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Jillian Smith
Money Talks

This Entrepreneur Is Living Proof That Investing In Yourself Helps Shape The Life You Desire

Money Talksis an xoNecole series where we talk candidly to real women about how they spend money, their relationship with money, and how they get it.

When Jillian Smith turned 30 years old, she did what many of us do – started wondering about what the next chapter of her life would be like. She was spending her days working in the corporate world and her evenings planning events for friends and family. And by most standards, doing pretty well. But still, she yearned for more; she desired to start her own business. So, after a lot of hard work and thought, she launched OneTouch Events– all by herself.


Fast forward to today, she’s a newlywed, known for her “pretty conferences,” and works with a group of trusted contractors. Her clients range from thought leaders to speakers, business coaches, and more. OneTouch also hosts celebrations of love, like weddings, general events, and more. Actually, they just secured their first national brand with the beloved fast food chain, Whataburger, planning and managing the chain's 1000th grand opening during its expansion throughout Georgia.

It all seems so simple, right? But my thoughts on stories like this are always, how? It’s like, okay, that sounds cool, but– how did you keep paying your bills in the beginning? Or friends and family are one thing, but when did you start finding consistent clients? Well, in this conversation with xoNecole, Jillian broke down the importance of investing in yourself, financial literacy, and how having a clear vision for your life helped her tangibly turn her goals into a reality.

Can you share some of the experience you gained from previously working in corporate America? What did you take with you to OneTouch Events?

I previously worked for Accenture, a Fortune 500 consulting firm, and it’s where I learned people and process management, organizational structure, and business methodology. It was very rigorous and fast-paced, and I was often the only Black person or woman in the room.

But I brought all of my experiences to OneTouch. It’s a boutique firm, but we run it like a Fortune 500 company. For example, before I advertised anything, I had all of our systems built. We had two websites and a clear methodology. From my entry-level roles to manager level, I took a lot of those skills with me.

Jillian Smith

Jillian Smith

Photo by Andre Brown

Congrats on the current success of the business, but can you talk to me about the financial struggles you endured starting the process? Let’s take it from the top.

I experienced all the things that no one tells you about running a business. First, I created it while still working at Home Depot corporate. When I made that first leap, I didn’t understand cash flow. I just didn’t know what it took to continue running my business, paying bills, and how to structure contracts and invoices. My first financial blow was in that first couple of years. I mean, I had to actually use my 401k to pay bills.

There’s a notion that says, "You have to spend money to make money,” but I learned you have to invest to make money.” And that’s when things changed for me – I paid for a business coach. They taught me how to structure contracts, payments, and etc. There's a lot of free knowledge online, but sometimes those avenues don’t actually teach practicality and what you’ll need to work through. I knew the main elements because of my knowledge base, but I still needed to be educated by someone who understood the industry.

There’s a notion that says, "You have to spend money to make money,” but I learned you have to invest to make money.” And that’s when things changed for me.

What is the best and worst business advice you’ve ever received?

The worst is that you should pay attention to your competition. The reason I say that is because I work better with blinders on. I believe when you pay attention to others, you start to pigeonhole yourself. Our competition is us.

The best piece of advice is to take time to be grateful. Gratefulness has been lost in business and life. Success, business, and life isn’t promised. There are so many people that pour into us and we just have to be grateful for them.

Do you have any money mantras you practice or hold to? 

On the productivity side, I’d have to say my “Money Mornings,” which is all about being first. If we’re the first to respond, the first on the books, the first consultation – usually we’ll be there first to the table. Don’t be afraid to start early.

When it comes to affirmations, I’m more biblically based, so for everything, I turn to Proverbs 3:5-6, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.'

Yes, I love that. Earlier, you mentioned a bit on investing; I’d like to dig into that. What does it look like for you, professionally and personally? 

I’ve always looked at life transactionally. Because of that, I invested a lot in the business – I always wanted us to have updated technology and practices. I mean, I invested in a brand designer, business manager, and bookkeeper. My website isn’t just pretty, it brings in a strong ROI (return on investment).

But personally, I actively invest in self-care. It’s something we put on the back burner until you start feeling it in your body. High blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks are real things. The event planning industry is one of the top 5 most stressful fields. It took me a while to understand the importance of self-care. But now I know you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. My gym membership and health is very important.

Would you consider yourself a saver or a spender?

I am a saver. I actually need to spend more on myself. I’m very conservative when it comes to my finances.

I feel like you are in the minority with that answer. Have you always been good with money? 

Actually, yes. I can remember being in high school wanting a pager, and my parents told me they weren’t paying for it. I literally got a job and bought my own. So, I’ve kinda always been like that for as long as I can remember, very goal-oriented.

Jillian Smith

Jillian Smith

Photo by Andre Brown

Do you have any budgeting tips for us then? 

Most of us come out of college with a lot of credit card debt. So, the first recommendation is to get comfortable with how you spend and your balances. I had a spreadsheet with each card with line items and percentage rates, and I just started paying the highest down. But I also saved at the same time. If you’re new to saving, starting with a high-yield online account helps, too. Just start small. It could be $50 to auto-transfer every month, and it’ll grow it over time.

"If you’re new to saving, starting with a high-yield online account helps, too. Just start small. It could be $50 to auto-transfer every month, and it’ll grow it over time."

Out of curiosity, what’s your go-to splurge? 

I love a spa. But not like the basic ones. Like, I’m going to the Four Seasons. And also, I don’t really cook a lot, so yes - I’ll eat out. I’m on Zoom like all day, every day, taking meetings, so those are my necessary splurges.

And have you reached your goal? If not, what’s next?

I’m insatiable with my goals, so no – they just keep growing. But a long-term one is to open up my own event facility, that’s in a nice area in the city. I want to be able to compete with some of the top venues in Atlanta.

It’s giving luxury. Finally, can you break down how you define wealth? 

I’d define wealth as finance and fulfillment. In finance, it means OneTouch Events can invest in our people, our bills are paid, and we have a surplus. Like for example, last summer, I just gave the team a week off to just decompress for no reason, and we had team outings.

Personally, being wealthy is being comfortable in my skin. Last year I spent so much time with my family because I didn’t feel the need to work 24/7 like I envisioned. Wealth and fulfillment is being able to live a well-rounded life.

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Feature image by Andre Brown

 

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