Small Business Profile: Sailing Kuma Too

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Small Business Credit Profiles with Eric Sandberg

Erica Sandberg is a prominent personal finance authority and author of “Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families.” She writes “Small Business Credit Profiles,” a weekly column featuring small business owners’ journey with credit and credit cards for CreditCards.com.

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Mandy Rosello and her husband Joe

Mandy Rosello and her husband Joe have
always had a passion for travel. When their normal jobs didn’t pay enough to
fulfill their wanderlust dreams, they charted their own course.

Rosello opened Sailing Kuma Too,
an all-inclusive customized sailing charter business. They started by
purchasing a catamaran, but soon discovered that owning and preparing such a
craft is an incredibly expensive ordeal.

Though getting the company where it needed
to be took longer – and more money – than planned, in early 2018, Sailing Kuma
Too began offering full-service sailing charters along the West coast
of Florida.

“I consider Sailing Kuma Too in the
startup phase, as we are still fine-tuning our marketing efforts to gear toward
overnight cruises,” says Rosello.

As of now, Sailing Kuma Too spirits people
away through the Intracoastal Waterway, where dolphins and birds race alongside
as the sun sinks into the calming Gulf waters. Passengers enjoy a spread of
local-market hors-d’oeuvres and drinks, and are invited to
dance, sunbathe or just relax onboard.

So how did Rosello
deal with the high costs associated with getting the catamaran in tip-top shape
as well as manage the constant flow of ordinary expenses? To keep their dream
afloat, they’ve used credit cards the right way – and right from the beginning.

See related: Small Business Profile: Prohibition Creamery

With so much money needed to launch, how
did you pay for everything?

Both Joe and I have always had excellent
credit scores – over 800 – and we’ve always used credit cards for everyday
purchases to gain rewards points. Over the years, we very seldom ever carried a
balance.

We decided to finance
the business on our own, since we were originally on a short-term plan and
didn’t want to take out any loans. We had over $60,000 in available credit
lines when we opened the business, with less than $30,000 saved in available
cash. 

We wanted to stay debt free, so we were
using our cash to pay off any credit cards we used throughout each month.
Unfortunately, by April, our available cash was dwindling and making me nervous
without a steady income.

By spring, I looked at our available
credit and began playing the game with low-interest or no-interest accounts. We
got hit with some major unexpected expenses, but opening a new business credit
card with 0-percent interest and $300 cash back has bought me a year to make
payments. Without our available credit, we would not have had enough cash to
cover the unexpected expenses this past year. 

So what credit cards do you have, and why
did you choose them?

We have a few. First is the Chase
Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card
.
After researching many banks, we chose Chase for our business account because
of their low balance requirements and wide-range of location options. The Ink
card fit the needs of our small business without an annual fee, it offers cash
back rewards on purchases, and zero interest for the first year. We
also have a Chase Freedom card that is used solely for fuel and gas for the boat,
dinghy and cars.

In 2006, we were cruising a lot, so we
opened a Royal Caribbean Visa Signature Card from Bank of America to take advantage of the rewards for
cruising. We kept the account open but never used it. Bank of America sent us
an offer for a 0-percent balance transfer for one year, so we used it for some big unexpected maintenance
expenses. 

We have a couple of personal cards, too.
The Tampa Postal Credit Union credit card is not used for business expenses and has a low interest
rate and rewards. I [also] have the Simmons
Bank credit card. Although it’s a
personal card that I kept open but never used, when we needed to carry a credit
a few months ago, I did use it. This card has a low interest rate, which bought
us a few months. 

Lastly, we have the Citi
Diamond Preferred Card
. This is our emergency credit card. We used this card when we were hit with a large
unexpected expense, then used our low-interest and balance-transfer options to
pay off the debt.

Tip: Unless you travel frequently with the same cruise line, a travel rewards credit card is the way to sail. Find out what the best cards for cruises are so you can sail the high seas in style.

What do you typically charge?

Sailing Kuma Too’s major expense is upkeep. It’s a beautiful boat that has been well taken care of, but it is a still 13 years old. In addition to regular monthly maintenance that was properly budgeted, we’ve had to pay about $30,000 in extra maintenance this year. We use credit cards for every business purchase to take advantage of our rewards programs. Business expenses include fuel, accounting software, marketing, provisioning for charters, and marina and licensing fees. 

Because of all the charging, we do accumulate a lot of rewards. Both Chase cards offer cash back and that money goes right back to paying down the card. The Bank of America rewards are only redeemable on Royal Caribbean cruises. The Tampa Postal credit card points we use mostly for hotels because we’ve found that to be the best value.

See related: Business credit card tips for beating the January blues

How do you handle your accounts? Keep a running balance, pay it all off?

I use QuickBooks. I consider myself to be very detailed, as I attach receipts and properly allocate each transaction. That includes $2.50-ice-bag purchases for each charter. I prefer to pay the credit cards off each month, but at this point in the business, we are keeping a running balance and paying it down slowly.

The amount paid on each card is decided by the APR or possible need to use the card for a specific transaction. For example, we will be sailing out of the county in January and February, so I have paid off the credit card with the lowest foreign transaction fee.

See related: Best no foreign transaction fee cards

What lessons have you learned about borrowing money along the way? 

The most important thing about borrowing money is to make meaningful payments every month. Life happens, credit cards can be a good thing to get you out of a pinch, but if you spend more than you are paying off each month, you’ll drown. The last few months, we have had to rack up more debt than I have ever had in my entire life. It’s really scary, but our business is bringing in cash. I am able to make substantial payments each month and the debt is slowly diminishing. 

Also, I would recommend opening and having credit available before starting your business. It is so much harder to get as a new business.



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