Most people look at their student loan debt with crippling fear and resentment.
Kara Perez used to be one of those people too, until her quarter-life crisis gave her the clarity and motivation to make a change.
With $25,000 in student loan debt and an income of less than $32,000, Kara capitalized on multiple side hustles and every opportunity that came her way and managed to pay off all of her debt. After this incredible feat, she realized there was a lack of financial resources and education available, specifically for women.
This led her to create Bravely, a community for connecting women and money through online tools and in-person financial literacy events. Since launching in January 2017, Bravely has held a variety events and workshops that cover topics like saving for retirement, funding a business and even sustainable shopping. Basically, Bravely is making finance fun and approachable!
Read on to learn more about her views on finance, entrepreneurship and how she defines success.
What motivated you to start Bravely?
I was motivated to start Bravely by two things: telling women about how I paid off my student loans on a low salary and seeing that their reaction was one of resignation or sadness. When I would say that I paid off $25,000 in loans on a salary of less than $32,000, women would almost always say ‘Oh I could never do that.’ And I was like ‘Yes you can! You just need the tools and info to do it!’ I looked around and saw that no one was doing exactly that and thought ‘Well, I can do that!’
I was also inspired by the lack of financial transparency in our world. We’re very quick to hold up millionaires and business success stories, but we don’t talk about what it took financially to get there. Who paid rent while you were working on your clothing line? How much of your personal money did it take to start your branding agency? Did you get investors or use personal money? These questions are so important in getting other people, especially women, to start their own businesses, and NO ONE is talking about them! So I strive to shine a light on these topics with Bravely.
How do you balance Bravely with your other gigs?
Since I freelance write for the majority of my income, I basically have several bosses each month. I started batching my work days in June and it’s been a game changer. I do freelance work on Monday and Thursday, take meetings on Tuesdays, and do Bravely work on Wednesdays. Fridays are a catch all day, where I do whatever I didn’t get to earlier in the week. This has worked well for me and allows me to fight distraction. I’m just as susceptible as the next person to spending too much time on social media or just avoiding work.
“We’re very quick to hold up millionaires and business success stories, but we don’t talk about what it took financially to get there.”
What has been the most unexpected part about starting your own business?
The flow of things! You will have slow months and months where you blink and it’s gone. Sometimes it feels like shouting into a void, and sometimes I feel like I’m killing it. It’s a rollercoaster ride for sure.
How do you define success?
For me success is freedom. I want the freedom to do whatever I want with Bravely. Success is less a number or an accomplishment than it is knowing that I have control over my life. Freelancing offers some of that, but when you’re growing a new business you often have to make compromises. I’d love to get to the point that Beyonce got to with ‘Lemonade’. She got to create that from top to bottom the way she wanted to. She told the story she wanted to tell, worked with the people she wanted, wore what she wanted. To me, that’s success.
Favorite thing to do in Austin after a long week?
I go hiking almost every weekend. I’ve been on pretty much every trail in the city! I like hiking because it’s essentially glorified walking and it’s a chance to spend some time in nature. Getting outside is really important to me, especially after a week in front of the computer. If it’s been especially tough I might treat myself to a tofu bahn mi sandwich from Pho Van.
If you could give one finance tip to entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Number one tip: open a separate business checking account and get a separate business credit card. Keeping your personal and business finances separate is so important for taxes and your sanity!
How do you see Bravely growing over the next five years?
I have so many dreams for Bravely. I want to develop an app, I want to grow outside of Austin, I want to interview female business owners all over the country, and I want to do more media. There’s a lot to say and do in our world and I want to be a part of it all!