Lindsey Laurain founded ezpz with one thing in mind: making mealtime with kids easier and less messy. As a mother of three boys, she needed to find a solution to the grueling task of cleaning up after supper. And the original ezpz Happy Mat was born.
With years of experience in the corporate world and an MBA, Lindsey was probably better prepared than most entrepreneurs when she first started up. But it didn’t take long to figure out that she couldn’t do it alone.
No matter how much schooling and work experience she had, it did little to prepare her for managing the books of her own company.
Here’s a quick peek into Lindsey’s story and how she found a trusted advisor in her company’s accountant.
From Idea to Product
It all started with a casual comment from Lindsey’s husband Brad during dinner with their three rambunctious boys. “Someone needs to create something that kids can’t toss and throw,” Brad lamented.
For Lindsey, a self-proclaimed neat freak, this was a eureka moment.
“There were numerous pieces required for mealtime,” she said. “And they would usually end up on the floor. The placemat would be chucked; food would be everywhere. It looked like a warzone.”
As the parents who were tasked with cleaning up this warzone, Lindsey and Brad needed to find a solution. “We were fed up,” Lindsey said.
After conducting some research, Lindsey and her husband realized there wasn’t a solution on the market, so they vowed to create their own: “We wanted something that suctioned, and we wanted something that was visually appealing, not only to create a fun mealtime experience for the kids, but we also wanted something for mom and dad, grandma, any caregiver, a product that doesn’t drive them insane.”
The result was the ezpz Happy Mat, a smiley-faced, all-in-one placemat and plate that captures kids’ messes, one that suctions to the table and is nearly impossible for tiny hands to tip over.
The Transition to Business Owner
Although Lindsey had experience in the corporate world and was a business-school grad, she knew that starting her own company wasn’t going to be easy.
“Before this journey, we were both in corporate America,” she said. “We had 401(k)’s, were very conservative and were putting aside college money. And now in this environment, we were maxed out on our credit cards, and we’ve taken out all our savings. Although business is phenomenal and we’re doing really well, it’s scary.”
But despite the challenges, Lindsey was driven to succeed: “I’m either all or nothing. If I make up my mind and go for it, I go for it. So when I came home the next day, I said to Brad, ‘I’m starting my own company, and I’m going to create a product. If anyone can do this, I can do it.’ And that’s when I got cardboard paper, taped a bowl to it, and I never looked back”
Hitting the Books
In college, Lindsey earned an MBA, and prior to starting ezpz, she was managing the books at her husband’s company. She thought she could do it all on her own, but that quickly changed.
“I spent my entire career in corporate America with two huge corporations,” Lindsey said. “Then, I was a stay-at-home mom for almost a year, and now I’m an entrepreneur. And throughout the first year and a half, one thing I couldn’t seem to let go was the accounting. I wanted to have control of that. I thought I knew it; I can do this. But in reality, I can’t do it.”
Onboarding an Advisor
Despite her knowledge of accounting, Lindsey realized she needed help with her finances. Not only did she need help managing the books, but she also needed a mentor that could guide the financial side of the business. That’s when she brought her accountant Jeff onboard.
“Jeff has been phenomenal for us,” Lindsey said. “He has been more of an advisor to me. He does more high-level strategy. He tells us how we can grow the business by looking at QuickBooks. I think it’s important to have a financial advisor or an accountant advise you on whatever it is: tax purposes, strategic thinking, cash-flow management and everything else. At least, that’s where our relationship is with my accountant.”
It turns out Lindsey wasn’t exactly the accounting expert, and in addition to helping her with high-level financial strategy, Jeff also helped correct errors in ezpz’s books.
“He can look at anything and instantly know what’s wrong,” Lindsey said. “It would take him two seconds of looking at our books to say, ‘that’s wrong.’ And he’s the expert, so he can do that, versus me trying to figure everything out and find what I did wrong.”
It didn’t take long for Jeff to make an impact on Lindsey’s business and its financials.
“When I first looked at their state of affairs,” Jeff said, “I went, ‘Oh, God!’ They were awful. I just looked at them, and I knew they were awful. I was like, ‘Whoa, these numbers don’t match what you’re telling me.’ So I listened to the story that I’m hearing from the owner, and I look at the numbers and say, ‘Are they confirming each other?’
“And that’s why a CPA is so important,” Jeff continued. “There is a higher level. The way you set up the chart of accounts will tell a story, and as an accountant, especially if you’ve done it as long as I have, you can look at a set of books and know they’re not right. You could do it within seconds.”
Turning Things Around
Rectifying Lindsey and ezpz’s books wasn’t accomplished overnight. Instead, it was a long-term process that’s still taking shape. “We’re almost there,” Lindsey said.
“We’ve done a five-year plan for Lindsey,” Jeff said. “I’m a CPA, but you won’t see it behind my name, because my specialty is growing businesses, and I can’t grow them without the right budgets, the right accountant and good numbers I could rely on.”
But despite the issues and the time it has taken to rectify them, Lindsey and ezpz found great success after bringing Jeff onboard.
“We’re talking about astronomical growth here,” Jeff recalled. “I’ve never seen a rocket ship take off like this. So we have to be on top of this. We meet once a week, and we go over numbers and go over strategy. We go over where we are going and where we want to go. Our office is doing the finer points of accounting.”
Lessons for Other Small Businesses
Even the most business-savvy entrepreneurs need help. When you’re first starting out, objectively assess your abilities, and surround yourself with a complementary team that ensures all aspects of the business are being handled correctly.
While accounting software like QuickBooks can help manage your finances, it works even better with an accountant. If you’re in search of an accountant, check out our ProAdvisor database to find one that can help your business, and read our article on finding the best accountant for your company when the time comes to make a hire. Once they’re onboard, check out this tutorial to learn how to integrate them with your financial software for seamless collaboration.