Welcome back to the newest installment of FinanciElle “$tatements” after taking the summer off from blogging, I couldn’t be more thrilled to start back with this interview.
In this installment I talk to Frankie Cotton, CEO and Founder of The Sustainable Marketplace – an online marketplace for sustainable and ethical alternatives to everyday goods. In addition she’s also the Founder of Let’s Be Frank Consulting, where she consults on commercial strategy for businesses to increase revenue and brand awareness through marketing and sales strategies.
Frankie Cotton is an entrepreneur and business consultant focused on building disruptive and purposeful brands with a strong mission.
And if you’re not already listening, passionate about closing the opportunity gap for women in business, Frankie hosts Women On Top: The Podcast #THEWOTPOD, a series of conversations with women on a mission.
Paolina: What is the most common money issue you see with your consulting clients? What is the finance/money topic that most women who are part of Found and Flourish have an interest in and why do you think that is?
From my experience as a business consultant specializing in growth marketing, the biggest money issue I see with my clients is the lack of investment in revenue-generating activities. Stockpiling cash in the business or restricting spend can choke hold growth. You should be investing in implementing smart strategies that enable growth, whether that’s a PR drive, building a lead generation engine, brand positioning or market research.
There are two types of business leaders – those who want you to spend the full allocated marketing budget and those who want you to save as much as possible! Whilst I would never advocate for spending money unnecessarily, spending the full budget on well-considered projects, tools and campaigns is the smart way to do it. You’ve committed to spending that cash sum because you know you’ll get a return. So, invest it!
I co-founded Found & Flourish in 2018 with Lara Sheldrake, aimed at empowering the next generation of female founders in the UK. What I discovered about female founders starting out, is that understanding the business financing world is top of their agenda, and if it’s not, then it should be. To make informed decisions about how you want to finance your business, you need to understand all the types of capital that could be available to you, and the pros and cons of each. You have to educate yourself here, even if you decide to bootstrap and grow organically, you won’t know that decision is right for you if you haven’t explored all the investment options.
As CEO, you should always position your business to have access to capital if you need it. That means being proactive to prevent cash-flow issues, rather than reactive to market changes. Capital has a lead time, you need to be thinking at least six months ahead.
Paolina: You’ve founded many businesses, what has been your hardest experience dealing with your businesses and finance/money and what did you learn?
There are many lessons that I’ve learnt! But my biggest advice is to plan and manage your runway. Be realistic about the time it’s going to take you to make a profit. How long will it take to get your MVP out to market and in a state that customers will pay for? 6 months? 12 months?
Once you know what this runway looks like, multiply it by 1.5 for anomalies. Set KPIs and metrics that you monitor regularly to make sure you’re on track to reach your goal within the time frame you’ve set.
Then compare the revenue and margin projections with what you need to be personally financially secure. Know that your side-work or consulting is just short-term and has a tangible deadline, ideally trailing off gradually as the income stream is replaced by your business.
I’ve written a Money Talk article on my blog that goes into detail on what I’ve learnt in my first few years as an entrepreneur.
Paolina: What advice do you wish you had gotten about finance when you were first starting your business?
The advice I wish I’d had is to separate your business and personal finances, to keep good financial practices for yourself as an individual. I piled all my savings into my first startup and it left my personal finances in a bad way. When I had to make the difficult decision to resign from that business, I wasn’t able to realize the financial investment I’d made.
I have a different view now, I endeavour to keep working as a consultant part-time until my new startup – The Sustainable Marketplace can pay me a salary, and possibly develop scalable products as a passive income stream that can support me financially too. For example, I’ve launched my second podcast series called Women On Top, which I’m hoping will generate income through sponsorship and open doors for paid speaking opportunities.
I’ve also invested in a financial advisor who works closely with my business accountant. Together, the three of us can make wise decisions about how to make, save, spend and invest my money across each business taking into consideration my personal financial goals.
Paolina: I know you’re passionate about combining profit + purpose? What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are trying to figure that combination/balance out?
Money is the lifeblood of your business, but your mission should be bigger than profit. You have to take care of cash flow as your business won’t survive without it, but don’t stop there, customers, partners, suppliers, the media, everyone will be inspired by your mission so don’t lose sight of it. It is your competitive advantage and the essence of your brand. Companies that are leaders in sustainable, social, and good governance have 25 percent higher stock price value than their less sustainable competitors (Green Giants, E. Freya Williams).
It’s also important to recognize that capitalism provides a free market structure for entrepreneurs that enables us to solve problems and to make a positive impact. It is naive to think that this would be possible in a socialist or communist society. Money is an enabler, see it as your route to do good and not the root of all evil. Don’t dread your corporation tax bill – this is another way you’re contributing to society and giving back to those less fortunate or less able.
That said, Western capitalist societies still need to improve their social spending and support for society’s most vulnerable. We need to work much harder to provide equal opportunities and access to healthcare for all by investing taxes in social and environmental impact causes.
Many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs are philanthropists and pledge huge percentages of their wealth to causes they believe in. Find a way to support yourself financially, create a scalable way for you to make money, then give back in a big way.
Paolina: What are your current FinanciElle Faves?
- Favourite business/leadership book? This is hard to narrow down! I have 100s! That said, I recently read Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, Founder of Nike and would recommend it to any aspiring or practicing entrepreneur. Unlike most business books which are theory-based, this autobiographical account is both gripping and informative, and Phil’s life lessons are clear throughout the story. His vision and determination is incredible, illustrating the ups and downs of life as a company founder and CEO. Reassuring, to say the least!
- Favourite business/productivity tool? I use Shift to manage all my apps and email accounts – so much better than using a browser with 100s of tabs open! I’m much more productive and focused.
- Favourite piece of media – TED talk, podcast…? There is an episode of The Tony Robbins Podcast called ‘The Wonder Woman who might save your life | Meet Martine Rothblatt, Sirius XM co-founder who now creates life-saving technologies’ which really stuck with me. Martine shares how she has built her entire career on achieving the seemingly impossible, and reveals her own process for turning visionary ideas into technology that changes lives. Really inspiring.