This interview was originally featured in Tech For Equity Updates — a biweekly newsletter about Change Machine’s platform, including upcoming trainings, and insights from our community of practice. Subscribe today!
Meet Kiley Summers, one of our Convening for Change panelists who co-founded SpenDebt along with Ty’Lisha Summers! Kiley is also a co-founder and entrepreneur in residence of Diversity Fund Houston, a micro-venture fund that invests in Black and Brown founders.
Both Kiley and Ty’Lisha became debt free after paying off over $140,000 dollars in consumer debt, leveraging the micropayment technique that would eventually lead them to co-found SpenDebt. SpenDebt, a fintech on our recommendation engine, leverages micropayments to help consumers pay off any type of debt such as credit cards, student loans, medical debt, etc,. Their customers are averaging roughly $70 a month paying toward their debt.
From your personal experience, how does student debt disproportionately affect the Black community?
I went to a historical Black college and graduated from a predominately white institution, so I got both experiences. Being first generation and away for the first time, taking trauma with me, and lacking mentors are all things that not all Black students, but most Black students, carry.
Generally speaking, white students have a dad or a dad’s friend who is already working in corporate America and they know they’re going to get a job when they graduate and what salary they’re going to make. It’s unknown for Black students in most cases. Without my network, I may have still been looking for an opportunity as an engineer.
Some Black students are also taking care of their families. While in school, I received the Pell Grant from the government — which is great — but I felt I still needed more financial aid. It’s the thought, “I need to get everything they’ve given me because it may not be offered to me again.” That’s driving the student loan bubble for many Black students. I can’t speak for all Black students, but that’s what happened to me.
How does SpenDebt make itself more accessible to marginalized communities?
By having great partnerships — like the one we have with Change Machine — as well as with people who are working with the folks in the community who need financial products. Not only can these partners be advocates, but they can answer questions and be there for someone who may not have the necessary confidence or exposure to take advantage of these resources.
How can community members collaborate with fintechs like SpenDebt to build a more equitable economy?
Being part of a community for change and talking about financial security is incredibly important because you get perspective. The community helps fintech builders like myself better position ourselves to create solutions for the ecosystem as a whole.
The most notable way to address financial insecurity by fintechs is to start with the system that’s already in place. It could be incubators added by local governments to help spur economic development. It can be nonprofits similar to Change Machine that has a fintech advisory group, which is looking at products to build tech for equity.
To learn more about how we evaluate fintechs for our recommendation engine, check out our vetting standards in Part II of our blog series!