Artesia House ‘s path to entrepreneurship was unusual in more ways than one.

First, House was an untraditional law student. She enrolled in St. Mary’s School of Law not right after receiving her undergraduate degree, as many law students do, but after years of teaching English and social studies to local middle school children.

Second, when it comes to money, she made two deals with herself when starting her firm as a newly licensed attorney in 2014. She was determined not to take on any debt setting up her practice. And if she couldn’t match her teaching salary during her first year as a solo practitioner, she would go back to working for someone else.

"Here I am, fast forward five years later," she said. "I am still at this firm. So I was able to match or beat that financial goal."

Five years later, House has also managed not to borrow a single cent, even as her firm has taken on cases that have landed her national media coverage, like the recent case of a Black USAA employee who was mistakenly arrested while jogging.

"I have business owner friends who are like, ‘What’s your debt? … How much money do you owe?’" House said. "And they are stunned when I say it’s zero. Like, I don’t owe anyone."

House sees nothing wrong with borrowing money to start or grow a business and said that it’s an opportunity open to her in the future if she wants to take it. Still, it’s freeing, she said, to have a debt-free business, although it also means a lot of late nights and weekends.

When House started her practice, she shared her small downtown office with three other recent law school graduates. She paid for rent and office supplies using money she saved while working for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid the summer after law school while she was studying for the bar exam.

She made ends meet during her first years in business by working a lot. She often woke up for work at 5 a.m. and didn’t leave the office until 10 p.m. She also went in on […]

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