Carolyn Scissons of the Finance Learning Lab: “Adopting a growth mindset, building resilience and a practicing a positive mindset are really important as a founder”

Adopting a growth mindset, building resilience and a practicing a positive mindset are really important as a founder. The truth is that starting and running a business is hard. You will face rejection. You will face failure. Things will take waaaay longer than you expected. Founders that intentionally cultivate these traits will be better equipped […]

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Adopting a growth mindset, building resilience and a practicing a positive mindset are really important as a founder. The truth is that starting and running a business is hard. You will face rejection. You will face failure. Things will take waaaay longer than you expected. Founders that intentionally cultivate these traits will be better equipped to persevere and accomplish their company’s vision.


As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carolyn Scissons.

Carolyn is the founder and CEO of the Finance Learning Lab (https://financelearninglab.com/) which is a company on a mission to help small businesses make sense of their numbers. She hosts a YouTube channel and shares free online finance courses to support the entrepreneurial community. She holds extensive professional designations and academic credentials including CPA, CMA, CIA, PMP and MBA.


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?

From a young age, I always dreamed of being an accountant and my first two words were actually “debit and credit”. Ok just kidding. I knew I wanted to make a major impact with my career but my decision to become a CPA was more logical than passion based. Before founding my company, I worked in large energy companies for over a decade so having that strong foundation with financials was really key but looking back on my career path, it wasn’t a straight line. Finally starting my own business was a series of small experiments where each experiment kept leading to the next opportunity. Now here I am as CEO of the Finance Learning Lab.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

It has been seeing the influence of running my own company on my daughter. She is 7 years old and I’ve noticed positive shifts in her from being exposed to entrepreneurship. She is naturally a bit shy but seeing her follow in my footsteps by attempting her own dog walking venture and then pivoting to a lemonade stand has been probably one of the greatest sources of pride for me.

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?

The funniest mistake now is probably dusting off my original business plan and looking at how far off I was on everything. Pretty much everything changed. I was off on my initial assumptions about the target market we would serve, what products and services we would sell and how we would operate. That said, I’m still glad I prepared a business plan because even if my assumptions were naïve, it was all part of the process of getting me started and kicking myself into action. Had I not started down that original path, our company Finance Learning Lab would have never been created.

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?

About 100 people who have helped me along the way! Interestingly, even some of the people who were more critics than supporters also served a purpose in making me stronger and more resilient. It is all part of the journey and you are going to meet a lot of people along the way and as a founder, it is your responsibility to continually be asking yourself “what can I learn from this?”.

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?

Corporate complacency. It is really easy to live a life of status quo. You might not like the job you are working and realize that deep down that you are meant for more, but being in a work environment surrounded by other disengaged corporate employees can lull you into remaining stuck. I think that coupled with societal views around the domestic pressures and parenting obligations we place on women can lead to extra barriers for women to become founders. It is too easy to get caught up in the busyness of day-to-day life and society can make females feel especially guilty for investing time in pursuing their business dream.

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?

As women, we can help support one another by encouraging each other, normalizing women-led businesses and ultimately putting our money where our mouth is by buying from female founded companies.

Governments and large corporations also have a role to play. Too many large corporations talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. They may brag about their diversity and inclusion programs, but the actual statistics don’t lie. Most of these companies consistently award in the range of 96% of all contracts to male-owned businesses despite the prevalence of women-owned businesses. As someone who has taken part in the RFP (request for proposal) processes and seen first hand the procurement policies these organizations have in place, it is clear that there are significant, systemic biases in place around the way that work is being awarded. Not only does this hurt female business owners, but it actually hurts the shareholders of these corporations who are ultimately footing the bill for archaic procurement practices justified under the veil of “it is the way we have always done it”.

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?

For women considering becoming founders, it offers freedom over your own future. It allows you to shape your life into whatever you want to make it.

For society in general, more female founders leads to products and services that better address the needs of the wide variety of consumers. There is a problem someone out there is facing out there that is uniquely well understood by someone who has lived and experienced it. When less than 20% of businesses are founded by women, we know there are market opportunities they are uniquely qualified to address that are going unsolved. This actually presents major financial opportunities for female founders ready to take on new challenges and investment gains for the companies that are willing to back these founders.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

I think there is a myth out there about what a founder looks like. When many of us picture a founder, we inevitably think of the “Mark Zuckerberg” type. There are certainly many young male tech savy entrepreneurs living in Silicon Valley but there are also countless other founders around the world who have come from different life paths. As a single mom myself, I believe it is important to portray the variety of backgrounds that founders actually come from because you never know who might see themselves in the examples.

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?

Adopting a growth mindset, building resilience and a practicing a positive mindset are really important as a founder. The truth is that starting and running a business is hard. You will face rejection. You will face failure. Things will take waaaay longer than you expected. Founders that intentionally cultivate these traits will be better equipped to persevere and accomplish their company’s vision.

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.)

Here is my video on “Five things you need to thrive and succeed as a woman founder”.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

My personal mission and a legacy I want to leave through the Finance Learning Lab is to democratize finance and accounting education for solopreneurs. This is why I’ve made a significant time commitment and company investment in creating a resource hub of completely free educational online courses (https://financelearninglab.com/) and videos on our company YouTube page to bridge the information gap that is holding small business owners back.

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.

Through my company Finance Learning Lab, I want to create a movement where all business owners feel a level of confidence approaching their numbers. The finance and accounting side of running a business should be empowering you to grow into a more profitable company, not overwhelming you. Making numbers make sense is the change I’m working to bring about in my small corner of the world.

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.

Yes. Donald Malcolm Smith, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership. The OWBO is doing great work and I would love the opportunity to help shape the future of women’s entrepreneurial education in the finance space.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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