Hope Oriabure-King calls herself “mommy deluxe” – She’s a single mom of four and the entrepreneur owner of Black Tie Babysitting, Inc., a company that provides onsite childcare at special occasions and events like weddings and corporate functions. Over time, Oriabure-King has learned that cash flow management and a diversified revenue stream are core to her business’ success.
Why did you start your company?
I graduated from college with an undergraduate degree in journalism with a concentration in public relations. I had a young son at the time. Most of the jobs that were out there for PR were $28,000/year. I was like, “Wow, this isn’t going to be much of a life for me and my son.” So, I was offered a sales job at IBM for $38,500. Sales wasn’t the plan, but I got into sales and worked at IBM for a couple of years and did really well. I parted ways with IBM and decided to go into a different sales job and realized I could not sell. I had worked for a well-known company and that’s why people would take my calls. I enrolled in sales school and continued to do new business development for many years.
Now, I have four children. My children have special needs. It just became very hard to give full attention to their needs as they became school-age and to balance that corporate career. So, I decided to become an entrepreneur. I had my business for a couple of years running on the sideline. In 2014, I quit my corporate job, moved in with my parents, and started my business full-time.
How did you finance the business at the start?
I funded the business with personal savings. And, in 2014 when I took the company full-time, I still worked part-time. It was so that I didn’t have to live off of every bit of money my company made. I could invest some back into my company. Then, I was able to get into a grant-matching program where the money that I put into savings was matched. That was a great boost to my business.
How do you manage cash flow?
Now that we’ve been in business for 7 years, we know that we have seasons where we realize more money than we do others. We’ve established a pattern and we’re able to know our busy months and our low months. As far as cash flow, we try to make sure that we limit our advertising dollars during our low months so that there’s not more money going out of the business than coming in.
We’ve also tried to find other streams of revenue, so we do things with a babysitting company during our low seasons. One of the things we did was start Sunday Sitter, which is where we’ll do childcare at churches on Sundays that don’t have enough nursery workers. Even though it’s just one day a week, that little extra $1,000 a month is a boost, especially for a small business like ours.
What’s the most challenging thing about running your company?
The most challenging thing is that you’re so passionate about your product or service, it can be taxing to have to turn your attention away from that and focus on the operation of the actual business. I love sales. I love marketing. I’m passionate about kids and families. That part comes easy. But, when I have to sit down with my accountant and we have to crunch numbers and look at different glances of the business to make sure we’re making good decisions, that part I don’t like. I had to learn that’s part of this business, too. And if I’m not mindful of that, my business won’t be around and we won’t continue to be successful.
What’s the most rewarding thing about running your company?
It’s twofold. My children get to see me as an entrepreneur. They know that the only limits they have in life are the ones they place on themselves. I am a single mom with four kids who have special needs. People tell me all the time, “Oh, Hope, your hands are so full! God bless you!” I had to start telling people that the best thing about having a full plate is that when this life is over, I’m not going to want to go back for seconds. I’m doing everything I want to do right now. Even though it’s hard, it’s awesome.
The other part I love is just advocating for families and children. By having childcare at special occasions and events, it allows families to attend together. The kids aren’t always being left behind or one parent isn’t being left behind to watch them.
What’s one of the biggest mistakes you made when you were starting your company?
Cash flow was one of the biggest mistakes I made. I would pay people the day of our events in cash. I wasn’t actually tracking what I was paying them. They didn’t have 1099s. I couldn’t track my costs. I would let people pay me the day of the event. My dad has been an entrepreneur for 32 years and he said, “Hope, this is not how you run a business! Nobody does a job and gets paid that day. Everybody is used to waiting for a paycheck. This affects your cash flow – You are giving your money away when you get it!”
All of that is totally different now. I use a payroll system now. You get your check on a schedule. My events have to be paid two weeks in advance. All of that allows me to take care of things monetarily and to participate in opportunities because I have money in the bank.
What’s the smartest thing you did when you were starting your business?
I was really able to nail how we were different and our niche in the marketplace. When people used to call me, I would have to do a hard sell for the business. Now, I don’t have to do that because I come through referrals. People understand how we work, why I built the business the way I did, and what makes us different.
What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?
Make sure you do something you’re passionate about. Just don’t do a business for money. The reality is that in the first five years, you probably wont’ be making a lot of money. If you’re only doing it for money, you’ll get burnt out. And, invest into yourself the same as what you invest into that business. As a small business owner, you are everything to that business. If you fall down or get sick, your business will suffer and you won’t be able to recover from that.
What’s next for Black Tie Babysitting?
The next thing on the horizon for us is that we’re launching a sister company that rents baby gear out to traveling families and to people in industry. People know that I have stuff like pack-and-plays, high chairs, and booster seats for events. I kept on having event planner friends call me up and say, “Hey Hope, I don’t need your services, but can I borrow your high chair?” I thought, “Wow, I’m giving these things out for free. This could actually be a business and I could help even more people if they were aware I had this stuff!” We’ve already soft launched and we’re doing great. We’re planning the official launch soon!