Last week we sat down with Chris Whitlow, Founder and CEO of Edu(k)ate, a financial tech startup that offers financial programs that help guide people to money saving solutions, allowing the workforce to go from financially stressed to financially savvy.
Whitlow talks about the challenges and milestones he has faced since starting Edu(k)ate and advice for founders.
What is the biggest obstacle you are currently facing and how have you been able to overcome that challenge?
“I think the biggest challenge you face is the painful growth phase. Anything that grows rapidly is going to experience pain points. As we grow financially, we continue to bring on people to help solve these problems and start to alleviate some of the pressure and stress that comes along with that growth. It’s part of the process to understand the pain points during the growth phase so that when you emerge out of it, you can look back on that situation and say, ‘Here’s how we handle this moving forward’.”
Since starting Edu(k)ate in 2013, what would you say has been your greatest milestone?
“I would think for any company the biggest milestone is to look back and say ‘We employed people, we generated revenue, and we made customers happy.’ I don’t think that it matters if it’s a massive or small company. We provided a wonderful service to our clients and we grew the company from a revenue and team perspective. To be able to do that is just an incredible feeling and a great milestone to overcome.”
A year from now, where do you hope Edu(k)ate will be?
“One of the things we are really striving towards is how to open our library so that multiple authors can come in and teach through our platform. Allowing every employee, to come in and find the author or financial expert that they want guiding them through their finances. I think that’s what we do in the real world, we search for the right advisor to help us. Most companies out there focus on a singular view and I think that Edu(k)ate is going to expand on that and open it up so anyone can find who that trusted advisor is through our website.”
Rejection is a natural part of every startup success story. How do you deal with rejection as a startup founder?
“I think the easiest way to handle rejection just goes back to the passion. For me, I wasn’t starting a business because I thought somebody else thought it was a great idea. I was starting a business because I wanted to change something. There are lots of ‘no’s’ out there. Calculate if that’s something that you can put into your design and business to make it better for the next time. Keep going at it because really the business is just full of ‘no’s’. As you hear those ‘no’s’ and as you navigate through the mind field of rejection you ultimately merge on the other side with something that people really love, making you a better and stronger company. Enjoy the ‘no’s’, don’t let them get you down and just look at it as a way to continue to grow.”
What advice would you give a startup just coming onto the scene?
“Make sure whatever it is that you pick is something that you are really passionate about and interested in. Ultimately what ends up happening is you hit roadblocks and you’re going to find that the road isn’t as smooth as maybe you thought it would be. In order to overcome those challenges, it needs to be something that you absolutely love. It can’t be just about the freedom and the money. A lot of the experiences that you have when starting a company, managing the growth, and finding people are so valuable. Walk away with it as an experience and it will continue to help you flourish as you get older.”