An Interview with Kristine Beese: Untangle Money
At Pollinate, we believe in celebrating success and highlighting the profound impact mentoring can have on careers, innovation, and entrepreneurial achievements. In our ‘When Mentees Win’ series, Cindy Collins interviews Kristine Beese from Untangle Money, and discusses how her participation in mentorship programs contributed to her recent business success.
Cindy: Thank you, Kristine, for joining us in our ‘When Mentees Win’ series. We’re featuring your success story because of your remarkable journey in bringing your business to market, accelerating its growth, and gaining national recognition. We’re eager to learn about how your mentoring experiences, including the one through the Rhyze Ventures program, have influenced you. Let’s start at the beginning – what inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
Kristine: I feel fortunate that both of my grandfathers were entrepreneurs who showed me the possibility of forging my own path. As I became a mother, my gender, my care-giving role, and my experience as a woman began to influence my career in ways I hadn’t anticipated, or experienced previously. . Luckily, while I was working in male-dominated fields such as engineering, finance, and capital markets, I stumbled upon a book called “Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men” by Caroline Criado Perez. The book explored the consequences of gender assumptions in various aspects of object and system design in society. However, it didn’t look deeply into the world of finance. Curiosity drove me to investigate further and I discovered that much of our personal financial modelling for retirement and wealth management was male-centric. I realized that women required different financial strategies, which challenged the one-size-fits-all financial management model. Once I realized that the solutions out there were doing more harm than good to women, that’s when I felt the need to fully explore this topic, create a solution, and the rest is history!
Cindy: That’s truly inspiring, Kristine, could you share some early challenges you faced while developing the theory behind the Untangle Money tool?
Kristine: Initially, we encountered resistance from both the women we aimed to serve and the finance industry. Women feared we would oversimplify financial solutions in a condescending manner, assuming they couldn’t understand numbers, which was not the case and certainly not something we believe. Source: Untangled Money, Benefits Canada, Newswire
Financial institutions were opposed to gendered financial products as it implied their existing gender-neutral offerings were ineffective, thereby indicating that they had been failing the women they were meant to be serving.
In the case of the women, their concerns were valid, we’ve seen the shrink-it and pink-it approach time and time again, and we worked to show women that this isn’t the case when it comes to Untangle Money.
In the case of financial institutions there is more work to be done. Fortunately, emerging news and trends consistently validates our position. In 2018, the World Economic Forum formally stated that financial plans are not gender-neutral and the plans would fail women if they used plans originally designed for men.
Another challenge we faced was perceived value. Initially, we offered the tool at a lower price but realized it lacked perceived value. We continue to address this challenge because our goal is to make financial planning affordable and accessible to a million women.
Cindy: When you decided to participate in the Innovation Guelph Rhyze Ventures program, what were your primary goals?
Kristine: The program’s emphasis on being by women for women was a significant factor for me. However, I had concerns about the quality of my mentor and whether the program would be worth my time. Fortunately, the program exceeded my expectations! Having a mentor assigned to me was crucial because, as a solopreneur, I often found myself trapped in an echo chamber. Having a mentor who was consistently holding me accountable and encouraging progress was invaluable. It prevented stagnation and generated fresh ideas when I felt stuck and faced the inevitable rejection that comes with the startup journey.
Cindy: You mentioned your exceptional mentor pairing. Could you elaborate on what made it so successful?
Kristine: Being paired with my mentor, Sandra Reimer, was a fortuitous match. The first thing about the program that impressed me was that I was provided with my mentor’s Knowledge Transfer Index (KTI) results beforehand. This outlined our alignment in several areas which gave me confidence and eased any initial apprehension. The KTI allowed me to understand her strengths and weaknesses, which is a unique aspect of the program. Typically, you don’t have your mentor’s assessment to compare and contrast, but I’m so glad I did because it was truly helpful.
Cindy: The value you gained from working with Sandra sounds significant. Can you share more about it?
Kristine: Collaborating with someone who had already walked the path I was on was invaluable. My mentor came up with ideas I wouldn’t have thought of, she understood my vision for Untangle Money and she communicated in a way that resonated with me. I felt more supported and I gained clarity on the path ahead. Sandra helped me get the ‘train on the tracks,’ and at a certain point, it gained momentum of its own.
Cindy: You’ve been involved in other business incubators and mentoring programs. What sets the Rhyze Ventures Mentoring Program apart?
Kristine: Over the course of my career, I’ve participated in numerous mentoring programs. Typically, they provide general guidelines and randomly match people, leaving the rest to chance. Some experiences are wildly successful, while others are disastrous due to a multitude of failure points. What made this program different was how smoothly everything was initially set up. It fostered excitement in myself, created positive energy, and was a great start to the mentor-mentee relationship. Only later, when peeking behind the curtain did I discover that the pairing was based on an intentional approach because of our KTI alignment, which was the reason for my more substantial and more rewarding experience.
Cindy: Finally, any advice or words of encouragement for entrepreneurs starting their own journeys?
Kristine: My advice in six words: “find cheap ways to start today.” Figure out low-cost ways to test your business ideas and start immediately! One of my biggest regrets is waiting too long; I wish I had started building Untangle Money a decade earlier.
Cindy Collins – Director, Client Delivery
Cindy Collins provides strategic and tactical day-to-day leadership to the client services operations and project management team at Pollinate Networks. With a mandate of fostering a collaborative approach in delivering exceptional client services, this role works closely with B2B clients to thoroughly understand their needs and to manage the fluid sharing of that knowledge throughout the implementation of mentoring, assessment and consultative initiatives. Cindy also contributes to the functional management of sales and marketing strategy for the organization.