Integrate your intuition with your intellect and you will be a force in all you do
Erin Papworth spent thirteen years working in women’s development and behavioral science internationally. She led multi-million dollar programs across 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and successfully advocated for country-level health policy change to include marginalized populations of all genders. Erin founded a consulting firm in 2015 and worked with the United Nations, USAID, FHI360, and Johns Hopkins University, amongst others. Her experience in international development has given her a deep understanding of the unique experiences women have navigating different financial and legal systems and how essential women’s economic stability is for the overall development of a society. Erin’s passion for women’s development led her to identify the limitations in the U.S. financial industry’s approach to engaging, servicing and supporting women.
Where did the idea for Nav.it come from?
I spent a long time working with women around the world. During that time I became very passionate about adolescents women’s health and preventative medicine. I also saw how incredibly important access to personal income was for women to not only protect themselves and determine their own fate but also for the advancement of society. Women overseas reinvest 90% of their personal income back into education, family, and community. When I came back to the U.S. I saw the amazing opportunity that young women in this country have for the first time in our collective history. Women finally have access to the labor markets at unprecedented levels, yet the financial industry has underserved and undervalued women’s unique experience with finances, careers, childcare responsibilities, and wealth because this access only changed in the 1970s. I saw an opportunity to create products that serve the female reality and increase their financial confidence with the intent to help them build a future of wealth.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My days are a mix of in-person meetings, calls, and personal emails or projects. My team has historically been across U.S. time zones, so coordinating calls and schedules are important. I have standing bi-weekly meetings with everyone on my team. I also work hard to create the most robust network for myself and Nav.it, as I believe my business will only be successful in partnership with other like-minded leaders and companies. That means attending events and a lot of one-on-one meetings. We recently joined two accelerator programs that provide different resources and expertise to Nav.it, so I also spend my time working in collaboration with their leadership and honing our business strategy.
My responsibilities and scheduling fluctuate on a daily basis, so I prefer to look at my calendar on a weekly or bi-monthly basis and make sure that I block time when I can address the individual tasks or projects that take my full attention and focus. For example, this is when I write blog articles and thought pieces, plan the next few weeks, catch up on email or focus on a presentation.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have a lot of ideas in my head, and often I need to give myself time to formulate how they integrate into the whole structure and mission of Nav.it. I draw and write a lot –my office is filled with notebooks from all my ideas over the years. Researching and listening to leaders across industries is also imperative for me to continue to iterate on where my business needs to go, so I listen to a lot of podcasts –mainly when I’m in transit, exercising, or doing housework at night.
I have also been extremely lucky to find an amazing team, particularly people with skill sets that compliment mine. My CTO is my thought partner and he is really able to technically visualize how ideas can work in the overall product and user experience. That is imperative in a CTO and I feel truly lucky to be able to co-create with him. With this new accelerator program, I have also added to my team awesomely intelligent marketing and creative direction and business development experts. So there is a lot of collaboration that is so productive and inspiring!
What’s one trend that excites you?
There are so many! But fundamental to what we are doing at Nav.it is the moment women’s empowerment is having at a national and international level. There has been a systemic social shift over the last three years to shed light on, value, and enhance the contribution of women to the economy, entrepreneurship, tech, consumer choice, and financial management. I couldn’t be happier we are a part of that and bringing light to the incredible contribution of women to wealth and the financial health of this country.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am always willing to learn and listen. I had to shed many layers of my ego in the early days of Nav.it when I pivoted from public health and behavioral science into business and tech and needed to learn completely new vocabulary related to product development, tech, and marketing. I think the only reason Nav.it survived those days was my learned ability to listen and respect others perspectives and expertise while integrating the knowledge they gave me into the overall picture and mission of Nav.it. It was a struggle at first to stay true to my North Star, but I could see the value everyone brought to the table and realized quite early that the job of a CEO is to fit all the pieces and team’s expertise together to keep the momentum rolling in the right direction.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Everything is momentary, you don’t have to have the future figured out. In fact, you have no ability to control the future, so just let it go and focus on the now. You can formulate the next step or two but don’t waste your time jumping ten steps ahead, because it will change. If you are allowing your intuition and your intellect to work together to take the next step, the rest will sort itself out. Value your intuition and sense of self.
As a woman, I would also teach my younger self how to live comfortably in my body and how important it is to understand and respect the 28-day hormonal cycle we go through. Men are on a 24-hour hormonal cycle, whereas women function in a 28-day cycle that influences what our nutrition should be, our exercise patterns, our sexuality and our cycle of productivity. Honor and respect your female body. Once you understand that you will be much more productive, kinder to yourself and more centered in who you are.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
While it’s been an exceptionally volatile time in our country’s history, I think Trump needed to get elected to push us as a collective to take women’s empowerment to the next level and expose a lot of the underlying biases and marginalization to which we had become immune. While complicated, I think we will look back at this time of our country’s history and human evolution and see the rebalancing of society’s value on both the masculine and feminine contribution to society.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Trust your instincts. Again, marry it with your intellect and cognitive reasoning skills, but there is always a reason you’re gut is nervous about a situation or decision. Take the time to listen to it.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Networking. I knew from the beginning I didn’t know it all nor did I have the large networks of investors, influencers or consultants with specialized expertise I needed to make this happen. Cultivating an extensive network and showing up to things with the intent of genuine connection has saved Nav.it multiple times. I believe most people want to help others, and that’s doubly true in my experience with other female entrepreneurs and business women. There is an incredible network of women across sectors and industries helping to lift each other up. The key for me has been my desire to share resources, not just take from others. As you network, I think the key question in each relationship is what value do you bring to the table and what value do they bring, then how can you work together to build a mutually beneficial relationship.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Early on when we were in the concept phase, I did an Indiegogo campaign that completely crashed and burned. It was such an amazing experience that showed me how important it was to develop an engaged and socially aligned community, who believes in your mission first and foremost. We knew there was a need in the marketplace for our product but what I realized through that campaign was that we had to empower our target demographic to change the conversation about money and make it one of empowerment and positivity as opposed to fear.
Our job was to find the right, supportive, empowering and positive vocabulary that could show people a different way of thinking about money. Also, our purpose to highlight how valuable and unique women’s relationship with career, finances, wealth and lifestyle became very clear in that process.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think there is a very interesting world of privacy regulation coming down the pipeline in the United States. I think there will be a lot of opportunities opening up in the world of social, advertising and product placement if meaningful regulations occur. I also think the world of women’s health is only starting to emerge because of a lack of research among women of reproductive age since the 1960s. In Africa, mobile payments are already taking over the continental banking system but finding ways to integrate the unbanked better into that system will be an incredible market opportunity.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Mine is boring, but I recently changed my car tags over to the state I am now living in. I had been meaning to for months but, of course, kept avoiding it, mainly because I didn’t want to waste my time dealing with bureaucracy. Now that I finally did them –one week before they expire — not only am I relieved, but I was pleasantly surprised it was a much less painful experience than I expected. So, I’m happy to have that off my to do list and not have to live in fear of a ticket in the future.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We use Slack. I know they just went public so there is a lot of hype around them at the moment. I resisted the platform at first, and now love it as it’s a great way to directly communicate with a dispersed team. The only thing I don’t like is that the direct messages disappear when a team member leaves. (Thanks, Slack, for fixing that:).
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I have SO many! But I’ll stick with two. First is : Influence: How Women’s Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better by Maddy Dychtwald. The second is Rebecca Traister’s book Good and Mad. Both highlight the power of women and the important role we play in transforming society for the better. It’s time we value our contribution, both economically and socially.
What is your favorite quote?
‘Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will’. Nelson Mandela
- Women are rebalancing the economic, entrepreneurial and business world and lifting each other up in the process
- Integrate your intuition with your intellect and you will be a force in all you do
- Adapt scheduling to fit your needs
- There is no such thing as true “failure” –just life experiences that want you to learn a lesson.