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.
Sweaty Palms & Weak Responses
Early spring 2018, I walked into the building of a startup accelerator program I had been accepted into. Armed with only confidence and a genius idea, I was eager to start level one. I had no idea of what to expect, but I knew I needed help. Somehow with life's journey of twists and turns, this former successful event planner was now about to blindly walk into the tech industry and tackle on a problem that too many women entrepreneurs had faced.
I sat directly across from the program founders, smiling ear to ear as I explained the then concept for HerHeadquarters. Underneath the table, I rubbed my sweaty palms on my pants, the anxiousness and excitement was getting the best of me. I rambled on and on about the future collaborating app for women entrepreneurs and all the features it would have. They finally stopped me, asking the one question I had never been asked before, "how do you know your target audience even wants this product?".
Taken back by the question, I responded, "I just know". The question was powerful, but my response was weak. While passionate and eager, I was unprepared and naively ready to commit to building a platform when I had no idea if anyone wanted it. They assigned me with the task of validating the need for the platform first. The months to follow were eye-opening and frustrating, but planted seeds for the knowledge that would later build the foundation for HerHeadquarters. I spent months researching and validating through hundreds of surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
I was dedicated to knowing and understanding the needs and challenges of my audience. I knew early on that having a national collaborating app for women entrepreneurs would mean that I'd need to get feedback from women all across the country. I repeatedly put myself on the line by reaching out to strangers, asking them to speak with me. While many took the time to complete a survey and participate in a phone interview, there were some who ignored me, some asked what was in it for them, and a few suggested that I was wasting my time in general. They didn't need another "just for women" platform just because it was trending.
I hadn't expected pushback, specifically from the women I genuinely wanted to serve. I became irritated. Just because HerHeadquarters didn't resonate with them, doesn't mean that another woman wouldn't find value in the platform and love it. I felt frustrated that the very women I was trying to support were the ones telling me to quit. I struggled with not taking things personally.
I hadn't expected pushback, specifically from the women I genuinely wanted to serve.
The Validation, The Neglect, The Data, and The Irony
The more women I talked to, the more the need for my product was validated. The majority of women entrepreneurs in the industries I was targeting did collaborate. An even higher number of women experienced several obstacles in securing those collaborations and yes, they wanted easier access to high quality brand partnerships.
I didn't just want to launch an app. I wanted to change the image of women who collaborated and adjust the narrative of these women. I was excited to introduce a new technology product that would change the way women secured valuable, rewarding products. I couldn't believe that despite that rising number of women-owned businesses launching, there was no tool catered to them allowing them to grow their business even faster. This demographic had been neglected for too long.
I hadn't just validated the need for the future platform, but I gained valuable data that could be used as leverage. Ironically, armed with confidence, a genius idea, and data to support the need for the platform, I felt stuck. The next steps were to begin designing a prototype, I lacked the skillsets to do it myself and the funding to hire someone else to do it.
I Desperately Need You and Your services, but I'm Broke
I found myself having to put myself out there again, allowing myself to be vulnerable and ask for help. I eventually stumbled across Bianca, a talented UX/UI designer. After coming across her profile online and reaching out, we agreed to meet for a happy hour. The question I had been asked months prior by the founders of my accelerator program came up again, "how do you know your target audience even wants this product?".
It was like déjà vu, the sweaty palms under the table reemerged and the ear to ear smile as I talked about HerHeadquarters, only this time, I had data. I proudly showed Bianca my research: the list of women from across the country I talked to that supported that not only was this platform solving a problem they had, but it's a product that they'd use and pay for.
I remember my confidence dropping as my transparency came into the conversation. How do you tell someone "I desperately need you and your services, but I'm broke?". I told her that I was stuck, that I needed to move forward with design, but that I didn't have the money to make it happen. Bianca respected my honesty, loved the vision of HerHeadquarters, but mostly importantly the data sold her. She believed in me, she believed in the product, and knew that it would attract investors.
From Paper to Digital
We reached a payment agreed where Bianca would be paid in full once HerHeadquarters received its first investment deal. The next few months were an all-time high for me. Seeing an idea that once floated around in my head make its way to paper, then transform into a digital prototype is was one of the highlights of this journey. Shortly after, we began user testing, making further adjustments based off of feedback.
The further along HerHeadquarters became, the more traction we made. Women entrepreneurs across the U.S. were signing up for early access to the app, we were catching investor's attention, and securing brand partnerships all before we had a launched product. The closer we got to launching, the scarier it was. People who only had a surface value introduction to HerHeadquarters put us in the same category of other platforms or brands catering to women, even if we were completely unrelated, they just heard "for women". I felt consistent pressure, most of which was self-applied, but I still felt it.
I became obsessed with all things HerHeadquarters. My biggest fear was launching and disappointing my users. With a national target audience, a nonexistent marketing budget, and many misconceptions regarding collaborating, I didn't know how to introduce this new brand in a way that distinctly made it clear who were targeting and who we were different from.
I second guessed myself all the time.
A 'Submit' button has never in life been more intimidating. In May 2019, HerHeadquarters was submitted to the Apple and Google play stores and released to women entrepreneurs in select U.S. cities. We've consistently grown our user base and seen amazing collaborations take place. I've grow and learned valuable lessons about myself personally and as a leader. This experience has taught me to trust my journey, trust my hard work, and always let honesty and integrity lead me. I had to give myself permission to make mistakes and not beat myself up about it.
I learned that a hundred "no's" is better than one "yes" from an unfit partner. The most valuable thing that I've learned is keeping my users first. Their feedback, their challenges, and suggestions are valuable and set the pace for the future of HerHeadquarters, as a product and a company. I consider it an honor to serve and cater to one of the most neglected markets in the industry.