Building a New Generation of Wealth
Twenty years into a successful career in finance, Jean Smart knew it was time to reassess her priorities and shuffle the board.
“I’ve seen this moment referred to as the Great Resignation for younger generations but for me, it’s the Great Reinvention,” says Jean.
For Jean, that meant a leap into entrepreneurship. She took everything she’d learned about savings, retirement products and generational wealth building and founded Penelope, a streamlined retirement savings platform for small business owners and their employees.
Jean’s Lived Experience
Jean is the daughter of small business owners who weren’t entrepreneurs by choice.
“I’m an immigrant and I grew up being very thoughtful and careful about my career because my parent’s generation took all the risks by coming here and starting a business,” says Jean.
“Because they found it so difficult, they wanted their children to go down traditional routes. So that’s what I did, but it’s hard to escape your roots, your culture and your thinking.”
Jean watched her parents, owners of a grocery store and restaurant, take care of everyone around them at their own expense. They didn’t invest in their own retirement, leaving them financially vulnerable as they aged.
And they aren’t alone. One in four Americans have no retirement savings. Jean realized there had to be a better solution to provide affordable and accessible retirement solutions. This was Jean’s chance to pursue entrepreneurship by choice, rather than necessity.
Partnering with Slauson
Once Jean decided she was all-in, she leaned on advisors and friends in New York finance circles for referrals and introductions in the venture capital world. One of them led her to Slauson & Co.
“When I started Penelope, I thought a dollar was a dollar and an investment was an investment, but a founder’s journey is very personal. It’s the story behind why we’re building the products we create,” says Jean.
She says she felt like Slauson understood that deeply personal journey, providing the mentorship and guidance she needed to quickly address pain points and proactively identify opportunities to grow her business.
“I’m not a first-time adult or a first-time professional, but I am a first-time founder so I really appreciate that level of attention.”
Empowering Small Businesses
Small businesses are the backbone of this country. The Small Business Administration estimates that there are currently around 29.6 million of them in the US.
Jean’s work will help shape a new generation of wealth for small business owners and their employees, like Jean’s parents, who historically haven’t had the option to consider retirement planning.
“Penelope, my daughter and my company namesake, is literally the beneficiary and byproduct of what we’re building,” says Jean. “It often takes a generation or two to build that wealth, but this product does that.”
When small businesses get the support they need, wealth is more evenly distributed, helping to create a brighter financial future for all.