Tefari Bailey (BA ’19) knows the value of a well-timed pivot.
Only four years out from graduation, the 2023 Faculty of Social Sciences Distinguished Graduate is the CEO and Founder of Hutsy Financial, a super-app designed to help marginalized people gain financial literacy.
Bailey came to Brock to study Kinesiology, with plans to become a professional athlete. But by his second year, he recognized a budding passion for business and switched majors to study Economics. He also found connections and opportunities through student clubs like Playmakers and at what is now known as the Brock LINC, Brock’s innovation and entrepreneurship centre.
“They really opened up the doors for entrepreneurs there,” says Bailey. “They brought us all into one group and one environment, provided us with a ton of resources to get better — I’m still in contact with a lot of people from my cohort to this day. The startup entrepreneurship culture was amazing.”
Bailey launched his first startup within a few months of graduating, an innovative real estate app that took off among property owners exploring the growing short-term rental market using different platforms worldwide.
Then the pandemic hit. Bookings were cancelled en masse and clients fell on hard times. Bailey knew it was time to make another big change.
“Studying successful entrepreneurs and successful business leaders, you find they only really do things that move the needle forward, and they’re not afraid to pivot,” says Bailey.
After selling his real estate business, Bailey turned his attention to a different core audience. Having worked in finance during his time at Brock, he was keenly aware of the challenges faced by clients who didn’t qualify for loans at major banks. He saw many people leave the bank branch where he was a top-performing financial services representative and head to the payday lender in the same plaza. He knew there had to be a better alternative.
Bailey’s new vision was a “financial super-app” designed to support marginalized communities, immigrants and students by offering low- or no-fee services while also offering education to improve financial literacy.
Inspired by a fellow Brock grad, Bailey applied to pitch his new idea to the team on CBC’s Dragon’s Den, where he successfully raised $500,000 to seed his startup.
Hutsy Financial was born.
“After you raise that capital, then the real work starts,” says Bailey. “It took us a couple of years, but we officially launched our banking products in June 2023.”
Today Hutsy Financial offers a pre-paid credit card that comes with an accompanying app to help clients track spending and learn to manage their money. Hutsy has also recently partnered with Equifax to create a program that helps students build credit by paying rent.
This July, Hutsy Financial was recognized at the national tech conference, Startupfest 2023, with both the Black Entrepreneur prize and the Audience Choice Award for best pitch — a skill Bailey first started building with his fellow student entrepreneurs at Brock.
Ingrid Makus, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, says that Bailey exemplifies the sort of graduate the Faculty hopes to send into the world.
“With his ability to identify problems and innovate solutions using subject expertise first cultivated here, as well as his demonstrated devotion to serving marginalized populations, Tefari reflects a core principle of the Faculty of Social Sciences — understanding the world in order to change it,” says Makus. “We are thrilled to recognize him with this award.”
Bailey’s advice to students today is to make the most of their time at Brock, which he says will pass by faster than they expect.
“Take advantage of all the resources campus has to offer — do your research and find the clubs that are beneficial to you,” he says. “Those four to five years are going to be the best time of your life, but it’s really going to fly, so enjoy every moment.”