Research has proven that young girls are generally less confident when it comes to managing money than their male counterparts. According to a recent Girl Scouts study, only 12% felt confident making financial decisions. That same study shows that 90% want to learn how to better manage their money.
Capri is working to bridge this gap. Created with the mission of advancing gender equity through financial literacy, Capri offers tools, education, and support to help young women gain a better understanding of how to manage their money.
Inspired by her aunt who taught her at a young age how to manage what little money she had from an after school job, Nicole Hartwig built and launched Capri at the age of 30 with just $100,000 in funding. I spoke with Hartwig shortly after Capri’s beta launch in January.
Shoenthal: How did you come up with the idea for Capri?
Hartwig: The idea for Capri came from my late Aunt Lynn. A true Capricorn (the inspiration for the name Capri), she relentlessly pursued her career goals in finance, slowly working her way up with a steady determination and humble grace, all while battling breast and ovarian cancer for nearly half her life.
My aunt guided me through all of my financial firsts, showing me how to make a budget and how to set a savings goal. She coached me through saving up for my first car by allowing me to make “deposits” into a container she kept safe for me in her kitchen drawer.
The Capri app is designed to develop financial literacy skills and confident money mindsets in high-school and college-aged girls. Our mission is to give girls the tools and opportunities they need to build long-term, sustainable financial wellness.
Shoenthal: Do you have any anecdotes about your personal relationship to finance, specifically from a young age?
Hartwig: I had a lovely childhood but I have what I think a lot of people have, which is a money identity around scarcity and a money identity around abundance. I graduated in 2008 and we were told there would be no jobs available, and yet I had food on the table and clothes on my back so I had plenty of abundance. There are certain skills you develop that come from both of those mindsets.
I later realized how unique my experience was growing up, to have my aunt — a woman in my life who was there for me as a teenager while experiencing my financial firsts. My list of expenses included a smoothie and a bottle of water but she showed me how to track that so I could save for my first car. She famously wrote my name on a Tupperware container and put it in her kitchen drawer, and that was my savings account. It helped because it was being put in a place where I couldn’t touch or spend it, but it was also a mentality for me of, you got paid today, be mindful of what you are going to do with that.
I was so lucky to have a woman like my aunt – someone so close to me who worked in finance and was willing to share her energy and wisdom. You don’t get to those reflections until later in life. But eventually I realized my friends didn’t know about credit scores and auto loans. They looked at me like I was crazy when I started talking about those topics. My aunt gave me this massive education, sure, but she also just took the time. She sat down with me, she took the time to explain these things.
That’s what we’re trying to create with Capri, the feeling that someone has time to explain these things. That somebody has your back when it comes to making those first financial decisions.
Shoenthal: What obstacles did you face as you were building Capri?
Hartwig: Having grown up in a middle-class suburb of Detroit, I had no clear path to access capital. As a solo female founder without an ivy-league education or any connections in private equity or venture capital, the already-uphill battle to build a startup was a lot steeper.
That’s why we bootstrapped. Capri has been in the works for more than 2.5 years, and we’ve been able to build the company with small investments from our friends and family. To date, we’ve raised $90k and built a team of five.
We joined accelerator programs, built a community, and shared our progress on social media which all helped contribute to us overcoming the massive gender gap in fundraising.
Shoenthal: When did you were making a difference in people’s lives?
Hartwig: We presented our first prototype at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Detroit in 2019 with nearly 10,000 people in attendance, many of them female college students. I’ll never forget the conversations we had with hundreds of college-age women about finance. The overwhelmingly positive feedback we received from these young women on our product and mission gave us the confidence that we were building something that was badly needed.
Shoenthal: Have there been any major milestones to date that helped you realize you were on the right path?
Hartwig: We opened our first round of fundraising on March 6th, 2020, just a few days before Covid-19 changed everything about the market and our daily lives. We had set out to raise $80k, only to slash our budget by more than half a few days later. We revised our raise goal to $30k, covering the bare necessities of starting the business. Starting a company during the most uncertain and unprecedented time we’d ever seen in our lives was certainly scary.
That’s why it felt like a miracle when we were able to raise that $30k in the first 30 days of our first friends and family round. For the first time, we had the capital we needed to grow. We were able to lay the foundation for the company, hire the vendors we needed to build our beta, and actually grow our business during one of the most tumultuous times in history. It was a massive turning point in our journey and one that gave us the fuel we needed to keep going and keep building.
Now, we are actively raising our seed round and we plan to then raise a Series A which will help us build the next iteration of the product. The initial investment allowed us to build the beta that just launched in January.
Shoenthal: Did the pandemic force you to pivot your launch plan?
Hartwig: Aside from the pandemic changing our fundraising strategies, we had also planned to take Capri on the road. We intended to visit college campuses across the country to get real face time with our users.
The stay-at-home order meant that wasn’t going to happen, so we needed to make a massive pivot in our brand awareness and launch plan. We instead focused on building our digital presence, doing more video-recorded financial education classes instead of the planned text-based classes we had designed the product around.
Our beta has been live for three months, and I’m thrilled to say that the pivot to video has been a great success. We’ve all become hungrier for video content during this time of isolation, and it seems our video classes have been a welcome addition to everyone’s quarantine experience.
Shoenthal: How do you think you’re impacting the next generation of women by pushing for financial literacy at such a young age?
Hartwig: We want to be the one stop shop for anyone managing money in the world.
The reason why we call ourselves a financial education company is because we think the gender inequity that exists in financial education can be solved. There are a million ways to approach this problem but education is the first step. Just being knowledgeable creates such an impact.
There are a lot of industries that are built to be confusing for the consumer on purpose. So many consumers just don’t know how to handle their money and financial institutions profit off of that. The idea that we are demystifying a very confusing industry pulls the curtain back and opens the door for women to feel comfortable in their day to day management of their personal money all the way up to their career and everything in between.
Shoenthal: What age group do you think is your sweet spot when it comes to financial literacy education?
Hartwig: The product is really for anyone who feels that it’s appropriate for them. The original mission of the company was to get to women before they’ve started to form an identity around money. We want to help them write their financial narrative with confidence. We’ve seen women as young as high school use the app, also women in their thirties want to start from the beginning and go through the curriculum. It’s never too late to learn.
Our app has classes upon classes that cover everything from setting a budget and renting your first home to investing. We also offer financial tools. One is a budget tool that allows people to keep track of things and learn from their habits.
There’s also the community aspect, the glue that holds the whole thing together. We bring users together as they go along their financial journeys. They can see how people are making progress and they can ask questions or provide answers. It’s about normalizing the challenges that come along with being a woman in the world and trying to learn about or talk about money.
Shoenthal: What are you most excited about right now?
Hartwig: I’m most excited about launching the first public version of the Capri App in late 2021. Users will have access to a huge library of financial education classes, they’ll be able to use our financial tools for budgeting and saving, and they’ll be a part of our exclusive community where they can connect with one another about all things personal finance. We’ve put years of research, design, and loving energy into the Capri experience, and our team cannot wait to finally unveil it.
Shoenthal: What’s your best advice for anyone who might be thinking about building their own company?
Hartwig: Trust your gut. Trust your intuition. You’ll find as an entrepreneur that people with a lot of experience, power and money will have lots of opinions on what you should do next. It can be very confusing. The best roadmap for your business is in your intuition.