Each year, a Kellogg student receives the Kellogg Social Entrepreneurship Award student to use their business knowledge to make a positive social impact, with seed funding and organizational support to develop a social venture post-graduation. This year, there were two recipients! Hear from Zell Fellow Adam Turville (JD-MBA, 2021) about his entrepreneurship path and his startup, FinLit.
Tell us about your career journey leading up to Kellogg. Have you always been interested in social entrepreneurship?
My interest in social entrepreneurship began in earnest as I worked as a volunteer missionary for my church in central Europe for two years at the beginning of my career. I worked closely with refugees arriving from war-torn areas of the Middle East. The relationships that I built with them changed my life and motivated me to dedicate my career to empowering displaced and underprivileged people and their communities. This later led me to an internship at the United Nations in Vienna, Austria, working in the Governor’s Office in my home state of Utah, and, before coming to Kellogg, leading a nonprofit focused on improving financial wellness for employees in the workplace.
Tell us about your startup.
The ripple effects of poor financial decisions are far reaching and can be devastating to individuals, families, and communities. At FinLit, we are building the simplest and most approachable financial literacy education platform to be used by organizations teaching first-time, financial decision-makers. We offer bite-sized, video-based courses that teach the basics of personal finance, like budgeting, credit cards, taxes, investing and more. Organizations can track learning and measure outcomes while learners can see their own progress through short assessments as they complete each video course.
FinLit encapsulates a lot of life lessons I have gleaned throughout my short career. We are a for-profit Benefit Corporation because I believe firmly that there is a strong, financial incentive to build this company in this market. But at the end of the day, I’m building FinLit because I believe everyone, no matter their background, should have the information and, most importantly, the confidence they need to successfully navigate financial decisions. This will help eliminate the ripple effects of poor, financial decisions and replace them with a positive chain reaction that can spur wealth creation and financial stability for the individuals, families, and communities who need it most.
How did your venture develop at Kellogg?
Kellogg has a great reputation as a school with a strong sense of community and for good reason. FinLit is a product of the strength of the Kellogg community. I was blown away by the willingness of classmates to invest their time in FinLit. Over a dozen talented Kellogg students leveraged their skills, networks, and expertise to help build FinLit over the last couple of years.
Additionally, I benefited from and am grateful for a long list of Kellogg and Northwestern entrepreneurship resources. Kellogg’s Social Impact team provided invaluable support and Professor Megan Kashner has been an outstanding advisor and mentor. Kellogg’s Venture Challenge and Northwestern’s VentureCat competitions helped us hone our story and get the word out about FinLit. The Garage at Northwestern welcomed me into the broader NU entrepreneurship community and provided a great space to work — an especially helpful alternative to WFH with three kids. The pre-accelerator Jumpstart (formerly Wildfire) was an incredible opportunity to dedicate my MBA summer to building FinLit.
The New Venture series of classes provided extremely helpful frameworks but, more importantly, advice and feedback from unbeatable professors and classmates with deep, first-hand experience in venture-building.
Finally, participating in Kellogg’s Zell Fellows Program helped bring all those experiences together and provided the perfect launch pad for FinLit to achieve future success. The personal relationships I built with my cohort and advisors in the Zell Fellows Program, as well as classmates and mentors across the Kellogg and Northwestern community are by far the greatest benefits of completing my JD-MBA at Northwestern.
As co-recipient of the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award, how will this award advance your venture?
The Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award was the boost I needed to take the full-time plunge and continue building FinLit after graduation. It has allowed me to assemble the team we need to take our product to the next level and deliver on our promise to build the best financial literacy education platform. Not only is this a vote of confidence from advisors and mentors who were involved in the selection process, but it provides crucial funds to launch FinLit into the next stage of growth.
What’s next for you and your venture post-Kellogg?
We are working to improve our product from the most basic iteration to the most engaging and approachable educational experience out there. As we do this, we are delivering our product to organizations working with first-time, financial decision-makers, including college-prep organizations, colleges and universities. FinLit is incredibly empowering for first-generation students, first-generation Americans, and any other individuals looking to navigate the financial landscape for the first time. The institutions we are partnering with are well-positioned to provide unbiased and simple personal finance education and we’re providing the best tools to accomplish that.
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