Lori Shao founded Finli, one of the Financial Solutions Lab Accelerator’s 2020 Cohort companies, in 2019. Finli’s comprehensive business management software relieves family-centric businesses, like neighborhood schools and enrichment programs, from the administrative burdens of invoicing, tuition collection, and maintaining a digital presence by providing an enterprise solution and parent-approved app.
Given its area of focus, Finli was a natural pick for our 2020 Accelerator Cohort on worker and student financial health. Lori sat down with the Financial Solutions Lab to share what she’s learned as a fintech leader and other interesting observations about the industry to help other entrepreneurs and startups in the fintech and financial health space.
Q: What inspired you to start your company?
There are over 30 million independent service providers and small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the U.S. Many of these businesses are owner-operated and have to handle everything when it comes to running their business, including time-intensive billing and administrative work. The financial health of small businesses is closely tied to their owners, given that many do not separate their business and personal finances. Finli is helping small business owners simplify their administrative burdens, payments, and more, making it easier for them to be financially healthy.
Q: What has been your biggest business challenge?
To date, one of my biggest business challenges has been raising capital during the global pandemic. Finli services family-centric SMBs, which have been impacted heavily by COVID, yet they’re often overlooked by federal support programs. We have made such great progress supporting these businesses during the pandemic, but our success partially hinges on the needed capital to keep going.
Q: What early win or success made you think you could be a successful startup?
The testimonials we received from Finli clients thanking us for removing the administrative burdens of managing billing and payments so they had the cash available to keep their lights on, maintain staff,, and put food on the table. Messages like that inspired us to keep going, despite the current challenges our customers face.
Q: What innovation or trend in the fintech space excites you right now?
Since we’re in the business of cash flow management, I’m excited to eventually have a global e-wallet for SMBs to use. So far, we have overlooked the global potential of small businesses, but having a borderless global e-wallet in place will open up a lot of opportunities by expanding the reach and access for more customers.
Q: How has your organization responded to new consumer needs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic?
Finli launched Finli Classes to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic by giving them an online platform to teach their classes to a wider virtual audience. All tuition fees go directly to the small businesses, helping them keep their doors open.
Q: What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received, and how has it impacted your company or career?
The best business advice I have received is “just do it.” When you remove fear and self-doubt, you can allow yourself to take action. And the best thing you can do is try. Even if you fail, you will learn something, and if you apply it to the next thing you try, you will be that much better because of the prior experience.
Q: Would you recommend an accelerator program like the Financial Solutions Lab to others, and if so, why?
Yes, definitely. Everyone has a different experience with the program, but for us, we’ve received a lot of one-to-one support. The Financial Solutions Lab has essentially become an extension of our team. They’ve gone above and beyond to support us where we truly needed it.
To learn more about Finli or connect with CEO Lori Shao, reach out to FinLab@finhealthnetwork.org.