- Danika Brysha started out as a plus-size model before opening Model Meals out of her New York City apartment kitchen.
- Brysha went back to living with her parents and working side gigs to make ends meet.
- She had to take on debt and borrow money from family, which she has since paid off.
- Read more stories from Personal Finance Insider.
With 66,000 Instagram followers watching, 34-year-old entrepreneur Danika Brysha shared a screenshot of her bank accounts from the early days of her multimillion-dollar meal delivery business called Model Meals. “6 years ago today, I had $39.47 cash to my name and various maxed out debt, including the $13k here,” Brysha wrote in a heartfelt caption chronicling her bumpy road to success.
Before starting Model Meals, Brysha worked as a plus-size model in New York City. “It felt like I was living a double life,” she tells Insider about working as a model. “This company flew me out, and put me up in a fancy hotel, yet I couldn’t afford the $100 down payment for incidentals.”
She channeled her love for healthy cooking into Model Meals, cooking Whole30-approved meals in her kitchen and delivering them to local clients. This new business venture allowed her to collect payment up front, but she was still spending more than she earned. Soon, Brysha couldn’t afford to live in New York anymore and had to move into her parents’ garage in Southern California.
She went back to working hourly gigs to make ends meet
Brysha lived in a small converted living space in her parents’ garage that was “about half the size of an RV.” She lived in, slept in, and ran Model Meals from that space. She also borrowed money from her parents and grandparents, acknowledging that “not everyone gets to do that.” She felt lucky, but she also felt like a huge failure.
She had to call her old contacts, and went back to being a production assistant on television, an entry level position that pays minimum wage. “These people watched me move to New York and book these glamorous jobs,” she added, explaining how ashamed she felt to be back at square one while building a business no one believed in yet.
Even with her side gigs, she was “always waiting for income, always behind, always owing money.” She was financially stressed, even with her parents’ support.
She decided to downsize her expenses dramatically and put everything into her business
“There was no eating out, going out for drinks, or anything like that,” Brysha explains. “It was a constant check-to-check.” Each time she got paid from her side gigs or made extra revenue from Model Meals, she would put it right back into plugging financial holes, expanding her business, and paying down her debt.
“I was scared that my parents would see me resting,” Brysha says. Because she was in debt and still working toward her dreams, she was afraid that any form of self-care would be seen as a sign of weakness. She felt guilty for not working 100% of the time.
It took years of hard work promoting Model Meals, and keeping up eight different streams of income, including modeling, coaching, and brand partnerships, for Brysha to finally be able to pay her bills consistently. Once Model Meals started making more revenue, she was able to pay off all of her credit card debt. She was also able to pay her family back for their support, sharing a check written to her parents for $19,528.08 with her Instagram followers.
Brysha is still finding the right balance between her personal and business finances
In July 2021, Model Meals was acquired for $2.1 million by a private company, according to Yahoo!, but Brysha says the grind doesn’t stop there.
Now nine months pregnant, she says, “The entrepreneurial journey is so up and down, and it still is.”
Even though she’s been able to save enough, earn consistently, and buy a house in Las Vegas with her partner, she’s still finding that balance of being comfortable with both her business and personal finances.
Brysha has since started a second business called Self-Care Society, again with very little overhead and aligned with her passions. She hopes to one day start a third business mentoring other female entrepreneurs. “Finding balance between being very present with my children, and being a mentor to other women-owned businesses sounds really exciting,” she says.
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