Kathyrn Finney, Simply Good Media and the Budget Fashionista, Woman Entrepreneur

Thumbs_kathryn-finney-photo-2What I love about all the women entrepreneurs that I write about each Monday is not only how unique each one is but their stories.  Young women always ask me for advice on their careers.  Where should they begin?  How can you have kids and have a career too?  Did you always know what you wanted to do?  Most of the woman I write about evolved and in many ways just stumbled into what they do now.  Somehow or other the dots always connect and you end up doing something that you might not have planned for but that is just how life works. 

Kathyrn Finney certainly had other plans in mind when she embarked upon her career but she couldn't be happier in the spot she is in today.  Growing up in Minneapolis in a very safe middle class community and she will tell you that she was not the only black person there.  Minneapolis is a melting pot of major headquarters from General Mills, Target, 3M and more.  Her father was an engineer at Microsoft so she grew up with a computer her house.

Her education is interesting.  In Minneapolis, at that time, if you got accepted into a university while you were still in college, the state would pay in full for you to go.  Kathryn was accepted into St. Thomas for her junior year in high school to be a freshman so she embarked on her college education at a young age and the state of Minnesota paid for it.  She then got a full ride to Rutgers to finish off her junior and senior year of college.  It was a good transition.  Rutgers accepted all her credits from St. Thomas and she got involved with student politics and played rugby.  This program was called the post secondary option that was funded by an investment that the state had in the Oregon Trail.  The Oregon Trail is a video game to teach children about the 19th century pioneers on the Oregon Trail.  It became incredibly popular and was state funded thus giving back the revenues to the education system.  Brilliant. 

Kathryn got a fellowship to go to University of Ghana while at Rutgers and off she went.  Her family was originally from Ghana and had this desire to see what it was all about.  She believed that she was always going to work in in the International World even taking Japanese from seventh grade through graduation.  In Ghana she worked with the group that was involved with Women in the Center of Politics where she got learned about nutrition around breast feeding. 

While she was in Ghana Kathryn got seriously sick to the point where she thought that she might have to be med-vacked home.  She had malaria.  She eventually got better but it was scary and decided although she had a love for politics that she would point her career in the direction of medical school.  She came back and graduated from Rutgers and got accepted into Yale for graduate school.  She majored in International Epidemiology which is the study of how diseases affect populations.  She wrote her thesis on violence, virtues and viruses, the impact of violence against women and HIV in Southern Durban.  Making her way back Africa this time where her political desires merged into her new medical outlook.

After Yale ended Kathryn was offered a fellowship to work with International Planned Parenthood in Ghana.  Perfect.  It was a time when family planning agencies were going through a paradigm shift from birthing centers to the development of young women.  She was supposed to stay in this job for two years but her father became really sick.  She returned to Minneapolis to become a care giver for her father for a few months.  He father told her that she needed to move on with her life and not take care of him.  She didn't want to go back to Ghana because it was too far so she ended up in Philadelphia taking classes around medicine while thinking about applying to medical school. 

Instead of medical school Kathryn took a job with the International Center for Epidemiology and Public Health that was working with UPenn and Thomas Jefferson University.  The job was about gathering data and statistics with doctors around the world.  She traveled frequently travelled internationally.  1/2 weeks at home and then 2/3 weeks abroad.  Not a great way to have a life.  Surprisingly enough at that time she met her future husband and then her father passed away.  All of these changes made her take a step back to reassess what she really wanted to do.

She got married and found herself in serious debt.  She had taken so many loans out for school and had just jacked up her credit cards.  She had truly got herself into a mess.  It was 2003 and her husband suggested she write a blog about the things that happened to you….because you have a lot to say.  So she did.  Thinking back on it she was probably depressed.  Tons of debt, living in a city she didn't love while most of her friends were in NYC, her father just passed away and she felt lost. 

She began writing about going to sample sales, being in debt and trying to stay on a budget. She started to feel like she was getting her life together.  Someone from the Associated Press contacted Kathryn and wanted to know if they could do a piece on her blog.  The article would be about her and how she traveled to sample sales.  The article was published in January 2004.  She had no idea what would happen in the post of that article.  Traffic took off and someone contacted her about writing a book on how to be a Budget Fashionista.  The book came out in 2006 and is now in its 11th printing. 

It was challenging doing a book when publishers were clueless about the blogisphere.  But the book took off and so did her site with about 450,000 uniques a month.  She has created an entrepreneurial business through her blog with revenues from partnerships and advertising.  There are four people that work for her.  Kathryn has an amazing attitude and is full of energy.  It has been quite an interesting ride.  She and her husband moved to NYC where she has worked growing the company so it can be independent of her.  As Kathyrn says, the blog and career kind of came out of nowhere.  Is she sorry that she didn't go into politics or medicine, not one bit.  All of those experiences are part of the dots that she has connected.  Those experiences helped her get to where she is now, the rocking Budget Fashionista who finds herself being an author, TV personality and blogger.  She has also given back by creating the Robert Finney Foundation after her father that provides scholarships to African American High School and College studnets pursuing studies in tech fields.  You gotta love it.