Having grown up in Southern California, DeeDee Hunt knew she was destined to live in San Francisco after she visited the city for the first time. It wasn’t that she disliked SoCal—she just found the city by the bay to be particularly intriguing. Once she was accepted to San Francisco State University, Hunt moved north—and she’s stuck around ever since.
After graduating with a degree in graphic design, Hunt landed a well-paying gig as a bartender. Despite the appealing income, she realized over time she wanted to do more with her life, so she came up with a plan to start an art café—a place where food and visual art could bring artists together—something she had dreamed of doing since childhood.
However, Hunt didn’t have the capital to finance such an undertaking, so she asked herself a simple question: What business can I build, right now, that would allow me to work with the kind of clients I’d love to work with?
“I eventually figured I could help other restaurant owners brand and market themselves,” Hunt says.
To accomplish that goal, she created ARTdeezine, a San Francisco-based graphic design studio. Hunt realized that starting such a company wouldn’t require that much capital—just a significant investment of her own time.
ARTdeezine opened up shop a decade ago. Since then, Hunt’s designed everything from restaurant storefronts and tradeshow graphics to maps and wine labels. If you’ve ever eaten at Papa Mak’s Burgers in San Francisco, for example, you’ve seen ARTdeezine’s work. Hunt designed all of their surfer-style branding.
Since opening her company, Hunt, a single mother of two young daughters, has never looked back. One of her clients is a firefighter who runs an olive oil business in Noe Valley on the side. Hunt, who wanted to be a firefighter herself when she was in high school, eventually figured out that most firefighters have side jobs, and the wheels started turning. Was there any reason she couldn’t run her business while pursuing a teenage dream at the same time?
Finding none, Hunt decided to become a firefighter, and she recently graduated from the City College Fire Academy.
“Most money goes to rent and kids, and I don’t have a pension. That’s part of the reason I’m in training to become a firefighter,” Hunt explains, adding the city expects to hire some 500 firefighters over the next few years. “They need women—they want the fire department to represent the community they serve.”
If all goes according to plan, Hunt will be fighting fires and simultaneously helping businesses with their branding as soon as next year.
Running a small business is hard work
From time to time, Hunt will contract some projects out to freelancers—but she doesn’t have any full-time staffers. In a perfect world, she’d be able to hire a full-time designer or a project manager so she could grow her business while directing most of her focus on the favorite part of her job: branding on food, wine, and storefronts.
This, unfortunately, is easier said than done. While some of her clients put down a deposit or pay bills in advance, many of her older clients operate on net-30 payment terms. Some take even longer—like a client who has to wait on payments from his own customers before cutting a check to ARTdeezine.
As a result of this situation, Hunt—like most other small business owners—struggles with cash flow problems on a regular basis.
“I don’t want to get into debt and take out a loan,” she says.
A life-changing phone call from a local business
One day, Hunt got a voicemail from a guy who worked at Fundbox saying the company could help her conquer her small business’ cash flow problems. She usually didn’t pay much attention to those kinds of messages, but because Fundbox is based in San Francisco, she figured she’d give the invoice financing service a whirl.
“He said just try it—there’s no risk,” Hunt says. “I took his advice and was like, oh my gosh, this is awesome!”
Fundbox is a service that allows small business owners to advance payments on unpaid invoices with the click of a mouse or tap of the finger. Depending on which plan they choose, business owners then have 12 or 24 weeks to repay the advance, plus a small fee.
Besides getting access to cash when it’s needed, one of the best parts about Fundbox is the fact that the fees are “so reasonable” to the point that, despite an incentive to repay the full amount before it’s due, Hunt sometimes rides it out for the full term (she uses the 12-week repayment plan).
“The fees are so minimal I’m fine with not repaying earlier,” she says.
Hunt uses Fundbox to clear invoices after she’s finished a project and expects the client will pay in the near future. In as soon as one business day, cash is in her account.
Since Fundbox integrates with her accounting software, FreshBooks, the process of advancing an invoice is incredibly simple. “The real kicker is how easy it is to use,” Hunt explains. “It connects right to where my money was coming in. It’s seamless.”
Thanks to Fundbox, Hunt now has the peace of mind that comes with knowing she will always have access to the cash she needs to grow her business—even when her customers are slow to pay. Who knows? It may be only a matter of time before she’s able to finally hire that first full-time employee after all.