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Meet Anastasia Soloveva: Founder of Athena, the company enhancing quality financial education for women!

Hello Anastasia! We’re thrilled to be chatting with you today at FEM-START. Could you share what sparked your entrepreneurial journey and the motivation behind launching Athena?

In the past, I was a wealth manager at Credit Suisse, where I regularly heard the stories of highly successful entrepreneurs. Their seemingly effortless journeys resonated with me and served as a profound source of inspiration. Working in a predominantly male-dominated environment, with 95% of my clients being men, raised my awareness of the financial decision-making by women who trusted traditional banking practices implicitly. Witnessing this, I felt compelled to demystify investment processes for women, and this became the initial spark for Athena.

Can you highlight some key steps and strategies you employed to kickstart Athena?

Being unfamiliar with entrepreneurial pursuits and coming from a banking background, I faced uncertainties and scepticism when I decided to embark on this journey. Seeking knowledge, I first explored entrepreneurship in Singapore and then relocated to Silicon Valley to immerse myself in a more vibrant ecosystem. Silicon Valley provided invaluable insights into the entrepreneurial world, and during my time there, I co-founded my first venture, a payment platform, even though it is now defunct. The spirit of teamwork during that experience laid the groundwork for Athena. Despite lacking IT expertise, the connections I made during my initial venture enabled the successful establishment of Athena. Starting modestly, I educated friends and their networks on crisis investment strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic, gradually expanding the platform globally.

How did you manage to build and grow your customer base?

Creativity plays a key role, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Experimentation is crucial, and I constantly try various methods. This year, our focus is on diversifying through different sales channels. After conducting customer interviews, we discovered that Instagram was a primary source of information for  our target customers: we intensified our efforts in influencer marketing, advertising, and organic growth through content creation. Consequently, I personally ventured into Instagram to benefit Athena. Understanding digital marketing and forming partnerships with influencers, universities and female-focused communities. emerged as effective strategies. Despite initial challenges with paid ads, these experiences taught us valuable lessons on start-up budget management. In the Netherlands, I expanded our network through in-person events with universities and collaborated with organizations like Equals, conducting monthly sessions at Women in Wealth Circle that educates club members about different topics in personal finance.  Additionally, we are targeting B2B sales and offering knowledge-based benefit packages to corporations.

Reflecting on your journey, what were some significant mistakes, and what lessons did you learn from them?

Learning is an ongoing process, and one crucial lesson is the paramount importance of the team. Due diligence is essential when bringing someone into the team, as each member significantly influences a startup’s trajectory. My first startup made the mistake of focusing too much on product development without prioritizing client acquisition. Now, we adopt the opposite approach, emphasizing minimum viable product (MVP) development and rapid growth. The focus should always be on acquiring paying customers.

What stands out as your biggest achievement since founding Athena?

Narrowing down our target audience and strategically tapping into the right communities have been key achievements. We intentionally select collaborations and build a network effect where people discuss Athena when we’re not present. Currently, we focus on one target market in Amsterdam, building a circle of expat women who support and introduce us to others. The power of networking is immense, and it’s a win when people talk about your venture even in your absence. Your network is truly your net worth!

What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs, particularly those who do not believe they can do it?

It’s crucial to dispel idealistic expectations of what a start-up journey is and recognize that the hard work behind entrepreneurship often goes unnoticed. No one is entirely certain of their success at the beginning, and entrepreneurship involves embracing uncertainty and learning from mistakes. Like in surfing – at first you struggle to get on the board, but then you learn how to enjoy catching and riding the wave. Entrepreneurship is a combination of risk and mindset, and mistakes are part of the learning process. I made mistakes in my journey, and my failed business turned out to be a blessing in disguise, preparing me for Athena. Don’t be afraid to start; begin with a big goal and work toward it step by step.

What’s next for Athena? Anything we can look forward to?

Our primary focus for Athena in 2024 is on growth and expanding our customer base. We are dedicated to educating women on personal finance—guiding them in opening brokerage accounts, building investment portfolios, managing their investments, and creating passive income. Although The long-term goal is to establish a female-focused neo-bank, that would offer female customers products designed for them and service them the way we appreciate. We aim to address the unique challenges women face, considering factors like maternity leave and the wage gap, making financial solutions more applicable to their lives. This is what lies ahead for Athena.

If you want to know more about Anastasia’s company Athena, click here!

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