Nicole Salceda is an interior designer, decorator and the owner of Eye for Pretty, a California design firm that focuses on creating cohesive and inspiring spaces for clients. Nicole is also a client of Kickstart Accounting. 

Nicole spent 12 years as a teacher before making the leap to business owner and following her passion for interior design. 

In this episode, Nicole talks about making the transition from teacher to design entrepreneur, managing a large team and how she’s been able to improve her cash management and money mindset within her thriving design business. 

In this episode Nicole and I also discuss: 

  • Nicole’s mission 3:06
  • How Nicole made the transition from teacher to entrepreneur 4:25
  • Money mindset shifts Nicole made when transitioning to business owner 6:02
  • The importance of flexibility when managing a team 11:38
  • Cash management for a service based and inventory business 15:46
  • The importance of creating a team culture 17:34

Connect with Nicole:

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Connect with Danielle:

Website | Kickstart Accounting

Facebook | Kickstart Accounting Inc. – Home | Facebook

Instagram | Kickstart Accounting, Inc. (@kickstartaccounting) • Instagram photos and videos

Twitter | Kickstart Accounting Inc. (@KickstartAcct) / Twitter

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Full Episode Transcript:

Intro  0:00  

Welcome to entrepreneur money stories, the podcast for women entrepreneurs who want to dig into their money stories so they can break free from limiting beliefs around money once and for all. Hosted by Daniel Hayden, owner of kickstart accounting, Inc. This podcast is a series of real conversations about money mindset with valuable and action packed takeaways for the entrepreneur who’s building their abundant empire. Danielle is a reformed corporate CFO who’s on a mission to help real freakin female entrepreneurs understand their numbers and gain the confidence to create sustainable profits. And now here’s your host, Danielle Hayden.

Danielle  0:40  

Welcome back to entrepreneur money stories. Today we have a special twist on the podcast. We have one of our clients here. Nicole is the owner of eye for pretty designs. Nicole’s career in interiors began as a passion for making polished functional design more accessible. I’m telling you, I need to call her for my home. She left her job as an elementary school teacher to see those spaces come to life firsthand. What started as a handful of clients quickly became a rapidly growing portfolio full of homes and her signature warm minimalist style. And make sure you check out Nicole on Instagram, she really does have a special style. That is really, really beautiful. Now having been through a dream home remodel of her own. She has even more perspective when it comes to the client experience. Nicole and her team work closely to create inspiring spaces. They assemble elements that are old, new, handmade, and thrifted. For homes that are understated but far from being boring, Nicole has such an eye for detail. But what I have learned the most from Nicole, and this last year, year and a half of working with Nicole is her love for her team and how committed she is to building her team, creating company culture and really showing up firmly in her space. As a leader. This conversation is absolutely a beautiful conversation and how to show up as a leader learning from your mistakes as you grow. You comically say I’m an accidental entrepreneur, which we hear of so often from our clients, and all of the mistakes that she’s made in building her team and her culture, and then cash management strategies. She’s used to becoming successful. We want to include all of these stories, you don’t have to make the same mistakes. So here is my beautiful conversation with Nicole.

Nicole, welcome to entrepreneur money stories.

Nicole  3:06  

Thanks for having me, Danielle,

Danielle  3:07  

I’m really, really excited for this conversation. You have been a client for about a year now. And it’s been a really fun journey to watch you grow as a business owner, but you’ve kind of had a special growth over the last year in how you’re taking risks and how you’re working through your money mindset. But before we dig into all of that, maybe you can just share with the listeners a little bit about yourself. Who are you? What do you do? What’s your mission in the world?

Nicole  3:37  

Yeah, so I like to start by saying design is kind of my second career. I was an elementary school teacher for 12 years before I made the leap into interior design. So I definitely do not come from a business background. Everything that I’ve accomplished has just kind of been from determination, hard work and learning really hard lessons to get here. So now we’re running and running this, you know, luxury design business and not only that, but we recently opened up our brick and mortar so we have a shop now as well. So it’s definitely yes, I am on a high learning curve. But I’ve been feeling like we were really successful and a lot of that is due to working with you guys at Kickstarter accounting.

Danielle  4:25  

So I want to ask what made you find this second career How did you end up from being a school teacher to design

Nicole  4:33  

Well, like the name of our company says, eye for pretty. I think I always had an eye for it even when I was a little girl just decorating my bedroom and you know my mom also had a really good design eye so it’s always kind of been in me and in my blood. It really started and took off when my husband and I bought our first home together. We started doing a lot of DIY projects and I started showing those on social Media. And that’s where things really caught some traction because I was getting noticed by Pottery Barn and big retailers. And then I had a lot of eyes on me all of a sudden. So yeah, so that’s where it stemmed from. And I was teaching part time when I had young babies. And I was also starting to take on a few client design clients. And it got to a point where I was just so busy with the design clients, and my husband said, Okay, it’s time to make a decision, you know, are you ready to stop teaching, and at that point, it had been 12 years, I thought that was a really great teaching career. And I was getting burnt out, you know, it’s a lot of work. Being a teacher, I loved it. But my kids were starting to get to the age where I was almost teaching them, which was kind of awkward. So I was ready to leave. And I was, yeah, I took a leap of faith and started the company on my own wearing all the hats and learning all of the hard lessons of being an entrepreneur and a business owner.

Danielle  6:02  

So I think one thing that I hear consistently that holds business owners back is their money mindset. And you’ve just talked about some pretty pivotable times, let’s talk about when you left, being a teacher to go into design, what were some of the money mindset, fears that you had, and how did you overcome them to take that leap?

Nicole  6:27  

So I will, I will say, I’m very fortunate because I had a very supportive spouse. And he, you know, is the breadwinner, and he really said was supported us financially for a while, just in terms of my money mindset. Growing up, it’s interesting, because my mom was the one who handled all of our finances, she was a stay at home mom, my dad worked full time as a truck driver and a garbage man. And when I met my husband, I really wanted nothing to do with money and finances. And he really took on all of that.

Danielle  7:02  

Interesting, even though your mom had a hand in it, you didn’t? You didn’t feel like you wanted it, huh?

Nicole  7:08  

No, I just don’t think I have that. That brain, you know, and even to this day, my husband is like, in a poll, if anything ever happens to me, like you need to be, you know, aware, and you need to know what’s going on with our finances. And, you know, then as a business owner, I kind of bury my head in the sand for a long time. And I said, Okay, there’s cash coming in. But where’s it going, you know, I was opening up these credit cards, and not really understanding cash flow at all, and very nervous and timid to run a business on my own. And that’s where a lot of the hard lessons came from, because I was making a lot of mistakes. And, honestly, it wasn’t until working with you guys that I started feeling like I was getting some mentorship. And I was feeling more empowered about my money. And you know, I felt solid with kind of the, you know, where I was at with the business, and also just making decisions based on emotion. I was doing that for a really long time. And you guys really helped me see that, you know, that’s not the right way to do it. We need to really look at the numbers and make informed decisions. So that’s been super helpful for me.

Danielle  8:21  

Yeah, I think it was fun slowing down this year to say, how can we make these decisions intentionally and not from a place of abundance or scarcity? You talked about opening up the shop. And that’s another big risk. Right? So maybe you could talk a little bit about how you approach that decision and be comfortable with the risk of that endeavor. And I know, you’re, you know, nobody goes into this with like, yes, risk, and it’s great. But I think it’s important for us to hear that. We all have these fears, right. And we all work through them, and we can do it anyway.

Nicole  9:02  

And I think that just comes down to a lot of things, like your personality as well. I’ve always had a higher risk tolerance, I would say like I am the type of person that feels the fear and does it anyway and kind of pushes through things, knowing that I have what it takes to back it up. And sure things happen in life where you know, things don’t work out. And with the shop, I felt like we were in a comfortable spot where people were purchasing from us. They were coming back consistently. And there was a need for it in our area. And you know, working through the numbers and figuring out okay, what do we need to bring in each month? You know, what’s going on? What are we paying out in inventory, what are we going to pay our employees? All of those numbers just started to make sense for us and I felt comfortable taking that risk.

Danielle  9:51  

So knowing your numbers. Exactly. The theme, the theme, let’s talk a little bit about your team. I’ve gotten the opportunity to watch you build this really beautiful culture. How? How do you feel like what were some of the intentional things that you’ve done to build the culture in your business? And what were some of the maybe less intentional lessons learned along the way that maybe things that you’re like, oh, that were actually really worked? Or should I do that again?

Nicole  10:19  

Right? Welcome me. And I’ve worked really hard at this, it’s all been about getting the right people in the right seats, you know, I know you and I talk about EOS and, you know, traction. And I’ve really worked hard to kind of find the personalities that fit into our culture that have the same core values as myself. And some of the things that I do that I think make our team successful is, you know, give them flexible schedules. So most of us are moms. And it was really important to me to have a team where the girls felt like, as long as they get their work done, and they are working, you know, at their highest levels for the company, that they can pretty much make their own schedules. And sure, it’s great to have FaceTime with them a couple of times a week. But it was really important to me that they all had flexible schedules, and they knew that their families come first. So I feel like when they’re in the studio together or when they’re working, they’re really invested. And they know that, you know, because they have this flexible schedule that they’re working that much harder to get things done. So flexible schedules and some other things maybe that we’re not as intentional. We’re just trying to think of what would be something that was not as intentional but worked out for us.

Danielle  11:38  

In terms of maybe we’ll schedule, maybe let’s pause and just dig in a little bit there. Because you’re running a much larger business than when you first started. Right? How many? How many people do you have in your team now?

Nicole  11:48  

So there’s 10 at the design studio and 10 at the brick and mortar, so 20 employees.

Danielle  11:55  

Okay, so I just wanted to provide some context for listeners. Yeah. Has your flexibility changed? And how you approach that has changed as you’ve grown, because I watch a lot of our clients who we’ve worked with, that started maybe with contractors, right that they started with contractors. And so they allowed a ton of flexibility, those people stayed with them, as they continued to build their brand. Now, they want them to be employees, but they struggle with how much flexibility to give, especially in a post pandemic world where some people are working from home, some people are in the studio, how has that changed for you,

Nicole  12:30  

all of my current employees started as 1099. So that has definitely been a journey, moving them over to employees. And you guys have helped us out with that just kind of, you know, they’re being so strict on what constitutes a 1099. So we have to be really careful. Right? So yeah, so that’s definitely been a journey. And in terms of the flexibility, as you said, post COVID. A lot of things change. But I think what I realized most is that we can be really successful working from home. And that comes down to trust with my team, and a lot of communication and making sure we’re all on the same page. And yeah, so that’s actually worked out really well for us.

Danielle  13:14  

Hey, listeners, I hope you’re enjoying another great episode of entrepreneur money stories. If you’re ready to dive deeper into your money mindset, I invite you to book a strategy call with the kickstart accounting team. The KSA team is eagerly waiting to help you and support you as you make your dream business a reality. Don’t put us on one of those to do lists that never get done. We know what it’s like for accounting to follow you around like a black cloud tax to get started to 844-499-6969. Again, text get started 28444996969. Do it right here right now. Go ahead and press pause. As you’re thinking about it. This is something that is too important to wait, trust me, you’ll wish you did it a lot sooner. All right now, back to the episode. Is there anything actionable that you do today to help foster trust in your team, like help foster that environment of trait of creating trust between each other? And you? Yeah,

Nicole  14:20  

It definitely takes time. It’s you know, it’s a relationship like anything else. I’m fortunate because my team is, you know, they’re kind of like a family. It’s very, even though there’s 10 of us, it still feels very boutique and small and our culture, we just have the right synergy together. Recently, I have promoted one of our senior designers to design director so she’s more of our manager now the designers, so she’s kind of overseeing all of the designers and then updates me a lot by just checking over email, FaceTime. Yeah, so I think it’s just being in constant contact with each other. Yeah,

Danielle  14:59  

I think I’m really humbled because I think that there’s a tone that comes from the top and just kindness and respect for one another. And when you can show that to your team, it, it, it radiates. And I think that you do a really excellent job of that.

Nicole  15:17  

Thank you, I really, I really appreciate that. It’s something I definitely pride myself on. And I said this, I was talking to someone else. And I just, I never wanted to run a business where it felt like you were just putting in your time and punching a clock and collecting a paycheck. That’s not at all the culture of our business, it feels like I said, like a family. And it’s, it’s comfortable in our studio, it’s, it’s safe, and it feels good. And at the end of the day, that’s what we’re creating for all of our clients

Danielle  15:46  

now, in a service based, but now you have both kinds of service and an inventory. So that’s a difficult situation from a cash perspective of balancing cash between payroll and purchasing inventory, what are some of the cash management strategies that you’ve implemented over the years to balance that, right? Because what I hear from you is that you want to compensate your team and make them part of the family. But leaving enough cash in the bank to be able to purchase additional inventory and balance all that anything specific that you can think of, and lessons learned or

Nicole  16:24  

No, I mean, I think you guys have helped us really separate the two businesses. So that’s been huge for me, because I think, you know, when things get so muddled, and I can’t tell how much we have at the shop, and when things are kind of all intertwined, that was really hard for me. And then in terms of things like payroll, that money mindset really comes into play when we’re talking about payroll, in my opinion, because I see payroll going out every month, and I go, Oh, my gosh, that’s such a big number. How are we going to afford it, you know, to pay everyone, but then when you kind of turn your mind, flip your mindset around, you say, Okay, but what did we build out to clients? You know, and where’s that money going? And where did it come from? It all starts to make sense. And at the end of the day, I want my employees to get paid really well, you know, I feel like we compensate them fairly. But sometimes it’s not just about the money either. And sometimes it’s about those kinds of extra things that we do at our company, you know, whether it’s team outings or team lunches, or bonuses at the end of the year, there’s other things that really incentivize them to stay. And that’s really important to me.

Danielle  17:34  

Yeah, it’s the culture, it’s being part of something bigger than just their paycheck.

Nicole  17:41  

Exactly, exactly. But definitely handling the inventory at the shop has been, you know, very eye opening we have, there’s a lot of inventory over there. A lot of money that goes out every month to inventory. And, you know, we’re always like, Oh, are we going to make it? Are we going to reach our goals this month over there? So that’s been important setting goals with you guys. And if we’re able to meet them each month?

Danielle  18:04  

Yeah. All right. Any other action steps or lessons learned along the way in terms of team and culture that you’ve encountered over the years? Well,

Nicole  18:15  

I would say something that doesn’t really have to do with money. But it has to do with hiring it, and I talked about it before is getting the right people in the right seats. And sometimes it’s hard to let people go, but it’s definitely usually for the best. And I’ve had employees that have had one foot in the door, one foot out the door, and it just never feels good. And it doesn’t ever go the way you want them to go. So I think something that I’ve really, that’s taken me years to learn is just to let go gracefully, and you know, wish people well, but also be firm on your boundaries and what you want, as an employee, what you’re looking for an employee and if that doesn’t fit, it’s time to say goodbye. So,

Danielle  18:57  

yeah, that’s a good point of, I think, in this economy right now, or we hear of quiet quitting. And in an employee driven culture, in the economy, making those hard decisions as a leader, to say, we want people who are all in, right, we want people who are here and believe in what we’re doing. It’s not an easy thing to do. But it’s you showing up as a leader and really being able to lead that lead organization.

Nicole  19:27  

Exactly. And again, just getting the right people that believe in you in your culture is so important. Because then it kind of you know, it trickles down to everything to your clients that you’re going to work with. They really are an extension of myself and it takes a lot of trust to put in them to go out in the world and represent you know, I for purity and our brand. Yeah, that’s beautiful.

Danielle  19:49  

What do you do to keep your money mindset strong? today? You know, you’ve gone through a lot, you’ve grown this company, and it’s a really beautiful thing, but it’s important for us to remember I don’t care how big you are like your company gets, we all still struggle with money mindset. And we have to actively work to keep our money mindset strong. So what are you doing today?

Nicole  20:12  

I think it’s mainly practicing, you know, the art of abundance and joy and being positive. And I know that that only takes you so far, right when the money’s not coming in. But I have to have a strong belief every day that we’re going to be okay. And we’re going to make it and that’s what kind of gets me through the day. So I’m seeing a dip in our numbers. You know, I’m constantly thinking to myself, what more can I do? What else can I do? And if I think I’m doing everything I can, and you know, I’m busy, and I’m going on marketing, and I’m gaining clients, and that’s great. But sometimes it’s like, oh, well, maybe I could run a workshop this month and bring in some extra income. So, you know, as the owner, it’s constantly, you know, trying to take care of your team. And at the end of the day, I’m responsible for all of these people. And yeah, so I think it’s just never, it’s not, it’s never been negative. And like I said, there’s days where I’m like, Oh, my gosh, like, what are we going to do? But then I quickly turn it around, I get in the right headframe headspace and I start coming from a place of abundance, like it’s going to come in, and how am I going to make that happen?

Danielle  21:29  

Yeah, I love it. That’s a good energy shift. Because when we think about our brand, and our culture and our team, if we are doom and gloom, that energy is going to rain through our team and 100%.

Nicole  21:44  

Yeah, and I’ve done that before. And you’ve probably like I’ve shown up before, and they’re like, it’s all over my face. And they’re like, Okay, what’s what’s wrong, Nicole, you know, and then I’m like, wow, like this client did this. And I, you know, I have to, there’s all these damages on furniture, and it just brings everyone down. And of course, we have days like that, but it’s up to us to turn it around quickly.

Danielle  22:11  

Yeah, yeah, we don’t have to be sunshine and rainbows all the time. It’s okay to be a real, real human. And

Nicole  22:17  

it’s, and I think that’s important, too, because it’s hard to run an own business. As you know, Danielle, and a lot, all of my employees, I think they respect that. And they realize that a lot of them have owned their own business before they jumped on. And their main reason was, I don’t want to do this alone. Like, this is not my risk. Like I don’t have the risk tolerance that you have. I don’t want the overhead, you know, and so they recognize that what I’m doing, it’s a lot of hard work and sacrifice. And I think you know, that at the end of the day feels good, because they recognize that

Danielle  22:58  

I want to touch on your kids. Real quick. Is there anything that you’re doing at home as a business owner to talk to your kids about entrepreneurship or money, something that’s kind of been sitting in the back of my mind lately is not just you know, we have a money mindset because of the way our parents reacted to money, the things that they did and said, so just maybe you can share things that you’ve done said to your kids and how you’re watching that come to fruition?

Nicole  23:26  

Yes. So I have a 13 and 11 year old, I think you have some kids that are similar ages. Yeah. So they really are. Yeah, they really are starting to recognize just how hard their parents work and not so much about the money behind it. But just they see that, you know, our drive and our determination. And my 13 year old said to me the other day, he said, Mom, I can’t believe you own this business. My kid came up to me at school and said, My mom works at your mom shop, you know, and he just thought that was so cool. Because he’s like, my mom’s the owner, you know. And so I think they’re really proud of me, which is so cute. But yes, we’re always talking about money and saving, and just kind of setting them up for success and what that looks like, I think it’s very easy to live in this day and age where, you know, social media and kids are seeing so many, like ridiculous, like, everything is handed to them. And they expect to have you know, make your tic TOCs and get paid millions of dollars. Yeah. And so it’s definitely hard as a parent these days, kind of building that money mindset. But it’s something that Pat and I definitely work on daily with our kids. It’s just teaching them the value of $1 and what that takes, and it’s like, yes, we have this great life, but what do we do to get there and to make sure that they will do the same thing when they’re older and with their kids? Yeah.

Danielle  24:57  

Showing work ethic and grit, you know, and all the four hour work weeks and only work 15 hours a week, you know, sometimes it’s okay for us to say, no, in order to have this where we’re working, we’re working hard,

Nicole  25:11  

right? And then that comes with a lot of mom guilt too, right? I mean, I don’t think there’s anyone that has it like others do with the guilt, but it’s just as important to show our kids our strong work ethic as it is our husbands.

Danielle  25:25  

Yeah, absolutely. Is there anything that I have not asked you today that you wish I would have or that you feel inclined to share with the audience, the only

Nicole  25:34  

The thing I want to say I want to touch on really quickly is because you and I have worked really hard on this, paying myself as the owner, what I feel like an owner deserves. So that’s kind of a good topic for us to talk about. Because it’s something that was really a struggle for me to get to the place I am now, with paying myself being a teacher for many years, like, you know, to not even be making what a teacher was making. And working as hard as I was working, it was very hard for me to wrap my brain around that. So maybe you can talk to the audience a little bit about how you helped me kind of change that mindset of what I deserved to make and how we what steps we were going to take to make that happen.

Danielle  26:22  

Yeah, that’s a really good point. I’m glad you brought it up. So I think we took the same approach that we take with a lot of our clients, and what is our like, let’s not operate from our cash balance. Because if we operate from our cash balance, we’re never gonna get paid. Right? Right, there’s always gonna be, you know, bonusing our team or buying more inventory or paying down debt, right? There’s so many places for our cash to go. It’s really about thinking about what we need to support ourselves personally and find financially personally, where do we want to be? And then building the rest of the budget around those dollars? And what on average, is the business bringing in on a monthly basis? So looking at, on average, what does it bring in? And what on average are the operating expenses and then build your salary into those dollars. So now you have a break even amount with your salary included? So here’s what I need to pay everybody else, here’s what I need in terms of cash to buy my inventory. And now I know I have my sales goal, right? Like now I can add in what I need to make and can build on that sales goal. And I think what we did at the end of the year was really fun. Yes, I use the word fun. October, November, we did a few, you know, cash check ins, right. So a lot of people in your industry. Yeah, we have this seasonality, especially in your retail side of the business where November, December, we’re on the ride up the roller coaster and January, February real good. ride back down. You know, it happens in every industry. So every business owner is going along the ride with you. And so we took a step back and monitored cash, right? Looking at what we have the cash for, and really preparing for taxes and team bonuses, and year end team retreats. So you made all those decisions really thoughtfully and really prepared. It doesn’t make January feel any better, right? Like, nobody’s like, oh

Nicole  28:30  

My numbers are so great this month. But something else you brought up in there, Danielle, was taxes too. And that was a huge learning lesson for me last year, and when we had worked with our previous bookkeeper, you know, like I said, there was no mentorship. So it’s just a profit and loss every month. Here you go. But then what do I do with that ? They never helped me plan for anything. So last year, when you know, the business was really profitable, I was absolutely smacked in the face with what I was going to owe on our personal taxes. And I had no savings that we had not saved for you know, so this year, what’s been really life changing for me is that we were able to plan for that this year, and we were able to put money aside to pay those taxes. So thank you for that. There’s just been so many learning lessons and working with you guys. I feel, you know, just more empowered to, you know, with our numbers and again, it’s making decisions not based off emotion like the past and just Yeah, where are the numbers at and then making important decisions. So thank you.

Danielle  29:40  

Yes, of course. Of course. Yeah. Again, we’re all going to have slow seasons and high seasons, but I think it allows us to ride the high moments a little bit. We’re with reason and take our depths with a little bit more of a calmness and ease rather than so frantic and so knowing your numbers all the way around money, mindset, building culture and team, I think you’ve laid out so many good nuggets and action steps for our audience to be able to take. I hear a lot of our clients building teams right now. And culture is so important. And I think as small business owners, we have a responsibility and an opportunity to make changes and other people’s lives by giving them a place to work that’s meaningful. It’s not a nine to five, it’s not a clock in clock out, they get to be something part of something bigger and better and a real impact to the economy. So you’re doing amazing things and really appreciate you having here, you here. How can the audience stay in touch with you and start following you on Instagram, and I’m obsessed with all of your stuff.

Unknown Speaker  30:47  

Thank you.

Danielle  30:48  

Where can they find you?

Nicole  30:49  

Yes, that’s probably the best place to start. I think we’re pretty on Instagram. You could go to AI for on our website, and check us out there too.

Danielle  31:00  

Awesome. All right. Thanks. So cool. I appreciate you being here.

Nicole 31:03  

Thanks for having me, Danielle.

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