Natasha Valley: A Woman on a Mission to Bring Financial Literacy to Children
Natasha Valley is the Head of Brand Strategy at Kiddie Kredit, an innovative app that helps children learn financial literacy through chores. She is a trend-setting, brand strategist who has led creative marketing, digital media, social media, and public relations strategy for world-class athletes, entertainers, influencers and brands. Growing up in England with American parents gave her a global view of sports, entertainment, and business, which lit her flame for branding. After receiving her Bachelor's & Master's from Florida A&M University in 2009, she began increasing the profitability of brands through strategy and storytelling.
In the past few years, she has joined the founding team of three incredible tech startups. At Kiddie Kredit, (an app designed to teach children about the credit system through activity completion and reward redemption), she is the Head of Brand Strategy. She is also the Chief Marketing Officer at Soulace, a virtual therapy app for Black people with Black providers. And, she served as the Chief Marketing Officer at THE MOST, (a startup disrupting the hair care space with tech enabled tools for women with textured hair), for a year.
In December 2020, she founded a social media marketing company called atus, which provides and implements strategies for startups, professional athletes, and other amazing brands.
She also serves on the Board of Directors for Empower Fives, which is a foundation dedicated to changing the landscape of college basketball.
Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born and raised in England, but my parents are American. My childhood was fun! I played sports from age 4 until my freshman year of college. While in the states, we spent a lot of family time at MLB and NBA games, which planted the seed for working in sports. I also have to mention that my parents made me and my older brother write essays as discipline. Funny enough, we both work in fields where writing is integral. I also treasured science programs I participated in, which included tech. Another seed planted.
What brought you to your career path?
My path has definitely had a few pivots. Initially I planned on becoming a sports attorney, and eventually an agent. After grad school, I was studying for the LSAT while working in digital advertising when a friend randomly called to ask if I ever thought about working in public relations. That wasn’t the first time I heard that. In undergrad, a couple people mentioned I had the personality for the field. So, I minored in journalism/PR out of curiosity. A few months into my 9-5, I started working as a freelance publicist with NBA and NFL players, and Olympians, at night. I would draft emails to journalists and agents in the evening, then hit send during my lunch break the next day to keep it in standard business hours. After eleven months on the job, the company I worked for had nationwide layoffs, which set me up to fly as a full time sports publicist. Ten years later, a friend asked me to share a tech startup’s pitch deck with an NBA client. While reviewing the deck, I loved the founder’s mission. The app was Kiddie Kredit! I believe the best reward for hard work is more work, and so the opportunities in the startup world really opened for me.
What are some challenges, if any, have you found in your career, specifically as it relates to being a woman?
My entire career has been in male-dominated spaces. Unfortunately, men often talk over me, or repurpose an idea I mentioned minutes earlier. Thankfully, that’s not Kiddie Kredit’s culture. But, I’ve experienced it too many times in other spaces. On the flip side, I had to learn not to apologize for things men don’t apologize for. As women we are generally quick to say sorry more than we need to in business.
What are five things you wish someone told you when you first started your career path?
Negotiate! Your salary, hourly rate, retainer rate, all of that. I randomly found out the company I worked for after grad school paid me $30k less than a co-worker with comparable qualifications. Although I negotiated on that backend, it wouldn’t have been such a gut-punch if I pushed harder before signing the offer letter.
Don’t be afraid to pivot. I used to question if I was doing something wrong by not sticking in one career field until retirement.
It’s wild that I even have to say this but, curly hair is professional. Natural hair is professional. Braids are professional. Being anti-Black is what’s unprofessional.
Imposter syndrome is something that most of us experience.
Set your own boundaries.
What tips would you recommend to women in your industry to help them thrive?
Get your rest! Busyness and sleeplessness have been so glamourized. We are much more productive, and creative when we’re well rested.
Have the audacity! Men apply to jobs they aren’t qualified for, get hired, then turn around and get paid more all of the time. Have the audacity to take a chance. Have the audacity to stick up for yourself. Have the audacity to believe in yourself.
Never forget that you are just as valuable to the company you work for as they are to you. The “I’m just happy to be here” mentality can actually cause people to forget how incomparable you are.
Create your financial plan as early as possible. Brands like Ellevest make that even easier now.
What long term goals do you have for your career?
I’m excited to learn and grow as Kiddie Kredit expands, as well as Soulace and atus. I also look forward to one day being a VC, so that I can provide women founders with resources, opportunities, and of course, capital.
We love the concept of Soulace, a virtual therapy app for black people. Can you tell us a little bit more about the company?
Thank you! Absolutely! Allyson Valley, my younger cousin is the founder. As a therapist, she recognized that although therapy is on the rise in the Black community, there is still a barrier with providers who don’t understand how it feels to be Black in this world. It was important to make seeing a Black therapist regularly as accessible as possible. The app is gearing to launch beta in select cities this summer!
Can you tell us a little more about Kiddie Kredit? What social impact do you see Kiddie Kredit having on our future leaders around the world?
Yes! Kiddie Kredit is a chore-tracking app that simulates the FICO scoring system, assigning “kredit scores” for approved chores. A missed chore is like a missed payment, which lowers the kid’s score. Kids can use their score to redeem rewards set by parents or after school organizations. But, if they cash out on more than 30% of their Bamboo Bucks at one time, their score is affected, just like FICO’s credit utilization formula. I believe our impact will create a more financially free generation who can in turn have more say in their career choices, living environments, and overall well-being.
You are a part of a lot of great companies. What keeps you motivated to wear so many hats?
Mission is vital to me. When I have to press through long days, the mission to make the world a better place in each company’s unique way is what keeps me focused.
How can our readers follow you or any of your companies online?
Thanks for asking! My handle is @nnvalley across platforms.
Also, @kiddiekredit, @soulace, and @atusonsocial.