Brittney Castro is a certified financial planner and founder of Financially Wise Inc., a financial planning firm in Los Angeles. Castro used social media to build a following for her business, which teaches working women about building wealth and managing money.
We spoke with Castro about female entrepreneurship, how women do money differently than men and how she has time for it all.
Our conversation with Brittney Castro is the latest edition of Ask a Genius, our regular series of talks with brilliant people. This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
What problem are you hoping to solve?
How to explain complex money strategies in simple and fun way that really empowers and educates clients. Specifically smart, savvy women who are out there in the workplace or managing the household finances or becoming divorced and learning how to manage money for the first time. Money is a tool. Let's learn how to use it and live our best life using it.
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Why is it important to have this resource for women?
Women have a different approach to communicating about money. It's not necessarily the strategy is any different, but I find that smart, savvy women still think they should know all this money stuff and they don't. Just bringing in that extra layer of emotional support and compassion and really communicating with them in a way that lights them up versus tears them down is really important.
What does it cost to run your business?
When I started this company six years ago, I self-funded it to get it up and running. Since that time, I've really put a lot of money back into the business. It takes a lot of money to run an organization. And I've invested in myself and workshops, products, services, branding and people.
For me being in financial planning, it comes with the extra layer of compliance and regulation. That was a big part of why I started my own company, because I really wanted to develop the brand and not be limited by the financial firms’ rules.
Here are eight money tips for entrepreneurs ... from entrepreneurs.
I think part of being a successful entrepreneur is learning how to put money back in the business, but also how to watch every dollar. No matter how much money you're making, you still have to manage the business finances. I think I was a little arrogant in the beginning because I was a financial planner. I thought I would just expedite the timeline that everybody tells you to it takes to start earning a solid income. But I think no one's immune.
Some businesses maybe hit it out of the park right away, but there's also downturns. Part of being an entrepreneur or just running a business is that you just don't know sometimes. And our trajectory is definitely going up, but every year has twists and turns.
Why did you decide to use social media in your business model?
Using YouTube was a decision in 2010. I wanted to create a niche for myself, and I saw a lot of people using YouTube and social media as a platform to get their message out.
Social media constantly changes. But I think if you just stay with it and have a game plan, it works. A lot of times I was posting in the beginning and I'm thinking “What am I doing this for?” But it’s all about consistency over time.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your business?
Maybe making difficult changes for your business like, for example, letting people go. You hire people, I really care for them, but sometimes you outgrow each other and that is always very difficult for me.
It’s not easy to say, “Unfortunately this role and what you're doing for the company is no longer part of our plan.” So just being able to communicate openly and honestly as a business owner is sometimes very difficult.
What is a common challenge your clients face & what advice do you give them?
A lot of our clients just want to know if they are doing things right. They tend to have assets, they tend to have a good healthy income, but they don't know if it’s enough to retire, or if they can actually buy that home.
We help bring clarity into the equation, and also peace of mind and the confidence that they can continue making these decisions for themselves. Every client's a little bit different in terms of assets or net worth. But I think when it comes down to it I’m helping clients confirm their strategy if it's working or figure out the solution if something's not working.
How do you handle the ups & downs of business?
It’s really knowing that at the end of the day, this is just the job, even though sometimes it feels very dramatic or that the emotional swing is up and down.
The challenges always come. I just get better at dealing with them. Through meditation, through awareness, through my friends, family and community, I've been able to develop those skills necessary to deal with the challenges, and I'm still developing them. I'm not perfect, but definitely light years different from where I started.
I think for the beginning it was devastating. You get a tax bill and you're like, “Oh my God, I didn't prepare for this tax bill.” You want something and it doesn't work and you're like, “Oh my God, I'm a failure.” But then you realize it’s just part of the process. The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who just keep going and don't stop. Like they don't let these “failures” get them down. They just use them as learning lessons.
What is a financial pitfall you see female entrepreneurs falling into?
Overspending in the beginning, not being clear and focused. That's a huge one. It takes focus and discipline. Most days I put my head down and I grind. I'm not getting awards and accolades daily.
But then those things come and it's like, “Wow, how cool.” But what people don't see behind the social media is the work. So a lot of it is focus. And I think that one is so important for entrepreneurs because naturally we're thinking of a million things at one time and we have a million ideas. But to being able to say, no, I'm going to focus on this one thing right now and make it good is a really important skill.
What is the best financial advice you've ever received?
Invest in yourself. We often know the basics of budgeting, saving and all that, but to be able to invest in yourself is really good because if you take care of your well-being, you believe in yourself. And that's something that I had to learn that it was okay to invest in myself. It’s a big part of money and wealth creation.
What is one thing you want to accomplish in the next month, year & decade?
I want to go on a beach vacation. I've been grinding a lot, so it is important for me to be able to take a moment, relax, rejuvenate and refuel.
And then next year, another goal is to grow the company. To maximize and thrive in those changes. In life and in business you'll come across cycles where you’re really working and hustling behind the scenes and no one really knows. And then it comes to fruition. I'm in one of those cycles. So next year I really just want to enjoy the fruits of my labor.
I just want to be the best version of myself. I do want to start a family. I want to get married. I want to have a baby. But a lot of it is continuing what I'm doing. So I have goals, but I've also learned to just trust the plan.
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