For this week’s edition of FinanciElle “Statements”, I had the opportunity to interview Erin Daniels – Founder and CEO at Design for People Inc.
Design for People specializes in audience-driven branding, marketing, strategic communications, and digital experiences. It combines design, technology, and empathy for users.
Paolina: What has been your hardest experience dealing with your business and finance and what did you learn?
Being an independent, “can-do” professional with a strong work ethic, I tended to take on a lot more by myself than I should have. This was especially true at the beginning since I decided to self-fund my company rather than take on investment. I wanted to keep overhead costs down. Then I found a good accountant to help me manage the books, payroll and taxes. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I knew it was in good hands, everyone was paid correctly and I didn’t have to worry about keeping up with all the new tax laws. This helped me have more time to spend on my business. Hiring the right people to help with overhead tasks and for billable projects was the best thing I could do to grow my business to where it is today.
Paolina: What advice do you wish you had gotten about finance when you were first starting your business?
Starting a business is hard. With this being my first business, I didn’t know where to start. I did a lot of research to determine whether it should be an LLC, C-Corp, or S-Corp, the advantages and disadvantages for each. I learned about getting a business license for both the state and the county. I also researched how to register on the various websites to be able to work with the government. It was an extraordinarily difficult and lengthy process to get started and fix errors and I wished there was a simple guide that listed all the steps.
Paolina: What topics would you want to learn more about when it comes to finance and your business and why?
Some good topics would be that handy starting a business guide I mentioned, the nuances of hiring people as W2 employees vs 1099 contractors and what employment engagement looks like for various types of workers. Legal advice for contracting is another important topic. Topics on accounting tools and best practices, cash flow, and tax advice. These are areas that are helpful for all types of businesses.
Paolina: How would you apply Design for People’s empathetic, people-centric approach to optimize the female entrepreneur’s experience – with financial services companies (banks, VCs…)? Ex. If Design for people was hired by a bank to improve the customer experience of female entrepreneurs.
Female entrepreneurs face a much different world than their male counterparts. This is especially true when seeking funding, generating new business, or networking. Although women have come a long way in the working world over the last 50 years, innate cultural biases still exist. Add in the fact that women typically tend to the lion’s share of child-rearing, their time devoted to evening networking is often limited much more than men. So, how do we help women entrepreneurs who spend their weekends taxiing their kids to baseball and soccer games rather than closing deals on the golf course? Or, when the person they’re meeting at their business lunch or VC pitch suddenly starts acting like it’s a date?
Understanding perspective, goals, and obstacles is an essential first step. This is done by listening to them – through market research, focus groups, and interviews. We analyze the results, formulate insights, and use empathy to inform the strategy (i.e. brand, campaign, product, communications, design).
Then we begin creating the solution – whether it is a campaign to help encourage female entrepreneurs to seek funding from reputable VCs – or to encourage VCs to invest in women-founded businesses. Or an app that’s easy to use and saves time for common tasks that female entrepreneurs do. It could be eLearning or training using language and scenarios women are familiar with — offered anytime and in the convenience of their home. Or helping companies foster platforms for female support communities and promote networking breakfasts or lunches, rather than late evening events. With all of these, we continuously measure and optimize as we learn more over time and keep up with trends. Every solution is centered on the people’s needs and desires. That’s why they’re so successful!