On the day that Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin launched email newsletter theSkimm in 2012, the two 26-year-olds had a fridge stocked with fresh groceries and pre-cooked meals.
Sitting on the floor in their New York apartment, the two friends, who had just left their media jobs at NBC, thought they could save money, eat well and start a profitable company at the same time.
"Then all of a sudden, real life hit," Weisberg tells CNBC, "and we had no time to breathe."
Their morning newsletter geared towards young women was a huge hit, and their company was taking off. Soon, the entrepreneurs didn't have time to cook meals, take a part-time job or look for other ways to come up with money.
With every month of rent, takeout meal and investment made in theSkimm, the goal of staying financially healthy while growing a start-up seemed more and more of a pipe dream.
Their $4,000 in combined savings was dwindling fast.
So in order to eat, pay rent and continue building the company, the two entrepreneurs went into credit card debt — a lot of it. The duo won't disclose how much debt they were in, but say they paid it off recently, "within the last year," according to Zakin.
"We made the decision together to go into credit card debt," Weisberg says. "It was really not as much of a decision, as it was the only way that we could afford to live and pay rent when we weren't making any money yet."
"Our families couldn't support us financially," Zakin says. "And we're actually really grateful that we didn't have that luxury because it kept us motivated."
Today, theSkimm, which has more than 5 million readers, employs some 45 employees and just raised $8.5 million in series B funding, at which time, Recode reported that the company had an estimated valuation of around $55 million.
Personal finance experts would agree that relying, even partially, on credit card debt was a risky move. And while both say it was necessary to build their company, they are not quick to tell others to do the same.
Not paying off your credit card debt each month can hurt your credit score, which banks, realtors and others use to make decisions on things like lending you money or leasing you housing. In fact, carrying credit card debt is often seen as a sign of financial distress.
But Weisberg and Zakin are surely not the only ones. According to new data released by the Federal Reserve, the U.S. recently surpassed $1 trillion in credit card debt — the highest level since the Great Recession.
"Everyone's financial circumstances are different," Zakin says, "and you don't know what's going to happen."
Weisberg admits that it they could have been more financially savvy.
"I don't think we thought about it in the best way possible," Weisberg says. "I had a credit card that didn't even give me points."
"We were just doing what we could to get by and build the company."
Check out how two proven ways to pay off credit card debt