Ennie Lim is the CEO and co-founder of HoneyBee Financial Wellness and a fintech industry disruptor who is bringing fresh air and inclusion to a domain of affluent elites. An advocate of social entrepreneurship, Lim has been showered with attention and accolades. She was the subject of Forbes Magazine profiles in 2018 and 2019 and earned a place on the 2019 Inc. Magazine Top 100 Female Founders list. A certified B (benefit) corporation founded in 2016, her company, HoneyBee Financial Wellness has a mission to help (primarily) low- and moderate-income working people overcome obstacles that undermine the goal of responsible financial management.
Honeybee Tackles Financial Insecurity
Cash-flow problems, even for full-time workers, regularly set off a cascade of unfortunate circumstances. It destabilizes lives and contributes to the occurrence of generational poverty and homelessness. A 2019 survey commissioned by the Federal Reserve revealed that 40 percent of Americans do not have sufficient savings or enough available credit to cover a $400.00 emergency expense. Women are disproportionately affected by this problem, as are many of those classified as COVID-19 essential workers.
Lim, 37, has herself experienced financial insecurity. She explained, “I fell into this mission because I had a less than perfect credit rating. I had no access to affordable credit. I got divorced and went from having good credit to bad credit overnight.” Her college degree and status as a full-time Silicon Valley employee did not insulate her from the damaging effects of a poor credit rating. She says that she couldn’t get an apartment in the Bay Area. “I had to put my belongings into storage and move in with my parents.”
Payday Loans Aren’t the Answer
Lim pointed out that cash-strapped people sometimes feel forced to do business with payday loan companies to secure desperately needed funds. The $90 billion dollar industry, which specializes in offering subprime credit that may carry an interest rate north of 200%, is not infrequently the court of last resort for those in the grip of financial insecurity. But another option for obtaining an emergency loan could be one’s employer; that realization was the creative spark that gave rise to Lim’s social entrepreneurship, HoneyBee Financial Wellness.
Employers sponsor the Rainy Day coverage where employees are able to access no-cost emergency funds at any time, regardless of their credit score. Employees can also access on-demand personal financial coaching that allows them to address their financial concerns with a professional.
HoneyBee provides member company employees with an elegant, low-cost solution to a fundamental problem. “We offer rainy day coverage,” Lim said. “I love helping people escape living paycheck to paycheck.”
Soaring unemployment is a big part of the problem
Business shutdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in climbing unemployment that exacerbates financial difficulties. In a (pre-pandemic) November 2019 poll conducted by the Financial Health Network, a not-for-profit financial services consultancy, and reported by CBS-News, 70 percent of American adults described themselves as “financially struggling.” The survey of 5,400 American adults also found that 1 in 5 middle-class American workers spend more than they earn and that about 20 percent of women, as compared with 13 percent of men, feel stressed by their financial situation.
The Los Angeles-based company is in scaling mode and ambitiously growing its list of member workplaces. “We’re clearly in need of a financial safety net. Let’s turn this idea into a movement. We need to de-stigmatize the conversation about money.”
In her recommendation to other social entrepreneurship-focused startups, Lim paraphrases Brené Brown, author, TED Talk presenter and Professor of Social Work at the University of Houston in Texas. She says, “Trust yourself and stay true to your mission. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
To learn more about how HoneyBee Financial Wellness can help you achieve financial health, please see Our Financial Guide.