Women’s Entrepreneurship is key to improving the social and economic growth of societies across the world, but it seems like the area is insufficiently acknowledged. Although there are women leaders and entrepreneurs who are taking over the business world, we still have to work a lot on creating a conducive and free environment for everyone hoping to achieve success in the entrepreneurial and corporate world.
As we speak of women’s entrepreneurship, The Chief’s Digest is proud and grateful to have the opportunity of featuring the story of Ksenia Yudina, the founder & CEO of UNest, who is striving to help parents give their children a financial head start.
Leaders like Ksenia set glorious examples of how women, just like her, can find a footing and place for themselves in society and the business world.
Below is an edited excerpt from Ksenia’s interview with The Chief’s Digest.
How did you come up with the idea or concept for your business?
The cost of education keeps going up and if we talk about student debt, it has reached $1.7 Trillion, which is huge. Even I graduated from UCLA Anderson with a massive student loan.
I saw many families struggling to meet the cost of education. It’s devastating. As an example, a family friend of ours just graduated from USC’s Dentistry School with $500k in loans. It will take her a big chunk of her career to pay that back. That is becoming the norm, student by student, family by family.
When I went to work at Capital Group/ American Funds, the largest provider of 529 college savings plans in the country, I realized that countless families did not have access to a convenient way to avoid the kind of loans and debt that I had experienced. Plus, when my friends asked me to help them plan financially for their kid’s future education, I would send them a long 15-page application form.
They were seriously put off by having to do the paperwork, FedEx the form around, etc. They were using apps like Venmo and Robinhood, so filling out long forms was alien to them!
I realized that this was a category that was ripe for disruption with technology. It was tough to see how a large financial institution could move quickly enough to solve the problem, so I decided to do it myself.
What are your company offerings?
UNest is the money app for your kids’ future. The company’s iOS and Android apps and Investment Account for Kids have achieved an outstanding level of success since becoming widely available across the United States in February 2020.
UNest demystifies the previously complex process of setting up saving plans for education and other important life stages with a paperless approach that takes only five minutes to set up. The app also includes a simple gifting feature that makes it easy for family and friends to contribute to a child’s account.
UNest Reward is a program that puts money directly into your account when you shop with brands you love such as Disney+, Nike, or DoorDash. These partners pay us an affiliate fee when a UNest customer signs up for their service or buys their product.
Every business, big or small, gets its fair share of challenges, especially during the initial days. Tell us about your challenges and how you managed to overcome them.
One of the biggest challenges earlier in my career was having a vision of innovation at a legacy institution, but with that comes complexities as they are notorious for the lack of innovation due to their conservative ways. I overcame this challenge by being persistent and recruiting a fantastic team to support me. My work ethic has always been a strength of mine and when I’ve been presented with a challenge, I rely on it to beat the competition.
Early on fundraising was a challenge because 98% of venture capital goes to male founders. I did not let this deter me. I outworked my male counterparts and was ultimately successful in raising my round Seed, Series A, and recently Series B financing.
How do you define success? Do you think there is some sort of a formula to become successful?
At UNest we define success by our ability to help parents. We quantify this success with the number of parents and children on our platform, which currently stands at over 300,000, and their reviews of our app, which currently sits at 4.8 stars on the app store.
What do you think is the most unique aspect of your business?
The launch of UNest learn has been a terrific success and an opportunity for us to help educate our community on a variety of financial literacy topics. While we do not charge for this content it has become a unique differentiator of our business because it allows us to support our families with the training and support they need to thrive.
Business leaders have always emphasized the habit of reading for success, on the record. Is there a book that you draw inspiration from?
The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham is a must-read for anyone looking to invest. Crucial Conversation is an important book for anyone looking to lead a fintech company because it offers suggestions on how to navigate challenging moments.
Often, I’ve found myself in situations where, stakes are high, and emotions run strong. It is important to have a framework for resolving issues and that book helped me develop one.
Where do you see your company a few years from now?
We are quickly becoming the leader in saving and investing solutions for parents and families. As we close our Series B next week, I believe we are on a trajectory to IPO in the next three years.
Meet The Leader of UNest | Ksenia Yudina, the Founder & CEO
Ksenia is an entrepreneur and financial expert with over ten years of experience in the financial industry. As the Founder and CEO of UNest, she has spearheaded the development of the breakthrough fintech solution and raised funding from leading venture capital funds including Northwestern Mutual, Anthos Capital, The Artemis Fund, Group 11, Draper Dragon, Unlock Ventures, and Vested Ventures.
“Everyone on the UNest team is committed to our mission of helping parents build a better future for their kids, regardless of income or background, by providing guidance and access to cost-effective financial solutions.”