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Andrea is the Co-Founder & CEO of Vitamin, an app designed to power strong financial futures for all women by making financial education more accessible and gratifying as well as providing them with the tools they need to achieve their goals. She was born in Costa Rica and lived there until the age of 12. Andrea holds an undergraduate in Entrepreneurial Management and Finance from Wharton and then went to Harvard Business School to pursue her MBA. She moved to Germany in 2008., where she lived in several cities, and founded Vitamin with her Co-founder in January 2021in Berlin, where she is currently based. The mission of Vitamin is to shift mindsets, lead conversations, and guide every woman to take confident financial action.
What motivated you to start a company in Germany?
I was talking to my sister one day and she said, “I have saved some money, what do I do now?” so I said, “start with an ETF.” But she didn't know what that was. So I realized that if I could help out my sister, I can help other women too! I was motivated to start during the pandemic, so that’s when I started teaching women about finance in my apartment in Berlin. By the end of August 2020, a friend of mine introduced me to my co-founder, after she had seen his LinkedIn post. We started to write down the ideas and developed them further. I was passionate about Finance and finding him enabled me to find someone who loved both the topic and had the founding passion and also similar values to me, which is super important. And that's where the founding journey started. So I think for me, the journey started with finding a place where I could add value and have an impact in this world.
What entrepreneurial challenges have you encountered that you wish you had more help with?
I was very lucky to have had a lot of experience and knowledge in different areas. I knew I would need these skills to lead a team one day. At some point though, I knew I needed someone to do this with, a co-founder! German was also a challenge, it was holding me back, it is not the easiest thing to be non-German in Germany. In Munich, I started my first job with Allianz not knowing a word of German and worked in English during my first seven years g in Germany. I don't think Germany is the most open culture. Maybe it's a mental thing for me. For instance, in the U.S. failure is a very normal thing. You fail and you move on. I think in Germany, it feels less so. In the beginning, I remember that people were often skeptical of new ideas. Skepticism can be a bit hard for founders and for innovation. So, there were different things that I was rationalizing and that was stopping me from founding in Germany, but I always had this deep desire to do it. And I think having found the right person to do this gave me the ultimate push to jump into the waters of founding.
What or Who supported you to start your business?
There were many things and a lot of people. My husband was and is a great supporter. I also think having a co-founder was a great motivator because having someone to go on this journey with is key. I have a network around me that is very entrepreneurial. Through a few months, I collaborated with Auxxo and I actually got to see and meet some really interesting founders. I was really inspired by them. At that point, I said to myself “You know what? I'm going to do this too.” It came to a crossroad at some point, I had some other opportunities and I had to decide, do I take those opportunities, or do I go for this thing that's really close to my heart? I think that crossroad gave me a push to really go the direction that I wanted to go, which was to found my own company. Observing the good in the people around me to get inspired, and having a network to rely on was definitely helpful in this process.
How do you think that other female founders who are not born in Germany can be supported?
I’m really passionate about this topic. There are so many factors. The finance topic is one specific issue that I hear is quite a struggle for founders for example. So helping women to deal with this topic area throughout the founding journey is essential. We know there are very few female VC investors and we need more females sitting on the investor side of the table. And then the language! The barrier of going to the lawyers and thinking that you have to understand this complex language in English or German can feel pretty big. Additionally, opening networks and enabling female founders to connect and exchange thoughts on the challenges of founding, their experiences and learn from each other can be a big enabler for women.
Another important topic is personal development: diving deep inside oneself and understanding, where can I best add value, what is my mission, how can I best manage my mindset, and learning to ask for help. Entrepreneurship is filled with ups and downs, and one needs support in various flavors through this period. In addition, the setup of the company, the legal structure, all of those topics can be overwhelming for many especially if it is new and if you don't know what the steps are. So, all of these things are obstacles in general and even more for someone who comes from another country.
How do you think that your cultural background influenced you as a founder?
You know, I'm Latina. I consider myself an optimistic and joyful person. I love people and connecting with them. I see everybody as a unique human being. I believe that we are all here to have a good day, to good moments, and to have a good life. I want to try to bring that into my company and to really treat people as the unique human beings they are, to really understand how to motivate each person and create a place for them to grow and fulfill their own needs. Life is very valuable and there's a lot of respect for that. At least, that's how I grew up. So, it's a big core part of how I think of leading the company. Companies are the people, the employees, the users, and other stakeholders like investors. You want to create a virtual cycle of good outcomes among those people. Something that is expanding. I think the fact that I grew up in a very positive human environment helps me. And I also think building networks in business is super-important from a place of authenticity.
What is your personal tip for immigrant women who want to start and fund their companies?
Try to figure out how you can leave the bad stuff behind. Learn from it, but leave it behind. Imagine that you have a backpack in life and you can take all the bad stuff and the good stuff in it and carry on everything. Why not leave the bad stuff behind and only try to carry the positive stuff? Another thing is to get really comfortable with basically not knowing everything. You have to develop a big vision or a mission, let it be the guide of your life every day, and then take the first next step. Maybe the next step is to apply for the Grace program, Maybe it is to reach out to a certain person. Because you have no idea what's going to happen after two or three steps - Thinking long-term and strategy!
Thank you so much Andrea!
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