Friday Future Leaders: Alexa Von Tobel|
We all feel the pressure for higher education. College degrees are a non negotiable for our generation these days and it feels like an MBA just keeps you “on par” with the competition. With the pressures for education mounting, can you imagine your galpal walking away from Harvard Business School midway through? A few might call her enlightened, some might call her brave, but you would probably consider her nuts.
Alexa von Tobel must have been just crazy, brave, or enlightened enough. In 2008, she walked away from that Crimson MBA to stake her claim on the world of female-centric finance by founding LearnVest, now the leading personal finance website for women. LearnVest has been described as “Weight Watchers-but for money,” giving young women a personalized plan to stay out of debt, manage accounts, set financial goals and have the tools to stay financially accountable.
The leap into the world of financial advice was primed years prior when von Tobel worked for Morgan Stanley. According to Inc. Magazine, she was responsible for managing investments, but ironically, she didn’t have the knowledge to manage her own finances. And there wasn’t a book or guide out there that could help-one that understood the needs of a twenty-something woman looking to take control of her financial future. So she embarked on writing it, in the form of a female-friendly online platform.
Von Tobel took a risk by leaving Harvard Business School, but she saw the need in the market to help women like her, which was followed with incredible support. She enlisted the counsel of women like Betsy Morgan, the former CEO of Huffington Post, and before long she had $1.1 million in seed funding from executives at Goldman Sachs followed by a $4.5 million investment round by Accel Partners. The site now boasts over 500 thousand unique monthly users, and von Tobel is a female powerhouse on the rise.
Von Tobel’s story is a lovely reminder to get risky, to get uncomfortable. Just as Fran Hauser, President of Digital in Style & Entertainment and Lifestyle Groups at Time Inc., discussed in our recent Office Hours; key decisions, even risky ones, often work out when we follow our instincts. Well, von Tobel followed her instincts, and has emerged as a Gen Y superstar– one we can all learn from. That Harvard MBA and those opinions of others weren’t enough to keep her from acting. Rather, she focused on her entrepreneurial pursuit: a chance to help other women in her domain of expertise. Her skills were devoted to the greater good of helping our generation get financially savvy, and she is having incredible success doing it. We can only imagine the type of leadership we’ll see from Von Tobel in years to come.
L(L)ers, it is time to get risky and be the Gen Y leaders of tomorrow. Or better yet, be the Gen Y leaders of today.
Maxie McCoy has a Bachelor’s degree and a Masters from Lehigh in Journalism and Media, respectively. She is the co-writer of Less Work More Money and has experience hosting for Fox Sports Southwest. Follow her @maxiemccoy