How Ramona Ortega Runs: Mi Dinero Mi Futuro
Ramona Miranda Ortega is the founder and CEO of Mi Dinero Mi Futuro [My Money My Future], a financial-tech company that empowers Latinas to manage their money with confidence. She is also the VP of Strategic Partnerships for the Latino Startup Alliance, which creates culturally relevant financial content that connects them to curated financial products.
As a mother who went to law school in her 30’s in order to make a career transition, she knows there is no shortcut to success when it comes to juggling domestic and professional duties, but you will become the envy of many a taskmaster for your skills in getting things done.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur? If not, how did you realize it was the necessary next step?
I don’t think I ever said “I want to be an entrepreneur” even though I was always entrepreneurial. I didn’t really see it as an option because I didn’t have many people around me who called themselves entrepreneurs, even if they were in business for themselves. So much of what people want to do when they are young has to do with the context of their community, which is why we need role models, we need entrepreneurs coming from different places and different communities, so people can see themselves reflected.
What three qualities would you say all entrepreneurs should possess?
Resilience-because you will fail and must get up and do it again. Get it done attitude/ability-because you will have to always to do more with less. Passion/drive- because on the bad days, it will keep you focused
What’s the worst advice you’ve ever taken?
Not sure I have taken bad advice. I have been given a lot of bad advice but it is really important as an entrepreneur to listen to all advice and take in different perspectives but at the end of the day, you are ultimately responsible, so you have to trust your instincts.
What were some of the hardest questions you had to answer while revving up your startup? What do wish you knew then that you know now?
Some of the hardest questions are those found in applications for Accelerators, questions like, “what is the most amazing thing you have built, or what is the most impressive thing about you.” It is always hard for me to talk about myself, so those questions generally make me feel uncomfortable and they are hard because there is no right or wrong answer. After a while, you know the types of questions that come up and you prepare a list of answers that you feel comfortable with so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.
Because we are still “revving” up our startup, we are still learning a lot but I wish I knew that startups are ever evolving and they are far from perfect out the door so I wouldn’t have wasted so much time in taking the first step.
How did you transition from having a full-time job and moonlighting as an entrepreneur to making your side hustle your new full-time gig?
Early on I knew that I was going to bootstrap until we had some time to really test the market and figure out exactly we wanted to do with our product, and I am so glad that I waited to jump ship from my job. There is so much learning and groundwork that needs to be done before launching that really can be done while you are working. I am still working as an attorney, so I know it can be done, even it if means many sleepless nights. Also, having a transitional side-hustle is a great idea, it allows you some flexibility without being completely broke.
Transitioning is one of the most important decisions that women entrepreneurs have to make. For women of color in particular it is a very risky move given that many women are leaving very stable careers that took them a long time to get.
This decision is also a function of how much money one has in savings or the strength of one’s safety-net, be that financial support from family or a spouse. For me, I decided to have a target date and plan of action and I am working hard to make sure everything is set up ahead of time for me to reach that goal.
What business model did you choose, and how did you know it was the right one for you?
We chose a freemium subscription business model after doing a lot of research in Fin-Tech, in Personal Finance and studying our competition. We looked for the model that would be the easiest to scale and manage.
How did you test/determine minimum viable product/market fit? How did you go about finding a core audience?
In some ways we are lucky because we actually started with a Market focus and designed the company around serving that market. We knew that that the Latino community had limited access to quality financial advice and based on this problem we came up with a solution that we think would fit the market.
To test our MVP and our assumptions, we created multiple engagement channels with our target audience. We used Facebook, twitter, and a blog to start creating content and collecting emails. We launched a very successful Live Financial Bootcamp so we could talk one-on-one with 200 Latinas about money, their views on finance and what they need. We will continue to test market fit with focus groups, ambassadors, and surveys and we are committed to flexibility and feedback so we can produce the best product for our users.
Describe your process in determining how to scale your business, addressing any of the following if applicable: market penetration, identifying new markets, diversification and product development.
Because we have core demographic audience that is concentrated regionally, our plan for scaling is really about market penetration in core states and product development. For example, our user base will be college educated Hispanic Millennials who are concentrated in California and the Pacific Northwest. We are going to drive for deep market penetration there as we scale. Once we have user traction, we will attract revenue partnerships that will drive our product development. Data and research tend to drive our internal decision making processes and I think it is critical that founders have a real grasp on the market and sector in which they are involved. I spend at least an hour a day reading up on all things Fin-Tech and Latino so I can better understand what lies ahead.
What’s your best advice for attracting funders? What do investors look for when evaluating a startup? Do you have thoughts on crowdfunding?
There is so much advice out there on what funders look for and what you need to do to get funding but the bottom line, there is no secret sauce, it all depends on the type of investor, the fund’s mission, and whether they believe your idea is capable of returning an investment. I think the most important thing to have is traction or a real strategy to get it. Whether that is users or customers, I think all funders want to see that there are people out there that want your product .
I think Crowdfunding works best if you have a tangible product (not just an app) or you have a network of people you know will contribute. Like all things, I think a successful Crowdfunding campaign takes a lot of work so you need to make sure you will get a return on your time/energy running the campaign.
How can women entrepreneurs find mentors? How did you find your mentor?
Quality mentors are hard to come by, partially because it is hard to find them or be matched to them. I think you need to leverage your networks, be visible on twitter/social media, attend relevant events to make connections and identify people who you think have a skill or insight you are missing. I found my mentors by connecting to women in my industry through LinkedIn and other organizations.
Connect with Ramona Ortega