Hush & Hush 

We are constantly looking at our budget and expenses, and tweaking them based on our needs. Some months look different than others and, if you don’t adapt as needed, you can end up spending when it is unnecessary.

Rachel Lambo CEO and Co-Founder, Sade Baron

My partner and I are not accountants, but, over the years, we have learned to work with an accountant to keep us on track in addition to using Quickbooks. Always know how much money is coming in and out to anticipate your next step.

Jas Chung Founder, Bombay Hair

One big thing is we use a great inventory app to connect our U.S. and Canadian store. This helps us forecast purchase orders and build a good relationship with suppliers [to] pay less cash upfront at the time of purchasing. 

Catharine Dockery Founder, Vice Ventures

In venture capital, you're measured on your IRR (internal rate of return), so we try to only call capital for deals we expect to close in the very short term. We are also judged on our return to investors, so it's important to make sure the fund is getting an adequate return for investment.

ALLISON MOSS Founder and CEO, Type:A

At the start of 2020, just as we were launching in Target, I started a new process of reviewing 13-week cash flow model on a weekly basis. This process has had a tremendous positive impact on our business and became critical once the pandemic hit. The cash flow forecast has been very accurate and pointed out nuances in our AR and AP we wouldn't have otherwise seen, and allowed us to stay ahead of our cash flow.

We started working with Stage 1 Financial and the #1 best thing to come out of it was a weekly touch base where they model out our cash for the upcoming 13 weeks. It is comprehensive and more accurate than any model I could build (or maintain, and much more time efficient). And it ends up pointing out places to save and spend we didn't realize we were doing or could make sense.

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs, please send it to [email protected].