From Budget Blogger to Venture Capitalist & How To Fund and Build a Successful Business w/ Kathryn Finney

Episode Number: 275

Episode 275-From Budget Blogger To Venture Capitalist & How to Fund & Build A Successful Business with Kathryn Finney

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From Budget Blogger to Venture Capitalist & How To Fund and Build a Successful Business  w/ Kathryn Finney

Kathryn Finney 0:03

Search for whatever it is that you're building, and maybe the closest competitor to and see what people are saying, Are people talking about this particular product. You can also search by the problem that you're selling and see if people are talking about that problem. Just giving you a little like ideas of how big it is because you want to make sure that it's not just your problem is other people's problems. Because you're not your customer. Your customer is separate from you.

Intro 0:27

T minus 10 seconds. Welcome to the journey to launch podcast with your host Jamila souffrant. As a money expert who boxers she helps brave juniors like you get out of debt, save, invest and build real wealth. Join her on the journey to launch to financial freedom for three to one.

Jamila Souffrant 0:56

Today's guest is Catherine Finney she is the managing partner of genius scaled a $20 million venture fund and studio that invest in amazing black founders. She's one of the most influential women in tech according to Ink Magazine, and her groundbreaking work has laid the foundation for generations of black entrepreneurs and investors. She's the founder and past CEO of digital undivided, a groundbreaking social enterprise focused on creating a world where women own their work. She also started and sold her company, the budget fashionista. So you hear all about that and she has a new book coming out. That's probably out already when you're listening to the podcast called Build the damn thing. Can't wait for you to hear this conversation.

If you want the episode show notes for this episode, go to journey to or click the description of wherever you're listening to this episode. In the show notes, you'll get the transcribed version of the conversation, the links that we mentioned and so much more. Also, whether you are in OG journey or are brand new to the podcast, I've created a free jumpstart guide to help you on your financial freedom journey. It includes the top episodes, so listen to stages to go through to reach financial freedom, resources and so much more. You can go to journey to launch that comm slash jumpstart to get your guide right now. Okay, let's hop into the episode.

Hey, journeyers I'm really having this. Amazing what I know will be an amazing conversation with Katherine Finney. Catherine, welcome to the journey to launch podcast.

Kathryn Finney 2:32

Thank you for having me. It's good to be here.

Jamila Souffrant 2:35

Yes, you have such an amazing background. I feel like what you started with your blog a bunch of past Tanisha is in the realm of what I'm doing now, which is essentially like helping people live the best life, but according to their means. And I would love for you to share how you went through that. So I know it's like a big story to where you are now. So you're a venture capitalist, you're a founder, we have a new book out, which we're going to talk about which I skimmed through, and it was really, I mean, so many parallels to the financial freedom and financial independence journey that we are also on. So I want to take it back to when you began your blog, the budget fashionista, and how that all came about. And we will walk through those steps to where you are now.

Kathryn Finney 3:17

You know, I started a bunch of Ashley's because I was broke, I was broke. And I was sad. My father had just passed. And I was doing a lot of shopping. Because you know when you're mourning, you express it in different ways. For me, it was spending a lot of time at Nordstroms. And so as a result, I had all this debt. On top of all this debt I had from really expensive Ivy League education. And my husband at the time was like, hey, you know, we try to build this life together. Like maybe you could just write about it. Like maybe if you write about it, then you won't have to do it. And so instead of roaming around the King of Prussia Mall at the time, I lived in Philly, so those who are in Philly will know exactly what I'm talking about. I was instead of roaming around King of Prussia Mall and buying stuff, I was like researching it and writing about it. And at first very few people read my blood. But about maybe six months into starting it, I was contacted by a reporter from the Associated Press, who was writing articles and people who traveled to go to sample sales. And she interviewed me included a link to the blog. And that article came out January 1 2004. And it went everywhere when I say everywhere, and when everywhere because at the time. Most of our major publications were not investing in the development of content. They didn't see content as valuable. They didn't see it as being worth anything. And so they didn't put any particularly online content. They didn't put any money into figuring out business models and stuff. So that meant that the Associated Press and all the wire services were the ones that were basically filling out their their websites, in fact for a time I'm was based in California, and Walmart headquarters is in Arkansas. And there were two separate like entities and companies essentially, that's like how little people thought of the internet. Which is crazy now because it's like kind of the center of what we do. And so from that the, it just increased the traffic increase, I got a book deal, I wrote my first book, which was called How to be a budget fashionista, which was all about dressing fabulously for less. And then I became a correspondent on today's show, where I did a bunch of segments on how to do different things for less. And it just really, really took off, I really start to see it as a business once I got the book deal. I think for me, you know, coming from a background, I'm African American, you know, you just don't leave your day job, right. And so you know, how you're going to pay for things because we don't have necessarily the safety nets that other communities have. So I didn't think it was a real thing. I was making a little money, but not real money. And it wasn't until I had this external validation from random house with this book deal that I was like, oh, man, like somebody will pay for me to do this. Okay, I love this. Yes. Okay, I'm gonna go do it, you know, that I ended up really leaving my job and then being able to see this as a business. But that's the one thing I would say to entrepreneurs out there is that, you know, really understand what the business model is and what you're building. Unfortunately, for me, when I started, there wasn't really a business model for online content at that point. So a lot of stuff, we were making it up and figuring it out. There wasn't really a great business model for like, online, anything at that point, I was just talking to someone who was at Amazon during that time period and said that they were like making stuff up. Because like, nobody knew how this was going to actually paying out. And so I built it and scaled it. And then went to an incubator program where the first time in my life people had low expectations of me, they didn't think I could do it. They didn't think I could build a company which was crazy because I was already running a very successful company that triggered me and so I sold my accompany the budget fashionista then went to go work for another woman led organization called block her. And from there helped build out their lifestyle space. And then started digital divide it which was the organization I founded and led for like eight years. But being this budget fashionista, and budget shopper is just like who I am, I am known for like having coupons. And I have, I have a coupon for everything. I'm all about the coop, I don't care how much money I may have, I will always use a coupon, I have no problem, you know, going to Walmart or Target. I like to Goodwill, my son is actually a fan of goodwill too. I'm a big thrift store. I'm a big Thrifter. And so and that's just who I am. And that's like part of who I am. I also have the designer stuff and things like that. But I love to pair it up with something I found in a thrift shop. And that just comes from my upbringing. You know, in the Midwest, being a very Midwesterner,

Jamila Souffrant 8:06

yes, oh my gosh, I'm saying like art, like, I feel like I'm talking to like, like God in some way in terms of the future because I'm in a similar situation where I recently also got a book deal. And I'm running like this kind of personal finance platform. This is what you're on now, the journey slash podcast. But I think it's so inspiring because I have so many listeners who are either doing something on the side, so they have their full time job. And then there may be blogging or starting a business on the side. And they're looking at you or what you were able to do just like I am and saying, Wow, you were able to turn like a blog into an asset that you were able to sell, you know, book deal you were able to get on the Today Show consistently. And so from there, I mean, I know that when you first started it, and I think you had mentioned this in your book that wasn't initially the big plan. But that external validation from your audience from news and media, and getting the book deal telling you like, listen, more people want to hear this. When you say you figure it out, it could be a business. For you. What did that mean? Was it because now you figured out consistent ways to make revenue? And at what point did you feel comfortable to leave your full time job to do it full time?

Kathryn Finney 9:15

Yeah. In the book, I talked about figuring out your exit number. What is the amount of money you need to actually live and not like you know, blink, blink live like Oprah livid like, you know, like, what do you need to live and still be able to do the work that you need to do? And so I figured out what my exit number was. And once I saw the business reaching that and exceeding that for several months, then I knew I could leave. Because I knew that I had the ability to save myself. And I could take that sort of risk. And so it wasn't really until I got the book deal that around the same time. There was a ad network called glam that had popped up that was really monetizing content. particularly in the lifestyle space, before glam it was the only you couldn't get ads that were relevant to, you know, women or shopping was like ads about personal computers or ads about servers or something because most of the people who were blogging at that point were like, you know, engineers and programmers and things like that. So it wasn't, you know, an ad for L'Oreal, or something like that, it was just really hard to have that sort of advertisement. So it wasn't really any way to monetize your content. But when glam came along and started to really focus on the lifestyle space, then you could monetize your content. And then it became very, very, very lucrative to be in that space. And so once I saw that, and I signed the contract, it was like a year long and stuff like that. I felt comfortable transitioning because I knew that I met my exit number.

Jamila Souffrant 10:51

Yeah. Now, you said you went to an incubator at this point. Did you? Did you sell the blog by then, and I think I read somewhere. This was like the first blog that was sold like by black woman,

Kathryn Finney 11:02

it was one of the first startup so by black woman, period, which is sad to say, in 2009, because we're not talking about 1999. Here.

Jamila Souffrant 11:13

This was 2009, when you sold it?

Kathryn Finney 11:15

No, I still did in 2012. The incubator was in 2009. But but it's sad that we're having these conversations about, you know, things that were like 10 years ago, not 30 years ago, or 40 years ago. And thankfully, things have changed quite significantly, particularly in the past two to three years, where it's not as stark as it was when when I started. And I'm excited about him. I like to think some of the work that I did at digital divide, it helped make this change, particularly around our project, Diane data. But yeah, I mean, it's, I think it's an as someone who has a side hustle. And that's your real, your real passion, really getting to the point where you can figure out how to meet your exit number with it is really should be your goal. It's like how can I make it so that this can sustain me, and maybe I don't take a vacation every six months, maybe we just do once a year. Or maybe I make some little alterations in my life, just so that I can still be able to develop this and lead this and lead this life that's really authentic and elected I really love.

Jamila Souffrant 12:18

And one of the things you like start out in the book, you say, in entrepreneurship, and I think very similar to the path to financial freedom and independence is, you know, there are some people that start out, everyone is playing this game. And there's different levels. And you kind of have two names for like the general, you know, this is obviously like, we're generalizing, but it's like the entitled and the builders, and like the entitled start out with like there's a head start, sometimes they don't even realize that they're entitled, and they think, you know, everyone can do it if I can. And then you have the builders, which are primarily like usually people who are people of color, who have less, but need to show up and do more. And that this whole pull yourself up by the bootstraps, and like where people look at entrepreneurship and have like this one person that was able to do it, like, look, she was able to do it. She's like the shining beacon that everyone can, is so closely related to money, and how people are dealing with their finances now. So I'd love to go a little bit deeper into that, where you talk directly to the builders in the book, which I have a lot of builders journeyers, listening to this podcast now saying, You know what? Yeah, I did not start out with the advantages that some people have. So what can I do to build this life that I want to live? Yeah,

Kathryn Finney 13:32

I mean, you know, we're all trying to live a creative life in which we can control and entrepreneurship is just a tool in which are one of the tools in which you can do it. I think, you know, how to do it. And I talk about it pretty extensively in the book. I mean, that's like pretty much what what the book is about, like how to do it. You know, it starts with the first step. And in the book, I talked about the first step being getting mentally prepared. I think there is not enough discussion about mental preparedness. And that has to do also with our relationship with money, and money, meaning security, right? Because for a lot of us having money means security. And entrepreneurship is inherently an insecure place. Right? And so if you don't spend time getting yourself together, right, and spending time getting yourself, focus, getting yourself creating the self care regimens that you need to get through it, you're not going to be able to succeed in entrepreneurship, because it is that hard. It is, it is a marathon, it is not a race. And so you have to create all of that. And so the first place I tell people to get started, is to really work on yourself. I think in the book, I call it get your mind, right, have discussions with yourself about money. For some people, entrepreneurship is not right. If you're somebody for whom it makes you nervous not to have a steady paycheck, then probably entrepreneurship is not what you should do, right? If you're somebody that you need to have A certain amount of money sitting in the bank in order for you to feel safe and comfortable, then entrepreneurship may or may not be the right thing for you. And I don't put any judgments on this at all. I'm just saying, like, when we talk about money, and we talk about risk, and we talk about becoming an entrepreneur, that we have to take all those factors in mind, and particularly when you come from communities that are marginalized, that don't have historical wealth, or historical access to networks, to be able to say, you know, I'm gonna chuck in my like corporate job and go do this other thing. That's hard. It's very hard to do.

Jamila Souffrant 15:33

It is. And we're glad you're like, we're just being real with the narrative are showing a different side to it, that it's okay. If you know, entrepreneurship is not for you, which is why if you do have a job that is giving you a consistent paycheck, it's okay to try things on the side. Realizing though, I know this for myself, I don't know if you have experience, but even trying it on the side is not the same as immersing yourself full time.

Kathryn Finney 15:55

It's not the same.

Jamila Souffrant 15:56

it takes a different discipline. Because now you are getting up every day and doing the work. There's no one telling you what to do. There's no assigned meetings, like you have to show up and do the work.

Kathryn Finney 16:04

you have to do the work, you are the business, right? What does JC say, I'm not a businessman, I'm a businessman, you know, like you, you are the business, you are the business. And so and it's a very different thing when you are the business and whether the business succeeds or fails is up to you. And no one else, right. And that can be very, very hard, it can be very, very daunting, it can be incredibly stressful, which is why I say like spend some time figuring out what it is you want to do. And this is what you want to do before you leave the safety that you may have working for for a corporate job.

Jamila Souffrant 16:39

And it's also getting comfortable with failure, right? You have this part in the book where you talk about having the permission to fail versus the expectation.

Kathryn Finney 16:47


Jamila Souffrant 16:47

So talk about the differences in the two,

Kathryn Finney 16:49

you know, when I entered the incubator program where people had no expectations of me, the expectation was that I was going to fail, like they it was pre ordains, that I was going to fail in their minds at least. And that meant that I had no room for error, I had no room to explore. And I was already coming in at a loss versus me trying something on my own and it not working but me learning from it. That's the permission, I have to fail. And I often say to people rethink failure. Think of it as a data point, not an end point. Like, what did you learn from what just happened? How do you implement data from that? And changes into your life? Like how do you do things differently than you did before. And so when looking at a data point, it helps really guide you to like sort of rethink failure and get very comfortable with failure.

Jamila Souffrant 17:46

Hmm. Okay, so as you moved from like entrepreneur, blog, and you started to look at it as a business, you turned it into a business, one that you were able to sell, when does that change start happening for someone? And how do they know that they want it to become a startup versus kind of like, this is what I do, you know, it makes money, but I'm not looking to grow it. So I'd love to kind of get to the definitions of what a startup is versus a you're doing it because it's like a hobby, and it makes money versus potentially like you're building something for sale or for a legacy

Kathryn Finney 18:21

system has a bunch of definitions, depending on who you talk to the definition I use is really a high growth company that is looking for headed towards some sort of positive exit, meaning it's a company that's growing rapidly fast, that is looking at either to put themselves on the on the market as an initial public offering IPO, or looking to be acquired. That's what I meant by a positive event, like some sort of exit quote, unquote, a lifestyle business or small business, it's a business that's just creating revenue, like it's a business that is bringing in more revenue than it spins. And it is providing a service to a group of people. And so the real definition, the distinction between a startup and a small business is really the high growth, and that at some point, you're expecting to sell that startup. Whereas with a small business, you can keep it forever. It can be a legacy, you can gift it to your kids. But that's not a startup though.

Jamila Souffrant 19:19

Hmm. So when did that moment come from for you? Right? Because I know a lot of people who have successful businesses, online businesses, and I don't know that they're positioning for a sale like right now I don't feel like I'm in nowhere close, ready to think that way. So at what point? Do you start to think that way? When did you start to think that way that that was going to be a viable exit strategy for you,

Kathryn Finney 19:40

you should start thinking that way from the very beginning. If you're interested in building a company that is going to grow, if you're interested in building a company that's gonna get venture capital, or even angel investment, you have to think that way. Because as a venture capitalist, I don't make money if you hold on to your company. Now, if there's other ways to get funding It seems like revenue based financing and things like that, that don't require you to be in this like, fast growth trajectory. But as a VC, I need you to be growing. And you should be growing and scaling. That's how I'm gonna make the return back to me.

Jamila Souffrant 20:13

But it sounds like though the goal for the person, the business owner or the entrepreneur, it needs to be clear, because they may say to themselves, well, I like this as a lifestyle business. This is how I want to make my money. I don't want to like go fast, versus someone who's saying, I'm only gonna do this for a time being, I want to move on to something else, like in a few years.

Kathryn Finney 20:31

Yeah, no, I mean, I think that you hit it right on the nail on the head, is that not everyone has to be a startup. And I think startup culture has been sort of promoted has been glamorized. Everyone wants to be a part of it. It's okay to say, you know, what, I just want this one shop in my neighborhood. And I just want to do this, I go there every day. And I'm very, very happy that everything needs to be high growth. Because with that high growth comes quite a bit of pressure.

Jamila Souffrant 20:58

Right. And I listened to enough how I built these episodes, and I research companies where they start out fine, and they start getting that money and they're growing too fast, or they have this promise to their investors that they they just can't fulfill and it'll implodes.

Kathryn Finney 21:11

Nasty Gal is a perfect example.

Jamila Souffrant 21:14

Yeah, yeah. So okay, I love this part. In the book, you talk about non techie startups, because, you know, like you said, like, in the beginning, when you started seeing advertisements for blogs, they were like more tech related. But there are so many examples, like your blog, and business being won the budget fascination, where it does not have to be a technology company. But the thing is to like, most companies, though, what separates you from others in the space, even if you are not a tech based company is technology, right? Because people are accessing your, whatever, buying your product through technology,

Kathryn Finney 21:47

and almost everything is taking the boat now. I mean, it's like very, I mean, you know, Warby Parker sells eyeglasses. Now, there's companies that are actually doing things around women's health platforms, that is also using a tech enabled sort of infrastructure. So everything is tech now, everything could be considered a startup, if you use as your definition of a startup, a tech enabled, I don't actually use tech enabled in my definition, is this company that has high scale growth. Now, a lot of people, a lot of those companies, 99.9% are going to be tech enabled, because tech allows you to scale rapidly, with very little cause. So that's why they're tech enabled. But yeah, I think there's this pressure for founders and entrepreneurs to be like a certain like to be startups to be sort of glamorized. And you don't really have to do that. And then there's also this belief that you have to have like tons of technology at its core. There's a lot of no code or what we also call low code solutions. Now, Squarespace being a perfect example of a low code solution, where you don't actually have to really know how to code in order to create something that is out there. And so if you are selling toothbrushes, and there's a number of toothbrush companies, right, there's cork and other ones like that, you can just build a site real quickly on Squarespace and be live. And you could call yourself a tech company, because you are the technologies the infrastructure is providing the infrastructure and foundation by which you sell.

Jamila Souffrant 23:16

Now, thinking back to what you were able to do with your business, the first one the fashion budget nista Do you think that's replicable today, with all the competition, like being able to monetize content in the way you have, especially like with the way the media companies or the social media companies are now where it was like cheaper to pay for ads, like small businesses to pay for ads and get their content seen? Versus now like, it's so much more money? Like the optimization is like, not there anymore? So what are your thoughts on recreating what you were able to do in today's world?

Kathryn Finney 23:46

I think it would be very hard because content, you don't make as much money from like pure content anymore. Most of the money comes from brand partnerships almost spokesperson work, you know, writing a blog, and it's so interesting how, like, being an Instagram is considered a blog, and like, that's so not a blog, but okay. Like, my blog, and I'm like, oh, so like, send me the link. And it's like, no, no, my Instagram like, but that's not a blog, like a blog is like, you know, like, okay

Jamila Souffrant 24:13

wish I agree with it's not,

Kathryn Finney 24:15

it's not dog,

Jamila Souffrant 24:16


Kathryn Finney 24:17

Like taking pictures. It's not just the blob, but it transitioned into that. And so I don't think you can make money from pure content anymore, like you could when I was coming up. Now, it's more brand partnerships. It's more like Instagram, it's more social media focus.

Jamila Souffrant 24:34

Yeah, it's almost like if anything, the content, if you're building the community, and you build the followers, then you're leveraging that for the grand partnerships or selling your own product.

Kathryn Finney 24:44

Exactly. Exactly.

Jamila Souffrant 24:46

So what advice would you have for someone who's wanting to start something, maybe they have an idea, they love fashion, but they want to do it on a budget or they love money talking about money, they want to start a podcast, and they're like, Okay, I mean, Katherine, you know, she was able to sell a blog around money and budgeting? Is that possible for me? What were some what would be some steps? If you were starting out again, in that person's shoes would you do to kind of get too close to where you were?

Kathryn Finney 25:12

I think one of the first things I would do is, first of all, really center myself and my own personal values. And the reason why I say that is because entrepreneurship is so hard that you need to understand why you're in it. Like, why are you building this and really like a mindfulness to entrepreneurship, which you normally don't hear. But that's the reason why people get burnt out, whether it's a lot of mental health issues and challenges in entrepreneurship, because we don't send ourselves and we don't like know why we're really doing what we're doing. So that will be the first thing that I would actually do. From there, I would didn't really sit down. And first of all, write out my idea, I would do what I call the ugly baby test, which is a quick little test on Google, where you use Google AdWords, and you kind of put money in and you, you just test to see how popular determines. You can also use Twitter to Twitter's really, really good, like search for whatever it is that you're building, and maybe the closest competitor to and see what people are saying, Are people talking about this particular product, you can also search by the problem that you're solving and see if people are talking about that problem. Just giving you a little like ideas of how big it is. Because you want to make sure that it's not just your problem is other people's problems. Because you're not your customer, your customer is separate from you. And so I would do that. After that I would build a prototype spending no, no more than $1,000 No more than 1000 though. So even that I will find to be on the high end, maybe 500. And then from there, I would start putting it out in market and getting like feedback from people.

Jamila Souffrant 26:45

Hmm, this is such like tangible, great advice. So hope everyone was ready to sit down or, you know, go check out the book, well definitely you mentioning where you can get Catherine's book, build the damn thing. Because it's really if this is if you're listening to this podcast, you know, chances are you want to build a life of opportunities and freedom for yourself. And entrepreneurship. While it's not for everyone. It's a viable source. And way in which what Catherine just said about like, starting with, like $1,000 or less to test your idea is gold. So thank you for that. I know that you sold the blog, and then you moved on to do a lot more things. Right? That wasn't like just the end of your story. It sounds like that was the starting point. I'd love to hear your thoughts around right when I think about if I were able to sell Johnny's lunch one day, like I'm thinking I'm done. Like I'm off the internet, like now I'm like retired, like, on a beach somewhere, maybe? I don't know. But you know, that's, that's what I say. And I think most people say that like before the thing happens, and they're just like, you're not going to stop working, you're probably going to find something else. So for you, what was that next thing? And can you talk about what made you work for blocker, then start digital, undivided? Versus like, just chilling if you have the opportunity to?

Kathryn Finney 27:54

Yeah, I mean, when I filled TBF I was 35 I wasn't gonna retire. I wasn't like, you know, like, super Oh, it was just kind of like, Okay, now what, and I started an organization called digital divide it, and I let it and ran it for eight years. And it's an organization that focuses on really creating a world where women own their work, particularly black and Latinx. Woman. And so we did a lot of work around with black woman startups and getting more black women startups and Latin X woman startups, not only creating them, but also being viable, and like really helping these communities that I come from to be very successful. And it was amazing job. And it was amazing work. But during the pandemic, I saw that I could do something more. Like I had always wanted to build out a fund to invest in women who look like me. And when I did digital divide, it was still like a little bit too early to be able to do that. However, fast forward, the pandemic happen. George Floyd was murdered six blocks away from where I went to elementary school, I'm from Minneapolis. And it was like the universe was saying that if you're going to build this thing, now's the time to build it. And so I built genius skills were fun, and adventure studio that invest in amazing founders of color, particularly black founders. And it has been one of the greatest things that I've done in my life, because it has allowed me to see the sort of full circle moment, right? I was in the incubator, you know, 1112 years before pitching. And now here I am at the position to help invest in people who look like me, I basically am in a position to invest in people who were me back then. And to me that full circle powerful moment is something that gets me up in the morning and keeps me doing what I do.

Jamila Souffrant 29:43

When it comes to now investing in other founders. What are you looking for? When you see someone's like, you know, whether it's the potential or the idea or the execution what for you says this is someone I want to invest in or the company I want to invest in?

Kathryn Finney 29:57

You know, for me the way that we look at investment It's changed a little bit over the past year or so just because the markets have changed. But I've always been a value based investor, meaning I'm always looking at companies that are their valuations, how much they're worth is aligned with what they can actually do in the stage in which they're at. So I'm always looking at like, so what's the big idea? Does this person have the domain knowledge today? Have they worked in the space they know? Like, they have a partner that's in the space, something to indicate that they know about the space and that they can actually execute on it? And then how do they think about growth? Because again, when you take VC dollars, we're expecting growth, that is what we're expecting. If you're like, I just want to keep to like one store, and I think the revenues right now it's fine. You're not going to get VC investment. That's not what we're looking for. That's more like a bank or revenue based financing. There's other options, but that's not VC. And so as a VC, I'm really looking for like growth, how are they thinking about growth? How are they charting it? What were the expectations? Who are they as people? Like as people? Will they be able to retain talent? That's a big one. That's a big one. And so those are all the things that I'm looking at.

Jamila Souffrant 31:14

So imagine you walking into, you know, your younger version walking in, and like your chance to pitch to you about your business, the budget fashion, Nisha, would you have given yourself money? Like, then, did you have a clear idea for growth or thinking back? Like, what would you have said to yourself, if you could invest in you?

Kathryn Finney 31:34

Yeah, I would have been very, very interested. And I probably would have invested a small amount initially, and said, We're gonna invest a small amount, and then we want to track you for a larger boat. And here's the things you need to do to get to that step. Because at the time, I didn't have a prototype or anything, but I might have invested a little bit to help that young Katherine get to prototype, and then to actually get it to market and to see what the market says.

Jamila Souffrant 31:59

The prototype would be the blog itself, know

Kathryn Finney 32:03

what I was building, it was a, basically a tech enabled black beauty company. That's what was my idea was, so it would have been the MVP would have been to choose one or two products, and a website to like, kind of build out sort of like what mint it did. And if you remember mint, it started with new lipstick. But they always had like a vision. So they've gone on to like foundation whole different product lines. So yeah,

Jamila Souffrant 32:27

right, right. Okay, so I just want to talk a little bit more about funding for those of us who are looking to grow, and they're not sure in which way they want to. So I know you mentioned venture capital money, if you're going to take that you have to be in a position to grow like fast. But there are other ways in which you can fund or get money. Can we talk about those options for entrepreneurs, and the benefits or cons to them?

Kathryn Finney 32:51

Yeah, I mean, it's like your traditional bank loans, I mean, the benefits to those is that they're usually fixed. Usually, the interest is figs. And once you pay it off, they don't own any equity in you. Like, there's also credit cards, which a lot of people use, and I highly advise against that. Because because interest rates are variable, if you miss a payment, you can mess up your credit, it can just have all this ripple impact of you. Another is this thing called revenue based financing, where you get a pot of money from a fund or firm, and you pay it off on a set schedule over a period of time. And as you pay it off the equity that that particular firm has, gets lower and lower and lower and lower. Sometimes they'll still maintain a little percentage, but at the most part, it gets lower and lower and lower. And Lord as you pay it off, this also crowdfunding now there's equity crowdfunding, which is really exciting, like the republics and stuff of the world, where you can sell shares as little as $100, to family members, and others who are interested in investing in you. So there's a lot of different options out there grants from the government as well, particularly from the SBA,

Jamila Souffrant 34:05

great options other than venture capital money, but these are viable ways in which we can like grow or fund our businesses. One of the things I get asked about or just in general, when I see about growing a company is like, a solo entrepreneur or someone who's by themselves, like, typically, they say, Do you have a co founder? Who's on your team? Right? And I think that's like one of the biggest differences between like this lifestyle business versus I am looking to grow because you can't do it all

Kathryn Finney 34:31

you can't

Jamila Souffrant 34:31

talent, right? You know, like, I know, when I started, I was doing everything, and even now I have help, but they're not full time. And so becomes that thing, where, how much more money do I put up front or invest in a team? So that way I can go back to my zone of genius, and then you know, they can work in other ways. So at what point do you start hiring? Do you start, like really getting talent that can help you take help take you to the next level?

Kathryn Finney 34:55

I think when your company has consistent revenue, and it's not as good cific number because each industry is like very different. But you know, you have consistent revenue for the past six months, and that you, as a CEO have been able to six successfully sit down and identify your gaps, your skill gaps, like where you are deficient, so that you're very clear on who you're hiring and what their role is going to be and how they're gonna like plug in and help you. But that would be my advice, you know, when you have consistent revenue, that also includes covering your exit number, but also the salary of this other person.

Jamila Souffrant 35:30

Right, right. All right, Catherine, where are you going next with like, what's on your plate, I know, you just wrote this book, I'd love for you to talk a little bit more about like, who this book is for, and why someone listening to this podcast, if they're interested should pick it up. And then we'll talk a little bit about your other projects and what you have going on.

Kathryn Finney 35:47

So I mean, this book is like pretty much my project. It's like a, it was ever been the book, it's literally like having a child like it is so much work. And then it leaves you and you can't do anything about it. Like people react to it whatever way they want to react to it. So I mean, it really is sort of my baby. This book is for everyone who's not a rich white guy, although I have been surprised by how many rich white guys like the book. But it really it's for women, it's for people of color. It's for people who have been, you know, economically marginalized. It's really like, how do you do this? When you don't have the privilege? How do you become an entrepreneur? How do you build a company when you don't have privilege? And what does that look like? How you move into space? And again, that's very, very different than, you know, the traditional, heavily networked, like, you know why guy, they are able to get money they're able to build, they're able to fail quite up. We don't have that space. I mean, just this week, Adam Newman, the founder of we work just raised a bunch of money for his like crypto company. I mean, it's fail up. You know, homeboy used to be the head of Uber was like, sued by investors, all the stuff, those same investors and later invested in him again, and Uber. I mean, the people who sold them invested in them again, like, literally, they fail. And so this book is for those of us who do not have the privilege of failing

Jamila Souffrant 37:17

up. Now, say the name of the book again, and where everyone can find it.

Kathryn Finney 37:21

Yes, it's build the damn thing, but find it wherever books are. So once you buy the book, please tag me. I'd love to see how you're using it. I'd love to see like what's Tip Set you like from it and super excited for you all to read it. It's a great book. It's a lot of fun.

Jamila Souffrant 37:37

Yes, it is. It is. And again, I saw so many parallels with the financial freedom and independence movement. So this I think is gonna be a great pick for anyone who wants to check it out. Also, can you tell people where they can find you on social media? I'll link all this in the show notes for people to follow up. But if you can share, that'd be great.

Kathryn Finney 37:53

I'm at Katherine Finney on Twitter. Um, hi, I'm Katherine on Instagram. But if you type in Katherine Feeny, I kind of pop up. And either either of those places are really great. And I always love to see I'm already starting to see the book comes out. June 7, and I'm always excited to see like how people are reading it. Those who've gotten early copies and like posting things on like Instagram and stuff. I love it. It's amazing.

Jamila Souffrant 38:19

Yes, well, congratulations on the release of the book. And thank you for coming on the show.

Kathryn Finney 38:23

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Jamila Souffrant 38:28

Don't forget, you can get the episode show notes for this episode by going to journey to Or click the description of wherever you're listening to this. And you can still grab your jumpstart guide for free to help you on your journey to financial freedom by going to journey to If you want to support me and the podcast and love the free content and information that you get here, here are four ways that you can support me in the show. One, make sure you're subscribed to the podcast wherever you listen, whether that's Apple podcasts, that purple app on your phone, your Android device, YouTube, Spotify, wherever it is that you happen to listen, just subscribe so you are not missing an episode. And if you're happening to listen to this and Apple podcasts, rate review and subscribe there. I appreciate and read every single review number to follow me on my social media accounts. I'm at journey to launch on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And I love love love interacting with journeys. They're three support and check out the sponsors of this show. If you hear something that interests you, sponsors are the main ways we keep the podcast lights on here. So show them some love for supporting your girl for and last but not least, share this episode this podcast with a friend or family member or co worker so that we can spread the message of Journey to launch. Alright, that's it. Until next week, keep on journeying journey airs

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Kathryn Finney, managing partner of Genius Guild, a $20 million venture fund and studio that invests in amazing Black founders and author of Build The Damn Thing, joins the podcast to discuss her evolution into entrepreneurship, the importance of being honest with yourself when thinking about going out on your own, and how your exit number should be your guiding force.

With Kathryn’s unmatched entrepreneurial experience, she gives us actionable steps and solid advice that you can start working on today if you’re looking to build the damn thing.

In this episode we discuss:

      • The importance of being honest with yourself before you jump into entrepreneurship
      • Figuring out your exit number so you can pursue your own venture
      • How a budget fashion blog evolved into a venture capitalist career
      • When it’s time to start thinking about your exit strategy
      • Various funding options from entrepreneurs + more

Episode 275-From Budget Blogger To Venture Capitalist & How to Fund & Build A Successful Business with Kathryn Finney Click To Tweet

Other related blog posts/links mentioned in this episode:

Connect with Kathryn:

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From Budget Blogger to Venture Capitalist & How To Fund and Build a Successful Business w/ Kathryn Finney


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