As Samantha Ettus ran her businesses, she was helping others run theirs.
She started with her personal branding business in 2001 and continued with a business consultancy in 2005. She also wrote five books, hosted a web talk show, wrote business articles and championed women in the workplace.
These experiences led to a mission to help others in a very specific way: to enable recurring revenue for women and others operating as independent contractors.
So in 2018, she launched Park Place Payments, a Los Angeles fintech company delivering merchant payment solutions and financial services to small businesses.
Her idea was to personalize payment processing for mom-and-pop businesses, enabling them to grow more effectively.
To build her own business, she drove growth in two main ways:
- Raised $4 million in VC funding
- Recruited a freelance sales force in all 50 states alongside seven full-time employees
But she knew she had to make another move to keep growing in a tough fundraising environment. In April 2023, with annual revenue of over $3 million, Ettus sold the business, in a deal that allowed her to continue leading the company. The deal was about $7 million in stock, with $2.3 million was paid up front, and $4.7 million contingent upon a performance-based earnout, according to an SEC filing.
How Park Place Payments went nationwide
Ettus and her team recruited extensively to place local account executives throughout the nation.
“Over a relatively short period of time, Park Place Payments amassed a network of more than 1,500 account executives and annualized transaction volume of more than $180 million,” she said.
“To begin, my team went to six different cities to recruit and train account executives – our independent sales representatives – in person,” Ettus said. “We recruited our sales force using a three-pronged approach: through online universities’ career offices; online advertising, often to recruit from a pool of people that had fallen prey to multi-level marketing companies; and through my social media channels, podcast and weekly newsletter.”
The representatives sell an array of payment processing solutions – both online and point of sale – to their businesses.
“We expect to generate more than $5 million in revenue this year,” she said in 2023.
Selling Park Place Payments after a market shift
Ettus became open to selling her business when she felt a change in market conditions that created a more challenging fundraising climate. Fundraising became harder after raising her initial $4 million in venture capital in 2021.
“Raising capital was always a stressor, but I refused to let the rejections get me down,” Ettus said. “Fundraising is a volume game and I just brushed myself off and focused on our mission… The end goal is what kept me going during the most challenging times.”
Yet they still needed more resources. In April 2023, she sold the business to Logiq, a data-driven advertising software company that helps businesses optimize digital marketing efforts and get leads. Logiq acquired Park Place Payments for about $7 million in stock, two-thirds of it in the form of a performance-based earn-out. Park Place’s investors received part of the stock, and Logiq leaned on M&A advisory Panthera Advisors for the deal.
Ettus remained at the company with the mission to grow and build on its existing success.
“Logiq will not only finance our growth and expansion, but they will help us attract great talent and reach a broader world of industries with our unique localized sales force,” says Ettus.
Ettus describes selling her business as exciting, working with an entrepreneurial team of bankers who introduced her to companies she says she would have never found on her own.
“Particularly in this depressed environment when so few deals are getting done, we feel exceptionally grateful for this fantastic ‘rabbit out of a hat’ outcome,” Ettus added.
“This market is so rough and many startups are circling the drain. We are so lucky to be acquired by a growing thriving company with a like-minded ethos and enormous potential. They appreciate both our brand and our model and with them, we have opportunities we would never have if we continued to chug along on our own. We feel incredibly fortunate to have this outcome.”
For this reason, Ettus’ key advice for founders wanting to sell is to hire a banker or M&A advisor – even if your company is small.
“They will uncover stones that you couldn’t possibly find on your own,” she said. “And of course, consider carefully the team that you are selling to. Even if you will not be staying on, the acquirer will be carrying your torch. Make sure it is one that fills you with pride.”