ETFs, shares, pension provision - for many people, these are topics that you have heard of before, but you don't really know what they are all about. The two founders of the Stuttgart-based start-up finance baby! now want to change this. With their educational platform for finance, which is specifically geared towards women, they want to give women more insight into the world of finance and encourage them to take their finances into their own hands. How it came about, what the fintech market in Baden-Württemberg is still missing and what the two would change as mayors of the Swabian metropolis, they tell us in an interview.
How did you come up with the idea for your start-up?
The idea actually came from a personal problem of my own during the first lockdown last year, as suddenly the topic of short-time work, layoffs and financial insecurity could be seen and heard everywhere. Denise was suddenly terrified of being laid off and she realized that if this were to happen, she would have barely any buffer in her bank account to keep her afloat and far from that, she also had no idea about her finances at all. The topic was always something distant that you push away from you because it's so inconvenient and after all, it's more fun to spend your money in the here and now anyway.
Denise started researching and looking for a solution that was descriptive, easily explained and most importantly in a way that would take away the fear of the topic instead of adding to it. However, there was absolutely nothing that would have been suitable and so, without further ado, she took the subject into her own hands by starting to talk to as many women as possible about money. She quickly realized that it wasn't just her, but pretty much every woman she talked to. Then it was clear: a solution had to be found - and if no one builds it, then we build it ourselves.
Why did you focus specifically on a female target group and what challenges does that present?
Financial offerings are heavily skewed towards men. For one thing, content is not presented in a way that is easy to understand, so it is often assumed that women already have prior knowledge, which is usually not the case. In addition, many of us still grew up with traditional role models and often still live in these role models: the man takes care of the money and finances, the woman stays at home with the children, has the lower income and leaves money issues to the man. This creates a fear of contact with the subject and the women do not even dare to deal with the subject themselves. If then however the case occurs that one suddenly no longer has the financial security of a man for whatever reasons, then one must concern oneself with the topic but does not know at all how and it lacks a starting point, which tells one exactly where one is to begin and which steps come then successively.
In many areas there is still no equality between men and women, and the same applies to money. For example, the gender pay gap is currently 18%, which means that women are paid on average 18% less than men for doing exactly the same job. Another example: the pension gap. Women receive on average 59% less pension. And this is due, for example, to the fact that women are even more likely to stay at home to bring up the children and naturally earn less or nothing at all for this time. This is where equality is lacking. Women should get the same amount of money for the same work and not be treated differently just because of their gender. Or men should be allowed to take more parental leave.
Where did you meet as a team?
We actually met during Teresa's internship at Mädchenflohmarkt. Denise was heading up the marketing team at the time and already realised during the interview that she really wanted Teresa on board. We had the cool and at the same time gigantic task of carrying out a major rebranding together and rolling it out on all channels. Working together on this project worked out so well and we just realized that we complement each other's skills and characters very well.
How do you perceive Baden-Württemberg as a FinTech location?
Quasi non-existing. We hardly associate BW with FinTech, except for the Stuttgart Stock Exchange and the related Stuttgart Financial initiative, which is currently building a really cool project to change exactly that. We think that extremely many FinTechs are migrating, as especially recruiting is hard, as well as finding investors in this area. BW is heavily focused on sustainability, which also makes it extremely difficult for us to be seen or even get funding. As a female founding team, you have it twice as hard.
What else would you wish for the future of Baden-Württemberg as a business location?
Clearly better funding opportunities for early-stage startups that do NOT come from a university environment. We think it is clearly wrong to put so much money into university start-ups, because the founders often have no professional experience and the solutions are very theoretical and do not correspond to reality. Furthermore, something has to move in terms of support for women and female founders.
What tips would you give to other women who would like to found their own start-up?
Not to be put off and to show a human side to investors as well. We don't have to bend just to collect funds or look strong in front of a jury. Maybe that's what gets us the win in that one moment, yes. But in the long run, the one who benefits is the one who stays true to themselves and is honest and open. And if that means showing insecurity in some moments or honestly saying you don't share an opinion, that's fine.
In the long run, the person who stays true to themselves and is honest and open benefitsDenise, finance baby
Where do you see your start-up in three years?
finance baby! is a learning platform, a place of trust and a movement for more equality. For a long time we thought that the next step MUST be the foundation of a limited liability company and the first round of financing. In fact, we decided to stay independent for as long as possible and to bootstrap finance, baby! for the time being. We are currently fully focused on expanding our learning platform and thus revolutionizing the communication of financial knowledge for everyday life. For this purpose, we launched a crowdfunding on 24.06., which will finance the professionalization of the platform. This means we will focus on developing the desired features, content production of online courses for specific topics.
In the long term, we see finance, baby! as a meeting place - a home for women, so to speak. That's why, at the end of the year, we're launching finance, baby! Meet Ups all over Germany, where we will talk about financial topics without taboos and have incredibly great women as speakers. In addition, the first print products will be available soon, so that we can pick up women directly in their everyday lives and make everyday struggles easier.
Which woman is your biggest role model?
Denise: I have to be honest and say that I know some really, really great women, but I don't really have a role model. If I have to choose, I would probably name Christine Caine. Christine is the founder of A21, an initiative to fight human trafficking and forced prostitution. She has fought unfathomable battles, experienced great suffering and yet has not stayed down, but has turned all that she has experienced into strength with which she helps others. That, to me, is probably the most impressive life story I know.
If you were the mayor of Stuttgart for one day, what would you change?
We need to start seeing and understanding people instead of drawing up theoretical, perfect paths that only shine on paper.Denise, finance baby 2021
Denise: I think I would move away from theoretical thinking and rules and let people have their say. In politics, decisions are often made and advice given that is far removed from the reality of our everyday lives. Whose employer didn't respect home office rules should complain about health and safety and so take action against the employer. But let's be honest: what 19-year-old young professional who can barely afford her rent and is afraid of losing her job would choose this path? That's just one example of many. We need to start seeing and understanding people instead of mapping out theoretical, perfect paths that only shine on paper. We need to listen. Participate in life in order to understand. We need to see and acknowledge struggles and provide a solution path for them.
Thank you so much for the interview.
About the founders:
After studying communication science at the University of Hohenheim, Denise worked as a marketing manager at the Stuttgart-based start-up Mädchenflohmarkt. Together with Teresa, who studied Advertising & Market Communication at the Hdm, she was responsible for a major rebranding of the marketing department. The two colleagues became friends and subsequently co-founders. Since October 2020, the two are now starting out together with Finance Baby.
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