For this week’s edition of FinanciElle “Statements” I had the opportunity to interview Vanessa Vakharia, Founder and CEO of The Math Guru.
In Vanessa’s quest to re-brand and re-ignite the entire culture surrounding education, she decided to start a unique tutoring space where students could feel comfortable and inspired about math. The Math Guru is an infamously cool and unique boutique math & science tutoring studio in uptown Toronto.
I wish there was a place like this when I was growing up, that’s all I have to say.
Paolina: I get the sense that the math-gender gap and confidence when it comes to finances and financial literacy are related, how would you give financial literacy a makeover?
I LOVE this question!
Okay so I definitely think that all things math need a mega makeover, and financial literacy is no exception. I think that the first thing that I would do is to take the emphasis away from freaking people out! Financial literacy campaigns are often all about like, “omg if you can’t figure out your taxes, the government is going to steal all your money ahhhh!” That does NOT make math ANY less scary – it makes it a million times worse! So now you have people all panicked about their lack of math skills AND freaked out about the fact that apparently they’re being duped at every turn simply because they don’t understand their tax return. We need to focus on showing people the multitude of ways they can be empowered by using basic math to get in the financial game. For example, finally getting a handle on percentages, decimals and basic stats can open up sooo many doors; no longer will you have to sit in silence as your lunatic co-worker rambles on about some clickbaity article they read telling them that we’re all going to be broke when we retire. With a little mathematical know-how you’ll be able to explain why you’re totally chilling with your RRSPs and TFAs – plus, you’ll take pride in knowing that you made those financial decisions yourself – because you KNEW how!
Paolina: What has been your hardest experience dealing with your business and finance and what did you learn?
Okay so truth be told, even though I kicked butt in university when it came to accounting, it was never my fave subject and as a result, in later years (aka now) I’ve found it hard to grasp. When I started a business I had to do all my accounting myself, and because I don’t like to be detail oriented, I HATED IT SO MUCH. So I hired a bookkeeper and accountant thinking I could absolve myself entirely of anything financial, well that was a big mistake! I realized quickly that not knowing what was happening with my company finances made me often panicked and left me feeling out of control. I would send weird emails to my bookkeeper at 1am being like “WAIT, AM I BROKE?!?!” She would kindly respond that no, I was not broke, and that perhaps we should set up a monthly meeting so that she could brief me on what I needed to know, even if I found it boring. She was right, as usual! Now we meet monthly and I make sure to go over all of the details, no matter how swimmy my brain gets. I ask questions until I understand what’s going on, and as a result feel much more in control of what’s mine – as I should!
Paolina: . What advice do you wish you had gotten about finance when you were first starting your business?
If I had to do it again, I would take more time to understand the inner workings of what happens behind the scenes than I initially did. For example, I sort of took the “I’ll just do stuff and deal with the consequences later” approach, simply because I thought that the actual concepts were too complicated for me to actually learn. The truth is – anyone can learn anything – Period. If you’re starting a business, find someone or something that can teach you what you should and need to know in order to put yourself in the best financial position moving forward.
Paolina: What do you want girls and women to know about Math and Money?
OMG SO MUCH! But mainly that BOTH are totally available to you, BOTH are totally within your grasp, and BOTH totally have the ability to empower you. So don’t be scared of the M words – and remember, they go hand in hand. After all, you’re gonna need to know a little math to count those giant piles and piles of cash 🙂