Sheena Allen is a tech entrepreneur and founder and CEO of fintech company, CapWay and mobile app company, Sheena Allen Apps. In addition to running her companies, Sheena wrote her first book, “She Started It” to give a blueprint to those that would like to develop an app but not sure where to start. She has been featured in the documentary She Started It, a film that aims to highlight successful role models for young women, and numerous news publications, including Forbes, the Huffington Post and Black Enterprise.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I had this idea for an app after leaving Walmart during my senior year of college. I wasn’t a techie and never thought about owning my own business before I had the idea, but that idea changed my future.
Tell us about your business.
My first startup was a mobile app portfolio company called Sheena Allen Apps. The focus of that company was mainly media and entertainment apps. My newest startup is a fintech company called CapWay. CapWay focuses on creating a better opportunity for financial health for those that are underserved and uncertain about their financial future. The company combines financial education with financial services to create a more promising pathway for our users.
- MVMT50 Top 10 Black Innovator Award 2016
- Bootstrapped my first company to multiple apps and millions of downloads as a solopreneur
- Being featured in “She Started It” – a documentary about five women and the hardships of being a female, tech entrepreneur
Where is your business based?
CapWay is co-headquarted in New York City and Jackson, MS. Sheena Allen Apps is in the middle of a relaunch, but the plan is for it to be co-headquarted in Los Angeles and Jackson, MS.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
I entered into the tech world blind, so I learned through trial and error. The first thing I did was write down as much as I could. From there, I found a developer to hire that was within my budget, which came from the $3,500 loan I got from my dad. I designed and did all the testing on my own and released my first app.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
With my first startup, I named it Sheena Allen Apps because I really couldn’t think of a dope name that I really liked, so I just named it after myself. That ended up being a great thing because it allowed me to also brand myself and as a black, woman CEO of a tech company, that made people look twice. In regards to getting new customers, it’s about staying engaged and keeping up with the different trends in the tech and social world.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
My biggest challenge has been raising funds. I have raised funds for my second startup, but I couldn’t seem to raise any money for my first startup, even though the company was making money and had millions of downloads.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I’m fine with bootstrapping. It is harder, but there is also an upside to bootstrapping. You don’t have to give up any equity and it also makes you hustle harder. I have never expected or wanted a handout and not getting funded from an outside investor doesn’t mean that everything stops. It just means you have to find an alternative way to make happen what needs to happen.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I pray, a lot. Social media makes being an entrepreneur look like the greatest thing in the world. I mean, I absolutely love it, but it is hard. Outside of my faith in God, it’s my faith in my purpose. When it gets hard, I have to remind myself of why I started in the first place.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
I am my biggest competitor. I look at myself in the mirror every morning and remind myself of that. I definitely take a look at the market and see what’s going on, but I don’t really get soaked into the whole competitors thing too deeply. That is taking away too much time and focus from what I have going on.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
“Not all advice is good advice.”
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Always stay true to yourself. Being like everyone else does mean that you will fit in with the crowd, but it also means that you won’t be standing out.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
My top three;
- Slack – is an easy way to have all my business conversations in one place
- Twitter – is a place that I get a lot of information and communicate with others in the industry
- LinkedIn – is where you can make key connections with other professionals
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
My latest book was “The Unbanking of America”.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I am learning more about the regulatory and compliance issues that comes with running a financial startup. I know a lot, but things are always changing, so I try to stay on top of things.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
My goals include pushing through our beta release of CapWay and moving to the next stage, doing more talks around my book “The Starting Guide”, and raising our seed round for CapWay.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Instagram @whoisSheena, @GoCapWay, @SheenaAllenApps
Twitter: @whoisSheena, @GoCapWay, @SheenaAllenApps
Hashtags #SheenaAllen #entrepreneur #womensupportingwomen #CapWay #SheenaAllenApps