Heather Zeitzwolf’s creativity knows no bounds! That’s why the fashion industry seemed like the perfect fit for her, until she realized that she preferred the detailed organization of numbers. After some time in market research, Heather found her way into accounting at a big firm. She discovered that the part she loved was helping her clients, interacting with them and helping reform their business - going beyond their annual tax returns. So Heather launched her own business in her 50s, focusing on service-based companies in the creative space: designers, photographers, podcasters, etc. She is now known as the Vegan CPA for Zeitzwolfe Accounting. Heather is having such a good time, she expanded it into her own membership called Get Radical Profit Growth Accelerator and events like the Plan Your Profits in Paradise business cruise. She also hosts her own accounting podcast, Get the Balance Right. Listen to my full interview with Heather Zeitzwolfe on Episode #53 of the Second Act Success Podcast.
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Events - Plan Your Profits in Paradise
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Second Act Success Podcast
Season 1 - Know Your Business Numbers and Make Money with Heather Zeitzwolfe | Ep #53
Guest: Heather Zeitzwolfe
Host: Shannon Russell
Transcription (*created by Descript and may not be perfectly accurate)
[00:00:00] Mel Did It Herself: Hey there. Second next successors. It's Mel from Mel did it herself, and I'm the host of the podcast, busy Bee Refinishing with Mel, did it herself, where we talk furniture, painting, and refinishing for all skill levels for those who are interested in trying out their first furniture makeover, to those who are furniture painting hobbyists, and those who have full-time furniture flipping businesses.
If you're interested in giving a piece of furniture a glow up, but don't know where to start, I recommend episode four, the Furniture Makeover 1 0 1 Guide, and if you run your own business, I'm sure you'll love episode 23, how to Keep Up with Content Creation. I'll catch you over on the Busy Bee Refinishing with Melded or Herself podcast.
But until then, here's your host, Shannon Russell.
[00:00:40] Shannon Russell: are you at a crossroads in your career? Ready for a change, but you're not sure how to get there. Don't worry. We are about to produce your best life together. Welcome to the Second Act Success Podcast. I am your host. Shannon Russell. I am a former Television Producer turned boy mom. I left my [00:01:00] dream job to find family balance and in doing so, I produced my dream life. Now I am a Business Owner, Podcaster, and Career Coach. My mission is to help other women, like you, find what they are truly meant to be doing. If you are ready to start over in your career or pivot to a new purpose, then get ready to be inspired by stories of women who have done just that. We will share advice and actionable tips to motivate you as you move along on your path. It is time to shine. So let's start producing your balanced life of abundance today. This is Second Act Success.
[00:02:41] Shannon Russell: Hi Heather, welcome to second Act Success. I'm so excited to talk with you.
[00:02:45] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Thank you so much for having me on this show. I'm really excited to be.
[00:02:49] Shannon Russell: Well, we met through another mutual podcasting friend and I'm just excited to get to know your story a little bit more. Why don't you talk to me about your journey a little bit talk to me about the, the first act[00:03:00]
[00:03:00] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Well, I've had several acts, I guess you'd, you'd say. I was a teenager in the eighties and during that time I was super into fashion, but I was also into theater. And so, I studied fashion in the beginning, but then I worked in that and I like the business side of things. So actually I have this really. Creative side to me, but I also have this like real analytic, I love spreadsheets and all of that. And so my path to eventually becoming a C p A made sense to me, but not to other people. They're like, what? What? Why are you going back to school to study that? So I, I love to learn. So I have a degree in fashion and then in advertising and then in accounting. And along the way I also studied multimedia design. So I've done all kinds of things. I've taken comedy classes. I was in Toastmasters. So as far as like different acts in my life, I feel like I've had quite a few.[00:04:00]
[00:04:00] Shannon Russell: And more to come, I'm sure.
[00:04:01] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Exactly.
[00:04:02] Shannon Russell: I love that. I love being a lifelong learner. And who says that you can only have one path? That's what this podcast is all about. There's not one linear line anymore that maybe our, our parents and our grandparents had. You know, you get a job outta college. And that's what you're doing until retirement. And that's not the case for our generation and, and those younger than us. So you went to school and you got a fashion degree. Was that your first degree?
[00:04:24] Heather Zeitzwolfe: That was my first degree. Yeah. So it was a, you know, a two year degree. But I, I was born in October, so I, when I went off to college, I was still, I think, I wanna say 17 years old. By the time I got done, I was around 19 and bright-eyed, bushy tail was like 300 bucks in my pocket. I moved to New York City. and got my first job in the, in the biz. But, it was funny because I. I was always kind of like punk, rockish, goth, all of those things. And I was like, I'm never [00:05:00] gonna work for Sears or JCPenney or any of those kind of things. And the jobs that I ended up getting in New York were all things that sold at JC Penney's and Sears and all of those things. So the, the fashion world wasn't all about the art and the edginess, like I anticipated. It was really. How can you make a garment at the cheapest way possible and then mark it up and sell it. But that made me interested in business cuz I was like, oh, this is interesting.
[00:05:31] Shannon Russell: Right. That's a different kind of fashion I think. You know just looking at you now and our listeners will see when we've got photos of you, you remind me a little bit of Betsy Johnson.
[00:05:41] Heather Zeitzwolfe: when I was in college, I met Betsy Johnson. We did a field trip to New York. And I adored her before I met her. So I was a huge fan. And so there's pictures of me with Betsy Johnson. I've got like my spiked hair and I used to wear these like military jackets that I would paint on [00:06:00] them.
And so it says like The Smiths and the Cure on my jacket. And I'm standing with Betsy Johnson and I was supposed to do an internship with her. It meant that I had to find a place to stay in New York and it so economically it just did not work out for me. And so I, that's a missed opportunity that I feel like, you know, my life could have been different if I had interned with Betsy Johnson.
But, things happen in life and just, you have to go with it.
[00:06:24] Shannon Russell: That's what I was thinking is like if you went into like kind of that type of of fashion, maybe things would've been different, but I love that you love her. I worked at M T V, I was a producer for many years before becoming an entrepreneur, and I worked on the reboot of House of Style.
[00:06:40] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Oh really?
[00:06:40] Shannon Russell: Yes, and I went and met her, interviewed her at her studio, and she was such a doll. And I have to say over my career of working with a million celebrities, I never was the type to go up and ask for a, a picture or anything because that was just a big no-no. If you were on the other side of the camera, you just don't do that.
But with [00:07:00] her, we had the best day together and she was like, let's get a picture. And I just melted because I thought, So cute that here she wants to get one with me and I still have this picture, and she's squeezing me off. She's just such a doll, like such a lovely person.
[00:07:14] Heather Zeitzwolfe: That's so cute. Well, one thing about the fashion industry, when you live in New York, it's so expensive, and this is before the internet , so you had to look in, , women's wear daily to find jobs. And you panic. You're like, I gotta pay the rent, I got bills, all this stuff. And so you just take what you can. And I would've loved to work for these more edgy designers. Like I, I'd go around with my portfolio and they'd see my pictures and they'd be like, you need to work in the village. It's like, yeah, okay, that would be perfect, but I can't find a job there, you know? So I did take whatever I could get and, it paid the bills and it was an experience.
So, and now I'm doing other things,
[00:07:52] Shannon Russell: You learned about the business side of fashion from that and that kind of led you probably to your next step. Talk to me about what [00:08:00] was next? Did you go back for another degree?
[00:08:01] Heather Zeitzwolfe: I was like, I wanna study business, but what's the most creative side of business I thought was advertising. So I decided I would study advertising, but while I was studying it, advertising was sort of sleazy and deceptive and all these things, I started to understand the ethical side of business and, and like how. Evil. Some corporations really are like their tactics. So I really just became disenchanted with the whole idea of it. But what I loved was market research. And I had been working in market research while I was in school, so that's actually where I ended up, was in market research. So I became a project manager for a market research company.
[00:08:41] Shannon Russell: and was it the numbers kind of thing that you liked? The spreadsheets numbers? Yeah, really the
[00:08:45] Heather Zeitzwolfe: yeah. Yeah, I started to really like that and when I was in school I had a finance teacher and she was like, you should study finance. Cuz I was like so excited about spreadsheets and all that kind of stuff. And so that was always in the back of my mind like, oh okay. So, during the [00:09:00] recession I got laid off and my dad was in hospice.
It's like one of those things where you're starting to like reflect on your life. Like what I wanna do, do I wanna stand market research? Maybe I should become a lawyer cuz I was really into. Animal rights activism, and I thought, oh, I could stand up for the activist and all of that. And then I was like, well, wait a minute. All these people go to law school and they can't find jobs. This is not practical. And so, I went and talked to the School of Business at Portland State or I went and they were like, oh yeah, you could go back and get a degree in accounting would take you by maybe about a year, and you'd have enough credits to sit for the CPA exam. And I'm like, okay, sounds good.
[00:09:38] Shannon Russell: and That's incredible. So you're like, okay, one more year. And I have a third degree basically
[00:09:43] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Mm-hmm.
And when you're studying accounting, they kind of give you your options, audit, tax, or you work for a corporation and I was thinking, okay, well I wanna do something where I can grow old with it. If you do taxes, you're [00:10:00] gonna be sitting at a desk in a computer. So this sounds like something that you, you can do grow old with. So that's the area that my focus started to be. I worked for a small firm here in town and I did that for a number of years and then worked for another place. But, I love to help my clients with other things besides accounting. So I hit my fifties and I'm like I wanna start my own business and I wanna be able to work directly with clients. you know, When you work for another business the partners work directly with the clients, you don't really get as much hands on with the clients. I started my business doing mainly tax and bookkeeping and now I am offering more services, more profit advising and group coaching and that sort of thing so that way I can help people with other aspects cuz I have all kinds of experience in business. Just doing the compliance side of it is not very interesting to me cuz I have so much creativity and I wanna be able. Bring forth my wealth of knowledge on all aspects of [00:11:00] business. So I've decided to work with creative entrepreneurs since that's what I love. And so that's been my main focus is to work with creative entrepreneurs. So ones that are maybe in , , videography, photography,, podcast production, that sort of,
[00:11:15] Shannon Russell: How fantastic.
[00:11:16] Heather Zeitzwolfe: That was the area that I really wanted to focus on was. Having more of an impact with the clients because I would see their financials and be like, oh my God, they could be changing things in their business and you see the financials and you're like, I see all these mistakes that they've made. And a lot of people that we are working with, we'd only see their financials once a year cuz it just did bring it in for tax time. So I saw like, oh, well wait a minute. , if I could tell them these things, they warn them for the future. So that sort of planted a seed for me, I think.
[00:11:48] Shannon Russell: That is excellent cuz you have such a personality and you're such a people person. So for you to be able to sit down and educate someone like myself who doesn't want. To be in that world. I, as you know, someone [00:12:00] who owns two businesses, I hate the money side of it. I hate the taxes and the accounting. All of that, I don't have a brain for it. So, to be able to sit down with someone like you who gets the creative side of what I do and talk to me about the numbers, that would be an ideal partnership.
[00:12:16] Heather Zeitzwolfe: I totally get creatives and you know, once in a while you'll meet one that likes spreadsheets, but for the most part it's like their eyes roll back on their head. And so I like to have. This approach towards numbers as being like a shame-free discussion. I'm not judging, just bring it to me. Believe me, when I work with creatives, you, you see all kinds of goofy things going on with their financials, but I don't want them to feel bad about it. Sometimes I feel like a therapist cuz people will cry or they, they feel so embarrassed. And a, a lot of times when creatives come to they've been so embarrassed about their situation that they've let several years go by before they've even done their taxes. So I might meet [00:13:00] somebody that has to go back several years and sort things out but I'm like, it's okay. We'll do it. We'll get it all situated and then we can move forward and everything will run like clockwork.
It's so cool to be able to impact somebody's life that way and make them feel more empowered about their situation and take that stress away because they, they're so stressed out about their numbers and, dealing with taxes and all of that stuff.
[00:13:25] Shannon Russell: And for someone like you that's creative and you like the numbers, it's like a perfect business for you.
[00:13:30] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Exactly. Cuz I get, I get where they're at and I've studied things like Adobe and using Photoshop and I know about the tools and the things that they utilize. So I can speak that language as
[00:13:41] Shannon Russell: Yeah. I was gonna say, you can talk their language. What makes you finally decide to kind of leap out on your own?
[00:13:48] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Frustration of working with other people and just that sort of like feeling of, being trapped and wanting to make more of an impact and [00:14:00] not being able to utilize my other skills of being creative and all of that because, It's, it's frustrating when you know that you have more to give and you feel trapped in that situation. And I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I was just too afraid. And that side of me that can crunch the numbers and knows for this to pan out, I would need to, have this amount of clients and do this amount of work and charge this amount. It's like, is that doable? You have that voice that tells you like, you can't do that. How are you gonna get all those clients, all those kind of imposter syndrome kind of things that you tell yourself. But also in my fifties, I'm now at this age where I'm like, well, heck, I might as well just try it. Who cares if I fail, then I'll just go back and work for somebody else.
So I might as well just do it. It's an interesting thing when you get older. It's like some of that fear kind of goes away.
[00:14:49] Shannon Russell: Which is amazing, right? I don't have to sit here at this desk and work for someone else and stay in my little bubble. I'm not tethered to anything. I'm going to venture out and try this.[00:15:00]
[00:15:00] Heather Zeitzwolfe: I've always been busy doing things regardless if I had a business or not, because I was in Toastmasters and then I was also. , , studying comedy and taking comedy classes and writing sketches and things. but now it's not so much that I'm being busy, it's like I'm actually impacting something where I can make money.
[00:15:18] Shannon Russell: Working on something that brings you joy and that's the greatest. And if it brings you money too, all the better. But if it's just bringing you that joy and you don't feel like you are dreading the day because you're working for someone else, you know, it's, it's a different kind of life I think
[00:15:33] Heather Zeitzwolfe: yeah, it's great. I love it.
[00:15:35] Shannon Russell: So tell me about your business. It seems like you've got your hand in so many different things.
[00:15:39] Heather Zeitzwolfe: So it's kind of morphed over time and I allowed myself to explore different things. I've always been one of those people that's very detailed. Like, I'm gonna plan this and do this and these are the steps that I'm gonna follow. And I allowed myself to be a little bit more free flowing and just kind of, [00:16:00] Explore different areas that I'm interested in. I decided on using my last name, Zeizwolfe not thinking like that's a really difficult. , that's, you know, people are not gonna wanna know how to spell that. But eventually, because I'm a vegan, I started to be known as the Vegan CPA, although I work with non-vegan, but, so that became an easier thing to Google. And so if you Googles vegan, c p a I come up. . I've been kind of rebranded through my podcast as Get The Balance Right, so you can also find me that way too,
[00:16:30] Shannon Russell: I like Get The Balance Right. That's great. Tell me about your podcast.
[00:16:34] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Okay. So, my business has kind of morphed, so as the podcast and I've sort of allowed myself to do that. The first season it was geared more towards creative entrepreneurs, sort of in that marketing, advertising, digital media kind of space.
But one thing I was. Wanting to explore more was to lift up the female voice. And so I decided for season two, I was only gonna interview women. So it was [00:17:00] more of like the money side of the business and all of that, because it was a different season. But the whole thing with, Gender fluidity and all of that, that I felt like cutting it off to just females just felt like, ugh, I don't really wanna do that. So I've decided for season three, there's nothing about gender in there, and it's been fun to open it back up to men as well. So season three is about creative entrepreneurs that are freaks, geeks, and rebel.
There's gonna be some, on-air coaching. Success stories. There's going to be. Tapping into like your different superpowers and finding different revenue streams. So there, there's gonna be a lot of really fun episodes.
[00:17:42] Shannon Russell: Awesome. And then that brings me to coaching, cuz that's another thing you do. Tell me about your coaching practice.
[00:17:50] Heather Zeitzwolfe: So the coaching is more like, I call it more advising. I'm not a trained coach, so it's more of an advisor. I offer one-on-one advising. I also started to do [00:18:00] group coaching or group advising, which I absolutely love because it's so much fun to be in a group of people where they get.
Not only interact with each other, but also influence each other's business. I may not have all the ideas, but you know, somebody else might come up with a different idea. And it's just always great to have someone else's perspective on what's going on in your business. And having multiple people is even better. because you know, as entrepreneurs, you're an entrepreneur, it can be a lonely road. You're working on your business. You get caught up in your head and you're like, okay, this seems like a great idea. And then when you start talking to somebody about it, it's like, it's not so great. It's not, not really something, you know, but we, we get caught up in our ideas, but we don't take.
[00:18:41] Shannon Russell: Mm-hmm.
[00:18:42] Heather Zeitzwolfe: and so it's lives in our head as this great idea until we start to like talk to other people about it. And when we start to put into motion and take action on it, we realize, okay, I need to tweak these things. And working with a group is always a great way or working with a coach or an advisor to make sure that you're on the right track and and [00:19:00] get outta your head.
[00:19:00] Shannon Russell: Right. Cuz we're always in our silos. I think, just kind of working on our thing you just need somebody else to kind of proofread your work and see, it's working. Yeah.
[00:19:09] Heather Zeitzwolfe: With my group coaching, we work on other aspects of the business besides the financial side, but, everything is really about the money when it comes down to it, and making the right decisions that's going to impact your business financially the best way.
It's so important to not just think about like the sexy stuff, like marketing, like that is so exciting. But the, the geeky part of it, which is the money is also very, very important.
[00:19:34] Shannon Russell: so important and it, it bleeds over into all those areas, like you said, with marketing, well, how much should I be paying to advertise and, is my l l c set up correctly. There's just so many aspects of being a, a business owner that money plays a part in so you really, you need someone like you to kind of keep us on track
[00:19:50] Heather Zeitzwolfe: And it's so important to know what's going on with your, your business and , keeping those separate when you're talking about spending money on marketing, unless you're looking at your numbers, you [00:20:00] will never know. Like what was your return on investment with that and so much. I see like people just kind of throw in money at things. Just sort of like, okay, I'll just try this. And it's like, okay. Did that work? Do you know if it worked? Like, let's, let's dig in and look at the numbers.
[00:20:14] Shannon Russell: Working with you would just be so helpful for any business owner just because you are looking at it from all the aspects. That's fantastic. Say that one of our listeners is getting ready to launch their own business? What would you advise for that first step in starting a business?
[00:20:28] Heather Zeitzwolfe: The first thing I would say is if you are going to have a business, then treat it like a business. So make sure that you have all your ducks in a row. So if you're starting off, maybe you don't need to be an LLC at this point, you know, maybe you don't need to invest in that part of it, but start thinking about like, How you wanna be taxed? Are you thinking like this is gonna be a business where you could be taxed as an S-corp? Now this is not tax advice. I'm not saying that, but, but um, so just [00:21:00] start to think about your long-term plans of what you think you wanna do. If you don't know these types of things, maybe talk to an accountant and kind of think or a lawyer and think about long term.
How are you gonna track those payments? How are you gonna pay for your expenses? Don't use your personal, personal credit cards and your business credit cards, like don't mix the two. Get a bank account that's for your business and stick to that. And so just start building these things like a because it gets messy really quickly. Keep it simple. You could have a spreadsheet,, as long as you're tracking these things, maybe they're just keeping receipts in an envelope or whatever, that's fine, but over time it's gonna get like to be just too much. So just track things as you go but again, seek professional guidance I think, early on just so that you can get things sort of set up correctly. Cuz you don't wanna be finding out later on, you owed local tax and you had no idea that there was even a local tax. That sort of thing. And being able to plan ahead for, for all those things.
[00:21:59] Shannon Russell: [00:22:00] Right. Absolutely. And I'm sure a lot of this advice you talk about on your podcast, so it's great for our listeners to come check out your podcast too and, and really kind of follow along and get these little tidbits from Heather along the way.
If someone's sitting at home and is still not happy and they're in their forties or fifties or even sixties, what would you advise?
[00:22:20] Heather Zeitzwolfe: I would say go for it, but. Have a cushion. , I believe in having some sort of financial safety net. Not everybody has a family that they can fall back on or a partner or something like that. Just make sure that you have enough money in the bank that can hold you afloat for six months, a year, something like that.
And, you know, if you are thinking about starting a business that's gonna cost a lot of money to invest in, maybe think about something that's, less expensive to start. Service-based businesses don't usually cost too much money to start. Maybe you have to get a laptop and some software and all of that, but yeah, have a [00:23:00] safety net for sure, financially.
[00:23:02] Shannon Russell: What does the next chapter look like for you, Heather?
[00:23:05] Heather Zeitzwolfe: hopefully it's, uh, on a beach with a palm tree next to me and a drink in a, in a coconut.
[00:23:12] Shannon Russell: Ooh, . I love it. You can make it happen, . Where can our audience connect with you in all of the places for all of the things that you do?
[00:23:21] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Okay, well, probably easiest way to find me is on Link Tree. You put in, Get The Balance Right through Link Tree, and you can find me there on Instagram. If you just search Vegan CPA, I should come up, but it's my Instagram handle is @zeitzwolfe. Most of the others type stuff you can find, www.getthebalanceright.Net is. My podcasting website, so you can find me there,
[00:23:46] Shannon Russell: And I'll put all the links in the show notes so everybody can find ways to connect with you. This has been so wonderful. It's been such a lovely conversation and so cool to hear about your, your long journey of so many different things. I love everything that you're doing.[00:24:00]
[00:24:00] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Oh, thank you so much. Thanks for having me on the show to talk about it.
[00:24:03] Shannon Russell: Heather is quite the entrepreneur and full of spirit. Just hearing her share her story. It makes me want to go out and try something new. I really admire that she tried different career options along the way. She worked to get several degrees and after years of working for someone else, heather took the leap to open her own business. She knew that she was meant to help clients in a bigger way. And with her own business and podcast, she has found a way to do that. If you were thinking of starting a business or making a career change of any kind and you fear that you're too late.
Heather, and I are here to remind you that you are not. I started my first business when I was just about 40 years old. Heather launched hers in her fifties and I've had several other guests on this podcast and clients of mine making transitions at all different ages. If you want to try it, I urge you to just go for it. You will never know unless you [00:25:00] try.
Heather has a new membership out called the Get Radical Profit Growth Accelerator and a business cruise event called the Plan Your Profits In Paradise. So to get more information on that, go to getradbiz.com for all of the information. Thank you again for listening and I will catch you on the next episode of the Second Act Success Podcast.
Thank you for joining us. I hope you found some gems of inspiration and some takeaways to help you on your path to Second Act Success. To view show notes from this episode, visit secondactsuccess.co. Before you go, don't forget to subscribe to the podcast. So you don't miss a single episode. Reviews only take a few moments and they really do mean so much. Thank you again for listening. I am Shannon Russell, and this is Second Act Success.