Emilie Bellet: from Private Equity to Founder of Vestpod, empowering women financially

Vestpod’s mission is to make it easier for women to be smarter with their money by sourcing interesting, relevant, independent and trustworthy content relating to personal finances and careers. You’ll no longer have to sift through endless material online – they do all that heavy lifting for you, delivering consistently streamlined, highly curated advice. I spoke to founder Emilie Bellet on the motivations behind her aim to improve female financial empowerment.

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What inspired you to start your company and how did you set about doing this?

I worked in private equity before and while I was good at earning money I realised I was lacking personal finance education and feeling lost managing my money. The wake-up call was after an awkward meeting I had with my financial advisor years ago. The very first thing he said to me was “Where is your husband”?

Women drive the world economy, and are family breadwinners but they aren’t saving enough for retirement, even if they live longer than men. Women also earn on average 80 cents to a man dollar. At the same time, professional financial advice is expensive, intimidating and not well-adjusted to the challenges women face. The money related stress that countless of us face directly translates to low productivity at work, absenteeism and a higher employee turnover rate.

For me, like most people, talking about money is a very personal topic and is still taboo. This is why I decided to embark on this crazy Vestpod’s journey.

Had you had any business experience before this?

Yes in corporate finance, strategy (private equity) but I also launched a first tech startup a few years ago. It was a recruitment marketplace for developer and startups.

How big is your team at the moment?

It’s too small… I work with Melissa who is an amazing writer. But it’s really busy!

How did your fundraise for the business (if applicable)?

I am bootstrapping the business at the moment and looking to grow organically for a bit longer.

How do you promote and PR your business?

Friends sharing the newsletter, events and social media. We also do some content collaboration with women’s blogs and platforms.

What are the challenges with running a company like VP?

Growing at great speed, and getting traction. Being a sole founder can be tough but I have a great support network around me.

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What are the rewards with running such a company?

The feedback from our subscribers. Our mission (“empowering women financially”) is important and we want to change women’s lives for the better. I love hearing that women are in control of their money and that money is not a source of stress and anxiety anymore.

Do you have any other entrepreneurs in your family?

Both my grandfathers used to run their own factories!

What future plans do you have for expanding your vision? Tell us more about some of the aspects you are working on and further developing

Our main goal is to continue growing our newsletter readership. We are launching offline events to meet our community but are also working on videos and podcasts projects. So stay tuned!

What does a typical work day look like for you?

That’s not an easy question! This is what I am doing weekly: meeting finance industry professionals, writing content, sending our newsletter, posting on social media (Instagram and twitter mainly), interviewing women on how they manage their finances, read finance websites and publications… But also try to meditate once a day and see my children on the morning and evenings!

According to surveys and statistics, millennials are notoriously ‘present’ with their money. Preferring to spend and travel than invest or save. What is your opinion on this?

I agree that there has been a change in the way we save and spend money compared to our parents generation. We prefer to spend money on experiences rather than on “things”. Research is actually showing that this contribute to happiness, so it’s a great thing. But I feel there is still a strong money stigma for our generation and we need to break this to feel good about money.

What can be done to improve financial literacy from a young age?

Financial habits are formed between age 5 and 7 according to some research. We have been observing our parents from a very young age: the way they manage money, spend, save and especially talk or not about it. It would be amazing to see personal finance included in the schools’ curriculum. But financial education is also a job for parents at home (easier said than done).

Why do you think a lot of finance is still made relatively inaccessible to the lay person, when it is such a huge component of all of our lives?

I think there is some sort of taboo and anxiety around money. Money is also very personal. There is a lot of information out there on the internet and it can be quite overwhelming. I created Vestpod to make personal finance more accessible, relevant and… interesting.

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I saw you wrote a piece on Bitcoin and Blockchain recently – is this an area you’ve personally invested in and if so, why?

I have been exposed to bitcoin for the past 3 to 4 years working in tech and I have been following cryptocurrencies since them. The tech world is very keen on these and the blockchain technology – but there is still a lot of scepticism out there. I believe that 95% of the cryptocurrencies will fail but what about the remaining 5%…? I could not advise anyone to invest any money in crypto without doing their own due diligence. And also: only invest money you can afford to lose…

What are your top 3 investments currently?

  1. Vestpod 😉
  2. and 3. I am a long-term investor, I have a balanced portfolio that I review quarterly, so nothing too exciting I am afraid!

How does running your own business compare to your previous career?

I really enjoyed my years in private equity and learnt a lot. Vestpod is something I created to change people’s lives for the better.

What’s been your biggest achievement in life thus far?

My family

Launching Vestpod

Playing hockey for the french national team.

And biggest failure?

Closing down my first tech business a few years ago.

What’s been the funniest moment of your career?

Working on a restaurants deal in Istanbul. You have to visit this city, the vibe is really unique.

What do you think the advantages and setbacks are for a female founder in the startup space?

I think it’s great to be a female founder in the startup space. The community here in the UK is open-minded and is changing fast. But still, the main setback for female founders is access to capital: women tend to raise less money and it can take longer for them to raise.

Why do you think that statistically, there are far fewer females than males in the finance and tech space?

I think these are industries that historically appeal more to men. Why? Because they are lacking more female role models and senior women.

Who were your role models growing up?

I use to play hockey for the French national team so I assume sports people and fellow players. I also had exposure to senior business people during my studies at ESCP. Today, Sara Blakely, Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou, Martha Lane Fox to name a few.

Did you have a mentor or people you asked for advice?

I have a great community of female founders I can call and ask for advice anytime! I was part of the Google Campus for Mums program this year, we meet regularly and have a Slack channel that’s quite active.

How has what you do changed you as a person?

I feel in control and I am much more balanced than in my previous corporate life. I work hard and give myself tough objectives but I also have lots of flexibility – mainly to see my children.

How do you like to take time out for yourself and stay healthy and active?

I try to practice yoga 2-3 times a week but it’s definitely a challenge. I am making the most of my day in the office to be able to see my family in the mornings and evenings. My new year resolution is to meditate daily (so far so good!).

What are the top 5 books and blogs on your reading list?

I love bookshops and definitely own too many books. Books (this is a mix of business, fiction and money books): Financially Fearless by Alexa Von Tobel for some money management basics, everything from Elena Ferrante, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, Girlboss by Sofia Amuroso, The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity by Andrew Scott and Lynda Gratton.

Blogs: I am a big fan of Leandra Medine from Man Repeller, NiaFaraway of course :), The Broadsheet (not a blog but a daily newsletter by Fortune), How I Build This by Guy Raz on npr podcast.

If you could do any other job, aside from what you do now, what would it be?

Astronaut?

Do you have any unconventional words of advice?

I love this quote from Sara Blakely from Spanx: “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”

What is your motto?

Enjoy the journey – not only the destination.

If money and time were no object, what would be on your to-do and to-see list?

To-do:

Empower women to start their own business, give them the confidence and the means to achieve their dreams.

Travel around the world.

Have a big family.

To-see:

Japan again. Australia and New Zealand.

The moon?

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