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From Law to Financial Education: My First Nest Egg

From Law to Financial Education: My First Nest Egg

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From Law to Financial Education: My First Nest Egg

My First Nest Egg StartUp Story 1 1

Some people set out to carve their own path, but others find it purely by chance. Circumstances and a keen sense of opportunity can be the only thing stopping you from becoming your own boss.

For Nicolle Hood and Annie Shoen, the founders of Phoenix, Arizona-based My First Nest Egg, that circumstance was the lockdowns during the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“We started noticing that our kids were financially illiterate and somewhat entitled. They didn’t understand money, nor how hard it can be to earn. They thought “free shipping” on Amazon meant things were free. Their textbooks weren’t teaching them, and we weren’t doing a good job at home,” Annie Shoen said. “We went searching for a solution and couldn’t find one that was age-appropriate. We found a stat that said money habits were set by age 7. Financial education in the U.S. doesn’t start until high school.”

Shoen and Hood, who had spent their careers practicing the law, saw an opportunity and took it.

My First Nest Egg gives credit unions and banks an avenue to connect with their communities and schools with ready-to-use marketing materials, a digital piggy bank and a “chore and allowance” app to help kids actualize concepts around earning and saving money.

In starting their business, they had to put their own financial smarts to work.

My First Nest Egg began as a self-funded venture with Hood and Shoen pulling from their savings – Hood was still working full-time as well – to get it off the ground.

The duo quickly learned that even with a great business idea, there’s no playbook to finding success. Each entrepreneur has to carve out their own path.

“At the beginning, we had nothing to do because we didn’t know how to start a company. Nicole would come over to my house, and we would just sit there and try to figure out what to do,” Shoen said. We just met every day and figured out how to move forward.”

The pair started by marketing their services directly to consumers but soon switched to a Business-to-business model, focusing on pitching to financial institutions.

“We didn’t have the budget to do all the marketing we needed for a consumer-facing business. We tried that for six months and then realized (business-to-business) was a better route,” Shoen said.

Their instincts were on the money.

“We made our first sale in probably September, 2022. It took us a while to get it,” Shoen said. “I remember sitting down with a mentor, we’ve decided to switch to business-facing, and he said to us, ‘okay, so you sell it, then what? How do they distribute it? So we had to come up with a plan for distribution and when it finally came together we made our first sale.”

MFNE StartUp Story

My First Nest Egg has since partnered with 16 credit unions around the country and has been featured in multiple publications.

As with all new businesses, the duo experienced their share of failure, but didn’t let it slow them down.

“We’ll never forget one of our first pitches wherein we went down in absolute flames,” Nicolle Hood said. “Just an utter disaster. The comments were beyond condescending. We walked out of the room, found a cafe, sat down and developed a plan to ensure it would never happen again, and it (hasn’t).”

Another key lesson: Return on Investment. Not just financial investment though – time and energy. Hood said some of their biggest failures came from focusing too much on an idea before determining if its worth the payoff.

“On the one hand, we made so many mistakes – would we go back and correct them? Of course,” Hood said. “On the other hand, those mistakes led us to where we are today. They helped us grow as founders, and working through those mistakes solidified our relationship as co-founders.

As self-described “accidental entrepreneurs,” they also had a lot to learn and took advantage of every resource they could. They sought out mentorships across multiple disciplines, from tech to sales to business, and took advantage of tools like Bubble – an app-building program for those with no coding experience.

The duo said books like “Rocket Fuel” by Mark Winters and Gino Wickman, Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich,” and David Hoffeld’s “The Science of Selling,” among others, were instrumental in helping them get the company off the ground.

In reflecting on how they got where they are today, both Hood and Shoen said they were encouraged to make the leap into entrepreneurship less because they wanted to work for themselves than because they saw a problem that needed solving.

“There was less of a giant leap into entrepreneurship and more of a gradual process of becoming immersed in the problem,” Hood said. “The financial illiteracy epidemic is destroying lives and families. We can help, so we’re just going to keep showing up every day we feel we can make an impact.”

Shoen added perseverance is key to succeeding when you strike out on your own.

“There’s this meme floating around that says, “We didn’t do this because it was easy; we did this because we thought it would be easy. You think your idea is genius, and then gradually it sets in that it’s really, really hard,” Shoen said. “That’s where believing in your mission is critical. Now we are so immersed in the day-to-day minutia of running a business, but our favorite thing to do still is talk about the problem and our solution because we’re still so passionate about why we started this business in the first place.”

Financial literacy training for elementary—and middle-school-age children is a niche market, but just because My First Nest Egg was the only business in the market doesn’t mean it was an overnight hit.

Shoen said she and Hood laugh at the idea of “overnight success.”

“People find you overnight, but you’ve been there for five or 10 years.”

Making that first sale was the biggest hurdle of all. Since then, every subsequent partnership has gotten easier because they’re not just pitching themselves and their passion for their product but also have clients whose endorsement can convince potential partners to sign up.

“At the beginning, sales can be very difficult and demoralizing. Our advice is to believe in yourself and your product because it’s that energy and enthusiasm that will help bridge the initial gap before you have testimonials and data,” Shoen said. “Founder-led sales are very important at the beginning because no one is as passionate about the product as its creators.”

Their other piece of advice is that if you’re going into business with a partner, make sure it’s someone you trust.

It can be a big, intimidating prospect to identify a gap in the market and find the niche to start a business that could not only succeed but that you’re passionate about as well. But not every entrepreneur gets going that way. The opportunity could be in your home right now, a problem you’ve stopped seeing, or something you’ve accepted as unchangeable.

What’s your My First Nest Egg moment? Just as everyday struggles led to a groundbreaking business for Nicolle and Annie, your current challenges might turn into your success story. Join the conversation in the comments and share the potential business idea you’ve been contemplating!

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From Law to Financial Education: My First Nest Egg

From Law to Financial Education: My First Nest Egg

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