When we endorse a particular small business solution provider, we always like to talk to current customers to double check our editors' picks. We all know that PayPal is a huge name, but we wanted to see if it really lived up to its reputation. These three entrepreneurs use PayPal to grow their businesses. Here are their stories.

How Fashionphile Uses PayPal to Increase Payment Efficiency

When Sarah Davis was a graduate student, her interest in fashion led her to start buying and reselling clothes and accessories on eBay. She found that her biggest profit margins came from her vintage handbags. Shortly thereafter, she launched Fashionphile, an online business selling high-end handbags from big-name designers.

At first, she was only able to send items once customers' checks cleared at the bank -- a lag that hurt her cash flow. And since 95% of her sales were through her website, she needed a more efficient option. Once she signed up for PayPal, she was able to get her payments much faster, and ship bags immediately. She says she trusts PayPal's secure payment processing and appreciates its simplicity. Today, PayPal processes 100% of the company's online payments. It's seamlessly integrated with her custom website, staying true to the site's look and feel.

The next step was to sell internationally. With the help of PayPal, Fashionphile now sells $15 million in high-end handbags per year to customers around the globe. Not only can Sarah be confident handling the volume of sales coming in, but her customers feel comfortable making large payments safely.

How Ambush Board Co. Uses PayPal to Grow Business Abroad

Meet Eric Michael Elliot, surfing fanatic turned small business owner. Eric dreamed of opening up a one-stop shop for all the things that he loved: surf equipment, records, clothes, the works. He finally realized his dream by starting Ambush Board Co. in 1997.

By 2001, the store launched its ecommerce website, which generated a lot of buzz. People loved what he had to sell, and with increasing customer demand, Elliot's archaic payment processor could barely keep up. He made the switch to PayPal for all of its credit card processing because of the company's trusted reputation. He also found that PayPal offered lower processing fees and better reporting than he could get from other providers. This was just what he needed to kick his business into the next gear.

Now, he regularly receives international orders and the payment flexibility gives his customers an extra level of comfort. He also gives his customers access to financing through PayPal Credit 1, letting them spread out payments over time. For their part, Ambush assumes no credit risk. Today, Ambush Board Co. is now the world's premier dealer of wakeboards, and generates $7 million in annual sales online, and counting.

How Bee Raw Uses PayPal to Buoy Business and Simplify Finances

Health food was Zeke Freeman's passion. He started Bee Raw in 2005, selling hand-harvested honey in food markets, at lifestyle stores, and online. People loved his honey, and 11 years later, though Freeman was still running his business from his home office, he saw a growth rate of about 20% a year 2. The company uses PayPal to process and manage all of its payments, Freeman says: "We have all of our money coming into one place, which makes it easy to track where sales come from."

Freeman has used PayPal Working Capital loans 3 to buy honey from beekeepers in the summer, so he's fully stocked with inventory when the holidays approach. "PayPal Working Capital gave us additional capital when cash flow was tight, and the loans are paid directly from our PayPal account when we have sales," Freeman says.4 After generating sufficient revenue, Bee Raw was able to easily pay back the loans through their PayPal account.

Another of Freeman's necessities was being able to sell on the go. He used PayPal Here, the mobile card reader, to process payments wherever he was selling, and keep up with his customers, who didn't always have cash on hand. "We want people to taste the honey and understand the different flavors, and we'll ask them to sign up for our newsletters," Freeman says. "So the festivals and markets are just as much about lead generation as they are about sales. When people are ready to buy at the markets, PayPal Here lets us process the purchase so they can take home their honey right away."

PayPal for the consumer is convenient, but PayPal can offer even more to a small business. These entrepreneurs used PayPal to accelerate the growth of their businesses. PayPal can be an all-in-one payment processor for however your business sells today or in the future -- online, in store, on the go, or in marketplaces. PayPal is right for any level of business and entrepreneur -- from those just getting started to those expanding internationally.

Update: PayPal can be your trusted business partner, starting at $0 a month, and signup takes as little as 15 minutes! Follow this link to start accelerating your business with PayPal today.

1PayPal Credit is subject to credit approval, as determined by the lender, Comenity Capital Bank. 2Data is based on the business's own internal analysis. 3PayPal Working Capital is subject to credit approval, as determined by the lender, WebBank, Member FDIC. 4Subject to minimum payment requirement of 10% of the total loan amount (loan + fee) every 90 days. See Terms and Conditions for details. Advertisement

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Developing further skills can boost your career at any stage.

Whether you are looking for a new job or trying to grow in your current one, getting a certification can be a great way to improve your skills.

Anyone can put that they are proficient in a computer program on their resume but having a certificate can help you stand out amongst the competition and give credence to the strength of your skills.

But what's the best way to invest in yourself without breaking the bank? Some certification programs can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. We are going to walk through six of the best certifications you can get for $100 or less.

Tableau

Tableau's data visualization capabilities are comparable to Domo and Power BI.

Who is it best for: Those who work with analyzing and presenting data.

Cost: $100 for Tableau Desktop Specialist; additional certifications are available for a larger fee.

More companies than ever see themselves as data companies. Being able to understand data and use it to guide decisions at your company is often critical to taking on a leadership role. Not to mention, being able to present the data in a clean, attractive, and compelling way can help get buy-in from others in your organization or clients. That's why Tableau is a great tool to have in your toolbox.

Tableau allows you to create interactive visual analytics dashboards. In layman's terms, you can take data; create graphs, maps, or charts; and then allow end-users to interact with these graphics to better understand the information. It's a fantastic tool allowing non-technical users to gain insights for data-driven decision-making.

Tableau Desktop Specialist certification starts at $100 and has no expiration date. There are many videos on Tableau's site to prepare for your exam as well as Tableau Starter Kits allowing you to play around and learn the different capabilities of the program. Tableau offers a 14-day free trial as well as free license for one year for students.

Additional certifications after Desktop Specialist are Desktop Associate and Desktop Professional. Those working with a Tableau server may also be interested in a separate certification as a Server Associate or Server Professional.

The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

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Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.

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