She was making less than $30,000 a year as a receptionist, digging herself deeper into debt, and not finding any money help or advice that she could relate to. Sandra Grahame, along with her four best friends, started a money club — kind of like a book club, except the subject was always money. That first meeting happened around a kitchen table. They shared their bank statements, debt, spending… And most importantly, their goals. It was the earliest days of Smart Cookies, they just didn’t know it yet.
Fast forward to today, and even Oprah is paying attention. Sandra is leading a massive community of Smart Cookies with education and support to achieve their richest goals on their own terms. Women talking about money is so important. I am really excited to have Sandra here to share advice for chasing your dreams and avoiding debt in the process, the money a-ha moments she wishes she had sooner, and the story behind starting a business with her BFFs.
“Some of us have that moment where you realize you’re in charge of your destiny and you can paint that picture and you can set things in motion,” Sandra began. For her, it was seeing a woman named Maureen Fitzgerald speak at a networking event. She gave a talk about how she quit her job and spent a year transforming her life. Sandra walked through an exercise similar to visualizing her perfect day, and it was the start of brave action that led her where she wanted to go.
She landed a job at a PR company (despite having no PR experience) and was surrounded by entrepreneurial minded people with great apartments that dressed well and who took expensive vacations. Sandra wanted to keep up with that, but she went into credit card debt doing it.
As the weight of that debt compounded, Sandra realized she had to dig herself out of it somehow, but all the financial advice she was finding wasn’t connecting with her. That’s when she got a group of friends together to talk about money, set goals, and allow themselves the space to be vulnerable while encouraging one another.
“That year we were able to collectively pay off $50,000 worth of debt. We increased our earnings,” Sandra shared. “We hustled so hard. We walked dogs. We moved into each other’s apartments. We shared clothes. Like we did everything because we were just so obsessed with not just the goal, not just the dollar figure, but this vision that we now had for our lives.”
You’ll have to hit play to hear how Oprah got involved, how that led to a book deal, and the other super cool moments at the start of Sandra’s Smart Cookie story.
From 5 to 1
Smart Cookies started with Sandra and her four best friends — five powerful leaders running a company together. One choice they made was to bring on a board of advisors who helped keep them accountable and that helped guide their next steps. While all five got along and they delicately balanced the decision making power to do what was best for the business, it came to a point where the board advised just one person move forward as the leader of the company.
Each of their lives had transformed since that first meeting — marriages, children, big moves — and so Sandra raised her hand and told them she would like to move forward and run the business in the same vision that they all created. Ultimately, Sandra received their blessing.
“The transition of business isn’t talked about enough,” Sandra explained. They could’ve spent thousands of dollars on lawyers to transfer ownership, but instead they got on the phone, recorded the conversation, and had it notarized. A member of their board of advisors mediated the process.
She remembered the feeling of hearing all of her friends pass over ownership to her on a phone call. Sandra said, “It was like such a moment of excitement but also waves of doubt.”
Dealing with Debt
Much of this conversation with Sandra covers the topic of debt. That word can carry a scary, shameful connotation which can invade our views of money as a whole. Sandra encourages you to view your financial situation from a state of possibility.
“When you’re in the struggle, it’s so difficult to do, but it starts with just being real with how you’re feeling about the current situation,” Sandra explained. It starts with naming the feelings you’re experiencing from a place of awareness, not judgement.
Then, don’t start right away by looking at the numbers and diving in to organize your debt. The next step is to visualize how you’ll feel on the other side of your financial situation. “How would that feel? How would it feel to wake up in the morning and not have to worry about what you’re worried about right now? Would it feel peaceful? Would you feel excited? Would you feel joy?”
Once you’ve anchored yourself in that feeling, then look at the numbers. Sandra said, “You really want to do this in a place of almost curiosity. I’m just going to become aware of what is happening with the situation.”
When you have an understanding of what you’re dealing with, it’s time to take action. It might be as simple as a phone call. Sandra’s favorite hack is gethuman.com. The website will help you find the phone number plus what to dial to get on the phone with a human for almost any service provider possible. When you’re on the phone with a human to talk about your debt situation, it’s important to use collaborative language. Press play to hear Sandra walk through what that sounds like, as well as other advice for navigating debt in life and business.