34-year-old lived on $19,000/year as a waitress. Now she runs a $100,000 business and makes $27,000 in passive income

After graduating from college in 2011, I had $30,000 in student debt and was working a part-time waitressing job for $19.50 an hour.

My quarter-life crisis made me realize I needed to figure out my finances fast. I didn’t want to continue being stuck in debt and living on $19,000 a year, so I started learning everything I could about personal finance.

Thanks in part to several side hustles and being frugal with my money, I eventually paid off my debt. I also started an educational platform called Bravely Go, where I help women create sustainable money habits and build wealth though digital workshops, courses and speaking engagements.

Today, at 34, I run a business that brings in more than $100,000 in sales and $27,000 in passive income a year. Here’s how I took charge of my finances and built a community that empowers women to do the same:

1. I shared my story to help me stay accountable. 

One of the biggest things that helped me turn my finances around was blogging about it, especially as I made progress with paying off debt.

In addition to my catering gig, I took on part-time jobs as a social media manager, a high school lacrosse coach, and a freelance writer. All of that brought in anywhere from $900 to $1,700 a month, and I was working about 50 hours a week.

In 2015, I paid off my loans, but I continued blogging. I started earning money from it in 2017 through product sales and a few sponsored posts.

Sharing my goals, triumphs and setbacks helped other women feel comfortable talking about their own financial struggles.

2. I kept my business costs low and separate from my personal expenses.

While I was preparing to launch Bravely Go in 2017, I put all my startup money into a dedicated account so I wouldn’t be tempted to use it on personal spending.

I spent $12 on the domain name through GoDaddy, and $50 on website hosting for a year with Bluehost. Another $308 went toward establishing an LLC in Texas, where I was based at the time.

And $900 went toward hiring a lawyer to draw up website terms of service, a privacy policy, and a contract to use for sponsors. I don’t regret the money I spent on that legal help early on, if only for peace of mind. 

3. I created digestible learning tools to help solve common financial problems.

In addition to my coaching services, I currently offer two courses — one about sustainable investing and another that covers investing basics

My main products are budget workbooks for individuals, and then one for couples who want to combine their finances. The ideas for all of these offerings came from questions that my readers asked me. 

My goal is always to provide approachable, straightforward, and easy-to-follow educational content.

Budgeting in particular can be difficult, because there is a lot of “one-size-fits-all” information out there. I wanted to create something that helped people who were struggling to maintain a budget, tailored to their own values and circumstances. 

4. I invested in the assets that will help my business grow.

I spent $1,450 to get my company up and running, and made back that money by the second month of operations.

Over time, I’ve invested more in tools that will help my business expand, like better video technology for making YouTube content, tech platforms like Zoom for ease of communication, and salaries for the part-time employees I’ve hired.

Almost a decade ago, I was a single woman with a low income trying to get out of debt, and it seemed like there were no tangible resources out there for me. It’s been so gratifying to become a source of support and confidence for people going through the same thing. 

Kara Perez is the founder of financial education company Bravely Go. After paying off $30,000 in student loans, she started a community she wished she had sooner: Women empowering each other to make big financial changes. Kara is is based in Austin, Texas. Follow her on YouTube and Instagram. 

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