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Most people change careers intentionally. Either they're stuck in a situation they don't want to be in and decide to switch or go back to school.
But the career change made by millennial money expert Tonya Rapley, was much more organic.
Rapley earned her Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Florida International University and a Masters in Urban Policy Administration from Brooklyn College.
In 2013, Tonya decided to launch her blog, My Fab Finance, to hold herself accountable when it came to making better money decisions.
Now, her blog has launched her into a whole new career as a finance and business coach.
When you launched My Fab Finance about four years ago, what goals or expectations did you have?
It was really my accountability partner. My goal was to hold myself accountable to be a better version of myself financially. The eventually My Fab Finance grew into being a resource to help others with their finances. When I started that business my goal was to be the go-to site for millennial women when it came to their financial questions.
Your Black Enterprise cover seemed to be a turning point for you. What was that experience like, and what would you say is the key to building a brand or business that people want to talk about?
Consistently showing up. When I started my blog I learned that there are hundreds of thousands of blogs started each year but the majority of them don’t even make it to their second year. What also helped are collaborations with people, building the right relationships and not being afraid that those collaborations would water down my brand. And being wise about social media and making sure that my social media presence is authentic. Those are all important for someone who wants to build a business online.
At what point in your journey did you decide it was time to build your personal brand, and become a business coach, in addition to My Fab Finance?
When I began to realize I felt stifled by the limitations of My Fab Finance, because there’s so much more to me than being a finance brand. I wanted to show more of who I was behind the brand; like the fact that I have a gluten allergy now, I’m a newlywed and we’re planning to grow our family.
There are certain brands that I love that I couldn’t partner with because I didn’t think it was in the best interest of the goals of the My Fab Finance audience, but for those who were interested in my life outside of that, it was an alignment.
What’s one of the biggest mistakes or misconceptions that your clients make when it comes to money?
Not valuing the amount of money they spend on things. Sometimes we say it’s just a little here and there but that little bit adds up and I think they take for granted how much that little bit can add up over time. People think about the big things when it comes to money but they don’t think about the bigs things.
What advice do you have for those who are young or have no credit history, trying to build some?
Assess your options. Credit is about your relationship with debt, so if you have a poor relationship with debt or practice poor self-control then getting a credit card to build your credit might not be your best course of action. You might want to look into becoming an authorized user or getting a credit building loan to help you build your credit. Credit cards are the only way to build your credit, so look into the other options available to you.
What are some good strategies for repaying debts, that you’ve seen work?
Cutting back on lifestyle and really deciding that this is what you’re going to do and get it done by any means necessary. Also, setting goals and tackling one goal at a time or one credit card at a time. I’ve seen people take on a part time job and just use that income to pay off debt. You’re marking the money that you’re bringing in on the side for debt and debt only so you’re kind of double teaming your debt.
What tools or resources do you use to help you keep on track with your financial goals?
The financial success planner, honestly and truly because it has a calendar in it and it keeps me on track for bill due dates so I can avoid late fees. It also helps keep me on track with my debt repayment plant, and so I can look at what my target numbers are. I use Digit, which is an automatic savings app, which acts as an extension to your checking app that helps you save money. That’s a tool I use regularly, it will tell you your balance everyday. Of course Paypal, because I’m a business owner and I get money via Paypal and I pay people with it. I also use my mobile banking app but I’m pretty simple when it comes to my finances. As long as I know when I need to pay my bills I’m good.
I’m not one of those people who loves to do budgeting. I don’t have any budgeting apps – I didn’t like Mint. The banks I use have high security measures so it was disconnecting anyway. For me I make it a mission to review my purchases every morning and that keeps me on track. For example I spent $90 at the grocery store so looking at that I can say we have food in the house and I don’t need to spend any more on my food budget for the week.
How do you create work-life balance, now that you’re a full time entrepreneur?
Still working on that. I have to be honest with myself about project I have to be honest with myself about work. There are sometimes when I realize I can’t do everything. There was a challenge I was thinking about doing for the end of the year but now it doesn’t really make the most sense for me because I have a lot of important opportunities coming up for me in the next few weeks. For me it’s really about prioritizing time with the people I love and prioritizing me time.
One promise I made was taking at least two guilt free days off a week. An entrepreneur is very easy to overwork. My entire house feels like a sanctuary for me- we have Himalayan salt crystals in our bedroom and living room; candles are consistently burning in or home.
My environment is peaceful for me and that’s been [most important], making sure that I’m peaceful.
What’s the most rewarding part about what you do?
Helping change take place in people’s lives and seeing people turn that corner from feeling like they’re hopeless with their finances and making them hopeful. I think its important for everyone to have role models from all walks of life whether it’s in fashion, beauty, finance, tech, etc., so for someone to look at someone who looks like them, as being responsible with their money, is also rewarding. And then the freedom. We really own our time and if we don’t want to do something we don’t do it.
How has networking and sisterhood contributed to your experience as an entrepreneur? Who are some women that inspire you?
So many opportunities have come from sisterhood, my Fab Finance has grown because of that. I’m inspired by so many of the women around me, they inspire me to be a better woman and a better sister. My relationship with women has improved because of my business, once you realize that people aren’t your competition, it helps you in life once you start to look at people as assets instead of competition. It’s changed how I viewed women in the same spaces as me but also helps me see the power of women and the power of communities created by women.
Women that inspire include my mother, of course, she’s such a strong loving woman and the amount of love she has for her family encourages me to love others without limit. One of my mentors, Linda Sarsour, she’s a Muslim-American activist and she taught me very early to speak my truth and be unapologetic about who I am because authenticity is your power; Marsha Barnes of the Finance Bar one of the best women I know, I don’t think there’s a negative bone in her body.
Also, Rhonesha Byng of Her Agenda, she just kicks ass. She’s so young, hungry and focused. She’s such a connector and is going to get it done. No one ever slows her agenda, and she lives her brand.