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Females & Finances: Cheryl Van Tessier

CHERYL VAN TESSIER

Meet our December Females and Finances feature: Cheryl Van Tessier! Cheryl “Owns it” every day as the founder of her own public relations firm, Finesse. Keep reading to see what motivated Cheryl to take her business goals to the next level while keeping her finances on track.   

  • What does “Owning it” mean to you? 

As an entrepreneur, “Owning it” literally means owning it! I am responsible for everything from our business model, best practices and strategies all the way to tactical items like technologies and tools. From an ideological perspective, “Owning it” means being in charge of one’s work-life balance, schedule and overall well-being. Women, especially those balancing work and motherhood, are pulled in so many directions. It’s essential to our health and wellness to be comfortable and accepting—a la “owning”—our life situation, whatever it may be.

  • Tell us about your personal and professional journey and how you got where you are today. 

The first university graduate in my immediate family, I began working in PR right out of grad school at Madison- and Milwaukee-based agencies. While pregnant with my second child, I sought a greater work-life balance and began working as a consultant. From there, my business grew into a full-service public relations virtual agency, right alongside my children, who are now teenagers.

  •  What are the most important lessons you’ve learned about finances? 

It’s essential to plan. It’s too easy to overspend without a plan or budget. Also, while it’s never been something I’ve enjoyed, it’s essential to track your expenses. Otherwise you’ll have no idea where your money has gone (don’t ask me how I know that. Ha!).

  • What resources and strategies help you manage your money?

My husband—who’s also my “CFO”—and I sit down each month and discuss our budget. Because my income and business expenses can fluctuate from month to month, we need to revisit and, if necessary, retool our budget accordingly. Another key part of budgeting for any entrepreneur is to plan for taxes. Tax liabilities are higher for the self-employed, and it’s essential to set aside funds so that there are no surprises come April each year. For long-term goals, we work with Summit’s very own Jody Brown, who helps us navigate investing and planning for retirement. Because entrepreneurs typically do not have 401(k)s at our disposal, it’s advisable to open and contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). I have also followed Summit’s Project Money program since its inception and have learned a ton by following the families’ journeys.

  •  If you could have dinner with one person (past or present), who would you choose, and why?

My grandmother. A mother of 10 and a child of immigrants, she passed away when I was young, but she had a huge impact on my life—as well as those of many others. I’d love to ask her questions, hear her stories and learn from her wisdom.