Jessica-Belle Greer meets the energetic entrepreneurs helping New Zealand women invest their savings.
Sonya Williams & Brooke Roberts
From a bad reputation brought on by our love of brunching to the difficulties we face trying to jump on the property ladder, being a millennial is not always as rosy as our eponymous Pantone shade. That’s why Sonya Williams and Brooke Roberts (both 30) decided to develop the inclusive investment app, Sharesies, in 2016.
“At the time, there was a lot of talk around smashed avo on toast and millennials being unable to buy houses — it was all seeming a bit dire for young people,” says Sonya. “I personally wanted to invest, but I had no idea how. We really wanted to give people like us a super-easy opportunity to start building their own investment portfolio — and show that saving for a house isn’t the only way to invest.”
After six months of customer research, the duo launched Sharesies in July 2017. For a subscription fee of $30 per year, the digital platform offers a range of shareholder opportunities, which users can start investing in with as little as $5 as they learn along the way. Offering a simple way to grow wealth with sums users can afford means investors don’t have to sacrifice the things they love, like said smashed avo. It’s also changing the perception of what an investor looks like — from someone in a suit to anyone holding a smartphone.
“There’s been a big stigma around the type of person you have to be to invest — we’re really focused on making our platform as easy to use and as inspiring as possible, to show people it doesn’t have to be difficult,” says Sonya. “There’s also been a massive shift in not just the price of housing, but also lifestyles, which makes investing a great way to grow wealth over the long term, without needing to own something physical.”
The business partners first met in Wellington — having both worked in investment strategies and marketing at Kiwibank and Xero, it was inevitable their paths would cross. Director Sonya now leads the product and marketing tasks at Sharesies, while CEO Brooke focuses on raising capital and growing the team. “We are both passionate about the purpose behind Sharesies and this alignment from the start has been invaluable,” says Brooke.
Starting a business is likened to having a baby, in that it’s a huge emotional and time commitment. The pair actively tries to maintain a work-life balance by spending time with friends and family and exercising outdoors.
For Brooke — who incidentally, has just gone on maternity leave — managing her energy is paramount.
While the first investment into the app was the co-founders’ time, financial investments were equally important. “Raising money was a big part of my focus last year,” says Brooke. “It involved finding people who aligned with the values of Sharesies, believed in what we’re up to, and were interested in helping us get there. As well as getting connected with the right people, there’s a lot of preparation needed to share the idea and plans for where the business is going.”
The pair says female mentorship has been incredibly important to the growth of the business. Case in point, Alison Gerry, who sits on the board of directors for Spark, Infratil, Vero and Wellington Airport, and is an epic role model to boot, is the chair of Sharesies’ board.
Sharesies’ end goal is to ensure all Kiwis know they have the power to invest, especially women. The co-founders say one of the most important ways to help women get involved in the stock market is removing the awkwardness around talking finances. “Money can be a pretty daunting subject, but talking about it with friends is a great way to share learnings and it can make it fun,” says Sonya. “Don’t feel afraid to bring up the subject — you might find that people are wondering the same things as you.”
Words: Jessica-Belle Greer
Photos: Getty Images & Supplied
This article originally appeared in Miss FQ Issue 1, 2018.
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