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This Incredible CEO Will Give $500 to Any Student Who Improves His or Her literacy by at Least One Letter-Grade

“So I developed this idea, worked hand-in-hand with the public schools, and launched a brand-new charity called “Paid for Grades”. Now, if a student improves his or her literacy by at least one letter-grade, satisfies the attendance requirements and completes an interactive series of self-help workshops, the student will receive a check for $500.”
I had the pleasure to interview Monica Eaton-Cardone. Monica is the cofounder, owner and COO of Chargebacks911 , a Tampa Bay-based cybersecurity company that safeguards 2.4 billion digital transactions per year & has 400+ employees worldwide. Monica launched Chargebacks911 in 2011, and has developed a unique, award-winning work culture that was recognized in 2017 at one of “Tampa Bay’s Top Workplaces”

Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

“Back in 2010, I was an online merchant, selling a few different products over the Internet. Suddenly — out of the blue — I was hammered with a slew of chargebacks. My merchant account was suspended, and I was hit with thousands upon thousands of dollars in penalties. I was shocked, because I’ve always taken enormous pride in being a highly-conscientious, detail-oriented person who fulfills every single consumer request to the letter. Honesty and integrity are so incredibly important to me, and now I was being accused of ripping-off my customers! Worst of all, the burden of proof was on me to prove my innocence — and I had no idea how the process worked. Not knowing what else to do, I researched the chargeback phenomenon, reverse-engineered the process, and developed new technology that was specifically designed to systematically eliminate chargeback fraud, dispute unfair allegations, protect the rights of merchants, and prove to the banks when the merchant isn’t to blame. Little by little, my technology improved — as did my success rate. Then — solely by word of mouth — more and more companies began asking me for help. That led me to launch my own company, Chargebacks911 in 2011. Within just a handful of years, we had 400+ employees worldwide, clients in 87 different countries, and were safeguarding 2.4 billion digital transactions each year. It’s been an incredible journey… and I owe it all to being victimized by chargeback fraud!”

Yitzi: Which person or which company do you most admire and why?

“I’m a huge admirer of Steve Jobs. Numerous times during his career, he disrupted the status quo and redefined what it means to innovate. It wasn’t always easy — and some of his setbacks were quite public — but he never lost sight of his passion or his optimism. In the process, he built the world’s wealthiest, most influential company. He was utterly uncompromising with his vision, and he absolutely refused to be out-worked, out-hustled or out-maneuvered. I try to emulate these qualities at Chargebacks911, but of course, I’m not alone: Steve Jobs is a hero to STEM executives all over the world. We all owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.”

Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

“When I first began hiring for entry-level positions at Chargebacks911 — things like data-entry, or low-level office help — I had to interview lots of young people in my hometown of Tampa Bay, Florida. Well, I soon learned that far too many of today’s high school students lack the necessary job-skills to succeed. In fact, lots of them struggled with basic literacy and self-confidence. This saddened me greatly, so I decided to think like an entrepreneur: How can we incentivize people to maximize their academic potential in a free market economy? If this were a business problem, how would I solve it?

The answer, of course, was with financial incentives.

So I developed this idea, worked hand-in-hand with the public schools, and launched a brand-new charity called “Paid for Grades”. Now, if a student improves his or her literacy by at least one letter-grade, satisfies the attendance requirements and completes an interactive series of self-help workshops, the student will receive a check for $500. The money comes with no strings attached — and we’ll even pay for the student to receive after-hours tutoring from a teacher. We don’t reward effort; we reward performance. It’s been an astounding success! Hundreds of students — including those that nobody else had been able to reach — were suddenly improving their literacy and graduating from school. Teary-eyed parents were thanking me. It’s been so incredibly rewarding! “Paid for Grades” is a program that’s 100 percent privately funded (no government grants or taxpayer funds), and after helping schoolchildren here in Florida, I hope to launch the program nationally. It’s time to bring the spirit of innovation to education. Our kids deserve the best, and sadly, we’ve all fallen short.”

Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why.

1. Performance matters more than appearance. “Early in my career, I thought it was necessary for all Chargebacks911 employees — including myself — to dress like Wall Street bankers, high-flying executives and corporate kingpins around the office. We wore suits, fancy shoes and ties. But that just wasn’t me. I’ve always been more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt than high heels and a pantsuit. And I quickly noticed that there was absolutely zero correlation between an employee’s clothes and his or her performance. Today, unless we’re meeting a client or attending an important conference, you’ll find our team at Chargebacks911 in comfortable clothes and shoes. I’ve learned you can be productive, hard-working and professional without artificial airs; performance is more important than appearance.”

2. No business plan is permanent. “I launched Chargebacks911 in 2011. Since then, six years has flown by. Countless dot-coms have come and gone. Technology has changed. It’s a different world, and a business plan tailored to 2011 would be unsuccessful in 2017. As a CEO, you’re in the business of innovation. The opposition isn’t standing still — and neither can you. In today’s marketplace, either adapt or perish; either innovate or evaporate. There is no middle ground.”

3. We’re in the business of helping other people. “It doesn’t matter how cool your technology is, or how cutting-edge your algorithms are; if you’re not providing your clients with a tangible, credible, effective benefit, then your profit-model is fatally flawed. For Chargebacks911, I identified a gap in transactional security for eCommerce and developed a cost-effective solution. You should do the same: Identify a gap, then help your target-audience by filling the gap. In business, the best way to help yourself is to help someone else.”

4. There are no “little details.” “As a business owner, you’re accountable for everything — and I do mean EVERYTHING! From the receptionist’s vocal inflections to the color and design of your business card, it’s all a reflection of you. It’s okay to delegate — and sometimes you have to — but there better be a chain-of-command that provides oversight, because everything communicates something — and at the end of the day, ALL details matter. If you’re not ready for this kind of soup-to-nuts oversight, then you’re not ready to be a business owner.”

5. You can’t be afraid to fail. “Everyone marveled when Steve Jobs’ unveiled the original iPhone, but trust me: There were lots of failures, screw-ups and dead-end ideas that were left on Apple’s cutting room floor. Most new ideas were failures. But by embracing a culture of continual improvements, Jobs created a climate that encouraged risk-taking — and the results speak for themselves. That’s our approach at Chargebacks911, too: The FinTech industry is rapidly evolving, and that means we must evolve with it. Otherwise, we’ll be left behind. So, we’re always encouraging our team-members to offer new ideas and try new approaches. If we pursue 10 new ideas each week and only 10 percent end-up working, that still means we’re incorporating one great new idea each week. Over the course of many months and many years, we’re blessed with a windfall of incredible new ideas that allow us to better-serve our clients — and out-innovate the competition. It’s the secret to our success — but it would never happen if we were afraid to fail.”

Yitzi: I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. 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.

“I’d love to meet Tobias Lütke, the founder and CEO of Shopify. The music-streaming space has a vast array of extremely well-financed competitors and corporate kingmakers — Google, Apple, iHeartRadio, Tidal, Pandora, Amazon — but Shopify has successfully defied the odds to emerge as the preeminent brand in music streaming. It really demonstrates that disruption in tech can come from anywhere in the world.”