Simran Kaur is one part of the incredible duo that started up and run Girls That Invest, the number one podcast about investing in the world (say what?!) Sim runs the business and her childhood friend Sonya Gupthan, jumps on for the podcast. But that's not all the Sim gets up to, having both a health and financial background, she is using all her skills to smash the taboos around investing and helping women and other minority groups establish financial freedom.
Sim also started the Indian Feminist IG account with Harsharin Kaur Virk that reached over 300k followers. We are super thrilled that she managed to sit down and share a bit of her journey with us: the challenges, thoughts on impostor syndrome, tips on running your own business and much more!
I'm not sure what we really wanted to be when we grew up, but we never thought we would be in the public eye. That was never really something that we were ever after. I think we always had, you know, different strengths, like I love organisation, so does Sonya. Sonya really loves leadership and working in places where she helps to cultivate a team and I'm definitely more of someone that has big, big ideas and big visions. We actually were in completely different pathways. She was working in insurance. I was working as an optometrist and we never really thought we were going to make a podcast together and make it about personal finance.
What shaped us into who we are today, I think, just comes down to how we were raised and the sort of family values that we had. We both really grew up with sets of parents that moved to New Zealand for a better life for us.
That really allowed us to have the kind of opportunities that we have. And I think by them doing that, we were able to be really appreciative of hard work and kind of see what happens as people moved up the ranks and what it took to get to where our parents got.
I think the moment we realized, oh, this is a big deal, was not until very recently when we got invited to an event. And I saw the invite and I thought “Is this a scam? Like who's sending this out?” But because it had the Viaducts email I thought, it’s ok, this is legitimate. And why would they want to scam us? And so we turned up to this event and said “We are Sam and Sonya” and the person looked at the names on the list and said “Oh yeah, we’ve saved front row seats for you.” And so when we realized that we got front row seats to an event and we got a little shout out, I think that's when we were like: “Do people listen to us?”
It was really eye-opening. I think even to this day though, we don't really feel we are that big and we'll get people that come up to us on the street and say hi and stuff. And that's really sweet. And I think that was another big milestone, but again, I think we'd still just be the same people. That really hasn't changed much at all.
In terms of what challenges we faced, being women of colour, I think the biggest challenge has just been an internal one about, are we meant to be here? Is this something we should be doing? You know? And I think it's a lot easier to doubt yourself and not back yourself. And so we haven't had too much backlash about other people coming in and saying like, you can't be here, you can't do this.
I think it's been more internal, us asking: can we?
I am in two minds about it. On one hand: I know that most of us face that and you might as well just face it and just keep going. What I mean by that is the idea that you can feel imposter syndrome. It's okay to feel it. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't be where you are. Having imposter syndrome is not a sign that you've had enough, too much, more than you can chew or that you're out of your depth. That is just feeling you feel and you might feel tired after a run but that doesn't mean you don't go running. You might feel sick after eating some KFC, that doesn't mean you stop eating KFC. That's kind of how I view imposter syndrome. Like I feel it, but I just ignore it and keep going.
And in terms of actually dealing with it when it becomes a problem and it gets in the way...
I think it's just important to remember that if I feel imposter syndrome, it just means I haven't had representation of someone else that looks like me doing what I'm doing. And that doesn't mean I shouldn't be there. It just means no one else has done it before me, for me to look at it and go, okay, well, someone else that's a South Asian woman, that is a creator in this space and they've done it.
Therefore, I'm okay doing it.
I would say, just allow yourself a year or two, because, while we have been in business for a year, I've been in this space for over five years and I have made my mission to live and breathe social media and content creation and community building. So step one is acknowledging, in a time or in a world we live in, where it feels like everything needs to happen quickly. And if we don't see the results in a year, we should give up. That's not true. I think step one is giving yourself grace and understanding that everything takes time. Rome wasn't built in a day and if you start a journey and you're not seeing results, that is totally fine. It doesn't mean you're on the wrong journey. Just means like most people like 99% of people, you're just starting out.
And if you see someone and you think, wow, they've really grown so quickly, they must be doing it better than me. That's not necessarily the case. Maybe that person has had five failed attempts and five failed businesses. And now the fifth time, the sixth time that they're doing it, they have learned from every mistake and they're putting that together. And so from someone looking outside at us, it might look like, wow, they've done it in a year, or they've done it in two years. Whereas, I've had so many businesses that I've done for fun and that have done well and things that haven't done so well. And by using all of that, that's what has catapulted this idea because it's based on so much previous history and experience of trying and failing different things.
Also have some support mechanisms that sit out in the business and have the confidence to keep going. So when I set up my business, I initially was just a sole trader. I had Sonya on just as a contractor and it worked pretty well because it just made things easy and I don’t believe people need to over-complicate it. I was working from my bedroom and I was happily keeping my expenses extremely low. All the software I was using was free. And so for a while people think that to have a successful business, you need to start off with something like a cute office space or a good amount of this or really expensive equipment. Or you need to hire a team or, some people even say you need a board to start off with and I think that is just so ridiculous. You can start off with as little as you have. It doesn't mean your business is any less successful. It doesn't mean your business is any less legitimate. Just keeping costs low and finding ways to scale is probably the best piece of advice I would start off with.
I really like this question, and it’s true, we don't get taught things like social media and investments, sponsorships, financial accounts. We don't get taught management media PR. None of these things were things that I grew up with. So a lot of it was trial and error but I didn't make it too hard on myself. A lot of it was also just listening to as many business owners as I possibly could. And you might say “Sim, not all of us have access to business owners.” And I was the same. I didn't either. I think what I found really helpful was the fact that I used the internet for anything and everything I ever needed to learn about running a business.
I would just Google it. If I wanted to know how to make a logo. I would Google it. If I wanted to know how to make a website, I would Google it. If I wanted to learn design skills, I would Google it. And so that just really helped me.
But more importantly than that, reading and hearing about how other business owners did it, I love to listen to podcasts, especially podcasts by people that interview business owners, there's heaps out there.
There's Female Startup Club, there’s Lady Startup Stories, How I Built This, Diary of a CEO and they all interviewed business owners and successful business people about “How did you do it?”, “How did you get started?” And you just hear everyone's step by step journey about how they started this idea. They validated it, they put it out into the market and they just grew.
I guess I can't summarise everything that I've learnt, but what I can summarise is that everything you need to know is out there and all you have to do is Google it. And if you're not sure, like if you're overwhelmed by all the different ways of doing it, there is YouTube to search up how to develop a business plan. And that might just be the first step that you need to take. I downloaded a free business template and I filled it out with a document. And that really helped me to understand what my business was going to be about, how it was going to be different and what the next steps were.
I guess also in terms of the foundational stuff, what was really important for me in all of my businesses is creating a community. I think that creating a community allows you to find one, if people are interested in what you have. So to never come up with a product first, but to come up with the community first and to engage with the community, understand them, see what they're after, see what they like. Understand what's okay with them, what's not okay and what really matters to them.
And by building a community first, when you do come out with the product, not only do you understand your community, but your community also understands you and they also know what kind of products you would release, they also understand what you can do for them. And they're just a lot more likely to trust you. And so that really helps.
And something that was pretty unexpected or mundane that helped me grow my impact was just being active on social media. And you kind of hear that a lot but if you are on social media and all you do is post your content and then leave it, it's not going to be effective in this day and age anymore. You have to go on there and engage with people, engage with other accounts in your nation, your community, and build those relationships. And it was surprising how much those relationships helped because by having relationships like that, those people will then invite you to events and invite you to networking, invite you to be on a panel.
And so that has been really invaluable. And in a way that I wasn't expecting.
Looking back, I would say that there's nothing I would have done differently. I think I'm someone that doesn't live with regret. Like I did the best I could with the information I had. And, I think that's something I just try to live by. You don't always have the answers, but it's always about putting one foot in front of the other and kind of stepping forward. So yeah, I guess the answer is not very helpful, sorry.
I think it's such an important conversation to have. Like sure, it's great that more women are getting involved. It's great that more people of colour are getting involved, but there's still so much room and there's so many people that are still pushed out of the conversation and it's heartbreaking.
I think in terms of being part of reducing the financial gap, that doesn't just mean it's a men versus women thing. It doesn't just mean it's a Caucasian versus People of Colour thing. There are so many different groups of people that have very much been left out of the conversation. There is no space for them. No one is advertising to them. No one is saying, Hey, your experiences are going to be different. What are you going through? How can we be there to help? How can we improve our services to reach you and make you feel like you are allowed to come into this space in terms of financial literacy. I think it's just really about creating space. And it's also not a case of “Hey, people that don't see their faces in these areas, you need to jump in, you need to make space at the table” It's not fair to expect that of people.
I think it is really about being a good ally and opening the space up ourselves to allow for more people to come in and share their stories and uplift them, or rather give them a platform to uplift themselves.
Sonya's brother Ari, was a big influence in Sonya's investing slash personal finance journey. And so when I was going to university, Sonya, left university kind of in the middle of it and started working. And when she started working her brother said, “Hey, here's a list of these financial books that you should read, and this is what you should do. And you should put your money into a high interest savings account.” and stuff like that. And I remember when I was still in uni and Sonya was working, I looked over at that. And I said, okay, when I'm about to start working, I will get that list off her brother. I'll learn it as well.
And so I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and I read other financial books. And I was like, wow, this is so interesting. And this is not what we get taught at school whatsoever. It was just really sweet that she had a role model in her older sibling to help her. And our parents, our fathers Sonya’s and mine, have done as much as they can to help us to remove the financial gap and give us as much information as they can. But I also think that immigrant families have roles to come to in this country and settle, and create a stable foundation, as opposed to trying to take risks and trying to invest and grow wealth. And so that's the next generation's job, with our stories. And so besides Sonya's brother, we didn't really have a lot of influence in that regard. But we're very thankful that he was there.
I love this question. I love that podcast episode as well. I wish it was more controversial, but unfortunately we just agreed with each other to have it that way. In terms of taking care of wellbeing, with just such different personalities that we have, it’s like two ends of the spectrum and we just balance each other out. So I will be the one that pushes for this idea saying “Let's do that. Let's do that!” And then Sonya is the one that pushes “Well, okay. That sounds great. But let's also relax.” And she'll send me a text, asking “What are you doing today? Or “Tell me one thing you're doing today that doesn't involve being productive. Like, what are you doing for yourself?” Now that we're working together, it balances us out quite a lot.
I think it's really hard for me to relax. And on one hand it's a great trait because I don't think Girls That Invest would have grown into what it is. If I was just like, “Hmm, I will just work my nine to five and I'll do 30 minutes a day for fun”, to grow Girls That Invest then it wouldn't have become what it is. And I think that's just the harsh reality that I have to face. That to grow something I had to give it my all. But I think it's also slightly toxic to think that way, because what about, Sims time and if you're not well in terms of being energized and being ready to work, because you're always working and you're so stressed out, then your work becomes not as productive and it leads to burnout and your results get poorer.
And so it's this constant cycle that I don't think I have fully worked out yet about how to be productive. But also taking care of myself and not living, my passions become work. But I think in terms of how I find time to relax, I just love finding one thing that really works for me that stops me from thinking about the rest of the world. And for me that is just trashy reality TV. And so I will watch those binge shows, and I enjoy it. You know, it takes my mind off everything and just sometimes just puts into perspective that, you know, everyone has worries. People in these reality shows can look like they lead the most luxurious, outlandish lives and there is still something to fight over or still something to be mad about which I find really interesting.
It's an interesting conversation because in the Western world of business, you grow up thinking that a business should look like one thing and that you should have an office and that you should work 9 to 5. And that it's more of a sole person centric view on business and money. And whereas where we come from, we've got more of a community or family view. And so you don't see yourself as an individual. You see yourself as part of a wider collective. I think that's something I have incorporated into how I run my business. And so a lot of times, if we come up with an idea, we often ask our friends and family and our community members online, what they think. Like if we wanted to, for example, come up with a book cover, we would go to a community and ask “What do you guys think? What do you guys like?” If we want to change the colour of something we'll ask for their input. It just feels like such a weird way of running a business, involving everyone around you in it. But it's just really, really nice. And just something that I enjoy. I like to feel like I'm part of something as opposed to this is just me in my office by myself running.
I think it's such an interesting concept because it's so true that with money comes a lot of conversations about including everyone, working in a way or sharing information in a way that still accounts for, or includes, equitable outcomes. It would be all fine and dandy if we said: “Hey, the thing that stops people from growing wealth is just financial literacy. And if you have financial literacy, you should be able to reach whatever success you're after.” That’s a very black and white way of looking at it, and it's so much deeper.
There's so many different factors that account for how people start off in life, but also what hurdles they face, even if they try to “improve their financial situation”. It's really hard and we really do take it upon ourselves to make sure that we are covering as many contexts as we can, going into the nuance of things as much as we can. And we really try on the podcast to speak about our privileges. We've had the privilege of both growing up in a two parent household, we’ve had the privilege of being able bodied. We've had the privilege of going to probably really good free, public, but still really good high schools and high socioeconomic areas that have given us advantages that so many other people don’t have.
And so when we speak about things like investing and growing wealth, we always try to acknowledge that by saying “Hey, look, there is privilege involved in this.” It's not just that financial literacy is the only thing. And the idea of capitalism in itself is something that we also try to dissect and talk about because at the end of the day it's not really a perfect construct.
So we have these internal battles. But I think it's just a matter of finding what you're comfortable with and what your values are and making sure that whatever you're doing, whatever you're investing in, whatever you’re spending your money on and whatever you're contributing to the capitalist society is something that you're okay with because it's going to be different for different people. It is a really hard one.
I have a financial background, but I also have a health background. And so coming from the health sector, we see how poor health isn't just because someone is not exercising or because someone is eating poorly. There are so many different things. If someone grows up in a low socioeconomic area, they usually have a lot more options of being able to get takeout. Because the takeaway stores are very strategically placed more densely in those areas. They're also more likely to be time poor because they're more likely to not have been able to get a great education. And therefore they're taking on jobs that are more laborious and by the time they’re done at the end of the day, there’s not a lot of opportunity to go out and buy fresh produce and have the time to cook homemade meals that may be nutritionally beneficial.
And it's the exact same story in the financial world. If you grow up in a certain way and you've got all of these other things happening in your life, you are not going to have the time to sit down and be like, okay, let me make a budget. Okay, let me see what I'm doing. Okay. Let me take out an extra hour of my day, every single day to learn about financial literacy.
So it's also about tackling systemic inequalities. There are things that are deeper than what we do that need to be addressed and we try to do the best we can to highlight them. For example, during the Waitangi Day weekend, we created some content around the idea that, Māori actually used to own a hundred percent of the wealth in this country in terms of real estate. And when the land was taken from them, they ended up with 4.6% of the land left in New Zealand and land ended up becoming, one of the biggest wealth generators in our country. And so you've got these groups of people that were literally robbed of their opportunity to grow generational wealth. And yet, the narrative has been flipped on them. And oh my God, you'll see politicians and people speaking about how “Māori are this or that and they just need to get up and do the hard work.”
I think acknowledging our past and acknowledging the systemic issues that we're facing is step one. And then changing our systems and making things not just accessible, but also more equitable for all different members of society is truly the only way we're going to reach the place where we all are on some sort of similar playing field.
Until then it's just really difficult and it's just unfair to kind of put all that pressure on individuals as opposed to looking at the entire system itself.
You know what, I just love Rihanna. Every Rihanna song just does it for me. I wish she would make more music.
I think Grit, there's already a book called grit, but I think Grit.
You know what, there's a lot out of great Kiwis out there, but I just want to see Hilary Barry. I understand that she's not quite your demographic, but I think she would have a very interesting story, life perspective to share.