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The views, information, or opinions expressed during this podcast are solely those of the individuals involved and do not represent those of Intuit QuickBooks or any of its cornerstone brands or employees. This podcast does not constitute financial, legal, or other professional advice or services. No assurance is given that the info is comprehensive, accurate, or free of errors, and the information presented is for general information purposes only. Intuit QuickBooks does not have any responsibility for updating or revising any information presented. Listeners should verify statements before relying on them. QuickBooks Money is a standalone intuit offering banking services provided by Green bank member FDIC.


Hey everyone. I'm Austin Hankwitz, host of the Rich Habits podcast and co founder of Wits Ventures. But you may instead recognize me from my short form videos about personal finance and investing on TikTok.


And I'm Janice Torres, the creator and host of the award winning personal finance podcast Yoquiero Dinero and author of financially lit the Modern Latinas Guide to level up your Dinero and become financially Polerosa. And we are back for season two of mind the business small business success stories, a podcast brought to you by Intuit QuickBooks and iHeart's Ruby Studio. Austin and I are picking up where we left off last season, chatting with small business owners as they share their stories about the ups and downs of owning a small business. And this season is special because we'll be hearing from solopreneurs, people who run their business completely on their own. But Austin, what have you been up to since we last spoke?


Ooh. Okay, so the Rich Habits podcast hit number one on Spotify's business charts. I got to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange alongside iShares, which is a ETF division that BlackRock has. And I had an incredible holiday with my dad and my girlfriend. I got to make my famous sweet potato casserole. Maybe it's not famous, but it does taste really good, and I got to make it, and I was really excited about.


Oh, that's fantastic, Austin. I'm so excited for everything that you're accomplishing as a creator solopreneur. I feel like we've evolved so much in just this short time that we've been together on the show, and I think my biggest thing is, I'm an author, y'all.


Let's go.


This is actually happening. I spent the better part of 2023 writing my very first book and a personal finance book that is geared specifically towards the latina community because a lot of us just don't learn about money. And so I'm really excited to have that book launch next year and have everybody talking about it.


I cannot wait to read it. I can't wait to gift it to my really, really excited for you. So before we jump into this conversation, Janice, what do you think was the most exciting part about starting your own business? What was the most exciting part about being a solopreneur to you?


I think for me it was honestly just making my first dollar all on my own and just getting that check for some thing that I had created out of ideas and thoughts in my brain. I was just like, wow, this feels a lot different than just getting a paycheck. I was hooked from that very moment. What about you, Austin?


Absolutely. I think for me, and this is something that keeps me going on just a weekly, monthly basis, new challenges, right? I see people, if it's launching a new course, launching a podcast, that was a new challenge for me in 2023, and that's been a lot of fun. So I think just having these new challenges come out of nowhere and hopefully overcome them and then be able to teach and share what I learned about them to not only my creator friends and other solopreneurs, but also on this podcast. So I'm really, really excited.


Yeah. The journey through solopreneurship is absolutely a journey into personal development.


I couldn't have said it better myself.


But enough about us. Let's go ahead and introduce our guest. Grace Wells was just having fun with her camera in her college apartment when she decided to upload a series of videos she called making epic commercials for random objects. One video featuring a fork went viral on TikTok with over 2 million views, and she was soon approached by businesses for their social media ads. After one ad for a soda company garnered a whopping 8 million views, Grace attracted even more brand deals and found the confidence to leave her job and make videos full time. She now runs her own business as a filmmaker and photographer where she creates content for major brands while also showcasing her creative techniques on social media. Grace, welcome to the show.


Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.


Thanks for being here.


Absolutely. So, Grace, I am so excited right now. I've seriously been following you on TikTok for over two years and when I found out that we were having you on the show, I literally went and rewatched like 40 of your videos. Awesome. It's so fascinating to me to watch someone go from making unique short form video content on the Internet to directing films and creating real commercials for major brands. We're going to get into all that. Don't worry. But I wanted to sort of kick off this interview. At the beginning, you were on a very different path to begin with, studying linguistics with a postgrad job lined up at grand Cosmetics. So before your videos were going viral, did you ever consider a career in commercial filmmaking?


Yeah. So it was right around my junior year of college that I bought my first camera. And the idea growing of pursuing videography or photography as my career postgrad, it was a very gradual process. At the beginning, this was very much just a creative outlet because I found myself feeling very creatively unfulfilled. So it just kind of was like, oh, I'm going to buy a camera. And it started with photography. I'm going to take some portrait photos, just my friends. It's going to be this fun little thing, and I don't know where it came from, but this drive kicked in where I was like, okay, what's the next thing? What's the next goal? Where's the next milestone? And so I think I would be on this path even if this stuff was not blowing up on social. I think that it gave me a big boost of confidence as well as like, okay, even though I don't have a formal education in this field, and I just did my degree in something totally different, I can actually do this absolutely right.


Starting with taking some portraits, filming some forks and potatoes and books, and now you're doing the cool stuff. So let's talk about that. Right? Epic commercials for random objects, part one. That was a video you had published. How did you come up with it?


So it was from necessity, pretty much. That was the moment where the pandemic really was in full swing. And I think this was kind of like a very interesting turning point for a lot of creatives. Our workflow thus far doesn't really work anymore in this kind of new world. And for me, that meant, okay, I can no longer go out and work with models the way that I had been before. So this idea for making a commercial for a random object, it was just sort of like, okay, what can I do in my house that I don't need anyone else? I can do this 100% all on my own. I thought that that would be a fun creative challenge. The idea of making a commercial for a fork, something that you would never, ever see a commercial for, would really push me creatively a lot more, and that would kind of force me to not rely on references that I'd seen in the past. But even though I did think at the time, oh, this might be a series, I thought maybe like three videos, and it turned into so much more than that.


So you're into video maybe three or two here. When did you realize that your creative abilities, though, were strong enough to begin to monetize? Right. What for you was that big breakthrough moment? You're like, wait a second, this is real. I can do this. And was there any maybe impostor syndrome along the way?


Oh, I mean, there's still impostor syndrome. I would say that the monetization aspect really kicked in towards the beginning of 2021. So I'd been doing this for a little over six months, I would say. And that's when the brand Celsius reached out to create a commercial for them. And that was really my second interaction with a brand. Very few brands reached out at the very beginning, and I think that part of that was TikTok was still foreign territory for a lot of brands at that point in time. So that was kind of the first video that really was, oh, first of all, someone wants to hire me, that's cool. And then that video actually ended up performing incredibly well. So I was like, not only does someone want to hire me, but people actually want to watch it, which to me, I wouldn't have thought I would have been like, oh, well, if it's branded, no one's going to watch this video. Right? And that was really what got the ball rolling on other brands reaching out to me and then me eventually leaving my job a little bit later that year.


That is fascinating stuff. I talk to a lot of people who want to start a side hustle, and one of the pieces of advice I tell them is, you need to find your people, you need to find your target audience. Was that the approach that you took? Did you go and find your target audience or do you think they found you?


I think it was a little bit of both. I know a lot of creators always emphasize the importance of niching down, and honestly, that's not really been my approach. I've always approached it with the mindset of, I would like this to appeal not only to people who are really interested in videography, but I also want it to be entertaining, even for people who are maybe not really wanting to do this, but just think that this kind of a video is a fun thing to watch. So I think I've kind of struck that balance between maintaining a core audience of people who are really interested in the technical aspect of what I'm doing, but then people who are also just there to be entertained. That sort of breadth is what has helped me attract brands as well, because that opens up my demographics a little bit.


Has there been any sort of refinement that you've done to continue to reach viewers after you figured out kind of what works?


Yeah, I think that what works is a constantly evolving thing, particularly on these short form video platforms. And so even though the crux of what I do has remained the same, there are little changes that I've made along the way to keep the content fresh and relevant and sort of grabby. I guess if you look back at the very first couple of videos I did, like the fork video, the format is quite different in just the way that I present the content and the tone and the comedy of it as well. So, yeah, I think that it's constantly evolving.


And when you were balancing your day job and this passion, how did that work? Is there such a thing as balance?


I mean, I was working all the time, although I will say I work all the time now too, so it's not totally different. I actually negotiated a contract with my employer when I started, which was, I'm going to do my 40 hours, but I'm going to do them eight to six, Monday through Thursday, and then Friday is going to be my day to do my own thing. So luckily, they were gracious enough to accept those terms. So I was working on my social media content Friday, Saturday, Sunday. But as I got further and further into it and I got more invested in the content that I was creating and the videography business that I was building, each project required a little bit more of my time and energy because it was no longer just this kind of like, oh, this is like this little thing that I'm doing for fun. It was like, okay, no, now I have clients, and I need to make sure that the clients are happy. I need to deliver things in a timely fashion. And so it got more and more difficult to balance over time as those side projects became paying jobs.


Yeah, I can absolutely relate to that. It's almost like when you're getting to the point where you have to take PTO to work on your business, it's like, what are we doing here?


Yes, absolutely.


Yeah. So what were the events that led you up to making the decision to leave your job and start making content full time? Right. Because some folks could just stay in that sort of side hustle world forever because of things like fear and even the finances. So can you talk us through kind of what the decision was like? Was it an instant decision? Was it something that you decided over time?


To be honest, it was a very fast decision. I had been hired by a client to make this commercial. There were multiple deliverables, and I took PTO to do that job. And everyone at work was like, enjoy your vacation. And I didn't have the heart to be like, actually. So I was like, I think this might be that moment where had enough inquiries coming in. I've been doing enough business. And at that point, I was starting to actually make more, if you thought about it, like, in an hourly kind of a way on the side gig than on the real gig. So at the beginning of the week, I wouldn't have thought I was leaving my job. By the end of the week, I was handing in my notice.


Oh, my gosh, I love that energy.


And my boss is like, pardon? Yeah. Coming up after the break, it was 100% new. I had no idea what I was doing. It was a lot of me, just like, googling, how do I write an invoice?


We'll be right back with mind the business. Welcome back to mind the business small business success stories from iHeart Media's Ruby studio and intuit QuickBooks. So let's dive a little bit more into the numbers, because a lot of folks can have sort of this threshold in their minds where it's like, once I'm making X amount of money, I'm going to feel comfortable taking the Leap. Was there a target for you? Were you trying to just replace your income or what was the financial indicator for you that it was time to make the switch?


For me, it was simply, if I can make just as much or a little bit more that I'm making in my full time job, then I will pursue my solopreneurship full time. I think that the hang up for a lot of people who are trying to make that Leap is not just the income threshold, but it's this idea of sustaining that income. And then can I do this now? Over an extended period of time? I had the advantage in the sense that I hadn't been in the workforce for super long, so I didn't feel like I had invested a ton into my current position. I think that probably helped me a little bit. My corporate job felt unstable to me almost as much or more than me relying on myself and being independent and finding the work where I could.


Yeah, I couldn't agree more. And I feel like a lot of solopreneurs fall into owning a business. They sort of fall into running a business. It's like when I started creating videos on TikTok. I had no idea that this was going to happen right it was like, oh, I just want to share something on the Internet. And I'm sure you kind of felt the same way here. So is running a business new territory for you? Do you have any background in it? How did you learn about it? Was it just kind of like baptism by fire? What was that type of experience like for you?


It was 100% new. I had no idea what I was doing. I think that it's all been a very gradual baby steps process in me building to the point where I am now. It was a lot of me just, like, googling, how do I write an invoice? How do I do this? What's my template for this? Finding a really good accountant who could help me figure out, okay, you need to submit this form and this form to the IRS because you don't want them coming after you for whatever. So, yeah, I think it was just a very gradual process of know leaning on the people in my life that I could. Even my parents, who've been in the workforce a lot longer than I have. It was all very much trial by fire, most definitely.


And I feel like you're definitely in the boat of all the other solopreneurs out there who are figuring out for the first time. Right? Google, Professor Google, like I like to call them, is my best friend. As a solopreneur. I'm googling everything I possibly can and trying to surround myself with other solopreneurs who know more than I do, like Janice here. So with that being said, though, I think that my view of money has really switched and changed from before. We both had the salary jobs we had, maybe the 401K, maybe we had the health insurance, stuff like that. But now, to your point, I have to be thinking about sending out the invoice. We have to think about following up to make sure we get paid and making sure that we file the right tax forms with our accountants. So did your mindset also switch with money when you became a solopreneur?


Yes, I became a lot more meticulous about everything. When you have a paycheck, it's like, okay, the taxes are going to be taken out. I don't have to think about that. This amount is going to go into my retirement plan. I don't really have to think about that. And I'm going to get this stable amount and I can budget it. And now when all of a sudden the income becomes very erratic, now there's a lot more decisions to make about, like, okay, what amount of this income am I going to reinvest into the business. How much am I going to take out for myself? How much am I going to use to put into a retirement plan? So it's a very good thing because you become a lot more aware of every dollar and what's happening to it and where it's going and if it's being used wisely, definitely. Maybe think about money in a lot more meticulous way.


Well, kind of reflecting upon what you've learned so far, do you have any, maybe, strategies to share with how you're able to keep these invoices, the paperwork? Maybe it's Quickbooks money. How are you thinking about utilizing different tools and resources out there to ensure that you're as meticulous now and will continue to be meticulous going forward?


Just having really great record keeping. I do think Quickbooks money comes in handy for that because they have a great system for keeping track of payments going in, payments going out. Another really great thing about Quickbooks money is making sure that the money that you do have is not just sitting in an account that's not working for you, putting it in a high yield savings, or investing it. Those have all been things that have helped me. Obviously, that goes for everyone, not just solopreneurs, but it really helps when you start a business and you have an LLC to create those kind of separate business accounts and invest that money in the same way that you would your own personal savings. I think the biggest thing is just the record keeping and also not being afraid to follow up with people. I think at the beginning, I had a little bit of fear of, oh, they haven't paid this yet, but they probably just forgot. They'll probably do it next week. I won't worry about it yet. But people aren't annoyed when you just kind of say, hey, just friendly nudge, just letting you know this invoice hasn't been paid yet.


Just things like that have also helped me keep everything in line.


Okay, so do you distinguish your finances from your personal life with your business life? Are you keeping separate bank accounts and things like that? Because I know one of the mistakes I made the first time I filed taxes as a solopreneur was just not acknowledging that I had created this whole other entity and then getting, like, a $6,000 tax bill. I'm like, what do you mean? I'm supposed to pay estimated taxes. So what's that journey been like for you of keeping your business and personal finances separate?


So, yes, I absolutely keep them separate, but I will say it's a development that happened this year, it got to a point where, when it came to taxes, that was not working in my favor at all, and I really needed to start separating the two out. So I did finally this year, create my business accounts and start having my clients pay my invoices into those accounts instead of my personal accounts. But the waters were mudy there for a little while, and that's a very uncomfortable feeling. It gets very confusing. It's like, was this a business expense? Can I write it off? Can I not write it off? I have a million receipts in my file cabinets and such, so I definitely do recommend keeping them separate. But it can be kind of difficult at the beginning to sort of untangle the web that you've woven.


It's funny how we all sort of become amateur accountants in this process of becoming solopreneurs. Yeah. It's not necessarily something I thought I knew I was signing up for, but here we are. Okay, so let's pivot a little bit and talk about your strategy, because you've been able to stand out in a very, very competitive media market. So I want to know, what do you think that is about what you do that separates your content from the rest?


A couple of things. Something I've always emphasized from the very beginning is quality over quantity. And I think that's something that's not really stressed enough in this world that we have, where it's just about putting out a new piece of content almost every single day. And I think there's sort of this fear that if you're not constantly producing, you're going to fall behind, or the algorithm, whatever that is, is not going to be treating you favorably. And I hope that I can kind of be a little bit of an example to people that I could not post a video for two months, and then I'll come back with a video and it will perform as well as my other content. As long as you are proud of what you're making and you feel that you've given your 100% in making that piece of content, then I feel like you can rest easy knowing that people are going to react positively to it. The other thing is, I've been very conscious about mixing the hi fi and the lo fi in everything that I do. So I have these pieces of digital, these digital ads that are, I think, polished and professional and could live on their own as an ad piece or as a paid ad.


But then I also try to incorporate these behind the scenes pieces of content and the voiceovers and the intros. And I think that that's really what bridges the gap between the consumer and the brand is this is how this was made, this is how this was done. Not just showing this is the final product. And a lot of times brands will run those behind the scenes pieces of content on their platforms alongside the ads as well. So it's not just living on my pages. So, yeah, I think it's kind of about just striking that balance between creating a really high quality piece of content for the brand that's going to appeal to the brand and then also creating those kind of more lo fi moments that will appeal to viewers.


I love that strategy.


Yeah, they definitely actually do run those as the ads. I remember seeing a video of you. I think you were pushing a dishwasher up a hill to your parents house with Cascade. That was so funny.




So we talk about differentiating yourself now. Let's talk about how you got these awesome clients to begin with and how you continue to attract new clients. Obviously, you're publishing awesome, awesome content and they see that. What do you think it was about your content that got Celsius to reach out, that got poppy to want to work with you? And now Cascade and Dawn and these awesome, cool brands that are so recognizable, what about what you're publishing now is specifically attracting new companies to want to work with you?


I think that the main appeal is that it's a very different type of know. We're at a moment now where quote unquote influencer content and UGC has been on the scene for probably almost a decade at this point, if we're thinking back to the beginnings of YouTube and such, and I think that brands are always trying to look for fresh ways to connect with audiences with UGC and with this kind of influencer style content. So I think that that is why my content has struck a chord with a lot of brands, is because it manages to be incredibly brand heavy and incredibly branded while still feeling authentic. And I think that's a really hard balance to strike and it's a hard medium to find. So, yeah, I've kind of managed to find this sort of hybrid spot where I'm able to really highlight these key brand messages and key product benefits without feeling like I'm pandering 100%.


So before we wrap things up here, let's talk just a little bit about maybe some biggest learnings from little setbacks you might have experienced, pitfalls you nearly avoided. Was there anything that randomly happened that completely took you off guard here? That was a little bit of a setback, but you learned from it now you're doing something specific to make sure that doesn't happen again.


My biggest challenge that I kind of am actively facing, that I'm trying to strategize ways of overcoming is this sense that now that I've been on social media for a little while and I've been successful on social media, I feel like everything I do needs to be bigger and better than the last thing I did. And it's this kind of constant need to always top myself and always Mr. Beastification, right? Yes. And that can be a really hard beast to fight in a sense, because. Absolutely. I think that I'm always learning and always growing and always improving, but it's slow and it's gradual and it's incremental and it's not always going to be that. The next thing I do is miles above the last thing I did. It might even be worse. So I think that it's just sort of coming to terms with that and not letting that hold me back from creating. I found that in the last maybe like, six months, I've felt a little bit more trepidation around creating content and posting content because I'm like, how is this going to be perceived? Are people going to like it better? Are they going to think it's not as good?


So it's just that internal monolog that I'm fighting. But this is part of the process, and I wouldn't be where I am now if I hadn't put myself out on a limb many times and a b tested many, many things to kind of create what I've created.


Well, I'll be the first to say I'm a huge fan of the content. Denise feels the same way. I'm sure after everyone listens to this, they're going to want to go to TikTok and Instagram and type in grace Wells to see the incredible commercials you're creating. So before we sign off here, where can the people go? Watch your content. If they want to hire you, like Amazon did, how can they go find, like, where can they learn all about Grace?


Absolutely. So my handles on all social are grace ballsphoto. And in terms of reaching out, I am represented by whaler. So that's my talent management. I'm also represented as a director by tool of North America, and that's where I do the larger scale commercials. So that's where you can find me.


I love it. Thank you so much, Grace, for hanging out with us on this episode.


Thanks for being here.


Thank you, guys. So much fun. Thank you.


Okay, Janice, I hope you couldn't tell. Too bad. But I definitely was fanboying like crazy during that interview. I've been following Grace for like two years now on TikTok. It's so wild to me that we get to interview these incredible creators and solopreneurs through this podcast. Grace was so inspiring. So what stuck out with you most about that conversation?


Well, you know, I think it's fascinating that Grace is doing something completely different than what she was doing in her career. And so I think that's a really important point to note that the thing that you do as a business does not need to be the thing that you do as a career. And it's perfectly okay to have these multiple identities and sort of evolve as a person. Like we mentioned, personal development is a big part of this whole journey as a solopreneur, and you're just going to discover talents and skills that you didn't even know you had throughout this process. What about you, Austin?


It was wild to me that she was taking PTO so she could do this passion. Like that was so crazy that she was doing that.


I could totally relate.


Oh, my know, I think for me was not to feel the need to constantly improve. I think a lot of solopreneurs, we get trapped in this sort of tunnel vision of like, wait a second, I saw this solopreneur on Instagram or this one on Twitter saying how they're making millions of dollars and they're selling all these services and products and take a step back for a second. You are one human being and you are crushing it, right? I think it's called especially in content, right? The Mr. Beastification of output. Always having to do more and more and more when in actuality, it is totally okay to be posting the content once in a while that grace is doing or feel happy about the services and the products you're offering and the sales and everything that you're doing right now as a solopreneur. You don't need to turn into a Fortune 500 company to be a happy, successful solopreneur.


Yeah. Nor do you need to be like Mr. Beast and bury yourself for seven days just to say that you did it. I'm going to opt out of that. I don't need that amount.


I'm opting out. I will eat the chocolate bars, but I'm not burying myself. That is where I draw the line.


Absolutely. Well, that's it for today's episode. You can find me on social media at Gioquiero Dinero podcast.


And you can find me at Austin Hankwitz. You can follow Intuit QuickBooks on all social media at QuickBooks. To get the tools you need to start, run and grow your business, head to today.


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This podcast is a production of iHeartRadio in Intuit quickbooks. Our executive producer is Malay Socia, our supervising producer is Nikia Swinton and our writer is Eric Leeja.


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