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Friday, December 8, 2023

‘Just Do It!’ The Curve’s Victoria Harris On Why The Best Time To Start A Business – And Start Taking Control Of Your Money! – Is Now

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Combining their careers in finance and content production, Victoria Harris and Sophie Hallwright created The Curve as a safe space for women to learn about investing and looking after their money. They believe ‘no question is a silly question’ and that educating women about money is a key tool in closing the gender pay gap.

Victoria has over a decade’s experience in the investment and finance industry – including as a fund manager – and Sophie’s career has seen her work across TV and radio producing content for also over 10 years. They are a powerful duo and The Curve has already found a home as a trusted platform for many Kiwi women.

Here are some of our highlights from our Capsule Chats Over Coffee Instagram live with Victoria – co-founder and Head Of Finance – about finding the road trip conversation that started The Curve, working and living together during lockdowns and her top piece of advice for women wanting to start their own business. To watch the full Instagram Live chat, click here.

How did you and your co-founder, Sophie, first get together and come up with the idea for The Curve?
Sophie and I have been friends for a number of years now and she’s always been asking for little bits of financial knowledge and financial advice, and a lot of my other friends had as well. I’ve been in the industry for nearly 15 years now and constantly had people coming up to me saying, “Hey, Vic, can I sit down with you for five minutes – I’ve got a bit of money, or I want to start and I don’t know where,” and I was more than happy to do that.

“If there are this many of my female friends asking these questions, there must be so many other females that are feeling the same way that don’t have anyone to go to.”

Something went off in my head that was said, “If there are this many of my female friends and my family within my community asking these questions, there must be so many other females that are feeling the same way that don’t have anyone to go to.” So Sophie and I sat down and thought, it seems like there’s a place missing for women to go and learn about investing, and maybe they can be pointed in the right direction to a platform or a service where they can learn more.

So we set up The Curve 18 months ago and in retrospect, we were blown away by the response, which shows there is an obvious need for something like this in the community. For myself and Sophie, we have very different skill sets – I’m more the finance side, I’ve got the experience and the knowledge in that space and she’s very much representing our audience, in terms of the females that want to learn about finance or investing, and then she also brings the content creation side. I’m the finance gal and she’s the creative gal, and it works really well.

That’s a great combo! So starting a business is always a brave move but it’s particularly challenging in a pandemic. How did you find taking that step – both in starting your own business and in starting it during a pandemic?
There was definitely hesitancy for a long time and it was definitely scary and intimidating, to set up your own business. How would we be perceived? Whether or not it would be successful? All those things go on in your head. It was the case of someone saying ‘Just start: don’t have these big expectations of what it needs to be. I mean, it’s great to have goals in place but don’t intimidate yourself. If you can just start organically and see how it goes.’

“The more people we reach, the more lives we can change, as cliché as it sounds.”

Literally within the first week we had our first event with 30 people and it was quite intimate – it was mainly just friends and support people and we had feedback from that event, from one friend, who said ‘I changed my KiwiSaver based on what you said and now I can’t believe what I was previously getting and what I’m getting now,’ and that just made it so worthwhile. Even getting feedback like that from one person makes you realise that we’ve got to keep doing this, because the more people we reach, the more lives we can change, as cliché as it sounds.

And then during the pandemic, it made us have to pivot a lot because we were having large-scale events and not being able to do that has meant we’ve had to go online, but then the positive of that means being able to reach a lot of women outside Auckland, and outside of New Zealand, which we might not have been able to do so quickly if we had only been doing large-scale events in Auckland.

So there’s what you think is a negative that can quickly turn into a positive. It’s about being flexible and not getting too hung up on how things were supposed to go and then how they’re going now, because I think everything really happens for a reason.

When you work so much from home, how do you create boundaries so that there’s a gap between ‘work you’ and ‘home you,’ and so you actually get some time out?
I think it’s a case – particularly with the second lockdown that ended at the end of last year – I just tried to not be so hard on myself. it’s okay to have a bad day, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s okay for things to not be going as they should. I’ve tried to think that with my friends and family, as well. People have bad days – we live in an uncertain environment where nobody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow or what changes are going to be made that we’re going to have to live with, so it’s about being a bit more fluid and not getting too stressed out about things if they don’t go to plan.

And then also, with last year, I just tried to keep in a routine as much as I could, so there was at least a bit of normality. Sophie and I were actually living together during lockdown, so that was quite good for business! But we definitely learnt ourselves about resilience and communication was a key thing for us – like I said, I might be having a bad day and getting frustrated with the situation and it’s about letting her know and being open with each other. I think lockdown was probably the best thing for us in terms of building that communication.

You’re 18 months down the track in terms of starting the business; if you could go back, what do you wish you had known at the start of it all?
Just do it! I think the response that we’ve had to date kind of makes me guilty that we didn’t start it earlier, because we’ve had such a good response and it was a discussion for 12-18 months before we even started. So thinking about ‘gosh, if we’d started earlier, where would we be today?’ But you can’t think like that; we started when we started.

“When we started The Curve, we had a plan in place of what we thought it would be and what we thought it would look like and it’s so different in terms of the services we offer.”

But [my advice] would be: do it. And don’t put pressure on yourself in terms of what a business should be, or if it’s not going to plan. Because when we started The Curve, we had a plan in place of what we thought it would be and what we thought it would look like and it’s so different in terms of the services we offer. A podcast was never in the pipeline from the beginning but once we started doing that, it was hugely successful and now it’s very much part of how our community absorb our content. That’s the great thing about running your own business, you can make it what you want.

And with The Curve, we really have listened to what our community wants; we’ve got a really good feedback loop… they’re really good at giving us positive and negative feedback about topics they want to learn about and how they want to digest the content. That’s really helped put The Curve in a direction that’s really beneficial for loads of women.

You talk about how the idea for The Curve had been germinating for 12-18 months; what did that preparation time look like in terms of getting started?
I guess it started actually while we were stuck in traffic getting back from a holiday in the Hawke’s Bay… it was a kind of ad hoc discussion about what it could look like, and then a bit of research about what else was out there. It really started through Instagram; we started posting quotes and facts and ‘things you should know about investing’.

From there, we thought ‘we should be creating a community,’ so we started a website. And then there are a lot of services in the pipeline that we’re going to launch this year. But we decided to do events in that time as well and the events just got bigger and bigger.

Sophie’s background is in producing so she was very well-versed in the podcast space, she was like ‘we need to do a podcast because it’s such an easy way to learn.’ We did a market research survey before we started, including ‘how would you like to learn’ and so many women said things like ‘well, when I’m breast-feeding it would be great to have something to listen to… when I’m out for a walk.’ We have to cater to every different lifestyle and every different way that people want to digest the content.

What would you say to a woman reading this who have a business idea but they need that extra kick of bravery, or they’re wondering if it’s the right time to start, what’s your biggest piece of advice for them?
There’s probably never a right time, to be honest. You can always make excuses, so I would say ‘Just take the leap.’ Otherwise you’re always sitting there thinking ‘what if!’ It’s so rewarding, creating something that really makes a difference and that you can put your stamp on and make your own.

“And take the leap in a small way – if you’re scared or you don’t have to the time or the resource that other people might have, take a small step.”

With The Curve, being able to create a business that not only benefits a lot of women but that we are really proud of is something really special. I’m really excited to see it grow and grow; who knows what it’s going to be become but that’s the exciting part. And take the leap in a small way – if you’re scared or you don’t have to the time or the resource that other people might have, take a small step. That’s what we say with investing as well; don’t start with your whole pay cheque, take a little step and see how you go and build your confidence. It’s the same with running your own business.

What are you working on now that you’re excited about?
Oh, there’s so much. Every year, we’re like “oh, this year is a one-off,” or we go through a period when we’re thinking, “when we get a quiet period, we’ll be able to do this,” and then it never happens, which I guess is a good thing! But 2022 is exciting for The Curve; we’ve got a lot of things in the pipeline, we’re about to launch an online course, which is very exciting and hopefully we can get back to doing some events!

At our last in-person event, we had 250 women and just seeing that many women in one space, getting excited about investing, is so special. We just want to reach more and more women and really make a difference to their financial future.

For more from our Capsule’s Chats Over Coffee series, visit our chat with Brodie Kane on starting her own business after redundancy and The Mind Lab founder Frances Valintine on the ‘aha moment’ at 40 that changed her professional life.

This article is only for your information. It’s not professional advice (financial, legal, or otherwise) and can’t be relied upon. If you do use or rely on it, then no one, including BNZ, is liable for any resulting losses (both direct and indirect). Opinions may not be the same as BNZ (or anyone else). For help, please contact BNZ or your professional advisor.

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