Stacks House, a touring pop-up bringing financial empowerment, education and community to boss ladies across the country, officially opened its doors on April 17 in Downtown Los Angeles. Financial 'goddess', Farnoosh Torabi, former Hilary Clinton fundraiser, Kindra Meyer and marketing maven, Patience Ramsey all came together to conceive this immersive, educational space to help close the gap between women and wealth in America.
"There's a lot of existing information, content, apps [and] investment platforms that are aimed at promoting female financial literacy," they explained. "With Stacks House, we intend to add an important layer to all of this through an experience that is highly interactive, engaging, fun and promotes community."
When you think of interactive pop-ups 29 Rooms, The Pint Shop, The Museum of Pizza or The Museum of Ice Cream might come to mind. These destinations are for visitors seeking fun and highly Instagrammable locations to visit with friends. Stacks House will provide the same experiences, but with one important distinction: education. Experiential learning is becoming increasingly popular by reason of FOMO. Learning something new became more interactive than it has ever been before.
Stacks House Co-Founders: Patience Ramsey, Farnoosh Torabi, Kindra Meyer
"Like other pop-ups Stacks House is a visual spectacle, sensory experience and Instagram playground—but here they will find more than just social shares. [Visitors] will also walk away with knowledge, inspiration and actionable next steps on how to improve their financial lives."
-"Come Play With Money" - Stacks House
Meyer, Ramsey and Torabi, all faced financial challenges in the past. They made personal investments in their lives and careers since then and hope to help women throughout various communities across the country. (See end of article for each of their stories.)
HOW STACKS HOUSE CAME ABOUT
Before creating Stacks House, Ramsey and Meyer worked in New York at an experiential agency; whilst getting to know each other they began discussing creating a networking community for women. However, it wasn't until they shared their own individual challenges with money that inspiration struck. In a personal breakdown turned professional breakthrough, they realized it was time women got the power they deserved. "And money is power."
Ramsey and Meyer went on to found She Stacks LLC in 2017, and Stacks House became the "first major initiative" under this larger parent company. They describe Stacks LLC as a "startup by women for women," in which they are brainstorming various ways to empower and educate women.
Before they could take on the next step, Ramsey and Meyer had to find a "financial goddess" to join them. After a meeting at The Wing Soho, Torabi joined in as the third partner. Together, they wanted to create a meaningful experience for women across the country, discovering ways to service their communities through the Stacks House pop-up.
Each room within Stacks House is designed around financial goals, creating a supportive learning space. One of them is the 'Money Moves' room, where visitors can learn how to make financial choices to help them live their best lives. They address a number of questions aimed at helping women gain control and understanding of their finances, including:
- How do I get myself out of debt?
- How do I ask for a raise?
- How prepared am I for retirement?
- How can I make more money?
- What should I do with my money once I have more of it?
- What is my #1 financial goal and what support do I need to achieve it?
According to Meyer, Ramsey and Torabi their mission is "to present the information in a simple, sexy and social way that encourages community and sharing like never before."
The co-founders have emphasized the need for "financial feminism," meaning "financial equality for all women," listing inclusion, independence, and responsibility as key components. Though there are a number of lessons they want visitors to walk away with, the most important one is that it is okay to talk about money and have these conversations.
"We want to encourage [women] to have support for one another in their money goals," they say. "We want them to walk away knowing that financial wellness is critical to their lives and happiness."
According to a recent survey by Charles Schwab, "young women are more likely to define success as financial independence, compared to young men." Women have faced obstacles and challenges in the financial sector for decades. "We earn less, save less, invest less, carry more student loan debt than men… we could go on," the Co-Founders comment. "When women are financially literate, financially secure and make more, the world becomes a better place."
With Stacks House, women can gain information on how to take control of their wealth by making choices around earning, saving, decreasing debt and investing. Charles Schwab also reported more women have taken side jobs to make ends meet and take on additional work to make extra money than men.
In addition to L.A., Stacks House will be heading to Detroit, Minneapolis, Austin, Chicago and New York.
Get to know the founders
At a very young age, Meyer was determined to pursue a career in the city and establish a life that was dissimilar to her childhood. She grew up in a one-room log cabin without running water or electricity, in what she described as the woods of North Idaho. With hard work, she made her dream a reality, starting work in various advertising firms where over eight years she multiplied her salary six times. After the 2016 election, Meyer has a "huge epiphany around money" and promised herself to make changes in sexist money-culture, and "to bring up women around [her] to do the same." Meyer co-built She Stacks, her passion project, to help women become financially empowered.
Ramsey also faced a childhood overcome with "financial uncertainty" and "scarcity" in rural Indiana. At a young age she was set on getting her finances in order and becoming more knowledgeable by the time she became an adult. However, by the start of her career that she began racking up credit card debt, eventually reaching over $60k. Ramsey had to "climb out" of her situation by researching and reading books by financial expert and author, Suze Orman. As co-founder of She Stacks, Ramsey hopes to continue educating herself and the community to "make smarter more strategic choices."
Torabi was raised by immigrant, Middle Eastern parents who tirelessly worked toward achieving the 'American Dream.' Growing up, she had a "certain level of financial confidence and fluency" based on what she learned at home. Torabi knew how to strategize and "live below" her means unlike many of her peers and friends at that time. She realized there was a "huge void in the market" of support for young adults, particularly women, to achieve financial goals. Keeping that in mind, after graduating college she took on a "number of side hustles" that became her "brand-building assets" as she ventured to become an entrepreneur, financial expert and co-founder.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.