Journalist and entrepreneur Sherrell Dorsey has seen her business thrive during the pandemic, with revenues up over 400%. That doesn't mean that steering The Plug — her 5-year-old subscription-based digital news and insights platform covering the Black innovation economy — has been without its challenges.
Even though her business was growing during tumultuous times, Dorsey moved warily in making investments in new resources and tools for the company. Uncertainty regarding the length of the COVID-19 pandemic and its long-term impact on the economy prompted her to continue to manage The Plug conservatively.
"Today, I employ four full-time staff members and about 15 contractors, and I plan to hire more in 2022," said Dorsey, who holds a master's degree in data journalism from Columbia University. "Because I now have a lot more resources at my disposal, I still have to be just as scrappy and judicious with how I use them."
Dorsey is no newcomer to hard work and efficiency. While working in marketing and sales for some of the world's most prestigious technology companies, Dorsey would arise at 5 a.m. to work on her side hustle, a daily newsletter focusing on how minority tech entrepreneurs are shaping the future of business, which she dubbed, "The Plug."
"I'd start early every day to put together the newsletter, and then I'd go into work," she recalls. "I never intended to create a business, but I soon realized that what I had on my hands could morph into something special."
From the beginning, and especially after she quit her day job and committed full-time to The Plug, Dorsey was determined to be as operationally-efficient as possible. That meant scrutinizing every expense and investment to ensure it was the most economical choice for her fast-growing business.
When she became aware of Capital One Spring — a free service that provides small businesses with access to pre-negotiated deals from top vendors — Dorsey eagerly signed up. She has taken advantage of several of the program's many offers, including free access to tools and resources from HubSpot, a customer resource management platform for scaling companies.
Plus, she made use of a Spring-curated deal with Squarespace, the website and ecommerce platform, enabling The Plug's first website to be well-constructed, functional, and easy to navigate — an important part of the company's journey, according to Dorsey. Dorsey also uses Squarespace for her personal website to promote her book and other projects.
"We bootstrapped a lot before we raised any money, so to be successful, it was important to be very intentional about utilizing our resources," she said. "That's why finding great deals for all of the tools we need to run and operate the business was so critical. It still is."
Today, Dorsey has shrewdly steered The Plug into a thriving business with thousands of subscribers, several hundred paid members, and over $500,000 in equity-free capital financing. The Plug is booming, but she has no plans to loosen her reins on managing the company's budget.
"I'm all about conserving our dollars so we can make smart investments in other areas. It has really helped to improve our cash flow. We don't know how long this pandemic is going to last, so let's ensure we are spending only on what we need."
And she has similar advice for budding entrepreneurs who, like her, have a dream of running their own business: spend wisely.
"If you can save on tools, products, and services that are absolutely necessary for your business, why not take full advantage? As an entrepreneur with a million things on your plate every day, time and money are the currencies that matter."
Learn more about Capital One Spring here.
This post was created by Insider Studios with Capital One.