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2023 Big Wins for our Transaction Services Clients

Stage 1 Financial is constantly striving to provide greater value services and expertise to our community. We are thrilled to announce that our Transaction Services team has advised on significant transactions for two of our clients: Hiatus Spa + Retreat and Facile Skin.

Hiatus is an award-winning wellness and medical spa with multiple locations across the major metropolitan areas of Texas. To support the next stage of growth, Hiatus has partnered with Platt Park Capital, a middle market private equity firm, to become their first platform investment in the newest fund.

Facile Skin is a multi-unit dermatology and skincare boutique with a growing beauty product business based in the Los Angeles area. They have partnered with PhyNet Dermatology to help expand the number of boutiques through Southern California.

While 2023 has been a more challenging environment in the capital markets, the Stage 1 Financial team continues to deliver some of the most seminal movements for our clients. Our Transaction Services team looks forward to a more robust year for the capital market in 2024 and supporting our clients in their upcoming transactions. The Transaction Services team is poised to assist with equity and debt capital raises, partial or full control transactions, and anything in between.

Congratulations to the founders of Facile and Hiatus on their transactions, and we wish you the best of luck on your new paths forward. You can read more about the transactions via the below links.

Hiatus LinkedIn Announcement

Facile LinkedIn Announcement

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Product Demo: Sephora Reports

Follow along with a DEMO of our Sephora Reporting Solution

Join one of our CFOs as she demos the important reporting solution for a business selling through Sephora.

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Avoid Costly Compliance Mistakes: Deciphering California’s Complicated Sales Tax Law

Introducing the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration Sales Tax Law and Why It is so Complicated.

California sales tax laws are complex, intimidating, and often confusing for business owners. With over 400 sales tax jurisdictions in the state of California alone, sales taxes can be a headache to understand and comply with. This article will provide an overview of the basic key points that all companies doing business in California should be aware of when dealing with sales taxes.

We’ll cover topics such as different sales tax rates and exemptions, compliance requirements from both state and local governments, tips for streamlining operations to maximize savings by tracking exemptions and deductions, as well as real-life examples of companies that have successfully navigated sales taxes in California, including Tesla and Box. Finally, we’ll also provide resources on where to keep abreast of changes regarding sales taxes in the state (e.g., CDTFA).

By understanding this information, you can avoid costly compliance mistakes!

Statistics on the Number of California Sales Tax Jurisdictions

The sales tax landscape in California is complex and ever-changing. The state has over 400 sales tax jurisdictions, making it difficult for businesses to keep up with all the different rates and exemptions that apply to them. Each jurisdiction may have its own sales tax rate as well as specific exemptions or deductions that must be considered when filing sales taxes.

In addition, some cities and counties also impose their own sales taxes, which can further complicate matters. For example, Los Angeles County alone has nearly 100 distinct sales tax jurisdictions! This means companies doing business in California must be aware of multiple sales tax rates and rules depending on where they are selling products or services. California has around 1,200 local jurisdictions, with the smallest one being the city of Industry, covering an area of just 12 square miles.

It’s important for businesses conducting business in California to understand the various sales taxes applicable to them so they can accurately file returns and avoid costly compliance mistakes. Knowing how many jurisdictions exist is a good first step toward understanding this complicated law!

In some cases, businesses have faced significant penalties for non-compliance with California’s sales tax laws. For instance, in 2019, the CDTFA announced that a Southern California auto dealership was assessed over $7 million in sales tax, interest, and penalties due to the underreporting of sales and improper exemptions. This serves as a reminder of the importance of staying compliant with sales tax regulations.


Overview of the Different Sales Tax Rates and Exemptions in California

Sales tax is generally a destination-based tax, meaning that the sales tax rate applied to a transaction will depend on where the product or service is being sold. The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) sets sales tax rates for all taxable products and services in California.

The state sales tax rate for most items is 7.25%, but there are many exceptions. For example, some counties may impose additional sales taxes, which means certain transactions may be subject to higher sales taxes than normal. Additionally, certain items such as food, medical supplies, and clothing can be exempt from sales taxes in some jurisdictions while still being taxable in others. It’s important to check with local authorities when filing sales tax returns in California to make sure you’re correctly applying sales taxes and exemptions.


Key Compliance Requirements for Businesses Conducting Business in California

When doing business in California, it is important to understand the sales tax compliance requirements. Companies must keep detailed sales and use tax records, including sales invoices and sales receipts. Businesses should also be aware of any sales taxes that apply to their products or services. It is also important for companies to register for sales tax with the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) as well as any local sales taxes applicable to their business.

Businesses must file sales tax returns on a regular basis to stay compliant. The filing frequency varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so companies should check with the CDTFA or with local authorities when preparing sales tax returns. Failing to file timely sales tax returns can lead to penalties and interest charges, so businesses must ensure they are meeting all filing deadlines in a timely manner.

According to the CDTFA, in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, over $37 billion in sales tax revenue was collected, highlighting the importance of compliance for businesses operating in California. In another real-life example, a Southern California-based online retailer faced over $2 million in back taxes, penalties, and interest due to non-compliance with California sales tax regulations.


Tips for Streamlining Operations to Maximize Savings by Tracking Exemptions and Deductions

When conducting business in California, it is important to be aware of sales tax exemptions and deductions that may reduce your overall liability. Keeping track of these exemptions can help reduce the amount of taxes owed and ultimately save money for your business. Additionally, businesses should consider software solutions that automate sales tax reporting and filing processes to save time and resources when preparing sales tax returns. Finally, staying abreast of any changes or updates to sales tax laws can help you stay compliant with all applicable regulations while maximizing savings from tracking exemptions and deductions.


Real-Life Examples of Companies that Have Successfully Navigated Sales Taxes in California

Tesla and Box are two examples of companies that have successfully navigated sales taxes in California. Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer, effectively tracked and applied exemptions for manufacturing equipment purchases, which led to significant savings in sales tax liabilities. This highlights the importance of understanding and applying relevant exemptions to reduce tax burdens.

Box, a cloud content management and file sharing service, has also successfully navigated California’s sales tax landscape. By staying up to date with changing sales tax regulations and leveraging technology to streamline sales tax processes, Box has managed to remain compliant with California sales tax laws while continuing to grow its business.


Why You Need Stage 1 Financial to Help You Stay on the Right Track to Compliance in CA and Other Jurisdictions in the U.S.

California’s sales tax laws are notoriously complicated, and trying to navigate them on your own can be a risky endeavor. Stage 1 Financial is here to help your business stay on the right track to compliance in California and other jurisdictions in the U.S. Our team of experts has the knowledge and experience necessary to ensure that your sales tax compliance is in good hands.

By partnering with Stage 1 Financial, you can trust that your sales tax compliance is being handled by professionals who understand the complexities of California’s sales tax laws. We’ll help you identify and track applicable exemptions and deductions, stay up-to-date with changes in sales tax regulations, and ensure your business remains compliant and on track for success.

Don’t leave your business’s sales tax compliance to chance—let Stage 1 Financial’s expertise work for you! With our guidance and support, you can focus on growing and expanding your business, knowing that your sales tax compliance is being managed by a team of skilled professionals.


Resources to Keep Abreast of Changes to Sales Tax Laws in the State (e.g., CDTFA)

To stay informed about changes to sales tax laws in California, businesses can consult the following resources:

  • California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA): Visit the CDTFA website ( for comprehensive information on California sales tax laws, regulations, and updates. You can also sign up for email updates on specific topics, such as sales tax rate changes.
  • Local Government Websites: Check the websites of city or county governments where your business operates for information on local sales tax rates, exemptions, and compliance requirements.
  • Tax Advisory Services: Consider engaging Stage 1 Financial, who specialize in California sales tax laws, to help you navigate the complex regulations and stay up-to-date on changes.
  • Tax Automation Software Providers: If you use tax automation software, the provider may offer updates or notifications when there are changes to sales tax laws that impact your business. Check with your software provider for available resources.
  • Professional Associations and Business Organizations: Joining industry-specific associations or business organizations can help you network with other professionals who face similar sales tax challenges. These groups may offer webinars, newsletters, or forums where members can discuss changes to sales tax laws and share best practices for compliance.

By utilizing these resources and enlisting the help of Stage 1 Financial, businesses can stay informed on changes to sales tax laws and ensure that they remain compliant with all applicable regulations. Don’t leave your sales tax compliance to chance—trust Stage 1 Financial to guide you through the complexities of California’s sales tax laws and keep your business on the right track.

Written by
Laurie Brooks
A SALT Staff Accountant at Stage 1 Financial

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Great things happening for Stage 1 Financial Clients

We are passionate about the amazing startup companies we work with and it brings us so much pride and joy to see them succeed. Browse through these big wins for our clients and share in our joy.

Made by Nacho

Bobby Flay’s Premium Cat Food Brand Made by Nacho enters exclusive partnership with Phillips Pet Food distributor!


Better Sour

Better Sour raises $1.1 million Pre-Seed Funding! The sour candy has resonated with both consumers and angel investors, and recently raised more than $1 million in pre-seed funding.


Elements of Balance

Elements shared with us, “With the help of Stage 1 Financial our adaptogen drink brand, Elements of Balance, was cash flow positive in Q1!” For a young, fast growing business there’s no bigger dream then to be able to say that.

Kreyol Essence

Kreyòl Essence ranked 44th out of 200 on Inc. Magazine’s list of fastest-growing private companies in the Southeast region of America! KE was also ranked among top 50 trending haircare brands on Instagram for all of 2022.

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Solawave has launched a new product and received high praise from the talented Jennifer Coolidge. “The iconic Jennifer Coolidge (aka Tanya) says she loves our 4-in-1 Advanced Skincare Wand… and we couldn’t be more thrilled” – Solawave


Peanut Butter & Co.

“Here we are, the crème de la crème of all peanut butters. Smooth Operator peanut butter by Peanut & Co. embodies everything we want out of peanut butter.” -The Daily Meal

This is what The Daily Meal had to say about our amazing client in their The Ultimate Ranking Of Peanut Butters list.  Peanut Butter & Co has always been number 1 to us but now it’s official.

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Craize Snacks

Craize Snacks saw a huge  increase to their distribution in Q1 of 2023 by being placed chain-wide at both Publix and Stop & Shop!


Splendid Spoon

The Huffington Post did a feature on Splendid Spoon and found their products to be great for serious home chefs. “They’re fresh and creative and make evenings an absolute breeze. I couldn’t believe how much time I got back during the week that I normally spend in the kitchen.”

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Bardot Vegan Beauty

Bardot recently signed a distribution deal with LBR for France and with SMP Germany to distribute in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.



BEVNET took the opportunity to review HoneyDrop’s new line of shot products and they gave all three flavors 4.5/5 stars! “we think that expanding into shots is a really smart move for Honeydrop. From a positioning perspective, honey is the perfect ingredient for a shot category that’s rooted in health and wellness. The ingredient and the product name should certainly catch some eyeballs, the liquid inside the bottle is top notch” -BEVNET

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Herbivore Botanicals

Herbivore Botanical launched a NEW product! Introducing AQUARIUS Clarity Cleanser, a refreshing gel cleanser for cleaner pores with every wash.


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Sephora Reporting Done Right

We’ve Crafted A Better Way

Getting your products into Sephora is a major win, congrats! Working with them is a huge opportunity for any beauty brand. To get the most out of selling in Sephora, you’re going to need a little help. The sales reports they provide are not very user-friendly and that’s where we can offer you the most value. Like most innovation, we saw a need and found a way to turn Sephora’s emails of data into a clear picture with powerful reports of exactly how your products are performing. Working hand-in-hand with beauty brand founders and CEOs, we’ve developed these new reports to help you identify opportunities to grow at Sephora.

So you can take this:

And turn it into this:


Here are the KEY FEATURES we bring to the table:

  • Period comparisons
    • Week over week
    • Year over year: weekly, monthly, year-to-date
  • Velocity by period and by region
  • Performance by store type
  • Trends and rank by product region
  • Geographic analysis
  • Charts and graphs

Don’t settle for the way you’re currently getting your Sephora sales data. Let Stage 1 take you to another level and achieve more. We can show you a demo of how it works and give you the full picture of what this data could be doing for you. Email us at to set up an appointment to learn more.



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A Path to Profitability for Direct To Consumer Brands

Are you a D2C brand suddenly struggling with rising digital advertising costs? Let Stage 1 Help you Build a Path to Profitability

What is Happening with Direct-to-Consumer Brands?

Many direct to consumer (D2C) brands have been struggling for the last 18 months as marketing channels have become less effective and costs have increased. Our studies show that it takes more than double the advertising spend to get the same results as this time last year.


Immediate actions

These are the immediate changes you can make to address and mitigate these challenges:

  • Rethink your marketing strategy:
    • Drastically pull back on digital advertising which includes tactics like paid social, paid search, and banner ads
    • Shift those dollars to building your online community and increasing brand awareness
      • The time is now to move away from paid social and paid search and look to build a holistic approach to building awareness and driving traffic
    • Build an omni-channel strategy by shifting online ad dollars to in-store selling and marketing initiatives (education, sampling) to drive customer trials of your product
    • Focus on creating repeat customers (retention marketing) vs getting new customers because it can cost up to five times more to get the new customer (Subscriptions, loyalty programs and memberships are good customer retention strategies, when done correctly)
  • Reforecast your business for the changing market conditions to see the impact to cash and your P&L (you may become more profitable)
  • Outsource tasks that can be done more efficiently by an agency and save you recourses
  • Closely track marketing spend and make strategic decisions based on maximizing ROI
  • Amazon may be a good online vehicle; just be aware of the costs that go into the Amazon channel before committing to that strategy (agencies can be very helpful in setting up a thriving and profitable Amazon business)


How Stage 1 can help

We’re assisting D2C companies with tools such as:

  • Unit economics analysis of your SKUs and consumer trends – This can help to understand what SKU’s may need to be discontinued
  • P&Ls by channel
  • Detailed weekly cash forecasting
  • 2023 Budget refreshes to represent the current market dynamics
  • Support with financing options (Line of Credit)
  • CFO insights into comparable company metrics


If you would like to learn more, our CEO, Katy Triefenbach, would be more than happy to connect with you. Feel free to book a time using this link: Book your introduction meeting


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Vive Organic get purchased by Suja Life

Vive Organic, a Stage 1 client and portfolio company, has been acquired! Paine Schwartz Partners’ company Suja Life has made the purchase of Vive. A true case study in delivering a great outcome for founders, investors, team members, and brand partners.

Over the last five years, we have worked hand-in-hand with the Vive team to see their incredible organic, cold-pressed juices succeed and grow in the marketplace. Vive Organic has seen tremendous growth these last few years and make the perfect powerhouse acquisition for Suja Life. Vive was established back in 2015 and has continued to grow with the help of venture capital totaling over $15 million.

Stage 1 engaged with Vive when they were $1m in revenue, supporting them by delivering a full finance and accounting department in their early years of growth.  In addition to the operational support, the team aided the founders in navigating their early rounds of financing.  These experiences have been very rewarding for our team members. It enables our firm to share these experiences with new waves of growth brands.

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How to prepare your business for an audit

The number of auditors in the IRS could be doubling in the near future and may result in an increased focus on tax filings for small businesses. Below please find our recommendations for preparation and readiness should your business be audited.

The key focus of an IRS audit is to substantiate your tax returns, and the more organized your record-keeping the more straightforward any records requests and reviews will be to resolve. The last thing you want to do is make the IRS have to guess on any figures. Keep records of expenditures, income, and deductions filed in a detailed manner, ideally within an online bookkeeping system, and reviewed by an accounting team.

Know when to retain help
There’s no shame in admitting you need help. If you are worried about the possibility of your small business being audited and you don’t think you can get through it on your own then get some accounting and tax support. Whether you hire a new staff member or get an outsourced solution like Stage 1 Financial it can make all the difference to have talented, experienced help in your corner. While an audit may be an infrequent occurrence for your business, our experts work with them and the IRS on an ongoing basis and are familiar with the rules, processes, and procedures involved.

If you feel like your business isn’t in the right shape to weather an IRS audit right now then now is the time to correct that. Better now than when you’re actually being audited. It’s also good to keep in mind that the IRS isn’t the only reason you will be going through an accounting review. If you are planning on raising capital at some point then confidence in your current and historical financials during diligence greatly impacts speed and the probability of success.

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