“Why it’s so important to form a genuine connection with each person on your team” With CNote Co-founder Yuliya Tarasava

Connect with each person on your team, and I mean — form a genuine connection, understand what makes them happy, what annoys them, how they show up when they are angry or upset or hungry, learn about their interests, about their family… Ask and listen. Showing a genuine interest and being a good listener does wonders to […]

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Connect with each person on your team, and I mean — form a genuine connection, understand what makes them happy, what annoys them, how they show up when they are angry or upset or hungry, learn about their interests, about their family… Ask and listen. Showing a genuine interest and being a good listener does wonders to any relationship.

I had the pleasure to interview Yuliya Tarasava the Co-founder of CNote. Yuliya has a decade of experience on Wall Street and has developed financial products on 3 continents. She started her career designing investment solutions for the global asset management firm AMG Funds, and later joined the wealth management boutique Summit Rock Advisors to develop the firm’s risk management framework. Over the years, Yuliya has maintained her passion for demystifying finance, including creating an investment education portal in Russia and advising non-profits and startups around the world.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started getting very interested in finance in college. I was curious to understand the role of financial markets in the economic development of certain countries. I was born in the Soviet Union with a planned economy and grew up in an independent Belarus crawling towards free markets, and in my adulthood moved to the U.S., the capitalistic capital. For a decade, I worked on Wall Street, and then one day, my life changed. My dad passed away. Growing up, my dad was the center of my universe, and in my adult years he was my role model. When I lost my dad, I lost a piece of myself. After that, it took me a couple of years to pick up the pieces. The life as I knew it did not make sense any longer and I had to find my purpose.

As a result, I made some very important changes in my life. A change of my career path was one of them. I found the concept of social finance and impact investing and I got interested in how we can use capital and business to solve greatest social issues. I re-discovered my passion about financial and economic inclusion, gender and racial equality. That work and clarity as a result was a critical part to the creation of CNote, whose mission is closing the wealth gap in the U.S. through financial innovation.

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

To me, the most interesting part of the entrepreneurship journey is the professional and personal growth that happens to you every day. Each day life throws you a new challenge and opportunity. No one gives you the guide how to solve problems and take advantage of gold moment, you just have to do what you feel is the right thing — following your gut with the insights from mentors and advisors. Talking about being comfortable being uncomfortable — that’s my day-to-day reality! Never a boring moment.

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?

I find my silliest mistakes happen when I try to be “efficient” and multitask. You know, those moments when you thought you were on mute, or you when you’re not fast enough with the “undo” function in your mailbox? While I can’t say that I’ve fully stopped multi-tasking, I can definitely assure you that I learned some lessons the hard way!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

One thing that makes CNote stand out is the fact that it’s in the fintech space; finance and technology — both being heavily male-dominated sectors. We’re also a social enterprise — both my co-founder, Cat Berman, and I are very intentional and vocal that we are focus on generating both social good and revenue. And to add to that, from the day one, we decided we wanted to build an inclusive company that would create impact financial products available to all (independent of the wealth, income level and financial acumen) and ensure the capital gets into the hands of underserved communities like LMI, women and minorities.

I have endless stories of me and Cat being the only women at an industry networking event, on the panel or in the room with investors — you name it. Not to mention, the countless times in our 2.5 years of the existence that we were challenged on our mission and commitment to inclusion. We love it though — it makes us stronger!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

At CNote, people can invest in communities they care about. The money is deployed to fund small businesses in underserved communities build affordable housing, charter schools, health clinics, etc. Jobs get created, communities get economically stronger and safe and the livelihoods improve.

Recently, we created a fund that focuses solely on women-led businesses. What if I told you that only one out of 23 lending dollars go to women lending businesses? Shocking? Yes. But it’s true.

What we are aiming for with CNote is a first-of-its-kind attempt to increase loan funding for women-led businesses utilizing design thinking to get to the core of the problem why women are underfunded and what form of capital is the right fit for them. I’m personally incredible excited about the prospects of this project and the outcome. We need to change that 1:23 ratio for good!

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Lead by example is what I constantly think of. Your behavior as a leader is the guide to my team on do’s and dont’s. You have the privilege and responsibility to create that guide in a way that makes your team be the best version of themselves.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a team?

Connect with each person on your team, and I mean — form a genuine connection, understand what makes them happy, what annoys them, how they show up when they are angry or upset or hungry, learn about their interests, about their family… Ask and listen. Showing a genuine interest and being a good listener does wonders to any relationship.

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?

That would definitely be my late father. His first gift to me was to give me life. His last gift was to inspire me to discover myself.

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

The mission of our company, CNote, is to solve the wealth gap in the U.S. We are building a more equal world with the community of our members. We’ve already helped create over 1,000 jobs in our communities and helped hundreds of entrepreneurs to build their businesses. We are changing the narrative of money, from “evil” to “good”, from “luxury” to “social good”. Thousands of our members believe their money is power and they can change the world with it for better.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Be authentic and vulnerable. I find showing my humanity helps me to establish deeper connection with my team.

Be authoritative. That’s a lesson for not-so-normal times. Your team will be looking up to you for direction and guidance, make sure you provide that to them.

Listen and learn. This is my personal favorite. Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you — experts in their respective fields — and let them talk. Be attentive and learn from them.

Fake it until you make it. No one ever taught me how to be an entrepreneur or how to be a good leader. The best thing you can do (that I’ve done myself!) is try again and again and again…

Stay connected to the “why”. There will be rough patches on your path — lots of pot holes — and when you get to one, it’s good to remind yourself of “why”. The answer to that is your rope to get you out of the hole and back on the path you’re supposed to be on.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

I am a big believer in “paying it forward”. In today’s world, that can be full of negativity, I believe we can find relief in moments of kindness targeted at each other. No matter how small or big they are. It can be as little as a smile and a compliment for a fellow commuter or as big as for a female leader in a company to become a mentor for a junior colleague.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is: Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” We (and I am the first to admit) spend countless hours of precious time comparing ourselves to others. Such a waste. We were created to be different, so let’s embrace it! It’s not for us to change. Each of us has talents, gifts, imperfections, weaknesses — it’s up to us what we make out of it, independent of our surroundings and other people. My only ask is to be kind to each other.

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You can follow CNote on Facebook: and on Twitter: @MyCNote.

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