Angelic entrepreneurship with a cause

Amber Dawn Shopay of Woodland Hills, California, is a veteran businesswoman whose past successful ventures include a day spa, a bakery and a restaurant. Her newest venture, Global Angel, is a platform for people to give back as they shop – from apparel to face masks, 25% of every purchase goes to a charity of the buyer’s choice.

Global Angel started with a confluence of events. Shopay discovered her desire to donate to charities after her best friend was diagnosed with stage 3 thyroid cancer. And while on a trip to Mexico, she was moved after meeting a group of young female soccer players with no pitch to play on. Finally, in 2018, the devastating Woolsey Fire broke out in Southern California, burning nearly 97,000 acres and devastating Malibu and other coastal communities.

“I started Global Angel so I could help people contribute to the charities they believe in,” says Shopay. “The Woolsey Fire was the final spark for me, but everyone has something they want to support. Shoppers can select the charities I already have partnerships with, but they can also choose one of their own. When they do, I reach out and make the connection and add it to the drop-down menu. The charity is always so appreciative, and my customers love it. It just makes people happy, and I’ve met so many great nonprofits this way. Some I’ve never heard of before and I love that, such as Color of Change.”

Shopay had investors for the earlier companies that she launched, but starting Global Angel was different. This time around, all the financing was self-generated – by use of her own credit cards.

See related: Fancy footwear and business brilliance

Can you take us back to the beginning of your business? What was your first task?  

To create a budget. Like any new company, you have to do that. It’s all about Excel spreadsheets, plotting and planning and getting it done.

Having a budget helped with any cuts I needed to make so the company would be financially viable. There was no book telling me how to do all this. I had to learn by doing. I had to come up with a lot of money in a short period of time!

What kind of large expenses did you have to pay for on the fly?

Well, I just bought a truck and I put it on my credit card – I had to get it. I wanted a mobile boutique so I could pull up in people’s driveways. This way, a person and her friends could go shopping in their own home.

I used a credit card instead of a loan because I got a better deal this way. The people I bought it from live two blocks away from me and said they would give me a discount if I bought it directly. I used my Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card because it has a high credit line and offers great rewards.

Do you have any other credit cards for the business? 

Yes, I have the Marriot Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card and First Bankcard. I got both for the business. I use this card a lot but pay it off every month. Not every place takes American Express, however, so it’s good to have the Visa and Mastercard.

We’re going to keep introducing more items and will be expanding, but I feel I’m pretty set on credit cards now.

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What types of expenses do you typically charge? 

I charge a lot. New designs, materials, paying manufacturers, screen printing and a storage unit all go on the card. Some expenses, like utilities, I have on autopay so I don’t have to think about them.

Because I charge so much, I have accumulated a number of rewards. Some I reinvest into the business, but I am saving most for travel when it’s safe to do it. I have hundreds of thousands of points now!

As for credit card debt, I don’t keep it long. I never go more than three months before paying something off. 

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Do you have an accountant or do you DIY? 

I use Quickbooks Pro Desktop, so I do all my own bookkeeping. In fact, the first thing I do every day is check my accounts so I can easily reconcile my books at the end of the month. It only takes 10 minutes and it’s my opportunity to make sure everything is in order.

Is good credit important to you as a business owner?

Absolutely! Everything that you want to do is contingent on good credit. If I want to rent a new space or take out a loan with a low-interest rate, I need it. In business, you have to be ready for anything. I check my credit every day to stay on top of what’s going on.

But I’ve always had good credit. Ten years ago, I bought a house and I learned how important it is to have it. It’s part of being responsible in all aspects of life. I got that from my dad. He always said, “When you meet someone, you shake their hands and look them in the eye. I don’t care how busy you are, you acknowledge people.” That carries on through the way I do business. Stand up and face people – and that includes creditors.

What are the plans for the business? 

The truck is super exciting. We’re starting with one and will see how it goes. Right now, it makes a lot of sense because many people don’t want to go to a store or mall, but they also want to try things on. This way, we can go to them, and they can try the clothes on in the truck. It’s really fun and safe (we’re taking peoples temperatures before they go in). We may park it at farmers’ markets, too.

Do you have any regrets?  

No, I’ve loved it all and wouldn’t change my path for the world. Even the failures – and I’ve had them.

For example, for one of my very first shirts that I designed, I took the advice of someone I didn’t agree with. He was in the manufacturing business for so long that I said, “Okay, he knows more than me.”

In the end, I wasn’t happy with it – and it cost me about $8,000. It was an important lesson because it made me stronger. I re-did the shirt the way it should have been in the beginning. I learned I can trust myself.

What have you learned about using credit cards that you would tell other small business owners?  

There’s nothing scary about credit cards as long as you have a budget with real numbers. Project. You have to do it so you don’t overspend and then get into trouble. With the rewards, credit cards make your money work for you. So, borrow when you have to, but take care of the balance quickly. I am often debt-free, but I paid the truck off in three months.

Keep track of your credit scores, too. You don’t know when you may want to finance something, and you’ll want to get the best interest rates to keep costs low. The more aware you are of them, the more you can do when you need to.

Any final advice to entrepreneurs who are just starting out? 

You’re talking to a dreamer! I have a lot of faith – I know I’ll get where I need to go. If you really want to start a business, you can do it. You’ll encounter problems but there’s always a solution.

Also, find someone you respect who is in the same business and contact them for guidance. Your mentors are so critical because they’ll help you when you’re confused about something. Choosing the right people to trust can seem hard but you’ll know who they are. I knew that guy was giving me bad advice and I should have listed to my gut. Follow your heart. We all have our own answers.