Bola Sokunbi 0:02
In a relationship, especially when you have kids involved, it's difficult for both people to pursue their big dreams at the same time. Because sometimes pursuing dreams can be unstable. You need a sense of stability, right? So who is going to be the one to wait while you pursue and then once you kind of get to your goals, stability, then they go up and pursue. It's important to have those conversations. So just talk about your goals about what you want for yourself. And it's not an argument it's conversation.
T-Minus 10 seconds. Welcome to the journey to launch podcast with your host jameelah. So frogs, as a money expert who walks her talk, 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 in three, to one.
Jamila Souffrant 0:59
Journey to launch is supported by first republic bank, who doesn't want the best of both worlds, like being able to stay at a five star resort, but pay two star prices or the dream I'm living now working for myself and bringing in income to support my family. What if a bank could give you the best of both worlds two, with a Secure Banking app that allows you to bank from anywhere, anytime, and a dedicated personal banker when you need one on one service. First Republic is uniquely positioned to offer the best of both worlds. I love that I can reach out to my personal bank or Linda, if I have any questions and that I can quickly access all of my account information and pay bills through the app. With this combination of personal attention and convenience. It's no wonder that first public bank has a client satisfaction rating two times the industry average. So whether you're starting on your financial journey, or planning for your future, you can count on first republic to be there for you every step of the way. Visit first republic.com today to learn more. That's first republic.com Member FDIC equal housing lender.
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Okay, Jeremy yours I'm really excited to have a repeat guest on the podcast. She's also a personal friend, mentor in real life and in my head still like even though we don't talk or communicate often bola. I'm so inspired by your journey, and what you've been able to accomplish. gola is the creator and founder of clever girl finance, you may or may not have heard of her amazing brand. She is a mom of twins and wife and so many things, Sister friend, and I just feel like well, I'm really excited for our conversation today. Because you're going to be opening up I think in a way that you haven't before through your new book, choosing to prosper. And I just feel like you're embarking on a new part of your journey, which is really exciting to watch. So welcome back Bulla should be to the podcast.
Bola Sokunbi 4:01
Thank you so much for having me. Jamila. I'm so excited to be here and to have this honor of talking to you again on your amazing podcast. So thanks for having me.
Jamila Souffrant 4:11
Yes, well, okay. So the thing about bola that I know of you is that you set goals and you just like go after them. I remember meeting you years ago and some of the things that you're doing now or that you've accomplished I remember you saying I'm gonna do this, oh, I'm gonna launch a podcast. I remember like, the next day. You're just like, I just started my podcast and I'm like, Oh my gosh, like this was before I had my podcast, I think so I just felt like I've always been inspired by your will and way of executing things. Like you just don't You don't just say you're gonna do it and then you never do it. It's like I feel like everything you've said, or you say you're gonna do you do so it's really nice to kind of get this background story in your new book, which everyone her new book is called choosing to prosper triumphing over adversity breaking out of comfort zones, achieving your life and money dreams. And it should be out by the time this episode is Released but previously Bulla, you've written many books like strict money books about paying off debt investing and side hustles. So I would love for you to share, like, why now? Or what made this become like more of a personal development book
Bola Sokunbi 5:15
for you? Yeah, so you are right. My other three books from the Cairo finance series are specifically focused on personal finance and business and not very much about me, right, you don't even see a picture of me on the cover of those books by choice. But this book was more of like a push. I mean, I always knew that I wanted to write a book about my life or my story and just building a business. But I never felt that it was the right time yet. And it was a push from my mentors, and from my publisher saying, like, when is the right time, like you've made all this progress so far, even though your story is still a work in progress still ongoing, you have a lot to share that can be helpful. And you've written these three other books, and people want to know who this person is that's writing this information. And the person behind this brand that is here to empower women, like why did you decide to have this nation why you decided to pursue this journey. And so that was the push to write this book. And I talked about it in the introduction, because actually, for my fourth book, I had pitched something else. And my publisher said, that is great. But you know, what we need to do is let's talk about you for a second and I'm introverted, right? So this is not a comfort zone book. It's not something I like to do, right. A lot of my friends don't know, things I've written in this book. So this is going to be a nice surprise for many people.
Jamila Souffrant 6:42
Yeah, well, I definitely I feel like that has been all so fascinating about your story, because you've been able to build a massive brand outward facing brand, but also you've managed to keep kind of like your personal life private, you're not necessarily at the forefront like of your brand anymore. On like, if you go to clever girl finance, like Instagram, you know, you're not there, but you have your own like personal brand Instagram. And I just find that for many people what it seems like now and I feel like I'm kind of in this stage is that like to start out with putting your face out there becoming the face of your brand coming synonymous with like your personal brand. And company brand is like the way to connect more, you know, sharing more personal stories allows you to grow faster, it seems like because you can connect directly. And I don't know if like you felt like in the beginning you were sharing your personal stories, and then you've pulled back because you realize you didn't want to have a brand with your face on it. But I think it's interesting for people listening who are also want to maybe they have a story to share, but they're also introverted and or they don't want to be the face of their brand. Like, is it possible to build a faceless brand now? Or do you need to still interject yourself? To really gain traction and trust?
Bola Sokunbi 7:53
So that's a really good question. And I've never really shared personal stories outside of what I've chosen to share, like my savings story, like certain side hustle stories, like, I like to keep my personal life separate. I like to, in a sense, protect my family, protect my kids, there's a lot of people can have a lot of feedback. And it can be I don't know, for an introvert, it can feel overwhelming if you're constantly sharing about yourself, because you don't like the limelight on you don't like to be the center of attention. And I didn't start my business to be a brand personality or to be famous or anything like that. My goal was just to share information to help other women, regardless of myself. But what I realized is that in the early days of building a business, you have to create a sense of relatability you have to share a story that people can resonate with, right? So me sharing my saving story, like I'm talking about saving money, but what's your story? Why, you know, why do you care about people saving money? So I share that. And if you think back to like Coca Cola, it's a faceless brand. We all know the red on White can for example, but I bet you when the VISTA Coca Cola was testing his former, we don't even know the founders name. But when he was testing his form, I bet you people knew who he was. It's the same way like my kids have no idea who Steve Jobs is they just know Apple, right? But our generation who grew up with the business at the early stages from the 80s 90s we know who some of us don't know our parents definitely know Steve Jobs, so it kind of loses over time. But initially, it's important to build that audience that your tribe, your community, and they need to know who you are to a certain degree but you can still create a balance right? I'm just a different person. People do different things online but that's just how I like to manage it.
Jamila Souffrant 9:39
But I love that because again, I see other brands who are showing the behind the scenes and doing really well doing that like connecting and it's like share because people need to see like you know what's going on and your audience can relate to that and I get it part of me is like yeah, I can i Sometimes I'm in the mood and I'll share just like personal things more personal things on my Jamila souffrant page, right or majority to launch. But I just think there needs to be a place or it needs to be said that you can grow a successful business to without having to put it all out there.
Bola Sokunbi 10:08
Yes, you absolutely can. And I definitely have questioned myself because I see online, right? I know 100% That if I shared more my personal life, if I shared more of what was going on with me, I would as a person, I would have a much bigger Ebola show can be audience, right. And that will cascade into clever girl finance. But I have to be authentic to myself, I don't feel comfortable doing that. And so I'm okay. Growing up my pace. Right, as opposed to making myself this brand in order to grow a business. So you can build a successful business with a controlled sharing approach to yourself and your personal lives.
Jamila Souffrant 10:45
Right. So basically, you don't have to share the kids if you don't want to the house, the cars. No,
Bola Sokunbi 10:50
you don't share your closet, none of that, right.
Jamila Souffrant 10:52
I mean, if you want to go ahead, we want to Yes, right, if you totally want to, and you feel good about that. I think too, like there's this fine balance between, I have to ask myself, and I wonder if you do this too, or you're just over it. So you didn't even ask yourself this is? Why am I not sharing? Is it because I'm afraid of being judged? Like so you know, they say the opposite even though like you could see people doing things, you think, oh, that's ego, you know, they just want validation, they just want to be seen. But on the other side of the spectrum, also could be ego stopping you from sharing things like why because you're afraid other people are gonna say something or judge you? Do you ever have that conversation with yourself on? Is it like that I'm afraid of judgment, and or no, like, I really just don't want to do this.
Bola Sokunbi 11:30
So at this point, I'm beyond caring about judgment, people are always going to have something to say about you. You need to grow that thick skin early on. Because even if you're the best, nicest holy saint in the world, you're gonna get the judgment. So that's neither here nor there. For me. I really don't care. asking myself why don't share it. For me, it's I want a normal life. I just want to be present with my kids not taking pictures for Instagram, if we're doing something or even like sharing outfits, like sometimes I will do it early on my personal Instagram, but I'm like, I don't need to share this. Like, it's not my personality, right? I have friends who have a very outgoing personality, like, you know, outfits, kids, that's them. And it's part of their they love it. But it's just, it's not the thing I think of first I think about it after okay, maybe I could have shared that. But you know what, no, I want to keep this to myself. I like it. Like it was just me.
Jamila Souffrant 12:21
Yeah, yeah. And I think ultimately, what the lesson here is, you have to start with good content. Because while you haven't propelled your business forward by sharing too many personal things, you just have great content and information that helps your audience. So ultimately, it really goes down to that, right.
Bola Sokunbi 12:40
Yeah, so I balanced the mission of my business. And I tried to be personal one share insights to my life, but I share what I'm comfortable with sharing. Some people are building a business that's focused on personal brand, right? That's perfect. That's a space that a certain type of business model, that's just not mine.
Jamila Souffrant 12:58
Yeah, yeah. And I want to go back a bit. So in this book, you definitely open up you get more personal, I love learning more about your family, like your mama, and your grandmother, your great grandmother, like just your family background. And I think it's helpful because I think sometimes people will see the results, right, like, Okay, you have a successful business, or even see what your parents were able to do for you, like your mother being able to pay for you go to college and the way you grew up and think okay, then she had easy her family had it easy, but reading the stories and the background, and you can share more, that was like your great, I think you said your paternal grand mother was one of how many wives and like they didn't really have a lot of money. When the five Yes, five, right. So can you just share a little bit about your family background and the humble beginnings from there?
Bola Sokunbi 13:47
Yes. And you know, that's a good point you make because I've been called many things I've been called a trust fund baby. I've been called a trophy wife. People see you and make assumptions of, of who you are based on their one perception without really knowing anything. Yeah, my mom paid for college. Your mom is rich. I'm originally from Nigeria. And you know, my both of my parents are first generation everything. First generation grade school, high school, college. They're the first right. And they both come from backgrounds of poverty where there wasn't enough money to go around. Both come from polygamous families, which means both of my grandfather's had multiple wives and multiple children. And on my dad's side of the family, female education was not something that was prioritized, right? So my dad is a twin, and my dad has two PhDs and master's degree is all of this incredible education. And his twin sister is not formally educated, which means my aunt doesn't read or write. Because she didn't go to grade school. She didn't go to high school, and that was just because of what was perceived as the value of the female child. And also my grandfather's beliefs about the colonialist of British on he's just distrust of them because of the history with slavery where he felt that if anybody was going to be able to decipher this New education, colonial education they were bringing, it would be his male children. More so than that there just wasn't any money. My dad didn't start the first grade until he was 13 years old. He was working on the farm with all his other siblings. And he was one of the select few children who got to go to grad school because of money. My grandmother was working, doing penetrating trading goods, here and there too, in order to send him to school. And for me, obviously, my parents created a different narrative for their children, they're educated, and they realized what options education can provide. And so education was something my parents really prioritized, which meant going to good schools, my dad spent a lot of his income sending his kids to good schools, going to college was a priority for them. And for me, starting college, it's not like we just had money hanging in a tree outside to send me to college, it was that I couldn't get an international student loan, right I couldn't qualify for because I at the time, I was not an American citizen. Universities in Nigeria, were on like, multi year strikes, I had cousins who took seven to eight years to finish a four year degree, because they just couldn't go to school because of a strike here, you know, different issues with the government. And so my parents like, okay, no, we're gonna send you to school abroad, where we know that you will finish your education in a timely fashion. And we're gonna figure out how to pay for it. But you're also going to figure out how to help yourself, right, which means I got a partial scholarship, I apply for every scholarship and international student could get, and I focused on maintaining my grades to keep that scholarship as long as possible while my mom was working full time, moved to the States to be able to manage the exchange rate, right? Because when you're paying in a different currency, instead of dollars, dollars or pounds, it's a lot. She moved here to manage exchange rate to be able to make more money to support me through college, and it wasn't a walk in the park, I took a year out of school as well. Because there just was no money and I couldn't get a loan. Right. So my college degree would have been four years. And it took me five and a half years to finish it. You know, when you see people, especially when you see people doing well, or you see me with a designer handbag, or you see somebody it'd be be wary of assuming who they are or where they come from, or how they got there. Yeah, and you went to school in Vienna, right? I went to school in Europe first, because it was cheaper on my mom had gone to school there. And I had an aunt, an uncle who lived there, which means I wouldn't have to pay for him. And so he got to stay with them. And then I moved here when my mom moved here.
Jamila Souffrant 17:38
Yeah, and I think at some point, we all reap the benefits of the sacrifices of the generations before us. And, and some of us are able to reach back like and actually have more access, like the generations before us, or our moms or, you know, like a grandmother or someone else who who really didn't have anything and like creative, something that allows you to stand on their shoulders to do something. But I often find like, isn't this the whole point of what we're doing is trying to create opportunities and turn it into racial wealth. So oftentimes, this is a disconnect between hearing a story and I get like the clickbait news articles or stories that make it seem like, oh, this person just did it by themselves with no help. And you can do it too. Like, that's annoying I get when people get upset about that. But when people kind of have snarky or negative remarks about maybe the story of a parent paying for college, or gifting them with down payment for a house or condo, it's like, yes, maybe you didn't have that opportunity. But wouldn't you want to be able to do that for your kids and guaranteed the person who did that, like, for example, your mom who had to sacrifice to put you through school, my mom who had to sacrifice to give me a portion of my first downpayment, they literally had nothing when they were really raised in poverty. So to put themselves in this position just shows you like, this is the legacy we're all trying to build. So I love that you're saying peel back the layers and not just look at maybe the outside shiny coin, but like what it took to create that.
Bola Sokunbi 19:02
Yeah, I mean, my mother wanted her wants her children to succeed, right. That's why she made those sacrifices. My grandmother wanted her her twins to succeed, which is why she was selling odd goods here and there to send the one child she could afford to send to the school, I want my kids to succeed, I will pay for them to go to college. But you know, there's nothing wrong with doing that. There's nothing wrong with changing your generational narrative, and helping your children or your family to chain that narrative. And combining that with the value of what $1 is, you may not I did not live in the extreme poverty that my my grandmother's and my great, you know, prior family members lived in, but I understand that story and understand the sacrifices and I know what is expected of me right it's to do well and prove to them that all the sacrifices that have been made and my family have been worth it and that's also what I teach my children they know what their family history is right. So this is not a handout, my mom, and my dad always reminded me, this is this is not this is not a right, this is a privilege we've given to you. And I acknowledge that I am privileged. But then I leveraged my privilege to also empower my children and other people. So, you know, when people will say, Oh, yeah, her mom pay for college. Oh, yeah. And people will say that, especially for people of color, when you know, where we were coming from historically, I don't think that shallow minded thinking, I admire when I see, see parents who help their children Excel, and when their children then turn around and support those parents and make those parents feel incredibly proud. That is, that's amazing. And you know, you cannot live your life in isolation. You know, I'm not a believer of you have all this money, and then everybody around you suffers, then what's the point of the money? And that's just my philosophy. People think differently. There are some people who feel like, you know what, I've made this money. So you child go out and work and figure out your life because I had to do this work. Good for you. But this is knowing where I come from this that's my own philosophy about
Jamila Souffrant 21:03
it. Yeah, I'm curious, because I know that education was like, valued highly in your family. And I'm getting the sense that it's the same now with your kids. But you know, how sometimes as a you know, immigrant yourself, and the expectation sometimes our parents put on us to excel, right? Like, here are the professions that are going to make me proud and make you money. And it's like, if you want it to be like an artist or dancer, they're like, where are you going with that? We're not doing that, you know, like, they're pushing you into a more professional, dignify quote unquote, field that they can like, tell their friends about. And just, they want you to be secure financially, right? Knowing that and knowing maybe like, whether it's you or people, you who you know, in your culture, who like they would have chosen something totally different for themselves, and maybe would have been happier for it, maybe less money? Do you feel like you have a different outlook on how you're pushing your kids and like career not pushing them, but guiding them with education and careers? Like, well, you also be like, listen, education. And yeah, you can do that on the side, like the artistic maybe stuff, that's fun. But we that's not a career, or do you find that because you went through that as your story, you're going to do something different with your kids.
Bola Sokunbi 22:15
I rebelled a little bit, you know, I don't have a master's degree. My parents like me, who's gonna pay for it? Well, you can qualify for loans now, like, I don't want a master's degree. And there's a saying in Nigeria, especially growing up, you're either a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, or a disgrace. Very, very tiger mom, but African mom, dad, because the reason why education was so so prioritized and it's still is so prioritize is because coming where we come from, just with colonialism prior to that slavery, my grandmother used to tell me stories, by the way, which is kind of off topic about, you know, when she was a little girl, she'll hear about older, older cousins who were promised to work in the big city, and they went missing, and they never saw them again, right. So that was all like, from the back from a slave trade and just distrust and having the education, especially the color, what we what we consider a regular education is really colonial education. This is education that was designed by the British really, and modified over the centuries. But being able to get that education that our enslaver our colonial master was putting out there and using it to our advantage to get ahead and get out from under their thumb is, was a big deal. So education is up is options. It's how you make money. It's how you import knowledge. It's how you empower your family and your people. It's how you get away from being under the thumb of the ruling master. So education was because at the time, there were no not much other options right outside of education. And that's what it is today, too. So education was so important, because you can be anything, especially given the backgrounds my parents came from. If you have education, you can be anything you want to be, you know, no one, no one can take the education away from you. And even if you lose a job, you can use what you know, to start a business to start and find another job to you know, so education was option so my parents are disappointed. I didn't get a master's degree. I rebelled a little bit for my kids answer your question. I just want them to have that option. I want them to I don't know about college, but I want them to at least get their high school diplomas. I'm not sure if I am going to enforce College, I'm sure they will go I know my husband will enforce college. But if you're not going to college, you are going to be empowered from an entrepreneurship aspect where you can fend for yourself where you can make money where you don't have a glass ceiling above you. So I am open to them being creative. You do not have to be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer and neither will you be a disgrace. You can you can pick and choose because the world has also changed right? That when I was growing up like creatives didn't make any money. Right now the world has changed Social Media Technology creatives is being acquitted an actual career, you can make significant amounts of money as a creative job as a business owner, the dynamics have changed.
Jamila Souffrant 25:14
Yeah, I love that though. Because it's all really about the options and putting yourself in the position, and putting them in the position to make the choice that they want. Right. I love that. Now, I know that you graduated from college, and you didn't get your Masters. But you started working in the professional field. And we've talked about this, I will definitely link bolos previous episodes where we talk more about kind of like her saving story and her starting out building clever girl finance. But I kind of want to jump ahead just a little bit to you starting and having clever girl finance, right? I know, you also had a crazy commute, and you made the decision to quit your job. So you could do clever girl finance full time. And I would love to hear like that part of your journey a little bit more in detail. Because I think for a lot of people, you know, the idea is okay, I want to build something. And I'm doing this on the side. And now it's time to take this more seriously like, and I can't do everything. So I have to pick something for you. How did you know it was time to take clever girl finance to the next level and more seriously, and then we could talk about you growing and scaling it since then.
Bola Sokunbi 26:19
Yeah, so you can definitely read about the savings story, just Google polish. It could be same story. But so when I came out of college and I started working, my goal was just to earn money, make my parents proud make all the sacrifices of paying for my college worth it. That was my I was anxious to get a dog. And a while I was interviewing, I couldn't get a job. I think for the first four or five months out of out of college, I went and got a job at CVS, I was working at the photo lab. Getting paid I think was 550 an hour then because I just wanted to have money. I wanted to help my mom, I wanted to contribute, you know, to do stuff and start saving. And going through my career. That was my goal. I studied computer science, right. So I'm a tech tech girl, black girl in tech, had no idea I was gonna do clever or finance, right. You know, I was commuting to work commuting from Philadelphia to New York City. And then moving to New Jersey, and then switching jobs and commuting far to another job. So I had no idea what I was I was going to do outside of my career until I just started clever or finance as a person as a personal, not even a side hustle. Just like a side outlet. This was when blogger was still a thing. And we all had personal blogs. And we talked about life with you know, just strangers in the world, there was no Instagram or Facebook. So I started a personal blogger, then and I would write about money and my life and then eventually transitioned into clinical finance after I had shortly after I had my twins. When I started feeling like I wanted to do something that mattered. I didn't want to be just a number at a corporation that could be cancelled anytime and like I think was also combined with postpartum depression, like, how meaningful was the work I was doing and coding stuff in the back end and technology strategies? Like, who really cares? Like the everyday person on the street doesn't even understand what I do? They don't care. So then what can I do? What can I do and every time I started brainstorming for like, it took me like two years I had a notebook, I may still have it somewhere. And I'll just write ideas. And everything I wrote about was stuff I was talking about on my personal blog. And I was also talking about saving and how I was saving to buy something how I was investing, I found that those were the articles or the blog posts that had the most amount of comments. So like, you know what, I'm going to start something to talk about personal finance, because all I do is talk about money with my friends, because I got into a specific period of years where I was just so into investing like I was so into investing and learning how it worked. And because I had had a negative experience with a financial advisor who had asked me where I got the money from and who was who my boyfriend was and was I married bla bla. So in that space, I'm going to start a platform for women, I don't know what it's going to be called. But I'm just going to share my story. And I'm going to share what I know about investing and saving. So that's how clever Oh, finance started. That was in 2015. So in August of 2015, it started as just a little blog where I would update here and there Me, myself and I. And then fast forward about two and a half, three years later, I got to the point where while I'm building an audience that people actually care and people are following on social media and people are sharing their stories. And then I started sharing stories of other women's finances and I started this podcast, which is around the time we met, and I got to a point where the business was making $0 the first year it may turn to dollars, but I could no longer sustain my full time job and corporate finance and then managing my family with you know, 12 month old twins, because I just you know I was going to work from like eight taking my kids to daycare at seven getting to work at eight working till 530 Picking up my kids by 630 getting home at 7:30am doing clever girl finance and then I would crash on the weekends and that kind of behavior is only sustainable short term. This is not a long term. This is not it's not a sustainable lifestyle. You crashed and burned and I was getting to that place where I couldn't sustain it. And for me, it was like, I want to the way I think about it is like, how bad can it be if I decide to do something, I want to know what the outcome is going to be. And I make decisions quickly. So what if I save 18 months of my household obligations, so I don't become a burden on my husband, who at the time, you know, we're still navigating through training and all that stuff. And just, if I can make it seamless, where nothing changes in terms of money I have, I can take a chance on this business and try to run it full time. And if it doesn't work out within 18 months, then go find a part time job or go back and find a full time job. And so that's when I knew that I was going to take that chance. It wasn't about the amount of money I was making, because I was not making any money in the business. Anything. To her knowledge isn't nothing when you think about it. So it was more okay. It was the timing was horrible, right? Because I have young kids, I have a 401 K, I have a five to nine, B, I have a mortgage, I have all these things out. I'm trying to figure out, you want to quit your job. And it was really a mental struggle. And my husband was like, You know what, just do it 18 months, money doesn't come and you can't figure it out, then you go back to work. And that was the plan. Yeah,
Jamila Souffrant 31:17
that's similar to my story. But I think for you, what I find is that at some point, and for many people, it comes to this point of I can't do this anymore. The point that you did is saving up that money in advance, like realizing what that point is. And knowing that you had responsibilities like you didn't quit right away, like you figured out how to save that money. So you could sustain yourself. And I think that's just like a good practice and way for people to think about if they're thinking of leaving their jobs, like Yeah, some jobs are so toxic, and it's like, it's better for your mental health, physical health, if you just leave even if you don't have a backup plan. But a lot of people need backup plans and backup money. Because you don't want a situation where you are stressed about how you're going to make ends meet and or pay for certain things. So I just think a lot of people need to think more or think through that. Because quitting and starting a business seems cool like or it's a great Instagram post that will get a lot of likes. But when those died down, like what's really going on behind the scenes, are you able to pay your rent or mortgage, put food on the table, if you have kids all that?
Bola Sokunbi 32:20
Yeah, I'm not that kind of risk taker, I was not going back from where I was, which means that I was never cashed out my 401 K, I was not cashing out any investment. I was not touching savings that wasn't being saved for this business tests I was doing. And that's just my personality, knowing where it comes from, right? I don't ever want to be in a situation where I don't have options. And I think growing up and watching my mom navigate her own experiences put that fear in me of not having anything and not having options and being stuck because I saw that happened with her friends, my mom had that realization, where they couldn't leave relationships because no money, their husbands will die. And then the family comes in, and they have nowhere to go because no money. So for me, you know, because I am in a dual income household, right? I'm married to a husband who also works, I could have very easily said, You know what, let's figure out how to live on one income, let's rework the budget, you're going to bear the burden for 18 months, because I have this business idea. Many couples do this, right. And there's nothing wrong with it. This is what they choose to do, because somebody has a dream, and it can be life changing. If this dream works out. But for me, I didn't want to be to be a burden on my husband, my dad always told me never marry a liability. Right? Never be a liability on a man and never, never let a man be a liability on you. So I always wanted to be able to stand on my own two feet. So I removed my husband from this equation of this business test. This is my test. And I want to do it on my own. And I want to stand on my own two feet. So I'm gonna save this money, right? And if it doesn't work out, I don't want to feel like I've lost. So I don't want to go back from here. Okay, fine, I will drop the 401k I may not be able to save as much over this at once or save anything at all over the 18 months, I guess what? That savings is not going to go down. It's gonna stay where it is. And that just helps balance my my peace of mind and even my mental health. Just again, given my background and where I'm coming from.
Jamila Souffrant 34:15
Yeah, it's so important to I'm glad you touched upon like, you know, you are in, you have a husband, it's dual income. But it doesn't have to be all or nothing. I find that sometimes you think you know, as an independent woman or someone who considers themselves independent. But if you're married, like, and you combine finances or you don't like there's so many ways to do this money and life thing with a partner. And each person is going to have to figure out what that looks like for them and like based on their background based on who their partner is. And I just find I love that even though you are married, and you have this union and you know you love and trust each other it's like you still have this for you like you could still be independent and stay on your own if you needed to. And I think that's just really inspiring for me Want to hear?
Bola Sokunbi 35:01
Yeah. And again, if that is more personal to me, I remember before I got married, yeah, my husband went for premarital counseling at church. And we're talking about the ideas we had for our relationship. And my husband was like, you know, because coming from a Nigerian background, it's very much instilled in young men that you are the caretaker of your family, my dad was raised that way, my husband was raised that way. And so his idea was that, yeah, he's going to take care of his family. And his wife is going to, you know, be home and take care of the kids. And I was like, whose wife is going to be home and take care of the kids, I have never, never not going to work, never not going to have my own money. And this was actually an issue point in the counseling because he had this idea of, I know, I can take care of my family, I'm gonna do what I need to tell my family. I'm like, That's great that you can take care of your family, but I can also contribute. So you have to get over over that hump. But he's, he's, he's my number one fan. He's like, my biggest cheerleader.
Jamila Souffrant 35:56
Yeah, well, I love that. So for couples who may be having these conversations, or trying to figure this out now, what do you think? Were some of the questions or conversations that helped push not push, but get your husband to kind of see, this is who you were. And that allowed you to really flourish in this way. So that like, if another couple of maybes thinking about having these conversations, maybe one couple is typically the breadwinner. One person in the household is typically the breadwinner, and not a part of the finances, but they want to step up and they're like, Listen, I want to be more involved, like how would they go about approaching that conversation? What worked for you and your husband.
Bola Sokunbi 36:32
So our roles have shifted right? I've been breadwinner has been breadwinner. And for us, it was just really being open and honest about our goals jointly in our relationship to talk about what we both want for ourselves, for our children, you know, where you want to buy a house where you want to live, we're what our goals in 10 years, but also talking about our goals individually of the things that we want to do, and making sure that we're both in agreement on how we can support each other. Because in a relationship, especially when you have kids involved, it's difficult for both people to pursue their big dreams at the same time. Because sometimes pursuing dreams can be unstable, you need a sense of stability, right? So who is going to be the one to wait while you pursue and then once you kind of get to your goal, stability, then they go off and pursue, it's important to have those conversations. So just talk about your goals about what you want for yourself. And it's not an argument, it's a conversation, it's the way you guys talk about anything else in your life, you have to be comfortable talking and sharing about it, that communication aspect is important. And you might not always agree. And maybe you revisit it. And maybe you know what, that's a sacrifice you make in your relationship. And that's between the both of you. But I there are things that I haven't done because I need to give my husband room to pursue his own goals and his own dreams. And there's things that he hasn't done because he's giving me room to pursue my own goals and dreams. So it's finding that balance, but still having open communications about it.
Jamila Souffrant 37:54
Yes, I envision like a relay race, like you guys are on the same team. And sometimes the person does need to slow down and wait for the other person to sprint. I love that. Yeah, right. Like and then you're waiting. And then like, with the communication, I think too, like some people are just waiting. And they don't know that the person is coming because there's no communication, right? Like, so you kind of get bitter and you're like, why am I not running right now. But if you communicate with each other the plan, you know, the race course, like, hey, that's the finish line. This is where I come in. This is where you sprint, this is where I wait,
Bola Sokunbi 38:21
we're going to use my left hand to hand it to your right. Gotta get those details.
Jamila Souffrant 38:27
Yeah, no. So and that goes for money, things, even purchasing things. I think this is what I think about some of the things we want, you know, like potentially upgrading one of our cars, specifically my husband who I know he wants, like a nicer car, and it's just like, Alright, when can we when can that baton be passed to him? So he can do that? Not right now because we have other things we need to do, but like communicating that with him and other things that we want to do in our life is really important. Yes, yes. Okay. Now I want to know this. So you said that clever girl finance made barely $200 I think the first year that you were doing it. And now I'm pretty sure it's like a seven figure business, even though you're quite humble about it. So how did you go from scaling? I know in your book, you have a great couple chapters, but a chapter about just some of the opportunities you've had to really get foundational business skills and venture fund capital. So can you talk about that stage of your business I know you're still in it but how you grow from $200 to where you are now.
Bola Sokunbi 39:26
I know when I think back I wasn't that crazy to quit my job that was wrong with the painful like I cried I was like, This is the worst mistake of my life. But anyway, so I got to so obviously you know the starting a business to yourself and you and you also don't know what you don't know. I knew I wanted to share personal finance and I have a tech background which means I could build a website but what did I know about marketing? What did I know about content creation? What I know nothing. I didn't know any of these things. Right? And so I had to start learning it and I got to a point Like in the business where maybe I had a virtual assistant maybe like 10 hours a week or like an intern here and there for my local community college. But it was still mostly me doing the work. And I got to a point where I was faced with a roadblock. And, you know, I was like, Maybe I need a coach, I hired a coach. And I realized the coach didn't know anything. And she ended up asking me for tips. I'm like, this is not working. Like I can't be coaching you when I'm paying you to coach me. You're the wrong coach for me. So like, I don't want to coach, I need actual business guidance from someone who has done this. And I hit a roadblock because I didn't know anybody, right. A lot of my friends who had started businesses with had given up on their businesses like two, three years into some Okay, what do I do, I was online searching, searching, searching. And I stumbled across the score mentor program. So it's a program from the Small Business Administration. It's a free program. It's called score mentors. And I found it at a university not far from where I live, there was the option to schedule an interview with a mentor. So I went there ended up being assigned to two mentors. And there were two older guys who had built incredibly successful multimillion dollar businesses, they were retired. And all they did was just sit and give people advice. And so I went, and I met with them. And it was almost like an epiphany, because, well, they had a whiteboard, and it was an hour meeting, it's not an ongoing thing. And they sat there and they're like, tell us about your business. These are all the ideas for you, you should start a podcast, I started the podcast the next day from that, you should do this, you should do that. You should do outreach, you should do that. And they put all these things on the board. And I walked away feeling oh my god, wow, I need more of this, right. So I implemented all the ideas they gave me, I started getting support in the business, more consistent support with hiring. And I went back online and started searching for more of a structured business program where I could build out all these things they told me to do, but I didn't have the knowledge to do it. So I then found
the Goldman Sachs 10k, small business program, that was in collaboration with Tory Burch Foundation, which was a program for all women on basically, the nuts and bolts of building a business regardless of what your business was, as long as you're generating some income. And it was, I believe, a 12 week program, every Wednesday in New York was like three hours from my house in like queens, Queens, like public transportation, like three hours driving the traffic was a nightmare. So I did that. And I it was just such a great experience. And that's when I realized that you know what, I can get a glimpse of what it means to scale a business. And that was around when just before that I had quit my job. So I go through this program, I learned all these different things about business. And at the same time, I'm learning how social media works. I'm learning about content creation outside of this program, because Brooklyn was more about business, managing management, hiring the right way, raising capital, if you're gonna go get a small business loan, marketing, you know, structuring your business taxes, and accounting, all that like foundational stuff that if you didn't go to business school, you may not really know you didn't study business in college. And so I'm on the other side learning content creation, SEO, figuring out how social media works. Combining these things are two things and realizing that I have the opportunity to grow. At the same time, I'm also networking with something I don't like to do as an introvert. But when you're building a business, that you want the skill, it's incredibly important. And so I'm, I'm talking to former bosses who want to who became my, he's on my advisory board right now. And he's like, pushing me to do things I don't want to do to have meetings with people. And I'm like, but it's just this little small business. But he's like, you said that you want to scale this business, and you want to build a business that impacts women all over America. So you either want to do this scale, or you want to build a lifestyle business. And for those of you listening, a lifestyle business is basically a business that you build, it can be any kind of business, it can be a brand personality, business service product, wherever it is. And it's a business where you say, You know what, I'm okay, making $5,000 a month, $10,000 a month. I'm just going to do these 10 things every week. And I'm good, right? You set a limit for what you want to make. I want to make a million dollars a year. That's in a sense, a lifestyle business, right? But business of skill is a business where you're not thinking about how much you want to make, you're thinking about the impact you want to have, right? And I struggled with this because I'm like, I'm fine here, right? I'm making money this business now we can just keep this small, little clever girl finance here and just help who we help out. i This is how much I know I'm going to make or I can try to see how many people I can reach on how many lives I can change and putting the money aside, you know, and just pursue and what this means is that you're going to spend every single dollar you make to scale this
right? You're gonna make a million dollars and spend a million dollars but you're gonna propose to pursuing scale. So my adviser was challenged and he's like, What do you really want? You're saying You want to build this business of impact, it cannot be a lifestyle business. So I ended up then applying to accelerator through an introduction. And it was to TechStars and TechStars. Again, it's a tech accelerator that a lot of really big companies have gone through it. So like Airbnb and Uber and ClassPass, and stuff like that. And for whatever crazy reason of pitching and doing all the stuff I needed to apply, I got accepted into the, into the New York City Court, which means I had to step into this game as a serious business that wanted to scale, which means I needed to hire really quickly, I needed to come up with a pitch a plan on all this stuff, which I did was crazy, I talked about in the book, and I get into TechStars. And it's a whole different ballgame. And I'm meeting all these incredible founders who have built life changing businesses, and I'm like, why can this not be me? Why can I Why can I not as a black woman have a voice here that can change lives of other women like me. So I go through the TechStars program. And obviously, you know, for those of you who are not familiar TechStars backs, businesses with venture capital, a very small amount, when they also opened the doors to investors. So you have something called Demo Day where you have to get on the stage and pitch your heart out, there's probably a picture of me on my personal social media, I may not have alluded to what it was, where I'm pitching, and you have to meet investors. And I remember going through TechStars, I had, when I sum it all up during those few, maybe three month period, I had over like 90 investor meetings. So when you're trying to build a business, 90 meetings is a significant amount of time away from you building your business and time energy to meet with all these people. And I had read the statistics about women, black women, and raising capital, but I was like, oh, gosh, no, that sounds crazy. Until I got there. So context, in 2021, there was $330 billion of venture capital that went out into the world to the American world, and have it Latino women raise 0.32%. And wait for it black woman raised 0.0006%, right. And I definitely fell into that statistic. I struggled to raise, I didn't raise any money. And it wasn't, that was not even the issue, because not raising was good for me. And I'll tell you about that later. But it was just going through the meetings and hearing the feedback. And it was disappointing, because I also heard the feedback from black males, like you know, that knew where I was coming from. But you know, and it was not even useful feedback. It was feedback. Like, you know, my wife is a CFO, and she doesn't care about her finances. What made you think what makes you think that black women are going to chair or black woman don't really use computers? Why do you think they're even going to care about opening a brokerage account? What does your husband thing about you being here, a lady thought she was being helpful to me, she's like, You know what, when you go to investor meetings, don't want your don't want your wedding rings, because it makes you look like you have too much baggage to be able to build a successful computer. That was it was the nonsensical feedback. I was getting, like 67% of the time that made no sense. Like,
I'm pitching a business to you, and you're talking me on my wedding, you're talking about, you know, black women don't use computers you're talking about, or personal finance for women is a gimmick, because everybody in America has equal opportunity. So that was a feedback I was getting. So it was definitely a struggle. And when I say it was good for me was that getting into venture capital, gives you the opportunity to scale, if you can raise scale quickly, if you're able to raise money, right, a lot of my co companies that my cohort raise one $2 million right out the bat, clever finance was making money. We were doing about $20,000 a month, and my quote, my core companies are doing zero and $0 a month and they are raising one to $2 million. We were bringing income and we raised $0. And I think it was almost like a silver lining that I didn't raise because I what the real realization I had was that I didn't have to have Sunday meetings with investors. And I was in full control of my business. And I was a sole decision maker and I didn't have to answer to anybody. Whereas my counterparts were still fast. We need results. Now we need money now, or we don't like that decision because it's going to take too long to scale. Or this is the angle we want you to go in your business. They gave up board seats, they got pushed into a corner where they deviated from the reason why they started their business. And as a founder when you deviate from the reason why you started to start your business, you're not motivated to continue to pursue that business because it's no longer meaningful to you. And I saw that happen. I saw a founder friends in therapy as a founder friends just closed their business after raising $2 million. I can no I can't it's no I'm done. So I them have no control at For me, it was a blessing in disguise where I was able to grow slow, continue to bring income in and on my own terms and not lose my mission, because my thing was the ideas that people have for me right about the direction that claro financial goal and all that kinds of, and I don't have to worry about that, because I get to decide, and obviously is, you know, having extra capital in the business is great. But now I know more strategically how to raise capital on my own terms that allows me to stay main decision maker primary shareholder in my company. And that's it. So this week, I already got two emails. Because what happens with venture capital companies is that they see a company of interest, and they put them into a growth tracker, and they monitor all your metrics, you know how you think you are the only one that can see your Google Analytics, VCs have tools that can help them get a glimpse
Jamila Souffrant 50:58
of how you're doing. So someone is monitored. So you have people who are like just monitoring the growth of your company externally from met social media metrics, not even just like crawlers, not more than like their own Google
Bola Sokunbi 51:09
analytics type of metric crawlers. And I got an email this week, showing me my metrics, and well, yeah, we'd love to talk to you about raising venture capital, we think you're in a prime position, blah, blah, blah, blah. I don't like you know, it's good. Because those are one of the VCs that were like, we don't know about this black woman, women of color.
Jamila Souffrant 51:25
And now they're coming back. Yeah, I
Bola Sokunbi 51:27
get those emails almost every week. But I'm like, you know, I'm good. Going at my own pace. on my own terms. I don't need the VC money. The small investments I have, I can pay everybody back at any given time. That's kind of where I'm at. Yeah, that was a long, long answer.
Jamila Souffrant 51:43
No, but it's a great, I'm soaking it all in so many lessons in here. And I know you're still learning them. I know, one of the things you said in your book is like you didn't know if you want to write you said it earlier the personal story yet, because you're still in progress, right? Like, you're nowhere a dot like close to being done, I believe in you know, from with what you're building here. But it's really cool to see in real time, almost I know, like we're lagged a little bit, um, because this happened a couple of years ago, but it's still happening now. So you were okay, you literally are seeing the direct impact of when you went through these programs. And I love that you went to the business basics. Like I think I love you know, social media, and you know, a lot of things are being taught online, which is great. But there's nothing like going to your local small business office. So many nonprofits like real brick and mortar, like you can walk into an office, you know, COVID I know, there's still that happening. But you can literally learn the basics of business like outside of the social media business, because that's ultimately the foundation that you're going to build everything that you want to build on. So and it's just crazy hearing the story about you not being able to get funding, but in the end, how that worked out better for you because you have so much more control.
Bola Sokunbi 52:50
Exactly. And you know, again, the reason why I started my business is not not to. I'm trying to think about how best to phrase this, right? I'm not looking for a payday. It's nice to make money, right? But I'm good, right? Like, if I don't do clever, or finance, I'm fine. You've saved enough money, we're steadily investing, we have plans for our kids, I've worked my ass off right in the past. So this is less about the money for me, I'm more about just impact at this point. Otherwise, I would have gone back to work right? And I don't have to scale the business. Like I said, it keep it at the level it is spending money on yourself. stuff on the ground a little bit. But I just I just can't get past the what if, what if this can be, you know, bigger than it is? What if this can be incredibly impactful? What if this can change lives? And you I'm sure you've heard the stories from people in your community about how listening to your podcast how journey to launch has changed our lives. And when I hear those, I get those emails and all of that. I'm like, Yeah, you don't want to regret this and think what if you want to do everything you can do to build this business out? They'll dismission out right? Even if it's clever or finance, if I saw clever finance today, I think my mission continues and just see where you can take it. So that's the mindset I'm in now. You know, I don't often get to share this, I rarely get to share this because the audience is here for personal finance, how to save how to budget, how to invest, which is what we are here to do. But also for those listening who are on the entrepreneurial path who are curious about the behind the scenes of building a business of impact, or business of skill. This is sometimes the reality.
Jamila Souffrant 54:38
This is real talk and I will tell you something about journeys. I feel like this is why I love people who follow this platform and listen is because they're open to ideas, new ideas and why they might come for like learning how to budget I feel like journeys are just very like okay, it's not we're not talking about how to budget necessarily on the podcast, but what I want you to do is like focus on the bill. Doing a life that you love and having options, okay, budgeting is part of that. But it's not the only thing. And entrepreneurship is part of that. But it's not the only thing. And I think what you're providing here in this conversation is just a glimpse into, because we have different listeners at different stages, maybe some looking to start a business, maybe some who already started a business, people like me who have to, I don't have to make the decision now. But I also am coming to that crossroad of lifestyle business where I'm just making what I need to and still impacting people, you know, get the little podcast out when it comes out, you learned something? Or do I want to scale and get bigger and happy employees? Right? Like, I'm coming to that point. And I'm like, You know what, I keep pushing it off for like, I make that decision after my book is that I can't right now.
Bola Sokunbi 55:40
No, it's a hard decision. Like, I really, really struggled with it, like, you know, and like we had this conversation. So Jamila is on my podcast now, last week, and we had the conversation after we recorded about just the burden of your burden of business is one thing, but then there's a burden of people who now rely on the income they earn from you, because they need to pay their mortgage, because they need to send their kids to school. That's another stress you pack on top of your head. And that's right. It's stressful. It's a lot to take in. Some people do it in stride, I struggled with it sometimes like, wow, this is a lot of people relying on me. And then there's an anon and
Jamila Souffrant 56:23
what you don't want to what happens and that I agree with that. It's so important. But I think what's happening for me, and I wonder if I don't know if you felt this is, I don't know if it's because of my kids ages. And sometimes I think like I don't know if I'll ever get out of this. Now, I don't want to call it a funk. But I felt so much more motivated, like not necessarily before I had kids, but maybe when they were even younger, I don't know how that's possible. I felt like for me motherhood, when they were like babies and like toddlers, or when I was pregnant, like maybe when there was less actual humans running around and demanding things from me every day. Like I felt I had more energy and like more ambition in a way to like do things and get up and hustle. And now. Now I feel like I feel like I give so much emotionally and mentally to my kids, that it's hard to equally give that to my like certain parts of my business, which is why I simplified my business. And I don't really feel like I hear a lot of people talk about this. Like, why motherhood has pushed me to start my business to get this, you know, pathway to entrepreneurship. It also for me, like has allowed me to one focus and want to focus on being more present and like having just like a more simple life. But I feel like is it at the expense of my business? Am I going to like switch one day and say, All right, I'm back into business mode. But it's so hard for me at this point to juggle both.
Bola Sokunbi 57:39
I can relate 100% And we talked about this right there's some things you have to give up there are certain things you have to say no to we talked about, there's so many ways that clever off is me making money right now. There's just no bandwidth, I don't have the mental capacity to deal with it. It's not priority for me and at what long term costs, right. My kids and my family no matter what business I'm building, those are my number one priority. And you know, I cannot be all things and do all things which means you're gonna have to narrow down your business sometimes doesn't mean you cannot build a business to scale or to impact. It just means that we're not we're going to have specific focuses and we're not going to do all the things and it is a struggle, like burnout is real. I'm tired all the time. I don't sleep a lot. And I think I'm starting to it's starting to wear down on me where I just don't have no use like I need a vacation so badly but then I have a book coming out we've got to promote this book. It's it's it's many things. But then when I'm not working, I'm thinking about work. And it's almost like a curse and a blessing at the same time. I can't describe it. It's like something that I know I need to do. But then I have to create balance so that I'm present for my kids and for my husband for my family and I life is still happening right? This is not about pursuit of business and then don't live life like life is also very short. I want to enjoy my summers I want to go to nice dinners I want to do the things that normal people do. So it's constant juggling, constant balancing, saying no more often than I say Yes, unfortunately to things in business, which sometimes people get offended. And I'm like, It's not you it's me. Okay, it has nothing to do with you it's all me I just I literally cannot I can't Yeah and
Jamila Souffrant 59:23
we have to start being honest with ourselves and others when it's just like I just can't I need to pour into me okay well you have to make me a promise at this point I think your your listeners your your respective followers and they're not my journeyers that you should you need to take a break after the sub book launch or book store okay, yes, I'm planning to go take a nice vacation by yourself and then with the family you need to vacations Okay.
Bola Sokunbi 59:48
Vacation with the kids is not vacation. Oh, we
Jamila Souffrant 59:51
know that already? Like so you need you need one family vacation and one solo vacation or friend vacation?
Bola Sokunbi 59:55
I'm in total agreement before I'll be like, Oh, I don't know. But now what 100% I do need the two vacations.
Jamila Souffrant 1:00:02
Alright journey, we got to follow her to see that she's taking a vacation. I'll give you an update. But bola thank you so much for coming on the show once again, her new book. Well, this new book is out now choosing to prosper. We will link it in the episode show notes. But bola I'm a big fan. I'll always be a fan. And I'm so proud of you. So just thank you again,
Bola Sokunbi 1:00:21
thank you for this amazing opportunity to just share you know some of my story I appreciate so much.
Jamila Souffrant 1:00:29
Oh, don't forget, we are giving away a copy of this week's guest book. So if you want your chance to win, go to journey to launch.com/win for more details, and make sure you're following me at journey to launch on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Don't forget, you can get the episode show notes for this episode by going to journey to launch.com. 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 launch.com/jumpstart. 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 journeyers
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