Today we present Olga Camargo as part of The Startup Magazine’s Female Founder Interview series. Olga has a great story as CEO and Founder of SHENIX, a Chicago-based fintech app company focused on financial education and advisory services for Latinas.
SHENIX helps close the wealth gap to accelerate Latinas economic and social transformation through culturally compatible financial education, professionally qualified Latino/x advisors and career coaches that speak English and Spanish.
Olga is perfectly positioned to offer financial advice with over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. She launched her financial practice, FARO Associates LLC (Latina/woman-owned/Minority Business Enterprise), and new fintech project, SHENIX, on her culturally-relevant financial services research and community needs.
Olga’s many accomplishments include:
- 2021 Chair for FORBES Business Council’s Financial Services Industry Group
- Negocios Now named Olga among Chicago’s Most Influential 50 Latinos
- Crain’s Chicago Business named Olga among “Chicago’s Most Powerful Latinos” in 2019
- Aspen Ideas Festival Ricardo Salinas Scholar
- Chicago’s 1871 Chicago’s Technology and IHCC’s LatinX Incubator Selection
- Diversity MBA Magazine Top 100 Under 50 Executive Leader and Top 100 Women of Influence
- University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Business Administration Alumni Leadership Academy Inductee
- Chicago Council on Global Affairs 2010 Emerging Leaders Program Selection
- Commissioner on the Board of the Public Building Commission Chaired by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
- National Board Chair for the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (100k members).
- Olga serves on the IL State Treasurer’s Hispanic Advisory Council
- IL Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation Economic Development Committee
- Northeastern Illinois University Foundation Board
Let’s learn more of Olga’s story from our interview…
TSM: Describe your newest project, SHENIX, in 10 words or less:
Olga: SHENIX accelerates Latinas’ economic and social transformation.
TSM: With a bit more detail, tell us more about your business and your app and why is it important to focus on Latinas?
Olga: Our mission is to address Latina Equal Pay Day and support Latinas in closing the wealth gap, the widest faced by any group in the U.S.
SHENIX™ is an innovative financial company built by Latinas/x, for Latinas/x, providing culturally relevant financial education to the Latina/x community to help them accelerate their economic and social transformation while prioritizing their cultural mindset.
SHENIX™ offers financial education, financial services through its partners, career planning, and salary negotiation resources, all of which support Latinas/x life goals.
TSM: What elements of your background inspired you to focus on financial education for Latinas?
Olga: I would like to answer this question by describing three personal scenarios:
1. Experience Working with Mom at Bridal Shop
While I was in high school, I worked part-time, side by side, with my mother at that bridal shop. She taught me much about business, including how to help our customers select gowns and accessories that symbolized their eagerness for a new life, a new happy beginning.
I witnessed my mother’s business acumen— the way she provided customer service, offered wonderful gowns, and ensured her customers to know that they, indeed, would have that promised new beginning. During this time, different vendors would visit the shop to pitch their products or services. One day, a financial representative approached my mom with a service pitch. He only spoke English, and my mother only spoke Spanish. So, I stepped in as a temporary translator.
Immediately, the consultant stopped speaking to my mother, a long-time business owner who handled customers for years. Instead, he solely pitched his product to me, a 14-year-old high school student. It was as though my mother had vanished from the room.
She didn’t vanish, and neither did that scene from my mind. I just kept thinking: This isn’t right. Unfortunately, this situation wasn’t an anomaly. My mother and other owners like her had a long list of similar experiences, where they were discounted or overlooked simply because they were Spanish-speaking Latinas.
While Latinas are often the primary financial decision-makers in their households, they often lack the necessary tools and resources needed to empower them to make the best financial decisions for their homes, communities, and businesses.
2. My own experience
Suffering the pay gap within the corporate setting, I needed guidance on salary negotiation and career growth, especially when I learned that I was making less than the people I was supervising. I knew this was not unique to me and was happening to other Latinas per conversations.
3. Experience Working as Financial Advisor for Over a Decade
When I joined the financial industry as a financial advisor and began working with Latino-run and serving nonprofits and helped manage their 401K and 403b Retirement plans, I also presented 401K education sessions. These were primarily attended by Latina employees. I learned so much about their ongoing financial needs beyond retirement. We’ve impacted 3,000 lives through our work, provided virtual financial education, advocated for our community within the financial industry, and helped to lead financial seminars at national Latino conferences.
TSM: During the Pandemic, most people’s jobs and financial situations have been impacted in some way. How has the Pandemic changed the way one should approach their finances?
Olga: I always tell people to be proactive!
Having experienced the pandemic, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when overseeing your finances:
- Building emergency savings to cover six months of monthly expenses is a must.
- Getting life insurance for family members is crucial to ensure that the family doesn’t become financially ruined if a key family provider passes away.
- Doing homework. Latinas and anyone looking to jump back into the workforce need to do their research to ensure they are getting equal pay. Some resources help with this.
- Budgeting yourself to better weather the unexpected.
- Saving for your future.
TSM: Can you cite a particular success story that exemplifies how better financial planning impacted your client’s financial condition, one that motivates you?
Olga: I’ve talked to many people in my life about reaping the benefits at work. I always think about the janitor who I met at a hospital who only spoke Spanish. He had missed out on the hospital’s retirement savings match for 20 years because he didn’t participate in the hospital’s retirement plan. That example motivated me to get more involved in sharing information with people that needed to be more engaged with their employer’s benefits.
TSM: What do you say to someone that feels they’ve been dealt a bad hand in life and they’ll never find financial security and success?
Olga: We’ve all suffered losses. You’re not alone.
We all have to get back up, but this time seek the information that we need to make overall better financial decisions. With information, you’ll feel more confident about the decisions you make, and your mindset will shift. Let’s start with small steps and you’ll be moving forward soon with leaps and bounds. Be part of a community that is looking forward to getting ahead.
TSM: On the business side, give us a bit more background on the SHENIX launch. What are your first major hurdles in getting your first app version launched?
Olga: As a startup, we’ve been self-funding because our mission is important to move forward. Along with our attorneys, we have been discussing the best and most impactful way to launch. Setting up the entity correctly and positioning it takes time and patience because we sometimes have to wait for others, but it’s all worth it.
On Dec. 6, however, we were able to do a pre-launch from New York City’s Rockefeller Center, thanks to NBCUniversal Telemundo. They understood the importance of SHENIX and sponsored us.
TSM: What have been the other primary challenges in your own entrepreneurial journey? Hiring? Marketing? Finding capital?
Olga: I would say marketing has been the main challenge, but our Latinx media champions have stepped up to join the cause and have been helping us get the word out. They have assisted us with articles, podcasts, interviews, and social media.
Universities and colleges are also in the mix of helping us with SHENIX and spreading the word as college students have noticed us and are now helping us with TikTok posts, and they want to do more. It’s almost like a movement, and SHENIX is at the center.
We could move forward faster with more partners who are committed to making our world better for Latinas so they can finally build their financial legacy and anyone else who identifies with this group.
TSM: As a long-time entrepreneur yourself, going back to your early life decisions, tell us what factors influenced your decision to be an entrepreneur.
Olga: I worked with my mom from middle school to college. I then worked for corporate America (the financial industry) but also knew what could be done better to service women and minority communities.
I’ve never been good at asking for permission to be creative and deliver impactful service when it matters.
Entrepreneurship gives me the freedom, a white canvas, to create what I know the world needs.
TSM: With all of your experience as an entrepreneur, what is the most important advice you can offer other startup founders?
Olga: Two things:
Dream Big and Bring It to Life!
Don’t Walk In Anyone’s Shoes, Build Your Own.
TSM: Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.
Olga: I’m on this earth to serve others and help people live happy lives.