Written by Pauleanna Reid
With the number of emerging female entrepreneurs making strides in business, it’s interesting to explore how their financial journey laid the groundwork for their current success. Our early understanding of the value of money can tend to stay with us throughout the years. Whether we’re armed with right or wrong information from the beginning, it will reflect on financial decisions we make in the future. In the case of Brittny Robins, founder of skincare and cosmetic line Flawless by Friday, traveling around the world on a limited budget taught her a lot about finances and led her to where she is today.
For the readers who are meeting you for the first time, can you tell us a bit about what you do?
I founded the cosmetic company Flawless by Friday to inspire people to feel like their most confident selves by bringing simplicity and education to the beauty industry. Essentially, making it less intimidating to feel like your best self.
We are huge fans of your brand and love the message even more. Let’s talk about where you got started. Where did you go to school and what program did you take?
I went to the University of Guelph and I took Marketing and Psychology.
That sounds pretty expensive, did you graduate with any student loans?
I didn’t, I was really fortunate. My parents supported me in a big way. I did work throughout university, so in terms of anything beyond my tuition and books, it was paid for by me.
Tell us about what your career journey looked like after you graduated school. Give me a short version of how you transitioned into a beauty brand.
I was really focused in my last year of university to graduate with honours. When I finished university, I genuinely felt like a lost soul. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. All I knew for sure was that I wanted to travel the world. I got a job for a little bit and then I moved abroad. The first thing I did after university was live in Tanzania for four months with an organization called Right to Play, which was founded around teaching kids how to keep themselves safe and healthy through sports. I was a field reporter, so I got to interview teachers and kids with the translator. I worked and travelled for about a year and a half to two years. I worked a lot of different jobs, from bartender to travel agent, you know what I mean? Whoever would hire me.
The last place I went on my trip was Australia. I remember I was in my favourite bar and I saw a massive quote on the wall. It said, “Once you come here, you’re going nowhere”. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m twenty-four, I’m ready to start my life, I’m ready to start my career’. I booked a flight that night and moved home.
Were you meticulously tracking your spending while travelling?
I was making the minimum wage in Australia. It was like $18 an hour, which was great, but Australia is an expensive place to live. I was always very aware that in everything I had to do, I had to be making more money than I was spending. Basically I was just making rent and being able to afford my food and beers.
From that experience, did you develop any philosophies around money? What has traveling taught you about how you spend?
It taught me that I had survival instincts centered around money, and that I was bad with money. I spent my childhood up north on a farm so I had a lot of friends that had a bunch of money and they didn’t really have an appreciation for it. I never owned a $200 pair of jeans. To me [and] to my mom that was a crazy thing to have and she didn’t put a value on luxury items. So I never really did, and still to this day, don’t put a value on those things. I was lucky I was getting jobs where I could make enough money to make rent and pay for food.
What did that time in your life teach you? Were there any lessons that you pulled from being on your own that you now implement into how you operate your business?
For a long time I made many of the same mistakes, to be honest. I would look at my bank account every week and think, ‘do I have the money in here to make my rent?’ I knew I had to make that and then I knew I had to have some extra, but I [have] genuinely always been bad with financial planning. That fact really hurt me when it came to starting my own business. It’s only really been in the last year and a half that I started to realize you have to be able to protect your downside.
What has been the hardest time for you financially and what did you do to get through it?
My company almost went bankrupt at one point. I wasn’t drawing a salary so I was going into credit card debt myself, and I was paying my employees while not really knowing if the cheques were going to bounce. It was a really lonely time for me because I couldn’t help anybody. I couldn’t tell my employees because I didn’t want them to lose faith in the company. I couldn’t tell people who were hoping to get involved with the company because I didn’t want them turned off by the fact that we didn’t have anything. And I couldn’t tell my parents – I didn’t want anyone to panic. By a stroke of luck and an insane amount of hard work, I was able to get some money in the door which changed everything. But for months [I was] not sleeping and not telling anyone I was in this kind of financial dark black hole.
Okay let’s turn things around to a more positive note. What was your money ‘I made it’ moment?
When people who I did not know started spending their hard earned money on something I created out of nothing. We just launched our first ever digital beauty bar and there were two people who came up to me. [They] knew everything about me and the brand and wanted to take pictures. When I started to see that people I had no connection to previously were ordering online and customers would come into stores asking for my products, that was a great feeling.
Is there a piece of career advice that has changed your business?
There’s been a lot. I think it was Richard Branson who said ‘always protect your downside’. Know if everything doesn’t go exactly how you want it to, you are still protecting yourself. Also to never use the word ‘hopefully’ because if you don’t believe it’s a certainty, no one else is going to. Another is to really listen to your gut.
Do you have a money coach, accountant, or anyone who helps you work with your finances?
Yes I do. I have a personal accountant and also a business accountant; they’ve both really helped me learn how to best manage my money and best manage the company finances. I also have a part-time CFO who has really taken a fine-toothed comb and picked through every single thing that we’ve ever done from conception. If I don’t understand it [financial records], when I walk into a room with investors they smell it right away. They know you don’t know what you’re talking about and as a Founder and CEO you can’t fake it. You just can’t.
How did you reach out to and choose the right financial experts?
I asked my lawyer if he had any recommendations and he was able to provide me with a contact that I worked with for several months; it was someone who was semi-retired and could help me on a tighter budget. Another time I reached out to someone on Linkedin and have been working with them for some time now. He had mentioned in his profile that his specialty was helping the business scale through financial consulting/services.
Talk to me about investing and saving. Do you have a savings plan?
I focus on all the company financials, while my husband is really focused on our personal situation. He’s a great support and I learn a lot from his money habits. For one thing, he never allows for there to be a balance on his credit cards — he makes sure to pay them down right away, as he feels that carrying a balance if you can avoid it is like giving away money. By seeing him stick to that no-balance habit it reminds me to pay off my card as soon as I can. He also invests money in different places and sticks to a logical approach of balancing risk and reward.
What are some ways you’ve started focusing more on financials and getting yourself financially organized?
Since my educational background wasn’t in finance, I’ve had to teach myself a lot and learn a lot. I’ll often take some financial reports and find a quiet space to go through them line by line. In the past, not understanding financials as well as I should have made it impossible to have full control over my business. Now that I’ve taken the time to understand the numbers, it’s given me the power to make big decisions based on facts instead of just on my passion.