Female Founders: Kayling Gaver of Tapcheck On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder
An Interview with Candice Georgiadis
Be Passionate: You need to have a deep passion for your idea. That passion is what fuels your drive to realize your company’s vision. You need to be your own biggest advocate before you can convince someone else how great your idea is. One way to keep this passion alight is to engage with your team and users to understand the impact of your solution and what else they need, so you can come up with ways to fill this gap. It’s really touching to hear the personal stories of how our solution is supporting people, and I think that really helps fuel the passion and drive to continue innovating and bringing more options and improved solutions to users.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kayling Gaver, Co-founder and COO at Tapcheck.
Kayling Gaver, Tapcheck’s co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, understands that “human” is the most important part of human resources. After 18 years of operations experience at one of the nation’s leading HR and payroll development companies, Kayling saw an opportunity to help families across the country gain better control of their finances by combining emerging technology with the practical payroll solution of on-demand earnings. Seeing the potential of this solution, she created Tapcheck with her husband, Ron Gaver. With her deep operational experience and extensive industry knowledge, Kayling guides Tapcheck’s day-to-day operations and inspires her team to continually seek out innovative solutions for employers and employees across the country.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
The backstory of how I got into finance is an interesting one, mainly because it was not the career path I initially chose. I spent the majority of my career — 18 years — as an HR, payroll, and operations professional. My passion for helping employees was always my main focus, and I was always trying to build solutions and find ways to make their lives better. When it came to employees asking for advance pay solutions and payday lending practices, I realized that the scales were wildly out of balance and that there wasn’t a clear solution that benefitted both the employer and the employee in a way that put their needs on equal footing. Employers needed a cost-free solution that could easily integrate into their existing payroll systems, while employees needed the ability to get their wages when they needed them most without fear of penalty, high-interest rates, or feeling trapped into taking on more debt.
Tapcheck was born from the notion that on-demand pay solutions should integrate seamlessly into payroll systems and promote financial wellness rather than detract from it. What started as a solution meant to break down the long-held obstacles to accessing pay earned in advance, Tapcheck is now helping workers and their families make it through unforeseen challenges and gaining more financial flexibility and confidence.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
After launching Tapcheck, the world was impacted by COVID-19, so our team had to pivot to working together virtually. When you typically build a company, you’re able to meet people face-to-face and get to know your employees in-person, but this radical change meant needing to be flexible and nimble. While it was challenging, we embraced the opportunity to fine tune our communication skills and open up our talent pool to finding the right individuals across the nation. We’ve been leveraging all kinds of technology to help create a unique and positive work culture, where we support a team of bright individuals to tackle the enduring systemic problem of the bi-weekly paycheck cycle and innovate new ways for people to achieve financial wellness.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
At the very beginning, I thought it wouldn’t be too difficult to balance building and running a startup with family life, as a woman and as a mother of four small children. Needless to say, I learned very quickly that I have a lot to juggle in both my professional and personal life. As the company grew, my work responsibilities also grew alongside the pressure to do well in all aspects of my life. Being a perfectionist made this even more challenging, but I learned a valuable lesson from balancing both my deep passion for my work and my family. You can only do so much in any given day, so as long as you’re doing your best in everything you care about, you can’t be too hard on yourself. For example, making one-on-one time for each of my kids for about 10 to 15 minutes a day can be enough when I’m really spending quality time with them and making the most of these moments.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
You can’t be successful without taking action, but taking that first step to put an idea in motion can be a big roadblock for some; they might sit on a great idea instead of diving in. Success comes from action without delay, and that is what I’ve learned from Ron, my husband and Tapcheck co-founder. When I thought of the idea for Tapcheck, I didn’t put it off for years. With his support, I put it into motion the very next day. Looking back, if you would’ve asked me then if I could’ve ever imagined being where we are today, the answer would be no — especially thinking back on all of the steps it took to get here. Putting something in motion requires that you take that first step, and then another one after that, and so on. You need to keep moving forward, and that is also what I learned from Ron. If you want something, then keep moving forward and do it. It doesn’t matter that I’m a woman, or a mom of four, or that I often feel like I don’t have extra time. There is always time to make something happen, especially something you are passionate about, and you just have to do it.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
I feel that one of the biggest challenges that working mothers face is that taking care of the family is often naturally seen as solely a woman’s responsibility. Additionally, many women don’t have the proper support network that empowers them to pursue more intensive business endeavors like starting a company. This can translate into making it difficult to achieve positive work-life balance, which can discourage women from creating companies. Another factor can be that women generally lack confidence. According to a Cornell University study, women frequently underestimate their abilities and performance. From my perspective, these factors may play a role in holding women back from starting their own companies.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
The interesting thing about all three areas is that they each involve relationships. Whether you’re talking about professional or personal life, successful relationships are more about action than intent. You can have all the best plans and strategies, but you can’t expect to make any progress if you never act on them. In every setting you mentioned, you have to figure out how to interact with others while being true to your values and proactive in your approach.
For individuals, we need to start by understanding that people are people. No matter what their title or status may be, they have goals and dreams they want to accomplish. If you can connect with them and find ways to help them succeed, you will prove yourself to be a valuable ally. The law of reciprocity has major implications in this area. When we help others rise up and accomplish their goals, others will inevitably do the same for us.
Society is a considerable challenge simply because it involves so many people, each with a different life experience. If we want society to support the upward mobility of women, every one of us needs to do our part to celebrate the success of women in professional settings. They say that old habits die hard, and unfortunately, people have a habit of expecting influential business leaders to be men. Many people will recognize that women can ascend to top positions, but they tend to see those instances as the exceptions, not the rule. So, the best thing we can do is start changing that narrative by sharing stories of successful women — and striving to write those stories ourselves.
As for how the government can contribute to the cause, there is an opportunity to put funding behind education programs that are geared toward women in business. Not only can this help provide women with the tools and skills they need to start a company, but also help grow confidence and community as women can learn alongside each other and grow together. Creating this kind of opportunity and environment would help nurture women leaders to pursue business opportunities and inspire more women-led organizations that better reflect the diversity of our society.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
As I previously shared, I think leadership should reflect the diversity of our society. That way we can better ensure the perspectives and needs of everyone is being considered — especially as decision-makers in top business and across industries. It’s commonly known that the majority of founders are men. However, diversity in thought, strategy and execution is important in leadership because it brings different ideas and new solutions to the table. More women founders mean that there can be more organizations out there that offer innovative approaches to challenges and needs, on top of what’s available now. Ultimately, women founders have the power to give society more options, which I think is incredibly valuable in our evolving world.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
A myth I’d like to dispel is that founders get to work on only what they want to. To get Tapcheck off the ground, I had to wear many different hats to get the necessary work done. As a leader, I have to make sure that I’m not only supporting my teams, but that I ensure Tapcheck meets the needs of our partners and customers. So while I make decisions as a founder, I pay close attention to all our stakeholders and jump in to help where it’s needed.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
I believe everyone has the potential to start their own company. I think this largely depends on the passion you have for your idea. Being a founder means working hard to realize your vision. That involves challenging yourself to do things you’ve never done before. No first-time company founder has all the answers, so you have to be open to exploring new things and not fear failure. Most people have these traits to some degree, so I think it’s really about believing in yourself, your idea and your ability to convince other people to believe in your idea. If you’ve never felt deeply inspired by an idea that has compelled you put in countless hours to learn how to bring it to life, you likely won’t be interested in becoming a company founder.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Be Passionate: You need to have a deep passion for your idea. That passion is what fuels your drive to realize your company’s vision. You need to be your own biggest advocate before you can convince someone else how great your idea is. One way to keep this passion alight is to engage with your team and users to understand the impact of your solution and what else they need, so you can come up with ways to fill this gap. It’s really touching to hear the personal stories of how our solution is supporting people, and I think that really helps fuel the passion and drive to continue innovating and bringing more options and improved solutions to users.
- Be Proactive: You can’t simply have a great idea and expect it to come to life on its own. You have to proactively come up with all the processes and assets you need. You have to seek and hire the right people to join your team who not only share your passion, but also bring strong capabilities to help grow the company. One of my life principles is to never put anything off just because it seems too big or too much. As a woman, I know that there are many situations where we delay on taking action because we are balancing so much. However, I believe in taking small steps every day because over time, those efforts are taking you closer to your goal and will amount to something meaningful.
- Be Strategic: The reality is you have a limited amount of resources and personnel to work with. You have to be strategic to make sure you’re applying resources and personnel optimally to meet both your company’s short-term and long-term goals. It’s important to not get caught up in ticking things off a to-do list and to focus on the bigger picture of what are the best steps you need to take to deliver upon your company mission, which constantly change. Whether you’re focusing on new efforts that are as small as a button or as big as an entirely new product, you need to stay focused on your overarching goals to ensure your team is holistically moving forward in the right direction.
- Be Solutions-oriented: You will inevitably face challenges when figuring out how to grow your company. Being solutions-oriented means that whenever you face an obstacle, you strive to find ways to overcome it. Knowing your audience is key in creating the best solutions for them. For Tapcheck, it’s also essential to form a team with diverse skills and perspectives because our audience’s needs are wide and varied, so we need a team that can take a look at various situations with different lenses to create versatile solutions that work for everyone.
- Be Resilient: Sometimes it’ll feel like you’re hitting a dead end over and over no matter where you turn. It’s important to be able to pick yourself back up when times are hard because founding a company is certainly not easy. A lot of the times when you hear startup stories, you only hear of the successes; the truth is lots of startups face a lot of setbacks. Before we were able to figure out the right messaging and go-to-market strategy for Tapcheck, we heard a lot of no-s. Resilience is so important because if we listened to all those no-s, we wouldn’t be here today, helping so many hardworking Americans. When you’re having a hard time and dealing with setbacks, just remember your mission and it’ll give you the strength to be resilient.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
When I founded Tapcheck with my husband, we established our company mission, which is to empower workers’ financial wellness. Our company addresses one of the greatest American inequities in that our society’s pay cycle structure keeps the most vulnerable at a disadvantage, making it difficult achieve financial security. We believe that everyone should be able to lead financially healthy lives. To resolve this problem, Tapcheck offers workers the flexibility they need to achieve financial security.
For employees, 78% of workers pays bills on time with on-demand pay and it has caused a 49% average increase in work productivity. Meanwhile for employers, on-demand pay has reduced absenteeism by 74% and employee turnover by 50%. Also, it has led to a 49% average increase in employee productivity.
Additionally, we offer Tapcheck users free access to financial education tools to support employees on their journey to achieve financial wellness. In America, three in seven people are financially literate and among millennials, only 16% qualify as financially literate. It’s clear that most people are not currently set up for financial success. At Tapcheck, we believe that providing these resources is critical to helping people make more informed financial decisions and better manage their finances. While there is a vast amount of materials out there, we provide workers with one simple app where users can search a particular topic and know that they are accessing beneficial information from industry experts that help guide them to lead financially healthy lives.
Our financial knowledge center provides users with financial insights and in-depth resources like self-paced educational courses, specialized financial calculators, and informational articles. By offering employees 24/7 access to this premium financial education resource, employers can create a company culture that prioritizes financial empowerment. Overall, our platform has led 55% of users to increase their savings within a 12-month period and 27% of users to increase their emergency savings fund to 3–6 months’ worth of expenses.
I’m very proud of our work and our contribution to shaping a society where everyone has the opportunity to lead a financially healthy life.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I am a strong proponent of paying it forward. Life gets busy and hectic for us all, but I think it’s important to make time to give back and be empathetic towards the needs of others. Every day I try to do something, big or small, that will have a positive effect on someone’s life. It’s addicting; it becomes a habit and another way of life. It’s also something I try to instill in my children.
For example, I had an opportunity to pay it forward when I recently took my daughter for a checkup with her pediatrician. While we were waiting to book our follow-up appointment, another mom was in front of us in line and speaking with the receptionist about the struggle to pay her outstanding bill. When she went into the exam room, I paid her bill for her, from one mom to another. She clearly wanted to do what was best for her child but was struggling, and I was in a position that I was able to help her. When these situations come up, I think it’s important to be empathetic, and an act of kindness like this can really make someone’s day. Especially over this past year, everyone is facing drastic change and they’re doing their best. I firmly believe that if you’re in a position to help others, you should and it’ll make a world of difference to someone.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
For me, I’d love to have lunch with Susan Cain, who delivered a moving TED Talk titled, “Power of Introverts.” Her talk really resonated with me because it shows what it takes to be a leader, in a new way. Typically, when you think of the persona of a founder or leader, they’re very outspoken and commanding. That’s completely different from who I am. I’m a leader, and I’m much more of a listener which influences the way I manage and grow Tapcheck. I appreciate that her talk shares that you don’t necessarily have to be the loudest in the room to lead and that there’s great value in leading by listening to your employees and customers. This is really meaningful and inspirational for anyone who might have a unique and different approach to leading and pursuing their passion.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.