Tina Hay comes from a diverse background encompassing film, technology and finance. Her personal struggles understanding complex financial topics led her to found Napkin Finance, a guide to everything you need to know about money in 30 seconds or less. Financial topics are sketched out on napkins to illustrate and break down their meaning.
The mission of the company is to empower readers to make smart money decisions and build a lifetime of financial well-being. The most rewarding part of running the company for Tina has been the amazing response to the platform. It has appealed to all ages in need of a better way to understand personal finance. Napkin Finance has been featured in Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, E! Entertainment, and Forbes among others publications.
Napkin Finance has also partnered with the First Lady Michelle Obama’s Education Initiative, Better Make Room, with the creation of a Napkin Finance course for helping students save and pay for college. Schools around the country have used the platform. It has helped students learn by designing their own napkins and also by creating a more interactive teaching experience than the traditional lecture format.
Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?
As a child I was always very competitive and active. I loved learning and was always curious about how things worked. I don’t remember one event that triggered my interest, but I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I believe my personality and interests are well-suited to the startup lifestyle. Otherwise, I don’t think I could have done it for this long!
What about this career choice did you find most appealing?
I love being an entrepreneur and everything it entails. The most exciting part is building a new product that solves a real need. There is nothing more rewarding than creating a business and a team around it that makes a difference in people’s lives. We love hearing back from our members that they love our content and we are helping them make better choices for their financial well-being. That’s the best part of what I do.
What steps did you take to begin your education or training?
I was always very curious about business and started reading up on the market at an early age. I remember wanting to invest when I was very young and asking my parents to put my savings in IBM and Coca Cola. I started businesses when I was still in school and learned a great deal about the challenges in building a company. I continue to learn from my mentors and colleagues- it is never ending!
Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?
I have been lucky to have very supporting and encouraging friends and family. Of course, it is always a roller coaster ride when starting a business, but I feel my harshest critic is often myself.
Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?
I really didn’t!
A Napkin from Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room initiative
When did your career reach a tipping point?
I think the tipping point came when we started to hear from other companies who wanted to partner with us. It is incredibly challenging to build great content, especially dealing with money and finance. Knowing that people who understood the market need valued our product was very powerful. It confirmed that all the hard work we put into building high-quality products and content is worth it.
Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?
One of the biggest challenges is finding great people and partners. It has been very difficult to find the right mix of creativity, passion, attention to detail, and dedication in one person. We are lucky to have those people now on our team, but it takes a lot of time to find them.
What single skill has proven to be most useful?
I think my strongest skill is solving problems. I believe in thinking outside the box and finding creative solutions to those issues. The hardest part of running a company is often keeping everything moving. There are fires we need to put out every day while continuing to improve the product and serve our customers.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am most proud and excited about our partnership with the White House and Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room initiative. Napkin Finance has created a course with “Napkins” that prepare students for the financial challenges of a college education. The Better Make Room collaboration with Napkin Finance has inspired and empowered students to fill out The FAFSA, learn more about ways to pay for college and understand how student loans work.
Any advice for others entering your profession?
I think there is no better time to be building a business. There are numerous resources and tools to help create new technologies and solutions. My only advice would be to stay lean and experiment often and quickly to see what features work best.