Jacki Zehner - My Journey Is Really My Money Story (Consultant, Investor, Founder - Zehner LLC)


 I grew up in a small town in Canada, I studied finance at the University of British Columbia, and I landed an analyst position at Goldman Sachs in New York City upon graduation in 1988. 

1. Tell us more about your company and your journey.

I'm going to start with my journey, as that is what has led me to start a new company, ShePlace. My journey is really my money story, and one of the main things ShePlace will do is support women in becoming more engaged around their financial resources. I grew up in a small town in Canada, I studied finance at the University of British Columbia, and I landed an analyst position at Goldman Sachs in New York City upon graduation in 1988. 

Eight years later, I became the youngest woman and first female trader to make a partner. I loved working in the field of finance, and I worked really hard to recruit, retain, and promote other women in the field. I learned that money really does matter, and if we are ever going to achieve gender equality, an issue I care deeply about, then engaging women around their finances is going to be key. 

I left Goldman in 2002, and I spent the next decade learning as much as I could about the wealth management business. I then spent the next decade actively involved in women’s philanthropy, including co-founding a global philanthropic network called Women Moving Millions. Now, I am going to take all that I have learned to help mobilize unprecedented resources towards the advancement of women and girls.
 
2. How did you come up with this idea and go about executing it?
 
To be clear, I am just getting started, but this is what I know for sure. Women right now have tremendous amounts of financial power that could be used to make the world a more just and equitable place. One thing I obsessively do is collect reports, studies, and research on anything and everything related to women and girls. If you click here, you will find over 650 of these reports. 

Taken together, the picture they paint is that although women and girls are undervalued, under-resourced, and under-represented, we are the key to making the world a better place. And I really do mean that. So what I hope to do is curate and amplify amazing content, create community, and give women the opportunity to do things that will create positive change in both their own lives and in the world at large.
 
3. What has been your biggest challenge that you faced and how did you overcome that?
 
The list of challenges I'm currently facing is long indeed because I am just getting started. However, the biggest challenge is that I am trying to roll almost four decades of learning into a business model. And that is proving to be easier said than done. At a macro level, I want to build a platform that could be described as Facebook meets LinkedIn meets Clubhouse meets TED meets MasterClass, but specifically for women. That is obviously a tall order, and perhaps even impossible, but we have to start somewhere.   
 
4. What do you think are the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur?
 
I am an active angel investor, and I currently have a portfolio of 17 companies that you can see here. I have had the opportunity to watch many female founders, and the list of qualities that make them successful varies a bit depending on their businesses and situations. That being said, of the ones who have been or are currently on a successful path, almost all of them have a deep passion for what they are doing. They live and breathe it, and they work ridiculously hard. Of course, they also know how to hire good people, fundraise, and have domain expertise, but amazing entrepreneurs all have a curious mindset and can pivot if they need to.
 
5. What are some of the most important factors for running a successful business?
 
I still have a lot to learn, but what I know from running my business within Goldman and Women Moving Millions is that you need to hire really good people and truly support them in doing their jobs. And communication. I am all about clear communication. In my opinion, there's no such thing as over-communication.
 
6. What are your tips for first-time and aspiring entrepreneurs?
 
Over the years I have met dozens of aspiring entrepreneurs, and the ones who really stand out are the ones who were completely sure in terms of the WHAT and the WHY behind their businesses, as well as having a really good idea of the HOW. Starting your own business is really hard, so make sure there is a really good reason for doing it, especially if that journey is going to require you to take in outside investment. And fair warning, not only is raising outside capital super hard, but it also comes with a lot of strings attached, as it should. 

It's important to note that there is a narrative out there that any and all businesses should raise capital when in reality, the vast majority are not the types of businesses that should seek traditional investment capital. Taking smaller steps to prove the concept while bringing in revenue along the way can be a smart way to go. That being said, if you have a big idea and/or a scalable idea, go for it!
  
7. It sounds like that in your opinion, it's very difficult to start a business. If this is the case, why are you doing so?
 
Great question. For me, I see an unmet need and I want to try to fill it. It's been said that the best business ideas come from founders who want something for themselves that they cannot find. My whole adult life I have been searching for a PLACE to go that could help me connect with resources, opportunities, and people who share a commitment to advancing gender equality. And while I have found networks, non-profit organizations, and/or other platforms that check some of the boxes I'm looking for, I have never found a PLACE that has clicked all of them. Or even most of them. I want that, and I am willing to invest my money and time to try and build it myself. It is simply unacceptable to me that in 2021 we are not further along when it comes to creating a more gender-just world, and I absolutely have to do all that I can to try and make it so.  
 
Note: ShePlace has not yet been formally launched. If you want to be the first to know when it is, follow Jacki on LinkedIn, or add your name to our mailing list here.


Jacki Zehner | Consultant, Investor, Founder - Zehner LLC

Interviewed By - Shubh Jani

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