23: Interview with Meryl Johnston from Bean Ninjas

Today we feature Meryl & Ben from Bean Ninjas. Read all about how they went from zero to $7000 monthly recurring revenue, in just 8 months!


Where is the company based and how many people are involved?

We have a virtual team so our staff either work from home or a co-working space. I’m based on the Gold Coast and my co-founder Ben is based in Sydney. We have 2 x bookkeepers based in Australia, one in the US and one in the UK. We’re in the process of hiring 2 more bookkeepers and an accountant. That will bring our team to a total of 9.

What inspired you to start this business?

We consider ourselves lifestyle entrepreneurs and we were inspired to start Bean Ninjas so we could run a location independent business and have time to spend with our family, doing the things we love. One of our goals is to help 100 other lifestyle entrepreneurs achieve their business goals by the end of 2016.

What is your unique selling point?

We are accountants who ‘get’ online businesses.

What were the most challenging parts of setting up the business?

Ben and I both already had other businesses. The hardest part was finding time to work on Bean Ninjas while keeping the other businesses running to pay our living costs.


How did you come up with the name Bean Ninjas?

To launch Bean Ninjas, Ben and I met together on the Gold Coast for a 3 day business bootcamp. We were inspired by Dan Norris’s 7 Day Startup book and we condensed his methodology into 3 days. We allocated 2 hours to selecting a business name.

We wanted to be different to a typical bookkeeping business, so our main criteria was that the name wasn’t boring. We also wanted to have something related to bookkeeping / accounting, so we liked the word ‘bean’ short for ‘bean counter’.

We came up with a list of available names and then narrowed it down from there.

You offer Xero bookkeeping, tell us more about Xero software for people who haven’t heard of it!

Xero is a cloud based accounting program which means we can login from anywhere and so can our clients. It integrates with bank data via a daily bank feed. This makes it really easy to stay up to date with what money is coming in and out of your business.

I could talk for hours about various Xero features. If you are a freelancer or run a business then I’d highly recommend you check out these Xero videos so you can see for yourself what it can do.


How do you spread word of “Bean Ninjas”? Or do you rely mostly on word of mouth?

The majority of our clients have come via word of mouth or from some of the online communities we are part of.

We haven’t done any advertising and our email list is pretty small. One of our goals for 2016 is to have a bigger online presence. Up until now we’ve been very focused on getting our internal processes right and training our team so we’re ready to scale.

Ben and I were very hands on in our first 6 months and have handled all scoping calls / Xero setups and conversions and client onboarding ourselves. This probably hampered our growth, but it gave us a really good understanding of our customers. We kept adapting and testing our offer during our first 6 months and now we’re happy we’ve found ‘product / market’ fit so we can focus on scaling.

Do you use Social Media to find new customers?

We share our fortnightly blog posts on Facebook and Twitter, but we actually focus most of our social media time in contributing to Facebook communities we are a part of. We’re also about to get started with Instagram. Feel free to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Are there any blogs, podcasts or Facebook Groups about entrepreneurship you follow closely?

Dan Norris, Tropical MBA podcast, Nathan Chan (Foundr), Taki Moore, James Schramko, Rob Walling.

If you could start your business again what would you do differently?

I would back myself earlier and close my other business sooner. Bean Ninjas has now been running for 8 months and I’m only now making progress towards winding up my previous business so I can focus 100% on Bean Ninjas.

There is always a juggling act with a startup where you need to balance earning money and creating an asset. We knew within the first 4 months that Bean Ninjas was going to be more successful than our other businesses, so in hindsight I would have shut down my other business and other projects sooner so I could focus on scaling Bean Ninjas.

What are your future plans for the company?

Our first goal is to hit $100k annual run rate which we should hit next month (9 months in). Our next goal is to hit 7 figures.

Who do you think is the most accomplished entrepreneur you’ve met?

There are a number of entrepreneurs who I look up to, but I haven’t actually met many of them personally.

If I had to pick one I would say Dan Norris. He was part of the reason we launched Bean Ninjas. We used to work at the same co-working space on the Gold Coast. I was running an accounting consulting firm at the time and he used to say, when is someone going to start the WP Curve of bookkeeping …. and we did!

Which resources to run your business do you use most?

An internet connection! It would be impossible for our virtual team to run without it.

What tools do you use to run your business?

Other favourite tools are Trello / Slack / Drip / Google Apps.

You know you’re an entrepreneur when …

… you find yourself saying “I think I love Bean Ninjas even more than surfing!”

Read more about Meryl’s & Ben’s Business at Beanninjas.com.