Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hi friends, it’s Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making a difference on UN SDG 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth. I have one more interview for you this week. Today I’m excited to cruise around with Kelsey Willock, the co-founder and CEO of Aura, a financial wellness and investment platform. Are you ready to be enlightened?
Spiffy: Welcome Kelsey, let’s talk money! Can you talk about the challenges you’re addressing through your start-up, Aura?
Kelsey: I’d love to, Spiffy! Aura is an emotionally intelligent financial wellness and investment platform that provides access points to financial markets for women and underserved individuals who have been locked out and left behind by the financial system. Aura leverages behavioral psychology to curate a hyper-personalized investment management tool that helps reduce stress and anxiety about money and improves financial returns. Aura also offers access to on-demand financial advice and community, so users do not have to face the journey alone.
Spiffy: Money can be a scary thing! What motivated you to create a financial management tool?
Kelsey: I graduated college with over $180,000 of student debt which made me feel extremely financially anxious. I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to and had no clue how to get started taking control of my finances. I felt like they controlled me. Then I was hired by Goldman Sachs where I learned from some of the best investors in the world and they taught me the power of putting my dollar to work through investing. As I got more confident, my stress reduced and I felt more in control of my life. Aura is the platform I wish I had at the beginning of my journey and I hope no one else needs to face the situation alone again.
Spiffy: It’s hard to know who to turn to, that’s for sure. Can you talk about how Aura is helping to create a more equitable world?
Kelsey: Well, Spiffy, one-third of Americans are financially anxious. Money is also the leading cause of anxiety. This problem also disproportionately affects women and young people. Financial anxiety leads to a number of issues including poor financial decision making, impoverishment in retirement, stress, and under investing. Aura is built with women and underserved populations in mind to create a more inclusive, empathetic, and equitable world by giving them the tools they need to put their money to work and lead their rich life.
Spiffy: Have you reached any milestones that you’re particularly proud of?
Kelsey: Aura recently developed a money archetype assessment with a team of behavioral psychologists from Georgetown University. Of our current community, 95% of individuals were interested in their archetype and and 98% were interested in content based on their archetype. This program allows us to personalize our platform because we know finance is deeply personal and not a one size fits all solution. This quiz also allows us to reach populations that were previously uninterested in financial services by building for them in unique ways.
Spiffy: I’m wondering, have you ever faced failure? What did you learn from it?
Kelsey: My original business plan was to build a company called Tardi. It was a platform aimed to democratize access to private equity for women. While I wanted to create awareness about the asset class, I quickly found my audience was not interested. They were simply interested in “how to get started.” Therefore, while the original idea failed, I was able to pivot and meet the needs of my consumers by listening to them and building for their actual needs rather than what I assumed their needs were.
Spiffy: I’d love to know if you’ve learned something unexpected lately that you could share with our audience.
Kelsey: I recently learned the power of coaching through my business partner, Courtney Cardin. I never thought about the importance of coaching, especially in the early days of a startup. I was simply hyper-focused on product development and growth. She taught me the importance of communication skills and constantly improving upon them, no matter what stage you are at.
Spiffy: Before we sign off, Kelsey, is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Kelsey: Sure, Spiffy! I am also the author of Not Your Boyfriend’s Investment Advice—a weekly newsletter where I use humor and storytelling to educate my readers about financial literacy. My intention is to improve access to financial systems in meaningful, educational, and fun ways. In order to create a more inclusive world, I believe we need to create alternative access points to finance and this is my way of contributing.
Spiffy: Well, Kelsey, I think your contribution is going to be earth shattering. Thanks for creating a tool to help others manage and plan their finances. And thanks for telling me about it! It’s been an honor.
Kelsey Willock is the co-founder and CEO of Aura, a financial wellness and investment platform. She is also the author of “Not Your Boyfriend’s Investment Advice”—a weekly newsletter where she uses humor and storytelling to educate her readers about investing and finance. Prior to her work at Aura and NYBIA, she worked for Goldman Sachs advising institutional clients and on Launch with GS, the firm’s billion dollar commitment to investing in diverse entrepreneurs and investment managers.(Nominated by Visible Hands. First published on the Ladderworks website on November 5, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.