Sherry Tingley didn’t become an entrepreneur overnight. It was a step-by-step learning process, with many a detour and slip en route. She’s still learning, she says, but she’s no longer a tyro.
In a recent interview with Mint, the personal finance management website, she tells how her business, primarily developing websites on the Internet, has steadily grown and is now providing the underpinning for rapid growth and improvement.
Checks? Haven’t they become an anachronism, given the rise of online banking, debit cards and digital wallets? Not even close. American banks process more than 24 billion checks annually, she says. Many people, even while using new technologies to make their everyday purchases, bring out the checkbook for paying regular bills and make other financial exchanges. Small businesses use them to pay vendors, employees and other expenses. Deluxe Corporation, largest of the check-printing companies, has seen a rise in stocks from $16.18 per share in July 2009 to $59.71 per share in July 2014.
Sherry shares her experience and growing expertise via a personal finance blog housed on the CoolChecks site. The site focuses on general finance wisdom as well as updates on the check-printing world, including the most popular check designs and changes (how about skull-and-crossbones, a range of jungle prints and the latest Disney characters?)
She began her venture into e-marketing from square one. Like millions of Americans, she had little practical knowledge of personal finances, beyond the most basic household management. High school and college had done little to add to that base. At 51, she was the mother of two teenagers, still renting and earning less than $30,000 per year. She looked at the reality and decided it needed to change.
“I decided to educate myself about anything I could do to control my financial future,” she told Mint. “I vowed I would try everything in my power to avoid personal financial mistakes and focus on increasing my income.” She drew on available resources such as Fool.com forums and began to understand how she could make better use of the money she had. She received a lot of encouragement and support after paying off $5,000 in credit card debt and kept going. She read everything she could find that expounded on personal finance, from Dave Ramsey to Suze Orman. She consciously looked for ways to increase income without going into debt.
Some of the money-making approaches she tried didn’t work. But instead of throwing in the towel, she began to teach herself web design, PHP programming and the effective use of MySQL databases. More successes in affiliate marketing followed as she added to her knowledge about money management, wise investing and web development skills.
There is a long road behind, but she now is looking at financial security. She has two residential properties, invests regularly in mutual funds and has a savings account for emergencies. “Most importantly, I make much better financial decisions on a regular basis than I did in the past,” she says.
Her blog is aimed at anyone who needs help with finances. She focuses on setting budgets, controlling spending and distinguishing between needs and wants. She looks for ways to save money on media bills and other expenses. “I abhor the way that credit card companies entice people to spend more and more. The consequences of uncontrolled credit card debt can be devastating. Most of my articles help people deal with human mistakes in financial judgment.” Another area of emphasis is entrepreneurship. Sharing success stories of start-ups that make it is one of the ways she does that
Sherry sees the tendency of Americans to want what they want when they want it as one of the greatest challenges to wise money management. A little patience and a little time spent on comparison shopping, along with some realistic analysis between what is needed and what is merely wanted can help resolve this weakness, she says.
A careful and honest look at resources and necessary outlay is the place to begin to build a good budget, Sherry advises. Spreadsheets are available to help in the process. Then make a monthly evaluation of that budget the basis for spending. You can’t reach financial goals without knowing where you are, where you want to be and how you can get there. Whether you earn $15,000 a year or over $250,000 a year, the formula remains the same.
Money is not the objective per se, but what it can do for you, she tells the Mint readers. Living within a budget and saving for the future can open opportunities not possible by using haphazard finance practices. Sherry takes counsel from “Invictus,” a poem by Ernest Henley: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
Today’s checks, she told Mint, are a far cry from the past. Her CoolChecks.net site offers more than 6,367 products all check related. In all, the database has more than 20,000 items. Unique designs give buys the opportunity to express themselves with every check they use. There even is the option of printing one’s own picture on checks. The most popular designs of the moment are animals prints, with a pink zebra leading the pack. Girly themes (such as high heels) are hot with the ladies and sports checks, including Harley-Davidson designs, rank high with the men. The idea is to give you a lift each time you write a check. It’s a matter of expressing your own individuality.
Options for business checks are consistent with the varieties of check-printing equipment most companies use. The Quickbooks checks tend to be popular with small businesses. Travel checks top business choices today.
Checks are her thing, Sherry emphasizes, but the same business and financial principles apply to any product. Successful entrepreneurship lies in preparing and then applying sound business practices. Her own experience shows that it can and does work.