Female Disruptor: Sally Outlaw took on the SEC
It takes a real outlaw to take on the SEC — and win
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sally Outlaw, Founder and CEO of Worthy Financial, whose personal and company mission is economic opportunity for all. After 10 years in crowdfunding, she has created a way for everyone to painlessly save while earning 5% on their money — and to do it while helping community businesses thrive. She holds a Series 65 license as a Registered Investment Advisor and is a national speaker on the topic of alternative finance.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Well creating something from nothing has always been my oxygen. I honestly don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t putting my ideas into action — from my backyard carnivals as a kid in Miami, to my 10 years doing business in Russia, to my production company working with Leonard Nimoy in Los Angeles.
Of course, all these ideas and business ventures over the years needed financial fuel so I guess that’s how, little by little, I ended up in the world of finance.
I never had the type of Rolodex from which money could be raised so I lived the struggle most entrepreneurs face when trying to get launched.
As a result, I headed into crowdfunding as a way to connect to investment and support.
I now live and breathe the industry as it’s a powerful thing when people come together to make something happen — never underestimate the power of a crowd!
Why did you found your company?
I founded my company to level the financial playing field and support my fellow humans. I am a huge believer in community capital.
A colleague of mine once posed the question, “How different would our world look if half of the investments we made were within 50 miles of where we lived?”
I, for one, would look heavier as I would own a piece of my local donut shop (!) but the point is we would have less unemployment, more robust cities and a bigger variety of thriving independent businesses.
The opportunity to be stakeholders in our communities, and in each other, is so important and that’s what I designed Worthy to offer.
We created an alternative way for people to save that not only pays 5% interest but helps support growing businesses across the country. Ultimately, I want to help as many people as possible have a more secure financial future.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Well I’m trying to help people improve their financial health but to do it outside of Wall Street.
With a focus on making money work for everyone (not just the 1%), I used recently updated securities laws in an innovative way. I took what is called Regulation A+, which is part of the new JOBS ACT law, and engineered a proprietary financial product for the masses.
It’s a 5% fixed interest bond — that’s only $10.00 — so it allows people to micro-invest and more easily build a nest egg. The bonds are also totally liquid meaning they can be cashed in at any time with no fees or penalties, so they operate more like a savings account.
It took a 9-month battle with the SEC and over $100,000 in legal fees to bring our Worthy Bonds to market but now the majority of Americans can benefit from a better financial return.
It’s about time we have access to the types of institutional quality investments that the wealthy have always had so we too can see some real financial growth.
Most people don’t know that 99% of Americans are restricted by law from investing their money in any way they want. The SEC has decided that only the wealthy can access certain kinds of investments — such as investing equity or debt in private companies.
Being blocked from investing in these types of higher-yielding opportunities is a problem because it makes it hard for the majority of us to grow our wealth and get ahead.
We “common folk” are left with only the measly interest rate banks pay or with buying into the public stock market (which is after most of a company’s growth has already happened).
Discovering this inequity really got under my skin and started me on a decades long quest to democratize finance.
I want as many people as possible to have access to higher-yielding, community-based investments. I think everyone is worthy of economic security and if we can help provide this, while offering both a financial and a social return, it’s a home run.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
While I have not been lucky enough to have specific mentors (I’m still open…Elon?), I’ve been fortunate that many individuals have opened doors and made introductions for which I am enormously grateful.
Whether it was to potential investors in my company, prospective partners for my business, or new customers, many of those who helped me were actually other entrepreneurs who understand the struggles of building a business.
Being a founder and the primary driver behind your company is often an exhausting and lonely place to be so when someone steps up to lend a hand it’s a tremendous relief — not to mention a boost to keep you going!
That said, you can’t expect people to open doors unless they know you’ve done the hard work…so you have to jump into those trenches and get busy!
How are you going to shake things up next?
Well my last name is Outlaw so you never know!
I have to say my plate is pretty full with Worthy, but growing up as the daughter of an architect and a realtor, and now with my kids going off to college, part of me is thinking we need to reimagine how we live in our older years. So perhaps there’s a housing shake up in my future!
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
“Just start.” This goes back a bit but in high school (I attended an arts boarding school — shout out to Interlochen Arts Academy!) a teacher of mine saw me staring at a blank wood block in printmaking class, tool in hand, not sure what design to make, he looked at me and said, “just make that first cut in the wood, and then that cut will sort of demand a response and then another… and it will lead you in a direction.” He then followed with “it’s like life…you have to just jump in and take that first step and you’ll get the feedback you need to make the next move.”
I think of that whenever I get paralyzed with a decision and don’t know what to do…I know that if I just take a step in any direction, I’ll begin to know if it’s a good course for me or if I need to adjust my path.
“You can’t control what happens to you, only how you respond to it.” I’m a very positive, optimistic person — I think most entrepreneurs are or we wouldn’t jump out of planes and build our parachute on the way down (which is what entrepreneurship has been compared to!) — and I honestly see obstacles as not something that stops me but as a challenge to navigate.
This approach was probably engrained in me from my 10 years of working in Russia in the 90’s as it was an extremely challenging environment in which to operate — especially as a female. I had to not only have a “plan B” but a plan C, D, E and F in order to accomplish what I needed to there! I guess that’s where I learned to tackle whatever comes my way and just solve it.
“Only do the things that only I can do.” As an entrepreneur you always wear a lot of hats but it can hurt your business if this means you are taken away from your strengths, from doing what you do best.
If I’m stuck in a back office balancing the checkbook or downloading an image to post on social media, it’s time I’m not getting out in front of our customers sharing my passion for our product in a way only I can demonstrate. So in the companies I’ve launched I’ve learned, as quickly as possible, to focus my efforts where I can personally have the most impact.
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.
Well I know many company founders who answer this question probably reference business content but I’m addicted to The Moth…what they call “real stories, told live.”
It features people who have done both ordinary and extraordinary things. I like it for it’s simple humanity…voices from around the world sharing challenges big and small.
I listen to it daily on my 2-mile walk and my neighbors see me both laughing and crying…all in the same stroll!
I am totally inspired by the courage and resilience these people share — and the stories remind me that we can ALL make an impact in our communities, and sometimes the world, by simply taking action.
I agree with whoever said you don’t need a degree or credentials to change the world…you just need to say “this has to change” and commit to doing it.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
There are many high-profile people who also care about social good so I would love to grab coffee with any of them as hopefully they would see the value in our product and find ways to support us. Even something as simple as a tweet from someone with celebrity can really elevate a new brand like ours!
Another person I’d like to hang with is Kodi Azari — he’s a pioneering transplant surgeon. He told the most interesting story about his grueling dedication to his craft on a recent Moth podcast and it was mesmerizing. Can I also just add that this amazing man who reconstructs our wounded service members is an immigrant from Persia? Just saying.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
We can be found on Twitter @worthynow and on Instagram and Facebook with the same account name. And of course as Sally Outlaw on Linkedin.
I’d be happy to hear from anyone who finds our work worthy!