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Sheila Burkett is no stranger to beating the odds. At Edward Jones, she rose up the ranks in a predominantly male industry, serving as a senior director and partner. Her 20 years of software development experience allowed her to lead the entire strategic technology planning process at the company, executing worldwide communication efforts.
But despite her massive success at the financial institution, Burkett still wasn’t satisfied. She craved more for her career—and for her future.
“I was doing some consulting for small businesses and nonprofits when some friends of mine, who are now my partners, approached me about starting their own agency,” says Burkett. Her friends reached out at the perfect time—this was just the entrepreneurial itch Burkett had an urge to scratch.
So in April of 2010, Burkett decided to combine forces with her friends in St. Louis to start Spry Digital: an interactive agency specializing in web design and development. The company covers everything from building websites to branding, and pretty much anything else you can think of when it comes to digital marketing. Plus, Spry is a certified women-owned business.
Burkett and her team promise customers more than websites… They give clients an extension of their brand in the digital world. Spry Digital believes in “cool things that work and happy clients.” They now serve businesses of all types and sizes, from startups to small businesses, nonprofits, and higher education.
But Spry didn’t get to where they are now without some challenges along the way. For starters, there were complications in building an LLC with three partners, two of whom were married without enough assets to guarantee a loan.
“A lot of banks wouldn’t consider extending us a line of credit, because there are three of us and we don’t have enough assets to back that,” Burkett recalls.
Unfortunately, reluctance to lend to female entrepreneurs isn’t that unusual. A U.S. Senate committee on small business and entrepreneurship recently found that women—who own almost 30% of all small businesses, received only 4.4% of small business loans.
“In the 21st century, women entrepreneurs still face a glass ceiling,” the authors wrote in the report. “While women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of businesses, and many succeed, women must overcome barriers their male competitors do not face.”
But Burkett wasn’t fazed by this denial. She continued her search online, where she found Fundera: an online marketplace that connects small business owners with the best funding provider for their businesses. Within days, Burkett and her partners had the funds they needed to continue growing their business.
“I’ve been in this business six years, and this was the easiest process I’ve ever gone through,” Burkett says. “They make it really easy to access cash that banks won’t give you.”
Spry Digital continued to hum along, but it couldn’t stay immune to one of the biggest challenges that most small businesses face—optimizing cash flow. As Burkett and her partners continued to grow, the number of clients she engaged with also grew, along the size of her contracts. Unfortunately, she found these larger companies, with larger contracts, were slower to pay than their small clients. But for a small business, a cash flow delay can have huge implications.
“You can have an invoice that’s due, and we find out the customer’s not going to pay it on time or it’s three days late… But I count on that payment to make payroll,” Burkett says.
She recalled an instance when she landed one of the company’s largest contracts with a large, privately-held company, only to find out that the company was sold to another company—who immediately changed the terms of their deal with Spry.
“They went from a 30- to 60-day net,” Burkett remembers. “I wasn’t expecting it—it was all of a sudden. It meant that I’d have to find that money somewhere else.”
Alongside her growth funding, Burkett needed a cash flow solution. Through Fundera, Burkett discovered Fundbox, a platform designed to help small businesses advance outstanding invoices. With a few clicks, her problem was solved.
“Fundbox lets me get that cash when I need it, in order to pay my people or my vendors,” Burkett says. “What Fundbox allowed me to do was to cover that gap in receiving that invoice.” Cash flow problems no more.
Now, with their finances under control, Burkett can get back to what she does best—running her business and coming to the aid of companies in need of a little creative inspiration.