Planting the seeds of financial literacy
CA Catalyst’s recent CA in Residence Program with Seedlab Australia gave startups a taste of what CAs can offer.
- The CA in Residence Program embeds CAs within a startup hub to gain first hand experience of what it’s like to live and breathe business innovation.
- By linking CAs with startups, accountants have an opportunity to apply their skills in different ways and startups get deep, holistic advice to grow their business.
- Stacey Price CA and Svetlana Kolyasnikova CA delivered financial literacy workshops to more than 100 business owners in Victoria and Tasmania.
Story Stuart Ridley
What should a good burger cost these days? Five dollars? Twenty-five dollars? A few months ago Callum Bull, owner of Bully’s Rainbow Cafe in country Victoria, didn’t have a clue. But thanks to chartered accountant Stacey Price CA, he’s settled on the fair price of $13.50.
Bull and his wife, Cindy, opened their cafe in 2021 in Rainbow, a small town at the southern edge of the Victorian Mallee, 400km north-west of Melbourne. When he first met up with Price, Bull was selling his burgers for $10.
“By the time he took out a dollar for GST, then the costs for ingredients, staff wages and overheads, he was making about 75 cents per burger,” says Price.
“Callum is a great chef and making awesome food is his jam. But numbers? Not so much.” Price – who has a practice, Healthy Business Finances, in Ballarat – knows many small business owners find analysis of prices and profit margins boring and painful. Often they’re too scared to increase prices in case customers get upset. But even small increases can help the bottom line.
“When I first explained it to Callum, he was like: ‘Oh yeah, I only really thought about the cost of the meat, bun, lettuce, tomato, cheese, onions, egg and beetroot, not the other costs’. When we looked at improving his business, increasing the price of his most popular item was the first step,” she says.
“Like many business owners he’s learning you can’t just pluck a price out of thin air based on loose assumptions and hope it’s OK.”
“You can’t just pluck a price out of thin air based on loose assumptions and hope it’s OK.”
Demystifying accounting for startups
Price first connected with the Rainbow cafe owner through an online CA in Residence Program hosted by business incubator Seedlab Australia and CA ANZ’s CA Catalyst initiative.
A self-described “numbers nerd”, Price enjoys helping entrepreneurs get to grips with financial data to make smarter decisions. She was joined by Svetlana Kolyasnikova CA, a tax partner with BDO Hobart, in presenting online financial literacy workshops to more than 100 business owners in Victoria and Tasmania.
During the six-month program, from November 2021 to April 2022, the two CAs covered topics such as how to do your tax properly, improving cash flow to support growth, raising investment and valuing a business.
Kolyasnikova says the level of engagement in the workshops was fantastic.
“While financial reporting is probably one of the basic ones for us, it can be a bit of a dark matter for a lot of startups,” she says. “Financial reports and numbers are not the first thing they want to do because they’re not accountants.
“It’s important we show how we can help owners understand the financial performance of their businesses, help them set KPIs and lead them towards achieving their goals.”
The CA in Residence Program is a popular part of the CA Catalyst schedule for CA ANZ members. By linking CAs with startups, accountants have an opportunity to apply their skills in different ways and startups get deep, holistic advice to grow their business.
Michele McCulloch CA, an ambassador for CA Catalyst and the founder of her own small business, Aloe Beauty, says startup founders need more than basic bookkeeping. CAs are skilled at setting up the financial structure of a business and can translate their technical knowledge into simpler lessons.
“We can show how good financial reporting and management are integral to success,” she says. “And we can share how CAs have set up the foundations of businesses and supported them through each growth stage.”
Price hopes that CA in Residence programs like Seedlab’s will mean more business owners discover it’s easier than ever to find a CA who is the right fit for them personally, especially now geography isn’t a barrier.
She mentions a virtual meeting with Loredana 'Lori' De Simone-Rybka, co-founder of organic artisan stock brand San Elk, as a great example of a turning point for a business owner realising what modern CAs can bring.
“Lori is building a great business, though before the workshops she found it hard to find an accountant she can fully understand – and who understood her and her business,” says Price. “She joined the Seedlab Australia program to knuckle down and sort her business out. She knows she has to learn and is now excited about learning; it was just about her finding the right fit.”
Pictured: Stacey Price CA and Loredana De Simone-Rybka from San Elk. Photo: Shannon Morris
Planting the seeds of financial literacy
Seedlab Australia supports Australian producers of food, drinks and sustainably made products to start, scale and grow. It began as Seedlab Tasmania two years ago and has expanded nationally after a A$4 million investment by Woolworths supermarkets.
“The people we’re helping might have a passion for making muesli bars or kombucha or vegan soap and have come into business with a background in things like hairdressing, civil engineering or teaching,” explains Seedlab CEO Dr Hazel MacTavish-West.
“These startup founders aren’t necessarily coming from a background where they’ve learned to build a business from the ground up. We’ve learned time and time again when dealing with small businesses they don’t know what they don’t know, so they don’t know what to ask until they’ve learned something new,” she explains.
“We’ve really loved how this team of CAs and people from CA ANZ have delivered their expertise. I’m a food technologist so, for me, having people who can make something outside my comfort zone, like cash flow, sound interesting, and having them speak in Q&A sessions has been really valuable.”
Pictured: Svetlana Kolyasnikova CA, Seedlab Australia director Hazel MacTavish-West and Roz Madsen from House of Fudge in Hobart. Photo: Jess Oakenfull
Taking a new perspective
Kolyasnikova says the CA in Residence program at Seedlab has been a highlight in her recent career.
“It gives you a different perspective on how the knowledge you’ve gained over the years can help people who are only just getting into business.
“You just have to take it a notch back from how you’d normally present to clients and explain things in plain English,” she says.
Pictured: Svetlana Kolyasnikova CA
“It gives you a different perspective on how the knowledge you’ve gained over the years can be helpful.”
One business owner Kolyasnikova worked with was Lisa Guye, founder of vegan skincare brand Teddy Alexander. Cash flow is a huge topic for startups, Kolyasnikova explains, because it can make or break dreams of building a sustainable business. She was able to show Guye that it’s never too early to start tracking cash.
“I loved being able to talk with business owners about their needs and making them think about what they want to get out of it,” she says. “Some people want to grow, some people are quite happy with a small business, but a handsome return. Either way they need to be on top of cash flow.”
As for Guye, she says the experience was insightful. “Svetlana’s presentation on cash flow was succinct and clear to understand,” she says. “She motivated me to implement cash flow forecasting now, even though I’ve not traded for long, as it will predict expenses and longevity of funds.
“Business cash flow is the life blood and without a good grasp on expenditure, profit margins and forecasting then you probably will not have a business in a few years’ time.”
Rise of the virtual accountant
Running the Seedlab CA in Residence Program online due to COVID restrictions had its benefits. Previously, regional business owners in Tasmania who wanted help with their accounts were lucky if they could find even a bookkeeper in the nearest town, let alone speak with a well-qualified CA, remarks MacTavish-West.
The internet is helping close the gap, she adds, and programs such as CA in Residence give startups extraordinary access to rich knowledge.
For Price, who has grown her Ballarat-based practice almost entirely online, and has clients in several states, running workshops online for startups was almost just another day in the (virtual) office.
“I think what the virtual CA in Residence Program has helped regional business owners realise is there’s so much help available for them in the financial space,” she says.
“These days, it doesn’t really matter where you are, the important thing is to find an accountant you work well with.”
Financial literacy for startups
The CA in Residence workshops delivered through the strategic partnership between CA Catalyst and Seedlab Australia focused on the essentials for smart financial management:
1. Biz financials 101
2. Cash flow
5. Financial reporting for biz
6. Raising investment $
7. Financials for funding success
8. Preparing an investment pitch
9. Valuing your biz.
The CA in Residence Program embeds CAs within a start-up hub to gain first-hand experience of what it’s like to live and breathe business innovation.Find out more