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Year-in-Review from a Small Business Owner


In January of 2021, I took a much-needed mental health vacation wherein true “treat yourself” fashion I drove a mustang convertible and spent about 90% of my time in sunglasses. 2020 was one of the hardest years I faced on a personal level, and I (alongside the rest of the world) breathed a sigh of relief when the clock officially struck midnight on the year that none of us will ever forget.

My way of coping with the year was taking that vacation. It was a marvelous trip that allowed me some mental space and clarity for making big and audacious goals for myself and my business (Her First $100K) in 2021. I knew I was planning to grow, launch a podcast, and maybe sign a book deal –– but I could have never truly planned how much my life and business would change in this landmark year.

2021 blew my dreams out of the water –– not only did my business grow, it doubled my expectations. I brought on several new team members, and we’re currently in the process of bringing on three more.

My podcast, the Financial Feminist, shot to the top of the charts, beating heavyweights like Joe Rogan, Call Her Daddy, The NPR Money podcast, and Dave Ramsey. In season one alone, with only 12 episodes, we’ve shared the podcast with over 2.2 million listeners. My original goal was to make it into the top 50 business podcasts. We made it all the way to #1.

As you can imagine, almost every metric from social media followers to email subscriptions looked like Zoom stock last spring –– building to an online audience across platforms of two million people.

Oh yeah, I also signed a book deal with Harper Collins in April.

As I look back on the absolutely wild ride that was this year, I get teary. More than teary, really. I’ve broken down into a complete sobbing mess this year multiple times over the success of my business, my podcast, my team, and so much more. I get emotional as I listen to the stories of women whose lives are changed forever.

Women who left abuse because they could finally afford to. Women who advocated for their worth in the workplace. Women who invested for the first time. Women who realized they didn’t need anyone else to “empower” them –– they simply had to recognize their inherent power and do the work.

In no way was this year perfect. I learned some hard lessons alongside these big wins, and the world was, and is, still in the middle of a global pandemic that is still affecting our lives and personal finances in a big way. As I look back, here’s what sticks out to me from this past year and the guidance I hope to take into 2022.

1. Dream Bigger Than You Think You Can Achieve

2021 taught me that I was playing and dreaming way too small. As I mentioned above, I hoped that my podcast would make it into the top 25, and it shattered that expectation in its first week by going #1 on the business charts and getting numerous press features.

I had the foresight to get a literary agent, and when the Harper Collins offer came, I was able to negotiate a higher advance successfully, and other additions to my contract, I wouldn’t have known were possible.

So what do I take from all of this? It’s a good idea to dream big and then ask yourself if you’ve dreamed big enough.

2. Outsource Like Your Life Depends on It

One of the big lessons I learned this year is that it’s important to have a team of people who really know their stuff. Especially when you’re doing something you’ve never done before and especially if you want it done really, really, well.

For a long time, I was the end-all-be-all for Her First $100K, and I hit burnout pretty quickly when things started to take off. I hired a few team members to help me keep track of admin and bring some freshness to the marketing strategy. When we started really blowing up on TikTok and Instagram, I hired another marketer this spring. Now, we’ve made several more hires and continue to add to our team. I also finally outsourced my payroll and other small tasks that weren’t difficult but took a lot of my very precious time.

This fall, we brought on our new COO to help take even more off my hands and run the team so I can focus on what I not only do best but love doing.

Letting go of the day-to-day functions of my company wasn’t the easiest, but it’s been the best thing I can do to not only protect my health but make sure that my business runs smoothly and continues to grow.

Read More: A Comprehensive End-of-Year Checklist for Small Business Owners

3. Take a Break

Speaking of mental health, not only did I take the month of January to recharge, I took three months off from August-November to travel, rest, and work on my book. To be honest, I didn’t get as much of my book done as I wanted, too (if my editor is reading this, sorry!), but the break did wonders for my mental health.

I know not everyone can afford to skip town for three months for a European adventure, but the sentiment remains –– taking a break is so important for small business owners. Even with all my outsourcing, I was still running myself into the ground. This break gave me a chance to pull away from the stress and indulge in some good ol’ fashion self-care.

I returned stateside ready to take on new challenges, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

4. Remember to Enjoy Life

This brings me to my final lesson of the year. Even if I hadn’t gotten to be a digital nomad or celebrated the huge wins Her First $100K had this year, I’d still have carved out some time to make sure I was enjoying and fully living my life. COVID kept many of us from doing anything “normal” this year, so a lot of the things I loved weren’t always available, but I made it work for me.

As a team, we got together for zoom co-working sessions and happy hours, we gathered for a few small team retreats where we celebrated and dreamed, and I spent time connecting with my friends and family as safely as I could.

The Bottom Line

Hustle culture says you should run yourself into the ground for growth at all costs. What 2020 and 2021 taught me is that there’s a better way. I had my biggest year as a business owner, and I was out of the office for almost a whole quarter combined –– a feat I couldn’t have pulled off if I didn’t set myself up to create a company structure that would allow me to do so.

Here’s to 2022 — may we win big and rest well.

For her personal finances, Tori uses her free Personal Capital financial tools to track her net worth and her progress towards goals like retirement, debt payoff, and (yes!) saving that first $100k.

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Personal Capital compensates Tori Dunlap of Her First $100k (“Author”) for providing the content contained in this article. Compensation not to exceed $500. Author is not a client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation. Additionally, in a separate referral arrangement between Author and Personal Capital Corporation (“PCC”), Author is paid $70 and $150 for each person who uses Author’s webpage (www.HerFirst100k.com) to register with Personal Capital and links at least $100,000 in investable assets to Personal Capital’s Free Financial Dashboard. As a result of these arrangements, Author may financially benefit from referring potential clients to Personal Capital and/or be incentivized to present blog content that is favorable to PCC. No fees or other amounts will be charged to investors by Author or Personal Capital as a result of the Referral Arrangement. Investors that are referred to PCC and subsequently subscribe for investment advisory services provided by PCC’s affiliated adviser, Personal Capital Advisors Corporation (“PCAC”) will not pay increased management fees or other similar compensation to Author, PCC or PCAC as a result of this arrangement. The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.

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