20. Nena Ugwuomo, Founder of Student Dream Shares How Student Dream Is Helping Close the Black Wealth Gap
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Daphné Vanessa

Shamil Rodriguez



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About This Episode

Nena Ugwuomo, founder of Student Dream joins the show to share how Student Dream is accomplishing their mission of closing the black wealth gap by leading lessons on personal finance, investing and entrepreneurship.

We hope you are ready for a great episode because Nena does a wonderful job of taking a deep dive into each of the three areas of focus and how they will help generate wealth for the black community and lead to long term generational change.

As a BONUS, The Student Loan Podcast is going to pay for the application fee of one lucky winner. Listen to the entire podcast episode to found out how you can win this prize!


  • What inspired Nena to pursue such a bold and audacious goal
  • How she has brought together her experiences and shares them with students of Student Dream
  • Wealth generation and the need to provide financial literacy exposure to underserved communities
  • How you can apply to join Student Dream
  • And much more…

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Nena Ugwuomo (00:00): Every time that you wait to build your knowledge, your experiences, your network, your character, you are literally stealing from the financial growth of your life. So really take action now because things take time and literally your greatest asset is your time.

The Student Loan Podcast Intro (00:21): Welcome to the student loan podcast. Here, you'll find practical advice on tackling student loan debt, paying down your higher education expenses and inspiring stories about paying off student loans, where your hosts, Daphné Vanessa and Shamil Rodriguez.

Shamil Rodriguez (00:39): Welcome to another episode of the student loan podcast. I hope you are ready to be inspired to change the world because our guest today is doing just that. Nena Ugwuomo has founded the student dream, which is a nonprofit that is aiming to close the black wealth gap. Nena shares how the nonprofit is going over topics like personal finance, investing, and entrepreneurship for each of her students. I hope you have your notebooks ready or ready to listen to this episode over and over again, because Nena is going to share some valuable insight without further ado let's get started.

Nena Ugwuomo (01:18): Hey everyone. So my name is Nena Ugwuomo and I'm originally from Boston. Massachusetts grew up right outside of Boston in Lexington, and just have had an incredible time on the East coast. I'm really born and raised on the East coast, went to school at Howard university where I studied international business and marketing. And then when I graduated with also a minor in Spanish, I moved to New York, had my first job and have just been here ever since really working at the intersection of technology, finance, sales, philanthropy, all this cool stuff. So I love New York was in Harlem for five years, have been in Brooklyn for almost five years. And yeah, so that's a little bit about me and my background and I run an incredible organization called the student dream that is radically building black wealth

Shamil Rodriguez (02:17): Before we get there. Uh, because it's such an important topic that we'll want to discuss the, what, what did you do after you graduated? Cause it sounds like you had a good background in the business and marketing side. So did you go to work for wall street? Did you work for nonprofits? Did you go right into startup life? Like what was your, give me to give the listeners some background on the timeframe between graduation and when you started doing the dream?

Nena Ugwuomo (02:39): Yeah, I started working at the Nielsen company. They had this program called the emerging leaders program. And for me the allure was that I just would have the opportunity to travel the country while also learning from high-level executives. And so Nielsen company, they have all this data on what people and buy they're the ones who come out with the billboard music data and all of that. So I really primarily didn't think too in depth about what I wanted to do after graduation. And so I just had the, I liked the idea of being able to travel. So that's how Nielsen got me, fortunately working at Nielsen. That's what really exposed me to the world of technology and entrepreneurship innovation, because that was the world that we were in. There were so many different events that I was being invited to our office was on wall street.

Nena Ugwuomo (03:32): And in this, this major just world of technology and innovation that Nielsen is in. And so it really exposed me to this new world. And from there, that's when I started learning more about venture capital entrepreneurship and was fortunate enough to start to get some ideas on how to this type of knowledge, back to campuses like Howard's. And so it was about after being a year in to my time at Nielsen, that I came up with the idea for student dream. So I had the idea, but then it, and I was running, it had different events, but it took another few years for me to actually incorporate the business. And in between that, I also had other stints working at education technology companies like general assembly, working, working at other technology companies like greenhouse software. And because I had the opportunity to really pursue my interests, that addition to actually pursuing my interest and getting experience with in my interests opened up opportunities to do consulting projects, where I was able to sell my expertise to organizations like the department of energy, public universities, such as Medgar Evers college here in Brooklyn. And so it was just a really cool, I think overall journey of finding out what I'm interested in and then really diving into that interest and becoming a thought leader slash expert in that world that allowed me to then continue to do what I enjoy and get paid for it at the same time.

Shamil Rodriguez (05:20): That's phenomenal because oftentimes as you know, most people will change their degrees or majority of people will change their degrees when they're in school, you know, trying to figure out their interests. And then oftentimes a lot of folks may not even go into the field that they studied while undergrad or grad school. So would you mind just sharing with the audience, what that expertise is? Uh, I think it would be really great. And I want to make sure that the listeners know what it is that, that, that really made you stand out to be a consultant for the department of energy. It's not something that you kind of just gloss over.

Nena Ugwuomo (05:49): Yeah. I think part of that is it was a mix. I think my expertise is execution. There's this book called the four disciplines of execution and it looks at just that the four disciplines of execution. And one is that not only do you identify and outline what your actual goal or priority is, but it's really important to understand two types of metrics, both your, your lead metrics and your lag metrics. So lead metrics are the activities you need to be taking part in every day. That's gonna drive those overall numbers that we often list as our goals and priorities. So when I think about what has, what allowed me to what my expertise is, it really is an executing. So not just having an idea or a dream or a goal, but knowing how to get it done. And that's essentially what I do with student dream.

Nena Ugwuomo (06:48): We're helping students to build wealth and part of building wealth is having clear financial goals and having a clear plan of action to achieving those goals. So execution is one of my, my skill sets. In addition to financial education and business model design, how to actually design a product or a service that makes money. So my work with the department of energy, because I had so much experience working with students and helping them to not just have an idea, but actually turn that idea into a company. The department of energy had this new program where they wanted to take students with backgrounds in STEM and also take some of the, the patented technology that exists at many, within many of the laboratories across the country, that the department of energy runs and turn those into businesses. So they wanted to leverage their technology and leverage the knowledge expertise that the students had and create businesses.

Nena Ugwuomo (08:05): So I came in with my knowledge of how to create profitable businesses and was able to help work with these students to build it out. Some, some business models, so execution. Those are part of my, my expertise. In addition to just working with people, I really enjoy people and coaching people and being able to take thoughts and ideas and subjects that are oftentimes complicated and just making them easy to understand and giving people actionable steps that they could take to move forward. So execution, coaching, people, management, personal interpersonal relationships, communication. Those are some of my, some of my skills.

Shamil Rodriguez (08:47): That's wonderful. So would you mind just giving the audience just a quick once over on what is student dream and how'd you take it from that idea? You said you were, you were at school and you just had literally just a seed of a thought, and then you, you know, you took it into what it is today. You know, being recognized, you know, on, on black enterprise bet, Techstars, these are all really great accomplishments.

Nena Ugwuomo (09:07): Yeah. So student dream, we have this broad theory of change that is black wealth development. So today the average African-American household has $11,000 of net worth, which if for those who live in New York city, that's less than three months of living expenses. That's nothing that you can pass on to your children or your children's children. And I really wanted to change that. I want it, I want to see more wealth created in black communities, particularly and overall communities that have been historically oppressed. So those same numbers are seen amongst Hispanic populations and indigenous populations as well in terms of that $10,000 of net worth. And so student dream wants to train students of color to build wealth because our hypothesis is that if you help students leverage their greatest asset, which is time, they'll be able to build wealth. So the younger you start, the more time you have for your money to grow and compound.

Nena Ugwuomo (10:17): And so we do that through three models because they're essentially are three ways, three steps to building wealth, that's personal finance, investing, and entrepreneurship, personal finance allows you to manage your money properly. Investing allows you to grow your money and entrepreneurship allows you to diversify your streams of income and really create additional assets that you can give to your children that you can use as, as a means of again, continuing to build those assets. So that's essentially what, what students dream does and the way that I was able to move it forward really was a host of things. Number one, just having an idea that I actually really believed in and was willing to sacrifice for. It's important that whatever idea comes to your mind, you wanted it to be something that you're actually willing to put in the, the, the sacrifice, the sweat, the energy for, I have always been super interested in, in black people and in, in wealth, I've always loved entrepreneurship.

Nena Ugwuomo (11:27): I had a lemonade stand growing up. I was so captivated by books, such as rich dad, poor dad growing up cashflow quadrant. I had all these ideas. And so this was just my natural affinity towards just civil rights. I love the movies such as lean on me, uh, all these different movies that celebrated black history and culture. So there's was always that affinity. And I was always super fascinated by the fact that everything we look at around us starts off as an idea, but I never knew that I could actually be the one to build companies or invest in companies for a living. I didn't know that was a career option until my time at Nielsen, where I started being exposed to this world of venture capital and entrepreneurship. And for me, poverty has always frustrated me. I just always, I just hate the fact that money is a hindrance in people's lives.

Nena Ugwuomo (12:20): It really is just a natural frustration. So when I saw that there's this opportunity to improve one's life financially, that is a lot easier than having to just work 40 extra hours or petition the government to increase the minimum wage. I was like, yo, let's pursue that. I'm very much of the thinking that I'm not here to just sit around and wait for someone to, to pass a law when I can move faster. I just don't like having to wait on other people to make a decision for my life to improve. And so that was really kind of the, the reason why I just had such a passion for student dream. So I was willing to go by the books, talk to the right people, face rejection over and over again. And because part of following through on things is, is not quitting because things really do take a lot of time.

Nena Ugwuomo (13:14): Most times businesses take time to really see that traction. So I think the foundation of me being successful was that I had an idea that was solving real problems and I was willing to put in the time to sacrifice for it and willing to continue to share that idea over and over again, and just get a lot of help and ask people for help and get a lot of the help. I needed to really begin to understand the structure of student dream, how we were going to make money, how we were going to create a product that was actually valuable. So those are some of the reasons how student's dream was able to come, go from an idea to a company and a lot of support along the way. There's a lot of different events and programs that I was able to be a part of that helped me to really fine tune the business model for student dream.

Daphné Vanessa (14:05): That's fantastic. Can you talk to us about getting people to buy into your revolutionary idea? So here you are with student dream, just an idea, intersecting parts of society that haven't historically been intersected before, and you're getting today support from some of the largest institutions in the world. Talk to us about how you did that and how you got people to buy in.

Nena Ugwuomo (14:30): Yeah, number one, it was me believing in the idea, you really, you have to be your first investor. And I look back at the time, the money, the energy, the sacrifice I placed in student dream. And that was because I genuinely believed in the idea and let me not just stop there. It's important that you believe in the idea that actually is creating proven value. So, so that was number one because it makes it a lot easier for me to go out and have these conversations with people. When I understand through quantitative and qualitative fact and data, that there is value being created here. So that was number one. And then number two, being able to have the coaching from some of my board members, some of my mentors who were able to help me create a better structure for telling the story of student's dream and that would not have happened.

Nena Ugwuomo (15:36): Had I not first believed in the idea to the point where I was able to share that with other people. So literally my first board member became a board member because I had met his wife at a church event. And in speaking with her, she was like, Oh, you should to meet my husband. He sold his first company and I think he could give you some advice. And from there he had raised $30 million for his first company. He had sold it. So he was able to teach me how to pitch and storytell. And from there I took advantage of all the different competitions. I could find all the different people I could share this idea with took advantage of resources that the local government offer through the small business associations. And just from there, it, it became one step leading to another open door, another opportunity finding another resource. And I would say that that really allowed me to then meet people who worked for bet or work for black enterprise and just constantly sharing my story. So just constantly sharing your story with random people that leads to sharing it with the right people.

Daphné Vanessa (16:49): Awesome. Talk to us about that. Art of storytelling, what is student dreams story? Um, in addition to what you've already said, what is that journey that a student goes through to go from either zero net worth or negative net worth to graduating with savings and potentially a business?

Nena Ugwuomo (17:07): Yeah, I like to say it's, it's the story of, of having a dream and learning the game that you need to play in order to fund that dream? So we often times we have this model that we're teaching students how to play the money game. So looking at just this world of, uh, finance and work and debt, looking at it as a money game and the goal of money game is to earn more money than you spend with joy, integrity, and generosity. That's how we define wealth. Wealth is to students, dream earning more than you spend with joy, integrity, and generosity, and order to do that. You have to have five moves that you're constantly making. This is earning, saving, investing, spending, and giving. And then you have to break down those five different removes, like, okay, well, how am I going to earn money?

Nena Ugwuomo (18:07): Well, let's specifically, how am I going to earn money with joy, integrity, and integrity? Well, we have to figure out what are your gifts? What are your interests? What are your skills? What are the experiences? What is that professional brand that you're building? And so we do a lot of training and work around that and understanding, okay, well, what are my actual goals professionally, financially? And what's the plan that I have to put in place to actually execute that what's the knowledge I need to build the experiences, the character, the network that are all pieces that are going to help to drive your financial capital. And then from there you want to save regularly. You want to invest. And there's a lot of knowledge that goes into that as well. And just having a community of people along the way to support you, both peers, mentors, people that you're, you're, you're able to give back to.

Nena Ugwuomo (18:59): So that's a little bit of the story, I would say overall, it's just the story of having a dream going through that 600 mile journey to get to the dream that often entails you learning these moves of what I call the money game that's going to help to, to fund that dream. So that's a little bit of the story. I had another question, just another, uh, words of appreciation to really thank you for sharing that with a community that has been underserved. Your organization may single-handedly change the trajectory of five different demographic groups. So thank you my privilege, honestly.

Shamil Rodriguez (19:42): Uh, I think it would be great if you, if you'd be willing to walk the audience through what those three pillars are. Let's, let's go one at a time, uh, starting off with personal finance. Uh, would you mind sharing a little bit about the general idea and then what do you think is causing that gap? I think it, I think it would be worthwhile to talk about some of the personal finance. I don't want to call them pitfalls or myths, but I have, for me in my mind, I call them personal finance myths that a lot of people in our community grow up with.

Nena Ugwuomo (20:13): Yeah. So personal finance, before I go into that, I want to start with a little bit about where student dream started. So originally we started off, I wanted to just get more black entrepreneurs because I was, I was in this tech world, near city startup scene, really when everything was picking up and I'm like, Oh my goodness, look at all these folks making mad money and where, where all these. And I'm like, why don't I see any of this, these geniuses, literally I met geniuses when I was at Howard. I was so stunned that these, that I went to Howard with, I did not see them at these events and meetings and circles. So initially I was just like, man, we got to get more black entrepreneurs. So I just want us to have an accelerator that just created more black entrepreneurs. But then I, I don't know how I stumbled upon it, but I stumbled upon the, this wealth gap statistic.

Nena Ugwuomo (21:05): And this was back in 2012 before people were talking about this stuff or rather 2013. And so I go out and purchase this book that was, that this a paper actually that was published by MIT press called race and entrepreneurial success. And then I just began to find out more about that and found it more about the wealth gap. And just began to understand that entrepreneurship, as I looked at the data, it's not for everyone, not everybody has to be an entrepreneur, but for, for us to create more wealth in black and Latino communities, everybody needs to be an owner. And the, the path to ownership is through investing. So that's where they idea of investing in the stock market came around. And when you look at the statistics, most recently, Charles Schwab and Ariel investments just released their black investor survey that shows how under invested black communities are in the soft market, which is very bad when it comes to trying to close this wealth gap.

Nena Ugwuomo (22:07): But then another area of wealth, because we look at it just mathematically, what is wealth? Wealth is your assets minus your liabilities. And one of the greatest liabilities that all Americans have is debt, where is a large chunk of that coming from? It's not just coming from credit cards, but it's coming from student loan debt. So that's where I realized we need to set. The foundation is personal finance, because even if you're not investing, which you should be, even if you're not starting a business, which in some sense, either you should own a business, whether that's a business, you start or business, you invest in, you do need to be out of debt. And so for a lot of students, their biggest financial decision is paying for college, but oftentimes no one is teaching them. How do you afford college? How do you get the highest return on investment of this college education?

Nena Ugwuomo (23:05): And part of that needs to be you graduating with little to no debt. It's a simple, right? Cause it's not, it's not easy, but it is a simple mathematical equation, like okay, to, to go about graduating with little to no debt, but there needs to be some training. And education went as early as middle school as early as high school, or even while you're in college. And I say this from personal experience, I went to Howard having saved $10,000 thinking that was enough, but never taking the time to sit down and actually ask myself how much does this degree cost? Ha what is debt? What is student loan debt? What is interest? Why does that actually matter to my, this huge six figure purchasing decision about to make? And I was left after my first year, not knowing how I was going to finance the rest of my education, but then I learned about scholarships and found some really great resources where I was able to earn over $80,000 in scholarships and graduate with, with a less than $20,000 in debt.

Nena Ugwuomo (24:16): Um, and all the, and that number only came from my first year. I had taken out those loans my first year. And so that's why personal finance is so important. And it's really the foul, literally the foundational pillar of your journey in building wealth. And I would say some of the biggest myths are just this overemphasis on credit. Yes. Credit matters. But anytime I bring up personal finance or oftentimes when I'm starting these financial literacy conversations with schools or universities, they're like, yeah. You know, cause people really got to know about credit and I'm like, eh, not really. I'm like, people have to know what credit is, but people don't necessarily have to be so focused on building their credit. Cause oftentimes when you talk about, Hey, you want to get financially healthier. The first thing people are bringing up is like, I got to build my credit score.

Nena Ugwuomo (25:11): When in reality, all a credit score is it's, it's just your ability to pay back money. It's not, you can have an $800 credit score, but zero assets, you know, and that's not going to help to strengthen your financial health in the short term and certainly not the longterm. So I would say that's one of the biggest myths. Just the overemphasis on credit. It is obviously it is. It is. Well, not obviously, let me just say it is important to have good credit, particularly if you want to purchase a home. I think that's probably not. Everybody has $250,000, $500,000 laying around. So you may need to borrow that money, but ideally you should not be borrowing money to, to, to buy. I mean, depending on which, where you at to buy a car or to get some clothes or pay it, go on a vacation, you should be saving up for some of those, those smaller purchases. Um, so I would say that's one of the biggest things that are overemphasized.

Shamil Rodriguez (26:14): It lends itself well into the second part. And I think a lot of this does blend together, right. In terms of your personal finance and investing, right. Those two really go hand in hand. And I, I wanted you to elaborate because you really hit me with something there that I want the audience to make sure they capture. It's the idea of exposure. Right. And I, and I can relate to that when you said that and, and Daphne knows this story. It just, when I, when I went to school, uh, as an undergrad, my world exploded in terms of opportunities and awareness. Right. And just understanding what else was out there from where I grew up. And so would you mind sharing a little bit about the exposure component? Because to me that's one of those myths where the myth that I talk about or that I personally believe is that the idea that, you know, there are only so many things we can do. Right. And, and to me, it's like, if you only make a decision about your future, based on the current reference that you have, you will, by definition be limited because you don't have necessarily all the exposure in terms of opportunities that you could pursue. So can you just do a little bit more about that exposure element, because you're doing it with student dream in your classes, right. In the students that you bring into your cohort, but, but what do you think that means on a broader scale?

Nena Ugwuomo (27:26): It's huge. It's huge. And it's huge because I mean, I love imagination and I think that we all need to do, uh, important an intentional job of, of dreaming and cultivating our imagination. But sometimes we can't always imagine what we've never seen. And that's, that's the importance of inspiration and hearing stories and seeing stories of people who've done things that you've never heard of before. I mean, I was just talking to one of my friends yesterday and her dad is a research scientist at IBM. And she was just, we were literally talking, having this conversation about exposure. And she was saying, you know, it's not every day that you just meet a research scientist to know that this is a possible career. So it's really important to be exposed to these new worlds is that I can even just say from my own experience, a few of them, like I would say when I was at Howard, I went to this business conference and I met this, this young man.

Nena Ugwuomo (28:34): His name is Aaron. He's a student at the university of Tennessee. And he had won this business plan competition from MTV. And when I heard about that, I was like, Oh my gosh, I didn't even know y'all. That was possible. You can, you can be a student, have a business idea started and get $20,000 for it really that's possible. So that again was really the, the Genesis of the ideas behind student dream. And then even in my adult years, or my older adult years, let me say, because you are an adult when you're in college, I started working at just these different places. So for example, when I worked at greenhouse software just to see that, and I was in sales, so being able to see contracts closed for $20,000, $50,000, I was like, wow, companies pay this much money for services, you know? And so it just, it opened my eyes to, wow.

Nena Ugwuomo (29:28): So I could, if I build a product, I could sell it for that much money. Wow. I didn't even know that was that I didn't know that was possible or there, or then there was another time I worked at a family office working for someone who, who has a net worth of, uh, of a billion dollars just to see like the things that they invest in, just to think differently of like, Oh wow. People put their money in art, or while people have the capacity, like I remembered this was five years ago, you know, you hear about this term SPACs now. But I was learning about that five years ago when I would see, you know, I would see that coming in front of our desk and this family office being presented with an Oh, let's, let's spack, like, Hey, let's create a spec for this business that you all are working on. Or just seeing that, that they're investing millions of dollars into these different companies. Like for example, they purchase Roku. And yeah.

Shamil Rodriguez (30:18): Would you mind just for the audience, uh, explain what a, what a family office is, right. It's back to that exposure element.

Nena Ugwuomo (30:23): Oh, right. Yeah. And I remember like the first time I heard the term, I was like, Oh, a family owns the office that we were, but no, you just even know that. So basically a family office is when a, when a family just has a high net worth family. Right. So they have millions, many times billions of dollars in assets. And basically they, this family office it's the vehicle in which they invest that money. They could be investing in individual companies, they could be purchasing companies. So for example, this family office that I worked at, they, they formerly owned Warner music group. And Seagram's so the Seagram's distillery, um, right. So it's like, they just, they purchase these huge large assets because there's, they have so much money and they have so much assets. And so the family office is just the way that they operate and invest their assets so that they can continue making money.

Shamil Rodriguez (31:30): So it goes back to some of that, uh, Robert Kiyosaki concept back to some of your younger, your younger year readings right. Of, of making your money work for you. Exactly. So, and then, uh, would you mind walking us through then the startup component, right? Or would you mind actually, I want to make sure the listeners know, cause some people might be saying, well, how can I join this? Right. Um, or what does it actually look like? What does student dream do for me, if I'm applying to be a part of your program, would you mind just kind of walking through what the, uh, you know, what that looks like?

Nena Ugwuomo (32:03): Yeah, of course. So we have three cycles a year there's spring, summer, and fall, and it's all about training than execution. So really you're spending eight weeks learning, just the fundamentals, whether in college, in our personal finance program, it's all about learning how to had a graduate debt-free with $10,000 in the bank, relevant work experience at a job that you enjoy. If it's investing, it's learning about what's your risk tolerance, opening up a brokerage account, understanding your personal investment thesis, and beginning to regularly invest in mutual funds and S it select individual stocks, but primarily mutual funds because it's very level one investing and then entrepreneurship, it's again, learning about where you have opportunities to leverage your skill sets, to create a product or service and figuring out what your, what your product is going to be building a small piece of that product, whether that's through a minimum viable product, and then coming up with a plan to start selling your first units of that.

Nena Ugwuomo (33:14): Cause we're very, very action oriented, this isn't theory, but in the personal finance class, you're going to start increasing your income in the investing course. You're going to start investing in the stock market in the entrepreneurship course, you're going to create a product or service and start selling that. So we meet twice a two hours a week for eight weeks, and then we spend the rest of the year just really holding you accountable on a monthly basis for an hour, a month to execute on the plans that you've established during the training phase of the course. So that's what it is. And the idea is that by the, the, by a year's time, you'll really see that measurable growth in how much money you're earning, how much money you're saving, how much money you're investing, how many business units you're selling. So it's very metric driven.

Shamil Rodriguez (34:10): That's wonderful. So, so I guess break it down for the folks that might be interested in applying or participating in this program. I want, I want, I want to make sure that the audience understands, this is not a theory. This is, you know, this has already been done. So would you mind highlighting some of the success stories or some of the folks that are, have already gone through these, you know, eight week cycles and this accountability portion?

Nena Ugwuomo (34:32): Yeah. So one of my favorites is [inaudible]. So [inaudible], he was a student who recently graduated. He graduated from temple and we met him when he was fresh out of graduating from temple. He had this idea for this company called who's your landlord, which is essentially a Yelp for landlord ratings. And we were able to just connect him, coach him, get him the mentorship that he needed. So one of our, the mentors in our community was able to work with him to help him to build out his pitch deck. So he could go and raise money in and add the advisors that he needed, add the software engineers that he needed. And that really came from being plugged into the coaching that our network was able to provide him with. And so they're still in business today, which is super cool. He's raised. I mean, I think he's raised definitely close to if, if not a million close to a million dollars in funding for his business, which is cool.

Nena Ugwuomo (35:35): And so that's one, another story is a Maori screw Yoan. He was a student. We met him when he was just finishing community college at Bronx community college. And he had this idea. He was like, you know, I want to take my creative skills and make that a business. And so I remember literally sitting down with him, coaching him on his business model. And he came up with this idea for get studios, which was a creative agency that he was able to end up pursuing after he graduated from the school of visual arts. And that has since morphed into the Bronx native, which is a huge brand in the BX. He's kind of like the Prince of the Bronx right now doing his thing. So those are, those are just a few stories of students and yeah, they're doing it. And so people want to get involved, just go to students, dream.org, uh, click apply, and you can apply for our next cycle.

Daphné Vanessa (36:33): I'm so impressed that you've done this without seeking a profit. This is a nonprofit, how in the world is an idea that could be so profitable for us, greedy people out there. How in the world have you restrained yourself by, by using the non-profit vehicle?

Nena Ugwuomo (36:53): Yeah. Wow. Hmm. I think I just wanted to, I think it's understanding what our budget is. And just also, since I am someone who has been trained in the for-profit world, understanding how to create multiple revenue streams. So just for everyone listening, nonprofit doesn't mean that we don't make a profit necessarily. It just means that there are limits to, to how that money is spent and where it goes. Right. Really going most of that, the profits that we make have to go back into our programs. So for us, it's really stemmed from me, humming, hustling, right? Keeping costs super low. So I kept a job for most of the time that we've been in existence. It's only been what says in the last two years, right. That I've come full time into, uh, really paying myself. So I'm in, you know, I just didn't have a lot of expenses personally.

Nena Ugwuomo (38:01): So it may be difficult for other people with more, more personal family responsibilities. So I was able to keep costs very low overall initially, and then just hustling again, participating as in as many business plan competitions. So a lot of our early funding came from business plan competitions that we won, having those networks, being able to ask people for money. And as I grew in understanding sales and development, it made it a lot easier for me to share the story and the vision behind student dream that I believed in so that we could get the funding that we needed, whether that came in the form of someone starting to give $50 a month towards our programs or someone writing a check for $25,000 or $10,000, which we've also received. But then we've also had diversified income streams. For example, we have a brand which I created separately called black wealth matters, but a portion of, of those merchandise sales goes towards our programs and we charge schools and organizations for our services as well. So that fee for service revenue comes back into the company and then we write grants. So that's another form of revenue. So having diversified income streams is very important, both as an individual and as a company, it really helps to have a steady cash flow for your operations. Fantastic. I really respect that. Thank you.

Daphné Vanessa (39:39): Going into some of the family office conversation we spoke about before, what are the strategies for wealth growth and wealth preservation? Do you take it to that level or do you focus on the getting people to the growth phase?

Nena Ugwuomo (39:53): Yeah, so we do, we haven't talked too deeply yet about like looking into taxes. I mean, we do because obviously when it comes to wealth, preservation is you really have to look at just different asset types and 10 taxes in particular. So we focus more on credit and debt as a way of wealth preservation. Because again, if no, if, if communities are coming into this, this world of, of wealth and money without understanding how the game works, you're not going to be keeping your money. And many times there's this myth that the most important thing to build is credit. So people are primarily losing most of their wealth by having being, paying exorbitant interest rates on credit cards that they still owe or student loan debt that they still have. So when we're talking about wealth preservation, most of the focus that we have on now is getting out of debt. But then we do speak a bit on tax tax, saving strategies, whether that's maxing out your retirement accounts or having health savings account that you're maxing out. So you can get all of those deductions. So that's most of our focus on preservation as of now, and then obviously investing in the stock market and other assets so that you can, this is getting a little more technical beat, beat inflation, because inflation and interest rates, those are some things that can eat away at your ability to grow your money.

Shamil Rodriguez (41:34): So then, uh, do you, do you, um, just another, I guess we'll get into the weeds here. Cause I actually do like this topic and Daphne, and I talk about this often, what, um, compound interest is that something that you go into? I feel like it's such a, one of those simple concepts, but easy to realize how that can impact your wealth generation.

Nena Ugwuomo (41:51): Yeah. So that's all, so that's the thorough instruction and the training that we give in our investing course college investing. So we go into all of that and just the major foundation there is that interest can either cripple your ability to build wealth, or it can absolutely astronomically accelerate your ability to build wealth. So we go into just what interest is and how it can work against you and how it can work for you. I love the mindset shift that takes place. When one person sees that yo, you can be the lender. You don't have to be the bar. I mean, how amazing it is to say, Hey, I'm going to lend this company money. I'm going to lend this government money. I mean, that's so cool for you to be like, Hey, I'm going to lend the city, the state of Virginia, some money to go build a road.

Nena Ugwuomo (42:43): And they promise that they're going to pay me 3% interest, 5% interest on the money that I let them borrow. That's really cool to, to break that down for seminar, Oh, Hey, I'm going to lend Nike some money by purchasing a corporate bond or, you know, I, I believe in Mikey, Nike and their, their outlook over the next five years. So I'm going to invest by buying some shares. So definitely that's something we emphasize. And it's just so cool to, to change. Someone's thinking to know that you don't have to be the borrower. You can be a lender and an investor as starting now.

Shamil Rodriguez (43:19): What are some of those resources,

Nena Ugwuomo (43:22): Obviously to each his own when it comes to who you invest your money with as, as the same with who you, where you deposit your money, whether that's a check-ins account bank account or a brokerage account. Um, but yeah, we get into that, like opera, where to open a brokerage account, but it's, it's really you making your own decision based on the brand. You like some people like, like Adidas, some people like Nike, so it's, it's the similar decision making there. But yeah, again, we, we are teaching you how to invest in the stock market. Just the basics of investment one Oh one, understanding your risk tolerance, understanding how much will it, your investment goals are, what your time horizon is to reach those goals, how much you have to invest each month and then actually opening up a brokerage account and selecting your first investments and really looking at investing as a bill, as a regular monthly bill that you pay that's automated.

Nena Ugwuomo (44:21): Yeah. Um, so can you tell the audience, like, let's talk to an audience member right now they have student loans, should they invest or should they pay off their debt first? Or can they do both? What's your feedback? Yeah. So my encouragement is, it depends on what the, that interest rate is. Cause it's, it's a math thing. So if someone was to have credit card debt, I would say, absolutely not because the mafia of these credit cards are stealing. Let me not say stealing. Cause he said, I have, for him are taking 26% interest rates. So when you look at the average growth rate of your annually in the stock market, it's, it's like 10% average. But if you have to pay 26% interest rate on a credit card, you better get that 26% return by paying off that credit card, as opposed to that potential 10% return by investing in the stock market.

Nena Ugwuomo (45:17): So definitely pay off your credit cards, debt debt first. And then it really does depend on how massive your student loan debt is and what the interest rates are before I could say, start investing in the stock market. And I mean a timeline now where Hey, interest rates are stopped. So I would say you could, again, depending on what your numbers are, if you don't have to pay interest for a period, I would say, start investing in the stock market. But if you have to pay very high interest rates, you need to get those those down before you can start investing into the market. Super helpful. Thank you so much. Thank you,

Shamil Rodriguez (45:57): Dennis. I'm going to turn it over to you to give the audience, uh, your partying words. Uh, I think this has been really helpful. You are, you are truly doing great work. I think your mission is admirable. And what I appreciate the most is that anybody who's listening right now, this is not theory. Like I want to emphasize again that this is, these are real results for real people. And so if you are interested in things that you can learn and grow from this, which I think everyone can I'm, I'm growing from this conversation we're having today go to student dream.org and apply to be a part of the next cohort. This will change your life. Like this is not even an exaggeration and I'm not saying it dramatically, this actually will change your life. So, so you know, I'm going to leave it to you to close us and wrap us up here. Um, you know, what's your parting words of wisdom for the audience.

Nena Ugwuomo (46:45): It's me. And my parting words are that time is money. That time really is money. And that talk is cheap. Talk is broke. So take action today because at the end of the day, every time that you wait to build your knowledge, your experiences, your network, your character, you are literally stealing from the, the financial growth of, of your life. So really take action now because things take time and literally your greatest asset is your time. Especially if you, if you're a young person listening to this. So take action. Cause time is money and you can do, if I always like to say, if you can read, if you can write, and if you have work ethic, you can build wealth starting now. So let's get it

Shamil Rodriguez (47:39): Well said. Thank you so much, everyone. If you wanted to learn more about today's episode and get some of these resources that we're going to list on the show notes, visit the student loan podcast.com forward slash episode 20 that's two zero. That's the student loan podcast.com forward slash episode 20. And I thank you so much for what you're doing. We appreciate you so much for your hard work and your effort. And we look forward to seeing more of your success. Tha nk you so much. And in the spirit of helping our listeners get involved with student dream Daphné I have decided that the student loan podcast is going to be sponsoring one listener to apply for student Dream. So we are going to pay for your fee to apply, to participate in student tree. All you have to do is rate and review this podcast episode on whichever platform you use to listen to this podcast and tag us on Instagram. And we will DM you with the instructions on how to claim your prize.

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