For this week’s edition of FinanciElle “Statements”, I had the opportunity to interview Lucrezia Spagnolo, Founder and CEO of VESTA Social Innovation Technologies.
Vesta’s vision is to provide a safe space for survivors of sexual assault; to become a valuable part of their recovery by giving them a new degree of control, connectivity and support, never imagined. It’s mission is to create a secure and trusting platform which will support survivors’ mental health recovery, and support the investigative and legal processes to bring their assailant to justice.
Paolina: What has been your hardest experience dealing with your business and finance and what did you learn?
When starting a business there are so many unknowns. I was recently approached by a budding entrepreneur asking for advice as to which of her ideas she should pursue as a venture. Based on my experience, the one thing I have learned is that there is no right answer to that question. You, as the entrepreneur, should pursue and develop the idea that you feel the most strongly about, the one where you have a clear vision of what it is and what it can be. There are many naysayers, people who will tell you that your idea won’t work or there is no market need or conversely, there is market saturation. In my opinion, you should pursue the one that you will keep working at despite the naysayers. I continue to encounter challenges, they do not deter me but fuel my drive to keep going. Many people can offer opinions, but opinions are not facts. I had to learn to distinguish between the two and to trust my instincts.
That said, you do have to think about the business side of the equation. Take your time, think through your business plan. Take the time to understand the difference between bookkeeping, accounting, tax obligations and finance. Many people use the word finance to mean one or all of those. Learn the difference, it will save you time and stress.
Paolina: What advice do you wish you had gotten about finance when you were first starting your business?
In my previous role, before founding Vesta, I was constantly, obsessively looking at numbers. Budget, sales targets, churn, variance and forecast reports were daily preoccupations. I was fortunate that I worked with some fantastic financial analysts who would create the financial models that we discussed and analyzed together.
When I started my own business, I didn’t have those wonderful, insightful analysts and I struggled when it came to building my own models without historical data. Then I realized that I knew more than I thought I did. I wish someone had told me that the knowledge I had was enough. I wish I had known sooner that I could make some educated estimates to build some basic models. I put so much pressure and stress on myself. I know that someday the business needs will outstrip my capability and I will need to outsource.
This leads to another lesson I wish I had learned sooner, as an entrepreneur, especially one that is bootstrapping the business, you need to be honest with yourself, your strengths and your weakness. There is no shame in asking for help or in contracting out the services you need. Stop thinking about the actual spend and think of the value associated with hiring a professional. The return you will get on your investment will not only be sound finances but peace of mind.
Paolina: What topics would you want to learn more about when it comes to finance and your business and why?
I would like to know more about how to use my forecast model to determine future cash flow needs.