Tech is all the buzz these days and there’s a reason for it. As technologies advance, there are more opportunities for women like you and me to take life-changing ideas and turn them into products that improve people’s daily lives. Angel Rich, a Hampton University graduate and Washington DC native did just that when she decided back in 2013 to launch The Wealth Factory and build Credit Stacker, an app that teaches young people about credit management, personal finance and entrepreneurship through gaming. Rich has won several business competitions and was even recognized by Michelle Obama’s White House department for having one of the best financial literacy products in the country. In this interview with BAUCE, Angel shares tips for future entrepreneurs and discusses how we as black people can get smarter about our money.
You’ve been named the “Next Steve Jobs” by Forbes, an overall “Wealth Pioneer,” as well as a bonafide “BAUCE Chick.” What do these titles mean to you and how do you navigate the social responsibility your success has manifested?
Angel: That’s exactly what’s been on my mind this week, God must have been preparing me to answer this. That is such an interesting question that I could almost write a book on answering. For years the Black community was confused as to why Oprah did not do more (for us), why she wasn’t seen more in the Black community, why she didn’t have an afro and fist up every time she was on her show given her platform. In later years we see Oprah owning her OWN Network, empowering Black people, putting on Black shows and movies, and progressing the culture.
I find myself in this position, almost like a young Oprah. I constantly debate: what is my social responsibility to the world? I fall in several categories; I have millennials, women, the Black population, I’m in tech, ed tech, fin tech, gaming, as well as policy and research. I have to figure out which lane to focus on. Prioritizing which is of most importance is a constant mental task. I try to cross-tabulate with what is of the direst need, who is in the most pain, and what is the largest impact? I try to stay abreast of current events so I know how all the pieces fall into play.
I began with Oprah because I’m curious, I’d love to have a conversation, and for her to write a book on this because she’s gotten the furthest amongst all of us – she’s at the tip of the spear. Did she intentionally set her path, or was she learning along the way? I’m looking at different role models to see what they did right and wrong, and how I can make my mark.
If you could give yourself a title what would it be – other than Wealthy Factory, Inc. CEO?
You recently spoke at your own TEDxBroadway about being a Trojan Horse and allowing people to underestimate you. How have you exercised this concept, and when did you realize your industry takeover strategy was working?
Angel: I realized it was working at the launch of the African American Financial Experience Study by Prudential when CNN showed up. That was my most Trojan Horse or ninja move I’ve ever done, because I infiltrated the financial services industry to pull off an African American study for the first time in history! People don’t realize what I did! The entire African Diaspora benefitted from the production of that study. Before there were no Black people in life insurance commercials, they assumed we were ignorant and broke. There was no proof we actually owned more life insurance, at an equal or higher value, than any other race.
They duplicated my study and I got it done by going to all of the heads of the internal organizations under the guise of them being my mentors. In the end, I would tell them about the study and look to understand what their obstacles would be to conduct it, or why they felt there wasn’t a need. I conversed with them to get us on equal ground, to agree and understand.
Slowly one by one I got them to agree. We were able to produce it, I maintained control of writing it, and it turned out beautiful. At the launch, CNN showed up and I turned on the TV – that was the second part, I saw black people in life insurance commercials, I was like wow this is really happening. I’m convinced the strategy works.
You’ve just had a new TV show greenlit. Details, please! What, Where, When, Why?
Angel: Yes! I’m officially going with The Making of Angel Rich. It’s a reality show about my life. We’ve partnered with basically all of the streaming services; Roku, Hulu, YouTube Red (and others). They’ll follow me around 24/7 for three months during the course of the summer.
I’m not nervous I’m looking forward to it, because people find things about me to be unbelievable. I don’t feel as though I’m extra special, or things I do are extraordinary. Everything I present is really me. I don’t have any skeletons in my closet. I’ve kept clean hands since birth! You’re not going to find any dirt that I haven’t already said. If anything it’s going to present even more of me. I don’t necessarily want to be normalized, but I’m not a make-believe person.
Another part is showing the grind and the hustle. People say overnight success, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it.
Are you going to include any of your time at Hampton University?
Angel: Oh yeah, probably about a quarter of the show, because we have nine employees at Hampton. We have a whole office in the Institute, my house is in Hampton.”
This spring you hosted the first SXSW #BlackTechMattersAwards at Facebook. Please describe this experience. How do you see it developing in the future?
Angel: It’s like the first Grammy’s where they said maybe we should give these music people some awards, and felt the need to recognize them. It’s 60 years later. I hope 100 years from now they’re still doing the Black Tech Matters Awards. There’s never been a Black tech awards show on this level. The awards help identify the significance and credibility as to what the people are working on. For instance, people work to have the EGOT, the Emmy, the Grammy, the Oscar, the Tony. To what are we working for if there’s no recognition and no award?
I kept waiting for a major Black publishing institution to put it on. Nothing negative, but it didn’t happen. So I said hey we’re going to do it. Facebook actually reached out and invited us to host it there – specifically Black Facebook, Austin. We look forward to and have received interest from other tech companies to host it next year. We’ve already received interest from sponsors and nominations for people for next year. We filmed it (and will continue to), and will produce a video (releasing this summer on their YouTube channel). Next year will be bigger and better.
We were also able to showcase music artists through our partnership with Epic Solutions. That was dope, with Ryan Jovan, Paige Brianet, and Mylah Music. We integrated their new music directly into our game (released across 60 countries overnight), and launched a new version of (Credit Stacker) during the Awards. We had Elam B. King there (Understanding A Man: Empowering Women With Tools For Lasting Relationships), he did an entire social media podcast live and was doing side interviews. I was dripping in gold, I don’t do that often.
How did your relationship with tech and finance become blended with music?
Angel: This is a great interview! I’ve never even formulated half a response, so this is really about to be raw. Since childhood, I’ve had an ear for music. In developing the game, from the initial patent, I always planned on including music since 2012! When the opportunity presented itself to partner with Epic Solutions it was perfect. I truly believe Ryan Jovan, Paige and Mylah are talented artists. It was a healthy mutual benefit to include their music in the game.
I previously tested kids playing the game while listening to Hip Hop music. It tested extremely well and increased retention. The only piece of feedback the kids had was to permanently include the music. So that was always an initial next step, we’ve just built the game in stages to optimize and test each part. We started with research, then education, we did the fun component and engagement, characters and animation, and now we’re on music. Next, we’re moving into artificial intelligence and GPS tracking. We believe taking this staggered approach to development has been the key to success.
What’s your consideration process for new artists or talent?
Angel: I decide whether or not you’ll win a Grammy in the first six seconds of listening – I know instantly. What I’ve boiled it down to, to give away a gem, is confidence. You have to have the voice, talent, skill, and be able to get yourself to that extreme level of confidence. That’s what attracts people to music, they want to feel that, be making money moves! Like they can do it like a BAUCE. Fortunately, our artists are gifted, they write and have amazing talent.
You authored a book last year, “History of the Black Dollar.” We cannot allow stereotypes or lack of financial literacy to write our wealth narrative. Please share some insight regarding your economic perspective on Black culture. What are some positive areas where we (Black women and men) spend our money and where can we improve?
Angel: Nobody’s ever asked me that. I’m dead serious that is a great question. I’m going to make a list myself – I’m always going to shout out life insurance period. There has been an increase in sending kids to college, spending money on college tuition, and getting better at saving for college with the 529 Plans (legally known as “qualified tuition plans”). Millennials are better at putting money into 401K plans, but Black people as a community still take money out three times as much as our counterparts – And 25 percent of us take money out of our 401K and never put it back. This is sad, but I’m trying to be positive!
What about the hair and beauty industries?
Angel: That’s actually a waste of money because we don’t own it – the Koreans own 99 percent. Only Rich Dennis owns it and he just sold his to Unilever. Granted he put the money into Sundial and just bought ESSENCE with it – which is a hell of a move! Rich Dennis is a positive aspect.
One of your gems from your recent The Breakfast Club radio interview was that ‘the black dollar isn’t ignorant,’ and we must practice Group Economics and try to bank Black. Please share some of your favorite Black businesses to support, and some simple tips for locating/supporting Black enterprises.
Angel: I’m definitely going to shout out WeBuyBlack, The Blk App, Pay Your Tuition, Shea Moisture and ESSENCE, Industrial Bank, Capital City Mambo Sauce, Just Us Cuts in Newark, my sister Snob Nails, and Eat by All Homage Clothing in D.C..
Do you believe it’s possible to exist in communities kept healthy through “Financial Agriculture” and still keep the integrity of a neighborhood’s or environment’s original culture?
Angel: You ask such great questions. Yes. I started thinking about D.C. because for about 30 years, during the crack epidemic, the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, it was not exercising Financial Agriculture. As a result, the city went into turmoil, we became 51 out of 51 in education, we were the murder capital, every negative thing you could list for a city.
Then we started exercising Financial Agriculture with new mayors, gentrification, and streets and cities changing. We went from 99 percent Black to 49 percent. However, we’ve completely lost the culture. There is no longer a Chocolate City. There needs to be a way to exercise Financial Agriculture without losing the identity of the culture. Is this a utopia we’re searching for, and what level on the spectrum is an appropriate benchmark? Is it inevitable the culture will change and shift as a reflection of the other cultures rotated throughout? Or is there a way to maintain it? I think about places like Miami, transient cities, Las Vegas, New York, or Los Angeles.
I’m going to play devil’s advocate: When you have a high degree of Financial Agriculture being properly implemented, where people who own the culture of the city are in charge, you will maintain the culture. Cities where those cultural communities are in power make sure everyone folds into the culture while leveraging their resources, innovations and ideas, that is key.
You take pride in running a lean and efficient operation through The Wealth Factory, etc. What can our BAUCE entrepreneurs and readers learn from this business model, and what is something you can share with women who want to start businesses of their own?
Angel: First of all think big. It takes the same amount of effort to start a tech company, as it does to build a hair company. You’ll spend the same amount of hours working on it. You might as well work on something that’s huge to change your life and future generation’s lives.
Secondly just do it. Often times women are waiting on a moment, a certain amount of savings, or to have it all tied up in a bow – and too often they’re waiting on a man (or woman). It wasn’t until I left my ex-boyfriend that my company started to take off. I didn’t travel much when I was in a relationship, now I’m barely in one city more than three days. If the person you’re in a relationship with truly loves you, your company shouldn’t stand in the way, don’t put your life on hold. Your kids will also understand. My mother traveled a lot when we were young in order to build her company. My sister travels a lot now building her company for her kids.
Once you start to have positive support systems, that’s step three. If you have somebody constantly saying you can’t do it/go back to whatever you were doing, eliminate those people. Go read The Keys to Positive Thinking/Power of Positive Action (both) by Napoleon Hill, and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith. Take it one step at a time.
Want to keep up with Angel or just say hello? Follow her on Instagram.