The founder series explores the minds of business owners and their journey to make a difference in their industry. We interview these business founders to understand the life lessons that mold them into who they are today. We also learn more about their company, their products or services, how they are different from their competitors, and the problems that they are trying to solve for their customers. The information that these business owners provide to us helps inform other entrepreneurs who are looking to make an impact in the business world. We all can take these lessons and apply them to our entrepreneurial journey. We want to thank every business owner who volunteered their time to participate in these interviews and share their knowledge with the community.
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Great to meet you. Thank you for doing the interview. We want to know more about your journey, early struggles, success, and some wisdom that we can pass on to others who are interested in walking your footsteps toward becoming an entrepreneur. We know that being an entrepreneur is not all glory and fame, but there are hard times too. We believe that others who are interested in being a business owner can gain insight from other business founders like yourself. Again, we want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule. Let’s get this interview started!
Let us start off with some basic questions to learn more about who you are as a person.
Can you tell everyone your name, please?
Tell me about your education?
Often, in Baltimore, when someone asks you this they are inquiring about what high school you attended, but elsewhere I’ve found that they’d like to know what college you attended. So, to satisfy both, I attended Western School of Technology for high school and Towson University for college. At Towson, I studied Accounting and Financial Planning.
Can you give an example of an early lesson in life that helped shaped who you are today?
My parents are first-generation immigrants to the U.S. I was around 2 years old when my dad decided that he wanted a better life for his family and came here in hopes of the many opportunities America promised. He came first and then my mother, and I followed a year or two later. To this day, I have an indelible image of what hard work and sacrifice looks like. Having very little finances, my parents worked tirelessly to build a life for us here. They purchased a home two years after migrating and then my baby brother came along, which demanded even more.
There were setbacks and layoffs, but thanks to hard work and a strong work ethic, both of my parents eventually landed well-paying jobs despite not having college degrees. In fact, they were able to fund all my in-state college tuition while I went to Towson as a commuter student. Thankfully, I was able to graduate without a dime of student loan debt.
At the time, I didn’t realize the value of this as I was accepted into other more prestige colleges, but my parents chose the one they could afford and one where I would not have to incur debt. It was only years later when many of my friends (and later clients) were groaning about the large sums of student loan debt they had to begin repaying that I realized that my parents had given me an amazing gift. I carry this with me as I encounter so many individuals in my professional realm who are crippled by student loan debt and consumer debt, but I aim to help these individuals build a better way so that they cycle of debt can be broken.
We all have entrepreneurs who we look up to in our industry. These business leaders help influence, shape, and drive our ambition to succeed. These entrepreneurs could be someone that we have worked with on a project or could be someone that we look up too from a distance. For example, Bill Gates is a big inspiration to me not only because of his work in Microsoft but his outstanding contributions to society.
Who would you consider to be a significant influence on you professionally and can you explain why?
It is extremely hard for me to chose just one person, so I chose two: Oprah and John F. Shull. Oprah, being a black female, the first of her kind in her industry grew to become the first black female billionaire. I too once felt like a fish out of water in a male-dominated industry. But, looking at Oprah’s example, I know there’s room for me and my vision to help others make better decisions with their money. And beyond Oprah’s success is her influence and heart for giving. I believe that we become successful not just for ourselves, but so that we can also help others.
John Shull believed in me from the day I walked into his office and told him I wanted to be a financial advisor. At the time, he was the District Advisor at the First Command office in Annapolis, where I began my career as an advisor, and to this day he remains a friend and mentor. To me, he exemplified what it is to be a leader. And he too gave very generously and led by example. He offered much of his own personal finances to assist me as I began my career as an advisor, which can be unremunerative in the first few years. He did it not because he was obligated, but because he wanted to.
Thank you for providing a background on who you are as a person. I always find it fascinating to learn who a person is and their early life lessons. Let us move forward with the interview and discuss what you are doing now and how you are making a difference in your industry.
What is the name of your company?
Where is your company located?
We are currently located right outside of Baltimore in Catonsville, MD, however, we work with clients nationwide via virtual meetings.
What services or products does your organization provide?
We offer holistic financial planning as well as financial literacy and education at churches and in the workplace. Within the scope of our expertise, we review, analyze, plan and make suggestions regarding cash flow management, saving, investing, retirement planning, college planning, life insurance and more. We also offer a coaching program to those who want accountability and tracking towards specific goals. As a part of this program, we work with our clients to develop good habits and knowledge so they can meet set goals.
What problem is your business trying to solve?
I believe that there are two barriers many people face when considering whether to work with an advisor: 1. Trust 2. Cost
In our culture, our financial information is very private and working with an advisor requires one to share intimate details sometimes even beyond simply our financial status since money touches so many aspects of our lives. At HoneyVest, we offer a judgment-free zone and a relationship through which clients can feel comfortable discussing their personal financial matters, in addition to a secure platform where their information is safe and confidential.
Our goal is also to make financial advice affordable to those who need it, want it and deserve it, so we primarily work with young professionals and minority families. I have come across many people who suffer financially simply because of poor decisions they have made with the best of intentions. I believe that having a trustworthy advocate to help them simplify money-related decisions is crucial to financial satisfaction. Our goal at HoneyVest is to serve this deserving client sector without a high entry level asset requirement.
How is your business unique against your competitors?
We focus on providing resources and education to young professionals (i.e., millennials) and minority families who have often been underserved in the financial industry. Many of my colleagues in the industry are in their 50’s and are hoping to work with people who are near or ready for retirement. I tell them that I’m hoping to work with their client’s children and even their grandchildren. Our goal is to make financial planning reasonably affordable and convenient for them at the beginning of their life journey.
How did the idea for your business come to fruition?
I got tired of the large firms wanting me to crunch numbers all the time and telling me that I owned my own business, but feeling like they instead owned me. I knew I could not stay in that environment but knew that I wanted to be a financial planner to help my peers and change the way this country thinks about money. The decision to start HoneyVest has inspired me. I am excited to have a platform with no limit on who I can help and how I can choose to help them.
Where can people go on the web to learn more about your business?
We would like to thank you for the interview. We have one last question to ask you about imparting some wisdom to future entrepreneurs.
What three tips would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out on their journey?
Learn to delegate- this is something I’ve had a hard time with myself, but it’s necessary because you can’t do it all. Delegating will help you to be more efficient and accomplish more.
Don’t stop at just one mentor- mentors offer a wealth of advice and expertise and just because you complete a mentor program once does not mean you can’t do it again or seek the advice of another expert business owner or someone in your field. Mentors provide different expertise, different points of views and experiences. And when you’ve gained ample experience and knowledge, switch roles and become the mentor and help someone else, you won’t regret it.
Brag about it- Not the annoying type, just don’t be afraid to talk about your business because it’s the only way people will learn about your brand and what you are doing to make a difference.