Personal Finance Interview with Nicole Zummach on New Ways of Thinking about Money



Business and the way we do business is changing, along with many other things as well, like how we manage our finances. Thanks to technology and emerging social enterprise models, the future is looking very exciting.

Nicole Zummach is co-founder of, as well as a writer and editor at, SEE Change Magazine, a publication that is dedicated to seeing change and telling the stories of this change in business. We thought that her opinion on managing our money in this increasingly changing environment would be a very interesting one.

Tell us what SEE Change Magazine is all about and how it all started.

SEE Change Magazine is dedicated to social change and promoting social entrepreneurship and social enterprise as a viable alternative to standard corporate practices. The magazine was founded in 2009 by my business partner, Elisa Birnbaum, and myself because we wanted to share stories about the amazing work being done by social entrepreneurs in Canada and around the world. Ultimately, our goal is to encourage people to consider the social bottom line as well as the financial one when doing business.

What is a social entrepreneur?

A social entrepreneur is an individual who establishes an enterprise or venture with the aim of addressing one or more of society's many challenges. In other words, the end goal is not simply financial; the social entrepreneur also wants to effect positive change in the world. This is what we are referring to when we use the term "social bottom line."

Why do you think so many of us get into such unnecessary debt?

That's a very big question, and it has a lot to do with our values as a society and the fact that a capitalist economy relies on endless growth and, therefore, endless consumption. Marketers and advertisers are paid to make us feel like we "need" things. Unnecessary debt occurs when we fail to differentiate between need and want.

How can entrepreneurs not only manage their debt better but also help others, like their employees, manage their debt?

Debt management needs to be taken seriously. Sometimes that means consulting a professional to create a debt repayment plan. Or in a lot of cases, entrepreneurs can take advantage of tools like Mint.com to keep their finances on track. Better yet, entrepreneurs can work to avoid debt by focusing on the needs of their venture rather than the wants and staying within budget. By running a fiscally responsible operation, entrepreneurs can lead by example, encouraging their employees and stakeholders to do the same. They might also offer money management training courses for those interested, perhaps as part of an employee benefit plan.

Give us your top three favourite books on this topic of social entrepreneurship.

1. Anything by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus (Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism; Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity's Most Pressing Needs; Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty).

2. Roots of Empathy by Mary Gordon, a Canadian social entrepreneur and Ashoka Fellow.

3. Misfit: Changemaker with an Edge, a memoir by Andreas Souvaliotis, founder and executive chairman of Social Change Rewards

Is getting rich the goal?

I feel that if getting rich is a person's only goal, they have missed the point. Social entrepreneurs want to create a sustainable business model that generates revenue, but their ultimate goal is a social one. On a more philosophical note, how can any of us count ourselves as rich if the air we breathe and the water we consume is polluted? That's why social entrepreneurship is so important. We can't simply go on with "business as usual." We need a better way of doing business; one that benefits society not destroys it.

How do we keep our integrity in our businesses?

Never lose sight of the big picture. Understand that every business decision you make has a ripple effect. For example, you might be able to reduce business expenses by changing to a cheaper supplier, but what is the social cost of that decision? Does the new supplier treat workers fairly? What is the company's environmental record?

How do you think tools like Mint can help social entrepreneurs?

Social entrepreneurs often operate on a shoestring budget out of necessity. Free tools like Mint.com can help them track finances, plan a budget and manage their money effectively, at zero cost. That means more money is directed toward their social mission.

Can anyone be an entrepreneur?

Anyone can be an entrepreneur, but not everyone is going to be a successful one. To start with, you need to have a good idea; preferably something that hasn't been done before. You also have to be wiling to take "no" for an answer a lot. Be nimble. Be resourceful. Be brave. And ultimately, be ready to fail before you succeed.

It really is worth checking out more from Nicole and SEE Change Magazine. Keep up to date by liking SEE Change Magazine on Facebook or following SEE Change Magazine on Twitter.