EP76: Nicole Feliciano - How To Balance Your Bookkeeping Business & Family Life

We all need balance in our lives and she perfected it.

Our guest, renowned publisher, founder & CEO of MomTrends, Nicole Feliciano, did this by understanding her priorities, taking action and making mindset changes that would alter her life for the better.It wasn't easy, but it was worth it.

Work-life balance is possible and you're about to find out some tips to help make it a reality.

During this interview, you'll discover...

  • How to balance your entrepreneurship, family and success

  • Powerful tips in making your bookkeeping clients satisfied

  • How to have a successful bookkeeper and client relationship

To learn more about Mom Trends, visit here

For her Facebook page, click here.

For her Twitter account, discover here.

For her LinkedIn page, check this out.

For her Instagram, explore here.

For her Pinterest, go here.


Michael Palmer: 01:13 Welcome back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I'm your host, Michael Palmer, and today's show is going to be a fun one and an extremely educational one for yours. Truly the host, our guest left her role as an executive at Ralph Lauren to lodge a blog called mom trends in 2007 since then, it has grown into a boutique media brand that provides the latest news on things trendy and cool for Moms, and now she has a book, Mom Boss, balancing entrepreneurship, kids and success. Nicole Feliciano, welcome to the podcast. 

Nicole Feliciano: 01:50 Thanks so much for having me today, Michael. Really glad to be with you. 

MP: 01:53 It's great to have you. And I said, I was gonna learn before we started this interview, we talked about the fact that I have a young son and I am here to learn as well about balancing with life and kids and success and all of those good things. But before we get into that, Nicole, please let us know a little bit about your background before we get started. So our listener gets to know you. 

NF: 02:20 Excellent. So I started in the retail world. I did a few years at the May Company and worked in department stores and advertising and really caught the retail bug. And then from there, spend almost a decade at Ralph Lauren and I worked store line at Ralph Lauren and then I worked in the corporate offices with Mr. Lauren. So it was a dream job. I worked on Madison Avenue, I had a fancy office and great clothes and a worked a ton of hours. I think the baseline was about 60 hours a week and then during market weeks it was really up close to 70 75 hours. So it was fantastic and it was great for its moment in time. But as I wanted to start a family, I was really struggling with the incongruity of the two things of the career that it was currently in and the type of mother that I wanted to be. So I took a bit of time to do some soul searching. 

NF: 03:18 And fortunately I had saved enough money in my years in the corporate world that I was able to take a year off and travel with my then boyfriend's. We got married on the trip and we were traveling for a year and when we came back we started a family almost immediately and I was really ready to shift gears. I wanted to do something that used my skills in business building and the sense of style that I had developed for all those years in retail and its fashion. Uh, and it was just a matter of good timing at that point. Cause blogs were just happening, just popping up. I did some freelance writing for a few years, uh, for a few other sites and was figuring out my voice and the space I wanted to be in. And I launched bomb trends as a blog in 2007 and it took about two years to figure out how to make money out of it. 

NF: 04:11 And then from 2009 to 2015 we had just very rapid incremental growth. And then we hit $1 million in revenues. And we've been able to sustain that for the past three years, which has been fantastic. So we've kind of leveled off our growth, but we have five employees other than myself. Everybody loves their job. We have really low turnover and the best part is I'm doing what I love while also being really involved in raising my two girls and now they are 12 and 10 and I feel like it's going to be a blink of an eye before they're, you know, on much more independent than where they are now. And I'm just super grateful that I have a work-life where I can be present for them and really engaged in something I love building at the same time. And I want to share some of the things that I've done along the way to maybe inspire some of your listeners. 

MP: 05:07 Yeah. That, that, I mean I'm really excited and I think you're extremely qualified to be helping us manage success in life and work and kids and all of these good things because you, you went from a really, really busy career working for Ralph Lauren and, and, and with that and very prestigious brand, a great career. Uh, you left that and then you started a business which is, is thriving and you have employees. And so I think I'm really excited to hear what you have to say for our audience and, and myself about trying to keep it all in check. 

NF: 05:43 So about a year and a half ago, I came out with my book mom boss and it is all about balancing entrepreneurship, kids and success. And I've put my, I do the best tips I came up within the book. And then I also interviewed a hundred other females, CEOs. And this was anything from a very simple company. I talked to a woman who was a hairdresser who was now making her own hair accessories and she was able to grow her business enough that she really supports her family. Off of these hair accessories, which is amazing, but the book is full of more tips and I'm going to give you some of those today. So one of the first I did when I was looking to make the jump was really figuring out the finances before I made the leap and started investing a lot of money into this new business. 

NF: 06:32 So I was working as a freelancer, making money, doing the very thing that I was then trying to build. So I always advise if you can do a little bit of both things before you launch if you can have a side hustle if you will. It is a great way to protect your income and protect your family from any vulnerability with the fluctuations in earnings. So I spent about two years doing the freelance hustle while building bomb trends. And I think that was great because I saw how other people created their businesses. I was able to not have to eat into our savings as a family to get mom trends up and running. So that was one of the first things is really mapping out where you're going to turn the lines of profitability and you can't just hope that it's going to happen. You've got to have a strategy in place and you've really got to stop and analyze. I find that a lot of entrepreneurs are so passionate about their ideas and they just think that it is a great idea that they often don't slow down enough to analyze where they've been and where they're going. 

MP: 07:36 I love that. And you know, I've spoken to so many, uh, listeners now we have a lot of listeners that have thriving bookkeeping businesses and everywhere in between. And we have a lot of listeners that have not started. And I think one of the challenges is how do you make that leap from having that secure income, you know, guaranteed almost income coming from a job to then going into the abyss of the unknown. And you've answered that clearly, which is to maybe have a side hustle and maybe you can say a little bit more about that four. For those specific listeners that are thinking about becoming bookkeepers, they want to work for themselves and have their own business. What, what, what would you say to them around actually getting that side hustle going or planning around their finances to make it happen. 

NF: 08:23 So you've really got to be organized with scheduling. I hope these additional hours are going to come out of your day to make it happen. My husband and I, at the time when I was launching bomb trends, you know, we looked at the babysitting hours very carefully because it's super expensive in New York City. I hope everyone's seated. Chuck care for two, two kids. We were paying $27 an hour for a babysitter. You know, now my kids are a little bit older and we used after school and my older daughter doesn't need anyone minding her, but that is a lot of money. So I was very careful about the hours that I was using for babysitting. They had to be super productive hours and they had to be things that were going to eventually turn into something that was more profitable than $27 an hour. So you've really got to map out where is this time coming from, how am I going to create this time? 

NF: 09:15 You know, little there's nap time but only working at night. It's not going to build your business because you need to build in time to do networking. You need to build in time to do calls. You know, you can't expect to return calls at one o'clock in the morning. You can do emails and you can do a lot of, you know the nuts and bolts of your business, but you do need those, those sorts of traditional working hours built-in. So figuring out where that time is going to come from and where that money is going to come from as well and have clear deadlines. I set goals for myself that, you know, when we hit x amount of page views or x amount of income that I was going to invest in this next bit of software or technology. There were small benchmarks that I could hold myself up to and if I didn't meet them then I would have to reconfigure where we were along the line. And we still do that now with mom trends. We have monthly meetings with my team where we look at and, and really pour over the analytics for my site. And we really look at those numbers and we figured out what, not only what was successful, but what wasn't successful. And look at the things that are not working for you, but taking up a lot of your time and let them go. 

MP: 10:32 Hmm. That's, that's great advice for everyone listening. I really like your approach, which is a lot of thinking, a lot of analyzing a where you're at, stepping back and saying, okay, this is where we want to be. What do we have to do to get there? And there's gonna be things that we're going to have to add. There are things that we're going to have to remove. And I mean it's, it's simple when we start talking about it, but sometimes it can be difficult if we're busy and we're trying to do things, but yet we have these dreams that we want to accomplish. So I love the approach you're taking. 

NF: 11:03 Thank you. Yeah. And I would also really recommend when, when the company, I relied on freelancers as much as possible. The first two people that came onto our team were on a commission based basis. And I highly recommend that so that the new team members that you add on, they are very much incentivized to bring in new business, to basically create their salary. Now we have people who are on our editorial team and I can't expect them to be selling and selling marketing deals. So, you know, it took me a few years where I was doing all of the editorials and then I had two marketing partners that were selling to for programs. And when I was able to layer in more, uh, staff that were producing great content but not producing revenue. So if you can put off those, those drains on your resources as long as possible and hire freelancers, I highly recommend it. 

NF: 11:58 And we still outsource a great deal here. So for instance, our bookkeeping is another female entrepreneur and she is a great partner. She's then for nine years, for a long time. And she really holds me accountable. So I am so invested in a great accounting partner and a great bookkeeping partner that I love that you, you contacted me about this, but we still, we um, outsource with some virtual assistants, with some graphic designers with our legal help. Um, so these are just on a contractual basis and I'm very generous with my group of other female entrepreneurs of sharing my resources. I've recommended my, um, bookkeeper again and again and again over the years. And I think that women are really about sharing those resources. So delegate as much as you can and then ask your friends for those connections for referrals as much as possible because we all know that the word of mouth is just essential. 

MP: 13:03 I love that. And you know, I'm like tempted to go down the road of asking you some questions about how the relationship works with your bookkeeper because I think it's so interesting and I didn't think of this before we had this conversation, but it's so interesting to hear, it's like the voice of the customer, right? Our listener right now is one of those bookkeepers and you have a great bookkeeper and you said one of the things that your bookkeeper does for you is holding you accountable and keeps you on track, but you also refer a lot of people to that bookkeeper. And I'm just curious if you would give any advice as to how you know some of the behaviors or things that your bookkeeper does that you could help our listeners understand in terms of what satisfies you as an entrepreneur because you are their customer essentially. 

NF: 13:49 Excellent question. So there are a few things that I would recommend about her. So we have quarterly check-ins when the company was in a more rapid growth mode. So she would reach out to me and said, I'm, you know, I'd love to go over your quarterly numbers with you. And as the clients, I didn't always think it was necessary to do them, but actually, after she gave me a half an hour of her time, she had some really interesting insights about where I was spending things as pending and challenged me in a very Dave way. You know, I didn't feel like she was calling me out, but just said, you know, you might want to think about your expenditures on travel. Are they really paying off in sales? Because there were a few years where the travel where we were going to a lot of conferences and I really had to stop and think about it because I live in New York City and a lot of these companies eventually would come through New York and I would just have to pay the two 75 subway to go see them versus going to a conference. 

NF: 14:41 So we did trim our spending down. And I think in part because of Vicky's careful check-ins with me, you know, we've really increased our profitability. As I said, you know, our revenues have been relatively flat for the past three years, but each year we've become more profitable because we have figured out more efficient ways to spend our money. So if she didn't have these check-ins with me, I don't think that we would've seen that spike in profitability. Um, her reporting is off very clear and concise and she is always on time. So my monthly recaps come in three days after the new month has begun and then she checks back with me. She's highlighting a few things that she saw from month to month that may have stuck out to her. But she always offers to answer her questions and she's great about a quick turnaround. So for me working in social media things move pretty quickly and having that speedy response is fantastic. 

NF: 15:38 And she's also, you know, shared a few of her clients over the years cause she has seen different people in her business. Not everyone works in social media and so she's referred a few people to me. And I think just being a connector and somebody who is generous with their time and ideas is a great way to build relationships with your clients and also make sure that you're on the top of mind when it comes to referrals as well. And she also gives great Christmas gifts for a year. She sent me a few motivational books over the years. I mean nothing terribly expensive, you know, all this. Probably 2020 $5 but they're really thoughtful and I always look forward to see what, which book or what new items she's, it's going to be giving me at the end of the year. So little things like that really matter a lot to me. 

MP: 16:24 I love Vicky. Wow, what a great bookkeeper. All of these things, this is your, it's absolutely delicious to listen to. You talk about your bookkeeper and I think the audience listening right now is going to be able to take some, some ideas and implement those and think about, you know, it's one thing to do something, but sometimes you don't get the feedback that you is like, is this valuable to somebody? You know, it's not like every day people are thanking you for whatever you do. But when you hear someone like yourself sharing the joy that you get in the satisfaction and as well the beautiful results, I mean increased profitability on flat-line growth. I mean that's just wonderful. So it's, I think a nice perspective to hear these little things add up. They make a difference. And it leads to the big time. Great referrals and who you refer are likely people like you who are great people. So I mean I just, I just love that story. So thanks for indulging my question. Let's get back to help. Let's get back to helping everybody that's listening to a balance or get to harmony in their lives through some of the learnings. What else did you discover about how to make it all work and still keep the family and kids and everybody in intact? 

NF: 17:36 So this one is more speaking to the female population amongst your listeners that no one loves a martyr. And I think that women have this long history of attempting to do it all and putting it all on our shoulders. I'm going to give you a few examples of ways that I don't do that. When I was asked to write this book, it was probably the process about two years ago that I started and I really thought, well, how am I going to get more blood from this particular stone because my days are already really full. I do value my health and sleep and exercise. And I didn't want to, you know, give up on anything. But I also wanted to, to write books. So I sat down with my husband and I said, look, you know, this is something that I want to do. It's the uh, project that I'm going to expect to do every year, but do you have any creative ideas? 

NF: 18:25 And we came up with the idea together that he would start taking the kids to school in the morning so he would do the breakfast shift, make sure that they were fed, and then do a, we, it's about a 20 minute walk to our school from our house. So basically giving me an hour back of my life five times a week. So I would get up a little bit earlier, I'd go into my Home Office and I would just start banging away. I would try to get 500 words or something like that out a morning while he was, you know, I'd go kiss everybody and on the head and, and check in on them. But he was really the man in charge. And by asking for his help. It was amazing. Not only did he become closer with the two girls on those walks to the school, but he also said it was, it was the outpouring of information that he got in those 20 minutes. 

NF: 19:10 Um, it's about three-quarters of a mile. He said it was just, wow, I didn't know you would get this much info from the girls on the walk to school. And I said, Oh yeah, that's when it all comes out. So he won because he got a closer relationship with the girls. I won because I didn't have to sacrifice sleep or other things that I wanted to do in order to write this book. So I asked for help. We came up with a plan together and it was a success. And he's still, now that the book is written and the market, the book tour is his past. He's still walking the girls to school two or three times a week because he just loves it. So that's a clear example of asking for help, coming up with creative solutions to find more time where you can be productive in your, your day. 

NF: 19:52 Um, my other example is really talking about delegate. Yeah. And saying no to things. So I have three things that are really important to me and I sort of look at it as, you know, the true juggle. I can keep three balls in the air, I cannot get that fourth one going. So I know for me that three things. I've got my family, I've got my business and then I've sort of got sort of my health and wellness, which is the third thing. So these three things I can, I can keep them going. Something may be winning more than the other one at any particular time, but when somebody tries to throw me a fourth ball to juggle, I believe fail and things ball all over the floor. So I say no to more things than I would like to, you know, I would love to join a book club. 

NF: 20:39 I would love to run the New York marathon. Somebody had said, you know, they emailed me this week and said, oh, I've got a free entry in the, yeah, do you like to do what? I know you're a runner and I just, you know, I look at my schedule and there's no way I can get an extra 15 miles in a week. As much as I would love to do it, I would love to join the book club. Another girlfriend wanted me to join her meditation class. Well, it's 10 30 on Wednesday. I'm at the office that particular day. There are more times than I say no to things than I ever talk about in social media. You're going to see the things that I prioritize my family, my health, okay. My business. So while it may seem that your friends are getting it all done or capable of everything, realize that they are saying no in small ways all the time. 

NF: 21:26 So you've got to figure out the small knows that you can say along the way. So you can get to those big yeses that leave you fulfilled and happy, and you've got to make sure that you give yourself credit for the big, big wins that you were making. You know, my girls are, I have a close relationship with them. I have a marriage that I'm committed to and I'm really invested in and I have a business that I love. So, you know, I try to celebrate the wins rather than grieving the, uh, the nos that I've made along the way. 

MP: 22:05 I love that perspective. Celebrating the things you're saying, saying yes to versus looking at it like you're saying no to a bunch of stuff. It's that it is wonderful, I'm going to take that on today.

MP: 22:16 Just refreshing. Yeah. And it just, you know, wherever you're coming. Mm. Is it a, have gratitude and plenty is a much better place to be. Um, and I would also say, you know, when, when you're building a business and you're building your network, you know, picking, um, very carefully the partners that you're going to work with, both, you know, within building your business. And then there's peers that you have picked to have on your, your, your team who are cheering you on, who were maybe have a compatible business or a complementary businesses, but who are also entrepreneurs who can share in, you know, a big win or a mourn, a loss with you if you've lost a piece of business. But really having, you know, women that you can count on who are men who aren't jealous, who aren't going to be, you know, competing with you for resources. 

NF: 23:01 You know, picking really wisely the people who lift you up, who make you feel competent, powerful and successful. And I'm really, again, with, with being covetous about the way I spend my time in saying those, those little nos along the way. I'm also really careful about the women and that that I surround myself with. And I've got an amazing team of women who we, who I've just picked very carefully over the years. You know, when we're adding on new employees, they usually start as freelancers and we give them a go with freelancers. And then, you know, the more time I spend with them, I try to see are they going to be a good fit for our organization. And I think it's one of the reasons we've had such low turnover because I'm so hesitant to add somebody onto the team if they're not a good fit. They've gotta be a personality fit, a good work fit as well. So don't hire quickly, you know, make sure you do all of your due diligence before you bring somebody on because it's much harder to manage somebody out than it is to be a slow, steady process of bringing somebody in. 

MP: 23:59 Mm. That is wonderful advice and can't be said enough times. Take, take your time when you're bringing people into your business because you have to work with them. And it's a, it's a lot. It can be a long road and so, so much can go into it beforehand. And the, I guess the exponential amount of energy that would be put on and trying to get rid of somebody. I mean it's not just something to do, it's a co, it comes with all sorts of the emotional fallout that you have to deal with when, when people don't work out. So that is a really good piece of advice and I love that you've built, you've really thought about what you want to build, who you want in your business. Likely you've done this as well with your clients and customers as well, is that you're very thoughtful about why you're doing it and who you want to have belonged to it because you're thinking of that end state, what do I want to have? Do I have a company filled with a whole bunch of people I love or the opposite? I just, I really think that's a fantastic way of thinking. 

NF: 24:58 And so one of the last things that I would say is one of the things I like to talk about is the failures as well. And one thing I would recommend to anyone starting a business is to keep much better track of your contacts and developing a database of your contacts in your network than I did. So we are still living on a hybrid between constant contact and my Google context as well. To organize those business cards, have a system for or contexts and how you are going to follow up, reach out with people. Our sales team has, you know, developed some, some systems in place but I do wish, you know going, if I could rewind 11 years to when we were launching the business and had some more systems, we've tried some different CRMs, there are customer relationship management tools over the years and it's so hard to undo nine or 11 years of having small list here and smallest there but segmented lists and really tagging them and keeping them organized as you're growing. 

NF: 25:59 If you could do that with starting when you're a smaller business and grow larger, it's going to pay off in spades. So that's, I always like to say one thing I would change about the way we've grown this company that is, that is certainly one of them. And there's still way too much living in my brain that should be available to all of my team members and, or if that is constantly a work in progress of I, you know, being the founder and the CEO and still being somebody who's really deeply involved in the business. And I go to a lot of meetings and meet a lot of people and trying to figure out a way to download that. Everything that's in my head so I can share it with the rest of the team. I'm all ears for more suggestions. But that's been a constant challenge for our particular team. 

MP: 26:41 Hmm. I think it's refreshing to hear someone who has, has gone and walked the path and, and been able to do a bunch of things and learned a bunch of things about living. And it sounds like you've, you've done a great job of that. And so you know when w a going back a little bit, I guess my question for your growing your business, why $1 million revenue is, is a significant number it growth. What would you say about growth and what were some of the things that you did that helped you get that kind of growth in your business? 

NF: 27:20 With experimenting with different streams of revenue, especially in social media because things are changing so rapidly that we were always trying out something new and then letting the business that was taking up a lot of our time but not producing a lot of money at the end of the year. We would just sort of letting those things go. And so right now yeah, revenue streams come from three different things. We have an events management business where we launched different products and services to other social media influencers around the country, so different companies. And today we were hosting one with Palmer's cocoa butter. So we were hosting an event for social media influencers who have young babies who are pregnant and are interested in this cocoa butter creams hopping palmers with an event launch. And we do them all over the country with different influencers. We have a consulting business where brands come to us and they are trying to figure out how to reach a particular group of influencers with a targeted program. 

NF: 28:21 So not in a live event but they want to get reviews or they want to get their product or service in front of other customers who, we've done a lot of work with Amwell, which is an online physician service. So if you have a child who may have strep throat, you can do a video chat with a, an actual doctor who can prescribe antibiotics if the case may be necessary. So we've really helped them expand their reach with social media moms with our programs. So we have 25 influencers that we provide work to with brands. And then a third of what we do is sponsored posts, working with brands. I do a spokesperson work. That is sort of the brand relationship with mom. Trends are a third of what we do. But when we started we just did that, those brand relationships. We had banner ads, we'll go on banner ads that looked like they were starting to dry up. 

NF: 29:15 I thought, okay, well we need something else to offer our brands, and that's when we started the events. When we sort of reached the level of maturity with events where that was sort of flat at around $300,000 a year that it was producing. We said, well, we could be able to do more with brands if we offered some consulting business where we found them influencers across the country. That's when we added that thing in. So really identifying needs that your customers have and then filling them has been how we have grown our business to that million-dollar mark looking at, okay, what else could we be giving them that nobody else is? And then doing it as well as we do all of the other programs. I think everyone knows it's much easier to keep a client you already have happy than to find that new client. So we've really focused on ways where we could build on the relationships that we already had with their clients and offer them more solutions to problems that they may have. 

MP: 30:12 Wow. My, my take away from everything that you said first, number one, it was very interesting, your business model and how you've, you've built it. But as well, I, my take away is that you're constantly looking at your business. You're constantly in communication with your customers, understanding your customers and, and really pivoting if need be to ensure that the business thrives and grows. And so, you know, that's a lot to take on. There's a lot of things that you've got moving and you've given us some great, great, great tips on how to balance it all and make it all work. You know, when, when things hit the fan for you, when it just gets to be too much, what is it that you do to take care of yourself? 

NF: 30:53 I have a great love of the outdoors. So here in Brooklyn, I run along the, um, the waterfront in, um, Brooklyn. You can see the lower Manhattan and then on the weekends we have a house in northwest Connecticut. So you will find me hiking outside with the kids. And then in the winter, we do skiing. I think last year I got 39 days in on snow. So I love the outdoors. I love getting away from my desk. It's almost always unplugged. And I don't ski with any music going. I don't run with any music going. It's just my chance to hear myself breathe. And now I make my girls run with me there rather reluctant participants, but they do love skiing with me. So I'm the slowest skier in the family and they may be the slowest runners for now, but it really getting everybody outdoors and fresh air is the way that I like to unwind and refuel myself. 

MP: 31:49 Beautiful. Well, it sounds like you've carved out a really nice life and you are living the way that you recommend in your books and in your business. It's very inspirational to me and I hope so for the listener right now, where can people find out more about you? 

NF: 32:05 So on social media you can find me at bomb trends on Twitter and on Instagram and we have a Facebook page, Momtrends.com is our website. There's every day there are new solutions popping up for busy moms. And most of the women we speak to on all of our social media channels on the website and the social media, they are working moms. So I think that you know, we're all about providing solutions and making them feel like they got this. And then Mom Boss is available on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles, and it is a great resource. It is basically getting to spend, you know, three or four hours worth of one on one consulting with me on how to grow your business in a book. So I hope everybody picks it up. 

MP: 32:50 Beautiful. And I would, I would say for the listener if you've got entrepreneurs who were, are our women and mothers get the book as a gift, we've already heard that this is a nice little touch. And so if you have that great customer that you love and cherish, send them, send them mom boss off of Amazon, they'll enjoy it and they'll be able to get more balance in their life. Nicole, thank you so much for generously giving us your time to share about your business and how our listeners can balance entrepreneurship, kids in success.

NF: 33:23 Thank you so much, Michael.

MP: 33:25 Well, that wraps another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. To learn more about today's guests and to get access to all sorts of valuable free business-building resources, you can go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com until next time, 

MP: 33:37 goodbye.