How digital-first accounting firm Harvest helped Duo Studio unleash its creativity

Duo Studio is a local Singaporean agency that has dedicated itself to the art of bespoke social media content for clients. Founded by Stephanie Phua, the company delivers customised content and creative strategies, centred around a highly personal approach to content development. To date, it’s created content for brands like Reebok, MINI, Kao and F&N.

At Harvest, we’re passionate about doing good for businesses that need it most, through a digital-first approach to accounting. We understand that finances don’t come naturally to most business owners, and that they’d rather spend their time on growing the business itself. By handling the accounting and finances for founders like Steph, we free up valuable hours and funds that can be put to better use.

Consistency brings growth—and new challenges

Duo Studio is now in its sixth year of operations. During the company’s first few months, Steph mainly made ad hoc decisions and went with the flow.

“I’m not much of a business person. We were grateful for the opportunities that came in and accepted the projects that we liked. Not much thought was put into finance management,” Steph tells us.

The journey to better accounting wasn’t instant. “At that time, we were a smaller outfit, so I felt it was possible to handle accounting. Payroll for six people, CPF claims—it didn’t take that much time,” says Steph.

Because they were most passionate about solving creative problems for clients, Steph and her small team paid minimal attention to profit and loss (P&L) sheets, numbers, and finances. They channelled much of their energy into crafting great content. But as more clients joined the roster, Steph had to handle more accounts receivables, financial spreadsheets, and invoices—aspects of business she was never trained to do.

The business reached an inflection point when it received its first large retainer account. With the new contract, there was enough cash flow to hire new employees. Within a short period of time, Duo grew from just two people to six.

“I didn’t know how to make sense of all the documents and numbers. And I didn’t know how to use it to my advantage as a business owner,” she says. As the financial aspect of maintaining the business grew more complicated, Steph engaged a certified accountant for help.

Duo’s first experience with outsourcing went smoothly, but she found some parts of the experience could be improved. “He was very, very helpful in structuring financial documents, making sense of costs, and sharing advice about compliance. But I rarely understood his explanations, and we were doing old-school practices like sticking receipts onto papers and reports and filing them in Excel. When I needed data or analysis, it would also take him some time to share his findings with us.”

Though their initial engagement worked well, the budding agency needed an accounting firm that could take them a step further. Steph wanted to leverage technology that could make the business more efficient. Her ideal partner was someone who could provide the right insight and propel them forward.

Enter Harvest Accounting

The difference that Duo Studio experienced after switching to Harvest was enormous. “When Matt and Bryan first introduced us to Receipt Bank, I was amazed,” Steph says. “We just need to take a photo of the receipt, and it will use AI and get our information. I said to them, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s gonna save so much time.’”

There were a number of other benefits that Steph experienced after switching.

Deeper understanding of the financial data

Like many creative people, Stephanie prefers to see data in charts and graphs rather than convoluted spreadsheets full of numbers. Instead of just showing her numbers, Harvest took the time to speak to Steph and ask her the right questions. “I feel like they understand me, my preferences, and they also know what I do know vs. what I don’t. We have deep discussions and they help me come up with solutions.”

More responsible spending

As someone who cherishes her team, Steph often finds it difficult to say no to financial requests. The more her business grows, the greater the need to delegate funds efficiently.

She says, “Recently, I spent S$10,000 on lights. I’ve never spent so much money on lights before. There are a lot of small purchasing decisions that can add up and have a huge impact.”

When financial spending isn’t well-structured, it becomes easy to spend on things that don’t really help the business. Financial clarity driven by digital tools helps business founders make informed decisions and ensure that they have enough cash on hand to weather financial storms.

A more efficient business structure

Steph and the Duo team are highly creative, and in their early years, they juggled many different services—including consultancy videography, and community management—for a wide variety of clients.When we looked at the data, the P&L for each service and client could be very different—and the processes required also are very, very different.

Steph needed help splitting these services into different business units. This would help her identify just how profitable each service actually was compared to the cost of providing them. From there, she could plan out the best way to structure the business and grow divisions with the most potential.

Refined cash flow

Cash flow is a major problem for many small businesses and SMEs, especially when dealing with corporate clients. As we looked at Duo’s data and historical records, we identified multiple outstanding overdue invoices from her customers which were at least three or four months old—and helped them follow up on payments.

Support and sincere dedication

Dorothy—over 60 years old—is Duo’s executive assistant. Steph says, “She wasn’t trained to analyse numbers or chase unpaid invoices. But Matt and Bryan had the patience to teach her and get her to where she is today. That’s something I truly appreciate—they truly support startups.”

Our team at Harvest Accounting is always available for Steph any time she needs support, and we also do regular check-ins. Rather than the once-a-year follow-up around tax season that many other firms conduct, we prefer a closer, more frequent working relationship.

A creative accounting approach for a creative firm

Of all the positive features of Harvest that Steph has experienced, there’s one aspect she appreciates most. “Matt and Bryan run a young team that is very forward-looking, much like Duo. I appreciate that I can speak the same language as them. Because we’re on the same wavelength, things are a lot easier.”

Nowadays, Duo’s finances run like clockwork. Invoices from suppliers go right into Receipt Bank. On a monthly basis, Dorothy does a final check to see what needs to be paid up, and all Steph needs to do is log in to her online banking portal to clear finances for the month and disburse payments. “It’s effortless,” says Steph. “I don’t have to worry or stress anymore about accounting.”