Interview: MoneyJar’s Faith Muthoni on Working With What You Have
They are viewed as the generation that expect the special privileges without paying their dues. Variously described as lazy, entitled, difficult to manage, selfish and arrogant, Millennials get a bad rap. This could, however, all just be a problem of perception.
Faith Muthoni falls under the growing number of people from this generation who are showing the skeptics that they are mature enough to understand the world they are taking on, and brave enough to tackle it. The 21-year-old final year Financial Economics student at Strathmore University and the co-founder of Moneyjar Kenya, is a self-taught programmer, passionate about data science and behavioral finance. She also serves as a Chapter Director for Startup Grind, the world’s largest community of entrepreneurs.
As she shares her story with Damaris Agweyu, her message is crystal clear: It’s time to stop buying into generalised, misinformed stereotypes about people and turn our focus to their individual potential and skills-sets.
While many 19-year-old’s are busy doing 19-year-old things, you were building a business. Tell me how your journey started.
It was when I joined Strathmore University that I came to the realization I didn’t have any discipline when it came to managing my finances. Money would hit my m-pesa account and in an hour, it would be out. Towards the end of 2017, I lost my phone and had no money to replace it. I had to ask my parents to buy me a new one but they wondered how it was that I didn’t have money to do it myself; that’s when I started to seriously think about how I’d been spending my money.
It turns out, I had been spending on things I didn’t even need. I met my co-founder, Samson Mzewa who was in my class and studying for the same degree in Financial Economics; he had similar challenges when it came to managing his finances. We quickly realized it’s a common problem for many people in our demographic and started exploring ways to solve it.
We came up with a basic pilot version of an app and called it Moneyjar. We gave it to other students to try out and give us their feedback. Soon after, we saw that there were some positive money habits that were coming out of using Moneyjar and that’s when we committed to building a full product to take to market.
How exactly does it work?
You download the app, create an account, add your financial goals and timelines based on your money lifestyle and start saving. We help you on your journey by continuously sending you reminders and tips for each goal.
How is it different from other savings apps out there?
Our largest differentiator is the behavioral element of the app. Lots of people who use Moneyjar used to use these other savings apps but because it was one account for all savings, they couldn’t keep track of how they were spending. With our app, you separate your savings for each goal. Our aim is not just to get people to save but to change people’s attitudes and behavior when it comes to money.
Who are the majority of your users?
Initially, campus students just because this is where we did our pilot. But right now, almost half of our users are between 20-25 and the other half are between 25-30. So primarily, we say from 18 to 30 year olds.
And how is it all going so far?
I am very excited about uptake. When we started, we didn’t expect a large audience outside our local community but now we have all kinds of people sharing success stories. We’ve only been doing this for about a year and have slightly over 1000 users. Hearing the positive feedback about how our product is helping people is already a huge achievement for us.
Most people who are still in school are not thinking about starting their own businesses, how is it that you developed this mindset?
I’ve always been very driven. As soon as I finished high school, I started working for a startup. This gave me the right exposure at a young age. I also had an enabling environment at home with parents who are very understanding. I explained my idea to them and they were ready to fully support me- I am very lucky in that way.
What advice to people of your demographic who may be thinking about starting their own businesses?
If you have a business idea, joining an already existing company to understand what really goes into a business helps you have more realistic expectations. I learnt early that you cannot take customers for granted; you have to work really hard for each and every single one. It’s not what we see on TV where people start businesses and become millionaires in a year, it takes a lot of time. I was prepared for that when I started.
People really do need to understand that there are no instant millionaires when it comes to honest work.
I mean really! We registered Moneyjar in September 2017 but we didn’t properly become a business till 6 months later. One thing I’ve learnt is if you get into business for instant money, you will…
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