She’d recently left a career in fashion and retail, where she learned a lot about the power of public relations to help brands launch themselves into the mainstream. Paloma was interested in moving into marketing and management for the entertainment industry, when she started working with some arts activists in the Bay area. “That really opened my eyes to issues around social justice,” she says. “It inspired me to support the arts and activism through public relations.”
Paloma wanted to fill that gap—but she wanted to do it with her own business, not by joining an agency. “PR agencies have a really toxic culture,” she says. “As a woman of color, I did not want to put myself through that kind of work experience.”
That’s when she quit her day job and went in “full force,” as she says, founding PapaLoDown to support mission-driven, BIPOC-led businesses. “It was an up and down path, and there were side jobs I was doing, stuff like that. But I was able to grow it into a place where it could be a full-time, sustainable job and career. And here we are, 14 years later.”
Like many entrepreneurs, Paloma was an expert in her field, but not as much in the nuts and bolts of running a business. Finances and accounting were not where she wanted to spend her time, and what’s more, as she grew her business, she found she had some beliefs around money that she needed to address.
“Some of the most challenging aspects were getting to that abundance mindset, and breaking down some really toxic narratives around wealth and money that I face, and that a lot of people face,” she says. “You know, those questions of ‘Do I deserve it?’ ‘Is money evil?’ I went through that process with a prosperity coach and that helped me unlock all that and get to the next level.”
With that expanded mindset, Paloma was able to put in the time and intention to tackle her finances in a way that felt right. She started by working with Freshbooks, one of Bench’s partners, around 2015. Then, she decided she needed more support with her accounting, especially since she’d decided to transition from a sole proprietorship to an LLC. “I started working with this accountant that was referred to me, but they ended up being this really horrible business person,” she says. “They not only messed up my business a bit, but also did that to other people in our community.”
At that point, Paloma learned about Bench’s partnership with Freshbooks. “I was like, ‘This is exactly what I need!’ I did an introductory call and the trial, and I was just really happy. I looked at Quickbooks too, to see if that was an option I wanted to pursue, and I didn’t like what they were showing me or their customer service.”
Once she signed on with Bench, Paloma felt immediately more in control of her finances.
“I felt like, ok, they have systems in place and policies and procedures, and I know from my corporate retail experience, those things do matter. They’re important.”
Tools like Bench’s dashboard, which allow Paloma to see where the numbers are at a given moment, and the regular financial reports are especially valuable to her.
“I try to take a look once a month, and see where the numbers are at least quarterly. I also refer back to the year-over-year comparison since I now have three years of data in Bench. I can see how my business has grown every year, and that’s empowering.”
Now that Paloma is, as she says, closer to her 50s than to her 30s, she’s thinking about what retirement would look like as an entrepreneur. She’s also been able to look back and see which lessons and ideas have been most useful to her, and share those with other business people at the beginning of their journeys. “I think one of the best ways to be successful and grow your business, if you’re just starting out, is to have a healthy relationship with money and wealth. And don’t do everything yourself—lean on technology and tools.”