Every entrepreneur has to start somewhere; it’s a fact Michael Shoup and Paul Shearer know all too well.
The duo had been friends and worked alongside each other for years, first in the music industry, then as partners at 12South Marketing, a marketing firm catering to the entertainment world.
It was in 2017 that they began to toss around the idea for a new project, one that centered around that critical, early stage of every entrepreneur’s journey: the beginning.
“Nashville is a very entrepreneurial and creative city, and we run into a lot of people who are either running a small business venture or want to be,” Shearer says. “We hear the same questions all the time. What makes a good brand? How do I build a website? Essentially where to start, from the philosophical to the technical.”
12South Marketing regularly served established businesses that could afford a monthly retainer, but Shoup and Shearer wanted to find a way to reach those small business owners who weren’t quite there yet—those who were just beginning to take the first steps.
“We thought, we should devote a side of the business to helping this portion of the market,” Shoup says.
To achieve this, they decided to take an unconventional route: showing budding entrepreneurs what the first steps of starting a business look like instead of simply telling them. They created a free digital web show called 60 Day Startup.
The show, which airs in weekly 15-minute installments, follows Shoup and Shearer as they build and launch a new business of their own. That’s right—they started a business for the purpose of chronicling how it’s done.
“The show reveals the good, the bad and the ugly of what it’s like to start a business from scratch,” Shearer says. “We put a 60-day timeline on ourselves and vowed to film it whether we succeeded or fell flat on our faces.”
Though Shoup and Shearer were both well-versed in service-based businesses and digital products, they decided to put their entrepreneurial prowess to the test by taking an approach that would be completely unfamiliar to them.
“For 60 Day Startup, we decided to build a business around a physical product, which was new for us,” Shoup says. “We wanted something that would have to be manufactured and shipped to people. To figure out what that was, we started brainstorming about things that would help people.”
They kept coming back to something both men say has helped them immensely through the years: journaling.
They came up with the idea for a single notebook that would serve a diverse set of journaling needs, from planning the day’s activities to meditating on bigger goals and even doodling (you can watch as the team fleshes out this idea in the early episodes of 60 Day Startup).
The product they eventually devised would come to be called Onebook—as the founders put it, ‘the first notebook made for every part of your day and the last notebook you’ll ever need.’
New Business, New Financial Challenges
Professional service businesses like marketing agencies often consist of a small number of transactions that remain mostly consistent from month to month. Clients pay their retainers, the business pays its employees, and so on.
A product-based business, however, comes with many more variables. There’s typically a much larger volume of monthly transactions that’s more inconsistent; sales rise and fall, inventory is stocked, depleted, then stocked again, and so on.
The new business model of Onebook meant it was no longer feasible for the founders to handle the accounting on their own, as they’d done for so many years.
That’s where Ignite Spot came in.
“Right from the start we learned a lot of things about accounting that I didn’t know,” Shoup says. “Even though we did our own accounting for five years, I discovered some things that as CEO I was doing wrong.”
One of those things was using single-entry accounting, which records each business transaction as a single entry on the books. Though this may seem sufficient, double-entry accounting is much more precise. In double-entry accounting, the transaction is recorded at least twice—for example, once when the online checkout takes place and once when the money actually hits the bank account. This makes it much easier to spot discrepancies.
“It allows us to verify money in, money out, so we catch something if there’s an error,” Shoup says. “For example, if a transaction hits but doesn’t actually get deposited.”
Ignite Spot helped reconcile those numbers. We also showed the business partners small but useful accounting tricks, like different classifications for grouping expenses that make for better reports, and different ways to amortize or write off expenses at the end of the year.
Related: Ignite Spot Virtual CFO Services
“Now we can focus on building up the different sides of the business and don’t have to think about the accounting,” Shoup says.
With experience comes wisdom, and with three diverse business ventures under their belts, Shoup and Shearer have plenty of both to go around.
Both men effectively fell into entrepreneurship, albeit by different artistic paths—Shoup as a musician, Shearer as a producer. However, they agree this seemingly unlikely path to business ownership is becoming the norm in the digital age, especially for creatives.
“In the current state of the entertainment industry, being an entrepreneur is a requirement if you don’t want to flounder,” Shoup says. “We learned to become entrepreneurs by necessity.”
Perhaps that’s why helping other entrepreneurs in the early phases of their journey is such a passion for the duo. When asked about their biggest piece of wisdom for new entrepreneurs, both men gave the same advice: just take the first step.
“And not only making sure you take that first step, but that you’re continually taking steps and that you have a partner or community there to support you,” Shoup says. “Think of it like a 12 step program for business.”
And for those who want to learn more?
“Watch 60 Day Startup!” they say.
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