Out of failure comes focus; and kinship springs from unexpected
corners of life. Our story is no exception.
In 2016 Katherine was in the midst of a work sabbatical and finally enjoying long-overdue time with her son. Given her newly-discovered breathing room she reflected on her past work experiences, what she had learned, and how she could grow, all in contemplation of her next career move.
Sunny was in a similar place, financially and emotionally recovering from a recent business setback. Despite his feelings of frustration and defeat, his entrepreneurial spirit remained and — true to form — an inkling of a new idea emerged. However, Sunny wanted to test this new idea and sought advice on how to interview people about their finances. And so Sunny was connected to Katherine through a mutual friend. Katherine was intrigued by Sunny's desire to learn and place empathy at the core of his idea. Too many times founders are scared to be wrong, and here was someone who practically invited it.
We had similar history with money — both of us experienced financial volatility during childhood and adulthood; every good habit came at the cost of a tough lesson we had to learn on our own.
Both of us were determined to not let our past define us but rather to drive us. And that led us to a natural conclusion: build a company based on empathy.
Listen First, Design Later
We built Clasp side-by-side with real people, beginning with understanding their stories and financial lives. As we listened we were struck by the amount of shame and pain people felt about their past and current behaviors. The self-doubt and criticism. The feelings of hopelessness. Feelings that were all-too-familiar to both of us.
Financial Wellness = Emotional Wellness
At Clasp, we believe financial wellness and emotional wellness are intertwined. To get to the heart of financial matters involves getting to the heart of what drives us: our emotions.
As a result, we've replaced lifeless budgeting and passive money-tracking
with a holistic approach: a long-term plan, plus daily guidance in
making smart changes and good habits that stick.
Money mastery is a continual process; evolving and changing. What worked five years ago may not work today. But knowing who you are and what motivates you will better prepare you to roll with it when life eventually happens.
Come as you are. Let's get better together.
Sunny is a serial entrepreneur who founded two companies prior to Clasp. His first was a fashion e-commerce brand and his second was a web design and development agency. He spent six years on Wall Street as an Analyst at Merrill Lynch and two years as a Senior Engineer at Bloomberg.
In his free time, you can find Sunny obsessing over the latest housewives episode (RHONY is his fav) or drinking the newest exotic cocktail.
Katherine is a User Experience advocate with over ten years of experience working at early stage startups and Fortune 500 companies. Her passion is establishing user research habits, building empathy, and creating products that empower and help people.
In her free time, you can find Katherine reading her favorite graphic novels (currently: Saga and Wicked + Divine), studying Japanese, and putting miles on her running shoes.
For me, financial apps always focused on "other" people who had their finances completely optimized and figured out. But if you're not one of those "others", financial apps can be overwhelming and sad. I wanted to get away from the "you can't" and "you shouldn't" and more into helping people understand themselves. It's not bad to buy something, as long as that reason is thoughtful and purposeful. Being in control of your finances doesn't mean you can't ever buy anything; it means you understand why you're spending.
Sunny is just that - Sunny! He's always bright and optimistic; no challenge is too great. Any time I have a new idea, he listens with an open mind. We get each other; and yet we balance each other out.
I've always had a complicated relationship with money, and as a result have a mix of good habits and not-so-good habits. Money was never really discussed directly when I was growing up, so a lot of what I know, I've had to learn on my own. I've made a lot of big mistakes before I discovered what works for me. I define success as knowing yourself and unpacking your bad habits; why did I do that? It's tough work, but on the upside you understand how to forgive yourself, recognize your good habits, and build from there.
I'm definitely not a minimalist, and I'm definitely not a "stuff" person. I'm a frivolist! I'm a sucker for ridiculous items that make me laugh. I bought a series of tiny poseable plastic skeletons from Japan and I pose them in a few potted plants around my house. Are they necessary? Absolutely not! Do they make me smile every time I see them? Yes! Are they worth it? YES!
Honestly, giving myself a monthly allowance has been the most helpful. I basically automate a monthly allowance to a separate account and that is my fun money - shoes or dining out with friends…whatever I want. But it needs to come out of that account. Plus if I sell something or earn anything extra, I put it back into my fun money account.
For me this is personal. When my last company failed, I went from making a lot of money to drowning in business debt in a short amount of time. And that feeling of powerlessness is something I think about a lot as it really clouded my perspective in trying to find a path forward out of what seemed like an impossible situation. Ultimately, I was able to get myself out and redefine my approach to money, an approach that is more self-aware and empowering. My reasons for starting Clasp is to help others redefine their relationship with money in a holistic way that is honest and rooted in emotional self-awareness.
Katherine is one of the most thoughtful women I know. She has this ability to take a problem and deconstruct it to a much deeper level in a way I would have never even thought. When building this company it was so important for me to collaborate with someone who has a deeper perspective on the world and Katherine has just that. I thoroughly enjoy working with her.
Since my parents were immigrant entrepreneurs, we moved around quite a bit (internationally) and I experienced a lot of income volatility growing up. Because of this, I've always been acutely aware of the relationship between finances and emotional well-being. But after my last company failed pretty badly in 2016, I hit rock bottom financially, and it was at this point I really felt the weight of how money problems can create a tremendous emotional burden. And while I've since recovered both financially and emotionally, I strongly believe that managing your own personal finances is inherently an emotional process. And honoring that link between money and mindset is paramount to redefining financial behavior.
My spending style can be summed up in one word, seasonal. If you look at my credit card statements, you'd be convinced that entirely different humans are using my cards during the summer versus the colder months. And that's because generally during the year, I'm a workaholic and when I'm in the zone, I just don't have time to spend money. But during summer, all bets are off and I totally let loose. I'm super inclined to buy that extra round of drinks or that pricey pair of sunglasses because YOLO!
I used to have this terrible habit of spending while I was sad. What took months of disciplined savings would be wiped out in a single evening shopping spree after a bad day. So I promised myself I would kick this habit, I mean it's okay for me to feel sad about a bad day but it's not okay for me to be destructive about it. My solution? I keep a list on the notes app in my phone of ten free things I can do when I'm feeling sad. And I promise myself that whenever I'm feeling sad, I would do at least 5 of the things on the list *before* making any financial purchases. And so far, I've only had one bad shopping spree in the past year!