What You Can Learn From a 30 Year-Old: How Niche Markets and Technology Turned Sophia Bera into an Industry Leader – Part I

Posted By on Apr 21, 2014|0 comments

Wouldn’t it be nice to develop a niche and have it be more specific than 98% of all other advisors out there? Google “Gen Y Financial Planner” and I bet you come across a great picture of Sophia Bera grinning.

Sophia Bera is the founder of Gen Y Planning. She focuses on her generation, the Millennials, as these individuals have different needs than their parents did and in the past were not being served appropriately … at least in the eyes of Sophia.

In this post, I will take you through the motivation behind her energy to do what she does, how she began, how she evolved in the business and how she works virtually.

In Early Life

Twenty five years before starting her firm, she made it evidently clear who the boss was.  At age four, Sophia said to her parents “I am the boss of me; you’re not the boss of me.”  And with that, the dye was cast.

As you might expect from that statement, Sophia does not hold back. As a theatre and women’s studies major in college, she projected her energy by vocalizing her thoughts and her performance.

She has since taken that love and parlayed it into a job that enables her to speak with people. But as you might imagine, she does it on her terms. She meets with most of her clients virtually by setting up phone calls and interacting via Skype or Google Hangouts.

Becoming a Financial Planner

After doing 52 performances of The Rivals at a professional theatre company in Minneapolis, Sophia decided to make theatre her avocation instead of her vocation.  She started taking her CFP® classes and began working in the back office of Berger Financial Group, Inc., a financial planning firm in Medicine Lake, Minn. It was there that she got experience with creating portfolios and client reporting.

As you might expect from a theater major, she wanted to be closer to the action and to work with people, so she took a position as an associate planner with Cahill Financial Advisors, Inc.

Just by looking at Sophia’s resume on LinkedIn, you can tell she has been very intentional about the roles she took on to get the experience she wanted.

She would probably be the first to tell you that she was not planning to start a firm as early as she did, but she put herself in the right position to do just that through the jobs she held along the way.

Starting a Business

Feeling stumped at the lack of progression of working with clients in established firms, Sophia moved to Learnvest Planning Services to work with clients across the country. As she put it, “Things were changing all the time – I wanted to work with people in a tech enabled way.”

It was at the age of 28 that she realized the Gen Y community was being underserved.

As you might expect from a person who at the age of four said, “I am the boss of me.” she wanted to fulfill an opening that she saw in the financial planning world. She noticed that Generation Y was growing older and their financial lives were becoming more complicated. People in this generation were starting families and moving, but no one was really serving them.

I am a big believer in doing what you love, but Sophia was not in this position. She was a Porsche engine inside a Yugo.  She wanted to be excited about what she was doing, but like most of us who started a financial planning firm, she was nervous to take the first step.

As any financial advisor creating their own business, she had doubts of its success. It was not until the day before her 29th birthday, in a meeting with her mentor Scott, that she was encouraged to step out on her own.

“What is the worst that could happen?” he asked, knowing the worst outcome would be having to get a job at another financial planning firm. Scott elaborated by saying, “If it does not work, then you join a firm and bring the clients with you, and you will be of greater value to the firm.”

Sophia realized that she had to try.

The Business

The problem with most entrepreneurs is that they are very good at what they do, but they have not been taught how to start a business. Sophia calls this the Entrepreneurs Trap –  you want to start a business because you are good at what you do, but you don’t know everything and lack the experience to get a lot done.

Sophia’s advice is to remove yourself from the business and hire key people to help you. This might be for compliance, technology, sales, operations or marketing.

The most important aspect of Sophia’s business was that she wanted to work collaboratively with clients. It is important to understand your client’s dreams and visions in order to see how you can work to help them achieve their goals.

You can read Sophia’s entire story of how she started her business for less than $10,000 on Michael Kitces’ financial blog: A Nerd’s Eye View.

Next Steps

Are you looking for ways to build your business but don’t know where to begin? Focus on your strengths and goals and delegate the other tasks to those who know them best. Bringing in additional help allows you to focus directly on your clients to help them reach their financial goals more efficiently. Contact us for a free consultation and start prioritizing your goals today [link to contact page].

Stay tuned for blog post #2 about Sophia Bera.

Sophia Bera, CFP® is the Founder of Gen Y Planning and is the top Google search for “Financial Planner for Millennials.”  She’s works virtually with people in their 20s and 30s across the country. She is a contributor for AOL’s Daily Finance website and has been quoted on various websites and publications including Forbes, Business Insider, Yahoo, Money Magazine, InvestmentNews, Financial Advisor magazine, and The Huffington Post. Sophia is a sought after speaker and presenter and is an active member of the Financial Planning Association.  In her free time, she enjoys performing as an actor/singer and traveling the world with her husband, Jake.  Follow her on Twitter @sophiabera or sign up for the Gen Y Planning Newsletter to stay up to date on financial articles geared towards Millennials.

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