Fly Finance Entrepreneurs (Part Four): Tonya Rapley-Flash
By In Her Shoes Contributor: Paulana Lamonier
A recent study shows that 30% of millennials find themselves as a victim of financial abuse or experience financial infidelity in a relationship. That was Tonya Rapley-Flash, founder of My Fab Finance, back in college in 2007. Leaving the relationship with horrible credit, and no money in her savings — she survived.
“A lot of people don’t realize it’s a form of abuse,” said Rapley-Flash. “The relationship wasn’t only physically and mentally abusive, but it was also financially abusive.” Working to build her financial status, My Fab Finance became Rapley’s saving grace. Fast forward nine years later, Rapley uses her experience to help other millennials “break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck, while remaining fabulous.”
In Her Shoes: What/when was the turning point for you when you started My Fab Finance?
Tonya: My Fab Finance happened because of my own financial journey and I felt like there was a lack of women who looked liked me, talking about money in a way that I wanted to receive it from them. I didn’t feel like they understood the experience of an urban, up and coming, fabulous millennial and pretty much that’s how I define myself. My Fab Finance was my accountability partner. The site was setup to hold me accountable for my own financial goals and then I was sharing things that were working for me, and that I was learning and other people started going to the site and sharing it on Facebook. And so people started treating it as a resource for themselves, when originally it was my diary. Then, I realized that I wanted to turn it into something bigger.
In Her Shoes: What was the biggest lesson you learned that has impacted the way you work? Explain what was it like before and after?
Tonya: My biggest lesson was and is never lose sight of why you started. It’s easy to get caught up in acknowledgment and benchmarks, but unless you started for that reason, it takes away from your reasoning and can chip at your humility. I know coaches who got started to help people and now making money has become more important than creating sustainable change in the lives of others. Also, people will have a lot of ideas about how you should run your business, based on their vision for your business. Don’t allow their vision to distract you from your why.
In Her Shoes: How do you conquer those moments of doubt that often discourage entrepreneurs from following their ideas? What pushes you through?
Tonya: I remind myself of all that I have overcome and those moments where I felt helpless or fearless before and how I crushed them. I remind myself that I am the same person, if not better than I was then and I have proven that I can overcome obstacles and fears.
In Her Shoes: Failure plays a vital role as an entrepreneur, how do you deal with it?
Tonya: I don’t try to run from the feeling or the experience. I allow myself to sulk in it, to take it in, to process it. But I only give myself an hour to do so. Then I pull myself together and get back to work on my goals.
In Her Shoes: As an entrepreneur, what’s your weakness and how are you overcoming it?
Tonya: I’m a Gemini and it is so easy for me to get off track. I have a million and one ideas and in the moment they all seem great. I counter that by setting specific goals for My Fab Finance. If this new idea doesn’t directly support my goals, it’s in competition with them and I let it go.
In Her Shoes: As a financial guru, how do you access funding for your business?
You start by being your first investor. There is value in investing in your dreams. How can you realistically ask someone else to fund your dreams if you aren’t willing too? Also, keep your credit up. You need good credit as an entrepreneur for numerous reasons.
In Her Shoes: What’s a financial tip you would give those who want to start their business?
Tonya: Make sure you have more than one or two ways to make money. Things happen. Demand slows down, contracts come to a sudden halt, and companies take longer than expected to disperse payments. More income streams equal more stability and better decision making.
In Her Shoes: Being an African-American woman, who’s an entrepreneur teaching people about finances, what are your thoughts on the gender wage gap? And, what can a woman do to close the pay gap if they feel they’re not getting paid as equal as their peers?
Tonya: As women of color we don’t just deal with a gender wage gap, we also deal with a racial wage gap. While the problem is systemic and essentially baked into the fabric of this country, there are things we can do to collectively support one another. In all honesty, I have seen women at the top cling to their jobs or opt not to put their neck out for younger women climbing the ranks for numerous reasons. Mentorship is valuable. If you don’t know you should be receiving better, how do you ask for it or even know it is possible? We need more women of color in a positions to advocate for other women of color to be relentless in their quest for parity and equality. And while entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, it highlights the importance of starting our own and hiring our own.
To learn more about Tonya Rapley-Flash and My Fab Finance click here!