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Interview with Eric Blue, Founder of Nevly



Interview with Eric Blue, Founder of Nevly

Eric Blue is a native of New Orleans, LA and holds an undergrad degree in mathematics from Xavier University of Louisiana and a law degree from The University of Texas School of Law. Prior to founding Nevly, he spent five years at two international law firms where he focused on capital markets and M&A transactions and was an investment banker prior to heading to grad school. He founded Nevly in 2021 and is passionate about the possibility of leveraging technology to improve the financial health of underserved consumers.

Where did the idea for Nevly come from?

In looking back over my life I would say the roots of this model were probably borne out of my childhood. My mother had her fair share of struggles when I was pretty young and ended up having the state remove her children (myself and my siblings) due to some of those challenges. I watched my mother from afar spend the next eight years of her life getting her life together (beating her substance abuse issues, finding stable employment, etc.) and worked tirelessly to have herself declared fit as a parent to have her children return. My mom was awarded custody of her children when I was 12 years old. Because my siblings at that time were all over the age of 18 it was just my mom and me. I watched my mother work multiple jobs at a time some for what I would later learn was less than a fair living wage just to try and keep things together. Although she would never again touch drugs or alcohol she was still caught in this vicious cycle of poor financial health. We would spend most of my high school life shuffling through this cycle of rental unit – to being evicted – to rental unit and over that four-year period we would be evicted 26 times. It was during this period that I learned some very important lessons that would form the foundation of why I decided to build Nevly: God makes no mistakes and everything He takes you through He does for a reason. People among us with the least often are just as capable as those with a lot but structural issues can often prevent them from improving their quality of life. Poor financial health can be just as devastating to a family and an individual’s quality of life than any disease.

Fast forward, it’s 2020 and I’ve gone to the right schools, had amazing jobs, been able to do things I never dreamed possible, are able to move in circles (professional and personal) that others would dream of and yet on the inside I was dying. I struggled mightily with feelings of inadequacy, lack of self-worth and just generally felt as though I was sleep walking through life with no purpose. There were close calls with suicide and some real issues with self-harming. I struggled to find a way back to the light or something that could anchor me to something that made me want to get up every day and keep going. I convince myself that I need a change and I decide to do a 21-day fast with my church and that period change the entire trajectory of my life and my work. I had been sketching pieces of Nevly’s business model since 2018 but the version that exists now completely came together during that 21-day period. I was reminded that my childhood experiences had prepared me to build what I truly believe will be a generation
altering business. In short, I had found my anchor.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Each day largely starts the same. Up by 5am with prayer and meditation and then a gym session when I am not feeling too lazy (which I try to keep to a minimum). I try to be sitting at my desk by 7:30. It’s usually still pretty quiet at that time so I try to absorb some news and maybe even read a book for a bit. Work usually kicks into gear ~8:30am. My productivity is largely driven by the sheer joy I have for being able to build something with amazing people that I genuinely believe if we are half right can change the face of global financial health in an irreversible manner. Additionally, because work does make a tremendous amount of how I spend my time, it’s important to describe the tools we utilize inside of the organization that drives productivity at the individual and organizational level.

At Nevly, there a couple of principles we adhere to that drives most of our productivity as an organization and my productivity individual as its leader. First, we adhere to what we describe as a Hybrid 2.0 working model. We are together in office Tuesday through Thursday, work remotely on Mondays and are off every Friday. Allowing us the freedom to live a life outside of work has proven to bring a tremendous amount of velocity to our work as well as free form creativity. Secondly, I am a huge proponent of the Lean Canvas building framework for startups. At its essence, it allows us to take what are very ambitious goals and break them down into a series of two-week sprints where we focus on ideation, testing and experimentation and scaling. Lastly, we are guided in everything we do by the Company’s North Star and no matter how small or large a decision is the question is always there, does that positively drive one of our North Star inputs in a favorable direction; if the answer is no or we are not sure then there is strong consideration as to why we are doing it.

How do you bring ideas to life?

For me personally, everything starts with my journal. I am a bit old school in the sense that I carry an actual journal (and a pen lol) and when I have freeform ideas I try and get them down on paper. Depending on how much time I have in the moment likely dictates how deep into an idea I will go initially. From there, I immediately look past my idea and try and answer these questions: (a) Is this a problem worth solving, which translates
into a type of size of opportunity vs. costs estimation exercise? (b) If it is, can we bring something to the party that is currently not there (i.e., can we do it better, faster, cheaper, etc. than what’s currently available to consumers) or if you are creating or defining a market (like on some level we are doing with our mobile app and ARLO), can we actually get it done. (c) Is this a problem I want to solve. This isn’t a business principle at all but given what brought me to the space, place and time I am in right now, money alone isn’t enough to make me chase anything. To be completely honest, when I was contemplating killing myself, I was making more money than I ever had in my life and so for me everything needs to anchor to my personal North Star to make sense.

What’s one trend that excites you?

This is a great question and one that I am super passionate about. There are two trends that I believe are generation defining.

The first one is a technology trend and the other is what I characterize as a social engagement trend.

First, I believe that open finance will fundamentally change the consumer experience as it relates to their money and the benefits that their money affords them even if they are not the wealthiest people in a society. Let me build this up a bit to put it in context and I preface this by saying this is purely my thesis so if you hate it blame my education and life experience lol. I view the consumer market as a pyramid with the most resource rich consumers sitting at the tip of the pyramid, the “middle class” sitting mid- pyramid and everyone else sitting in the base of the pyramid. Now the first observation you should note is that the majority of people in the system sits at the base of the pyramid. Now let’s pick on the U.S. banking industry and take a quick historical tour and let’s start with the largest bank in the U.S. (JPMorgan Chase). JP Morgan’s predecessor bank (The Bank of the Manhattan Company) traces its roots back to 1799 and let’s isolate on two foundational tenets that were true through much of the 18 th , 19 the and 20 th centuries and that I believe formed a basis of the modern banking system – (1) Poor people did not live as long as wealthy and middle class people and (2) that the middle class (the middle of the pyramid was expandable – i.e., a sufficient number of people could move from the base of the pyramid into the middle of the pyramid). I believe these foundational level assumptions formed the basis for how banks built out their business models but what would happen if one or both of them prove not to be true? What if any existing disparities in mortality rate between middle class and lower-class Americans was negated by higher birth rates by lower class Americans? What if the rate of middle- class advancement was significantly slower than expected in the 19 th and 20 th ? I hypothesis that the rise of the fintech revolution and open finance relates to the fact that the consumer pyramid described above is effectively proving to be pear shaped with the base of that pyramid growing significantly faster than early period estimates and as a result legacy financial institutions have in some ways struggled to tailor business models that were not designed around these realities to cater to what is in fact the largest pool of customers. Conversely, fintech has in some respects led this revolution which has led to some early wins (NSF fees have begun to be reduced and I predict will vanish from business models over the next five years; as we move to a cashless society ATMs become less relevant in developed economies and so we are beginning to see compression in ATM out of network fees; etc.). I believe open finance will only accelerate these innovations. The second trend that excites me is what I characterize as social engagement. However, while the rise of social media is a symptom of this trend, I don’t believe it itself is the trend.
Beginning around 2006 I began to feel and observe this level of engagement by constituent groups that had been viewed as silent for decades. Whether you look at this through the lens of politics, engagement around social issues or engagement around personal finances and financial autonomy, you have tens of millions of people that have awaken and began to speak and those voices have in some instances reshaped entire business models. Let’s look at two examples, in the 2000 presidential election the
percentage of voting eligible Americans who cast a vote was ~54%. This percentage had increased to 62% by 2008 and 66% by 2020. Within the realm of politics this level of engagement represents tectonic shifts in public engagement. Second example would be the rise of Robinhood. Robinhood was founded in 2013, released its mobile app in 2015 and is largely credited as serving as the single most relevant catalyst for the elimination of brokerage and commission fees by legacy incumbent providers like Fidelity and Charles Schwab. Now what’s interesting about this is that the narrative about this series of events sounds something like this – Robinhood completely took off during COVID-19 lockdowns as consumers became overnight day traders and this led to the upending of the traditional brokerage business. The problem with this is that only half of it is true or even partially true. While Robinhood’s trading accounts swelled in 2020 and trading volume increased the decision by most legacy brokerage businesses to abandon commission and brokerage fees was announced in the 3 rd and 4 th quarter of 2019, nearly six months prior to the start of COVID lockdowns.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

This is going to come across as something I have known for a long time, so I want to make clear that I have not. In all honesty, it is a lesson that I am still learning but that I have come to believe in as much as I do the importance of oxygen. Find time to unplug from the work and step away from it. If it’s worth doing it won’t vanish if you take time to recharge and in doing so it will increase the intensity with which you are able to attack the

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be patient, put your head down and do the right kind of work and don’t seek validation from man. While it’s great to receive awards and affirmations that you are doing a good job, are special, etc. it is so much more valuable to try and answer these two questions early – Who are you and what kind of life do you want to live? True purpose comes from within.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

For people who are not afraid to put their hands in the clay and build, this is the most exciting time to reshape society in meaningful ways since the Civil War.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Pray and meditate. It doesn’t matter what you believe in do it every day and if you don’t believe in anything or anyone higher than yourself, find something. If you’re doing work worth doing it is going to be extremely difficult and if it is extremely difficult having it rooted and grounded in purpose will make it significantly more rewarding.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Quiet the outside noise, focus on the customer and stay relentless focused on how you can solve their problem and/or make their lives better and trust yourself, which hopefully is rooted in purpose. On this journey there will be no shortage of people who have great advice and are eager to share it with you. You need to get comfortable extracting the pieces of that advice that you need and discarding the rest. Remember if you are a builder and its purpose driven, the journey starts with you.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I started a venture with another guy because we had a complimentary set of skills, and the timing was perfect and we had the opportunity to make a ton of money. There was nothing else in the equation…just me and what was in it for me. On a level it came be viewed as a success as we did make money but on a number of levels it was an incalculable failure for me personally. I hated the person I saw every day in the mirror no matter how fancy the car was I was driving. I can’t say I overcame it. I can say that God had a real purpose for my life and one day I just asked him to help me because without Him I wasn’t interested in living anymore. He thought enough of me to send me a small circle of friends who rehabbed my mentally, emotionally and spiritually and when I was ready (strong enough), He began to build the vision of this business through me.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think the way the rental market is set up is ripe for disruption. So, for a very large segment of the population who are renters they tend to live on what I characterize as the “two check per month” cash flow model. In this model, the first check they receive pays the rent, which is typically due on the first and late on the 3 rd or the 5 th in some instances and the second check (usually comes around the 15 th ) pays for everything else. As rent rates have outpaced real wage growth the first check has become dangerously close to being completely eaten up by the rent, which leaves consumers in a tenuous position. Either pay all of the rent and then be cash flow negative until the 15 th or pay some of the rent, incur late fees and pay the balance and the late fees on the 15th . Many consumers will pursue the former option and then take out high interest loans like payday loans to bridge the cash flow negative period. This is enormously destructive to the consumer. The solution would be a business model that I describe as a Rent Splitter Model where consumers would onboard onto a fintech platform, sign up for direct deposit and that platform would work with the landlord to agree to split the consumer’s rental payment into two payments (1 st payment on the 1 st and the second on the 15 th ) with the fintech guaranteeing the second payment and in this instance would assess a fee to the consumer.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I purchased myself a hoodie. So when I decided to start Nevly I had a little bit of money saved and I thought hey I can boot strap this business get our first product launched and then go and raise some VC money. Well the money I thought would be enough ran out long before the product was ready and there were points in time during this process where I would pay a bill for the business and didn’t have money to buy myself food. Overtime I came to sell most of the personal possessions I had to pay for living expenses and to build this business and some of those were my winter clothes. When we closed our VC pre-seed round of funding and I was able to begin paying myself a salary I went and purchased myself a hoodie because it’s getting pretty cold in the DC region. That was one of the proudest days of this journey for me.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

There are two things here. ClickUp and Outlook. With respect to the former, everything we do for this business sits in ClickUp and provides us with an easy platform to collaborate. Having grown up a Microsoft baby I would die without my Outlook. I calendar everything there, including when I am supposed to eat.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I probably have two here. If its startup building related I would hands down recommend Running Lean by Ash Maurya. In the environment we are heading into I believe it offers an invaluable resource for founders who are focused on building and scaling a business in an efficient way. On the personal front, the recommendation would be Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Life changing read.

What is your favorite quote?

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will
maintain mine own ways before him.”

Job 13:15

Key Learnings:

  • Anything worth building has to be rooted in purpose. In building anything worth building, stay relentless focused on your customer and their problems.
  • Consumers don’t care about your solution, they care about how your solution can help them. Stay there and never leave it. Many of the problems worth solving are rooted in systems that are decades old. If it’s worth solving pace yourself and recognize that you’re not going to solve in a day. Step away…recharge and then come back and attack with ferocity.
Originally published on IdeaMensch.


Interview with Jack Carlson, Founder of Rowing Blazers: History, Tradition, and Innovation



Interview with Jack Carlson, Founder of Rowing Blazers

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Jack Carlson is the founder and creative director of Rowing Blazers, a fashion brand that combines classic American style with a contemporary edge. Jack Carlson, a former national team rower, and scholar of history draw inspiration from vintage sportswear and traditional Ivy League fashion. His passion for design and fashion, combined with his unique background. Jack Carlson has resulted in the creation of a brand that stands out in the industry.

Can you tell us about your background and how you became interested in fashion?

I’ve always had a passion for fashion and design, even while pursuing my other interests. I grew up in Connecticut and started rowing at a young age, eventually competing at the national level. While studying history at Harvard, I became interested in the traditional clothing worn by rowers and began to collect vintage rowing blazers. This sparked my interest in fashion and led me to start designing my own clothing. After completing a Ph.D. in archaeology, I decided to pursue fashion full-time and founded Rowing Blazers in 2017.

What inspired you to start Rowing Blazers?

I wanted to create a brand that celebrated the rich history and tradition of American fashion, particularly the preppy style of the Ivy League. At the same time, I wanted to bring a contemporary edge to classic designs and challenge the boundaries of traditional fashion. I was inspired by the vintage rowing blazers that I collected and wanted to create my own versions that were both authentic and modern.

Can you walk us through the design process of creating a new collection?

The design process always starts with research and inspiration. I spend a lot of time looking at vintage clothing, archival photographs, and historical documents to get a sense of the styles and aesthetics of a particular time period or culture. From there, I sketch out ideas and work with my team to refine the designs and select fabrics. We always strive to balance classic elements with modern twists and unexpected details. It’s a collaborative process that involves a lot of trial and error, but we always end up with something that we’re proud of.

How do you stay true to your brand’s identity while also keeping up with current fashion trends?

For us, it’s not about following trends, but rather creating timeless pieces that will never go out of style. Although we draw inspiration from the past, we don’t limit ourselves to it. We’re always looking for ways to innovate and push boundaries while staying true to our brand’s core identity. We’re not interested in fast fashion or disposable clothing – our pieces are meant to last and be treasured for years to come.

Can you tell us about a particular challenge you faced while growing Rowing Blazers and how you overcame it?

One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced is scaling the business while maintaining the quality and craftsmanship that we’re known for. We’ve had to find the right partners and suppliers who share our values and are able to produce our garments to our high standards. We’ve also had to be very strategic about our growth, taking things one step at a time and not rushing into anything too quickly. It’s been a learning process, but we’ve been able to grow the business in a sustainable way that we’re proud of.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own fashion brand?

My advice would be to stay true to your vision and never compromise on quality. It’s also important to be strategic about your growth and not try to do everything at once. Start small and focus on doing one thing really well before expanding. And always be willing to learn and adapt – the fashion industry is constantly changing, so it’s important to be flexible and open to new ideas.

What’s next for Rowing Blazers?

We’re always working on new designs and collaborations, but we’re also focused on expanding our brand beyond just clothing. We want to create a lifestyle brand that encompasses all aspects of American style, from furniture to home decor to travel accessories. We’re excited to continue growing and evolving while staying true to our brand’s identity and values.

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Jack Carlson’s passion for fashion and history has resulted in the creation of a unique and innovative brand that stands out in the industry. His dedication to quality and craftsmanship, as well as his commitment to sustainability, sets Rowing Blazers apart from other fashion brands. To stay up to date with Jack Carlson and Rowing Blazers, you can follow him on LinkedIn.

Liked this interview? Check out this interview with Gracie Cedres

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Interview with Gracie Cedres: Insights on Entrepreneurship and Work-Life Balance



Interview with Gracie Cedres, Founder of G.R.A.C.E.

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Gracie Cedres is the founder and CEO of G.R.A.C.E., a company that provides virtual assistance and project management services to entrepreneurs and small business owners. With a degree in communications, Gracie has always been interested in helping others succeed in their businesses. Her passion for helping entrepreneurs led her to create G.R.A.C.E., which has been helping entrepreneurs and small business owners increase their productivity and profitability. In this interview, Gracie will share more about her journey as an entrepreneur and the success of G.R.A.C.E.

Can you tell us about yourself and your journey as an entrepreneur?

Sure, my name is Gracie Cedres, and I am the founder and CEO of G.R.A.C.E. I have always been interested in helping others, especially entrepreneurs and small business owners, succeed in their businesses. After completing my degree in communications, I worked as a virtual assistant for various entrepreneurs and realized that there was a need for high-quality virtual assistance and project management services. That’s how the idea for G.R.A.C.E. was born, and since then, I have been working hard to help entrepreneurs and small business owners achieve their goals.

How did you come up with the idea for G.R.A.C.E.?

After working as a virtual assistant for several entrepreneurs, the idea for G.R.A.C.E. came to me. I realized that many entrepreneurs were struggling to manage their time effectively and needed high-quality virtual assistance and project management services to help them become more productive and profitable. I saw an opportunity to help entrepreneurs and small business owners by providing them with top-notch virtual assistance and project management services, and that’s how G.R.A.C.E. was born.

What are some of the challenges you faced in starting and growing your business?

One of the biggest challenges I faced in starting and growing my business was finding the right team members. It’s important to have a team that shares your vision and is passionate about what they do. I also faced challenges in marketing my services and reaching out to potential clients. However, I overcame these challenges by networking, building relationships, and creating high-quality content that showcased the value of my services.

What is your vision for G.R.A.C.E. in the next five years?

My vision for G.R.A.C.E. in the next five years is to become the go-to virtual assistance and project management service provider for entrepreneurs and small business owners worldwide. I want to expand my team and services to be able to help more entrepreneurs and small business owners increase their productivity and profitability. I also want to continue building strong relationships with my clients and providing them with top-notch services.

Can you share with us some of your favorite success stories from working with your clients?

One of my favorite success stories is working with a small business owner who was struggling to manage their time effectively. By providing them with virtual assistance and project management services, we were able to help them increase their productivity, improve their marketing strategies, and ultimately grow their business. It’s always fulfilling to see my clients succeed and achieve their goals.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to educate themselves and never stop learning. It’s important to constantly learn new skills, stay up to date with industry trends, and seek out new opportunities. It’s also essential to have a strong work ethic, be persistent, and not be afraid to take risks. Don’t let failure discourage you, instead use it as a learning opportunity and keep pushing forward.

How do you maintain a work-life balance as a busy entrepreneur?

Maintaining a work-life balance can be challenging as a busy entrepreneur, but it’s essential for your well-being and the success of your business. One of the things I do is prioritize my tasks and delegate when necessary. I also set aside time for self-care activities like exercise, reading, and spending time with family and friends. It’s also important to know when to disconnect from work and focus on other aspects of your life.

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Gracie Cedres is an inspiration to entrepreneurs and small business owners worldwide. Her dedication to helping others and passion for entrepreneurship has led to the success of G.R.A.C.E. With a vision for continued growth and success, Gracie is sure to make an impact in the virtual assistance and project management industry. To learn more about Gracie Cedres and G.R.A.C.E., visit her website and follow her on LinkedIn.

Liked this interview? Check out this interview with Evan Cagner

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Interview with Evan Cagner: Insights into the World of Tech and Entrepreneurship



Interview with Evan Cagner, CEO of TechBlue

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Evan Cagner is the founder and CEO of TechBlue, a company that provides managed IT services to businesses of all sizes. Evan has over 15 years of experience in the tech industry and has helped numerous businesses grow by leveraging technology. He is a thought leader and innovator in the IT industry, with a keen eye for emerging trends and technologies. In this interview, Evan Cagner shares his insights into the world of tech and entrepreneurship.

What inspired you to start TechBlue?

I’ve always been passionate about technology and how it can be used to solve business problems. I started my career working for a large IT consulting firm, and I quickly realized that there was a big gap in the market for managed IT services. Small and medium-sized businesses often struggle to keep up with the latest technology trends, and they don’t have the resources to hire full-time IT staff. That’s why I decided to start TechBlue – to help these businesses leverage technology to grow and succeed.

What sets TechBlue apart from other managed IT services companies?

There are a few things that set TechBlue apart from other managed IT services companies. First and foremost, we are incredibly focused on customer service. We believe that building strong relationships with our clients is the key to our success. Second, we have a team of highly skilled technicians who are constantly learning and staying up to date with the latest technologies. Finally, we are very flexible and can customize our services to meet the unique needs of each of our clients.

How do you stay on top of emerging trends in the tech industry?

I’m always reading and staying up to date with the latest news and trends in the tech industry. I attend conferences and meet with other thought leaders in the industry to discuss new technologies and how they can be used to solve business problems. I also encourage my team to stay up to date and share their knowledge with each other.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the IT industry?

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the IT industry. With so many people working remotely, there has been a huge demand for cloud-based services and virtual private networks (VPNs). There has also been an increased focus on cybersecurity, as remote workers are more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Overall, the pandemic has accelerated the shift toward digital transformation and has highlighted the importance of having a reliable and secure IT infrastructure.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses?

My advice would be to focus on building a strong team and never stop learning. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and who have different skill sets. Be willing to take risks and make mistakes, but also be willing to learn from those mistakes. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from other entrepreneurs who have been through it before.

What is your vision for the future of TechBlue?

My vision for TechBlue is to continue to grow and expand our services to meet the changing needs of our clients. I want to stay at the forefront of emerging technologies and continue to be a thought leader in the industry. Ultimately, I want to help as many businesses as possible leverage technology to achieve their goals.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family and staying active. I’m an avid runner and I also enjoy playing basketball and golf. I’m also a big fan of music and enjoy going to concerts and discovering new artists.

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Evan Cagner is a true leader and innovator in the IT industry. His passion for technology and customer service has helped TechBlue become one of the most respected managed IT services companies in the business. With his keen eye for emerging trends and technologies, Evan is sure to continue to make an impact in the industry for years to come. To learn more about Evan Cagner and TechBlue, you can visit their website or follow them on LinkedIn.

Liked this interview? Check out this interview with Makayla Gordon

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