Woman in Business

We talk to Beth, co-founder and COO of Streeva and Swiftaid about what it’s like to be a woman working in the world of Fintech.

In image of smiling Beth Michael, Streeva's COO and co-founder

What does being a business owner mean to you? And why did you become an entrepreneur in the first place?

Previous to running Streeva, I was in management and operations within the hospitality industry, but more recently to that, I was a self-employed personal trainer/nutritionist. I loved the time with my clients, helping people feel better within themselves, it sometimes felt like counselling in a way. Helping people is why I chose to move to that industry, plus, I love to exercise. The training side of the business was great, it was the admin and the downfalls that come with being a sole trader that I didn’t enjoy as much. So, when my brother David came to me with a solution to help remove some of that burden, I jumped at the chance to help get it established. I felt the pain of this busy-work and so did David, this must be a problem, right? And if we can help others by giving them more of their life back by reducing this, then it’s a win-win situation.

Tell us about Streeva. What are you doing exactly?

Streeva is a Fintech startup on a mission to automate the admin that surrounds digital payments, without compromising on privacy. For example, imagine fully-automated business expenses, automated tax relief, realtime VAT processing etc. We are giving people a way to communicate and receive their own data automatically, without compromising their privacy. There are solutions out there that can help with the busy-work and digitalise payment data such as receipts, however, they require you giving away your personal data. I for one, am not keen on giving up my data in order to benefit from the digital age we live in. Streeva is here to give people a choice.

How do you think your background has helped you with your work?

For obvious reasons, my management and operations background has helped dramatically. Working as a personal trainer you get to meet so many different kinds of interesting people from all walks of life. I trained with top barristers, CEO’s, lawyers, company directors and full time mums and dads. It showed me that whatever you choose to do in life, whether you wear a suit, or overalls you are still a person with feelings and should be treated like one. I think about this everytime I go to important meetings, the people I meet may have a big title, expensive suit, and make big decisions but it’s also key, in my opinion, to connect with them on a human level. Also, a few of my clients invested in Streeva at the very beginning, so that definitely helped. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that people believe in me.

What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced – and how did you overcome it?

We had an unfortunate situation where an investment fund did not materialise, by no fault of our own, which put Streeva in a seriously, vulnerable position. We had to let go of some of the team and put risk mitigations in place. This is all at the same time as pivoting our first product Swiftaid, and just before releasing our developer API. I wouldn’t want to wish that pressure on anyone. Also, I had a baby back in February 2019 with my partner who lives in Cornwall, so it’s been a very challenging year for me but definitely one of the best, I learnt so much. I face challenges head on and take each day as it comes, with every day being a fresh start. I even sorted payroll a couple hours after giving birth which wasn’t ideal, but it had to be done!

What has been the greatest experience in your career?

There have been many great experiences in my career but if I had to narrow it down there are two that stick out. It would be that HMRC have shown that they believe in us. They have shown this by supporting our solution to a huge challenge of theirs that will bring up to £1.5b back into the UK economy and are giving us £50,000 to help develop this solution.

It was also a career topping moment when we took over Visa’s Innovation Centre in London Paddington to pilot Swiftaid. We were thrilled to get the Natural History Museum involved and showcase their pioneering scientific research, education and conservation work. Visa employees, charities and HMRC were invited along to get involved and donate to the NHM through a contactless terminal provided by GoodBox. The pilot made it easier than ever before for donors and charities to benefit from Gift Aid, automatically. Off the back of the pilot HMRC approved our process which made Swiftaid the first solution to be recognised by HMRC to automate Gift Aid on contactless donations, such an achievement and great feeling for the team! Video of event here.

What are the biggest challenges you think women face starting in their career?

Well, I guess it comes down to what is going on in the woman’s mind when starting a new career. In my opinion I think some women, definitely not all, mind, have the perception that they will be judged and compared to others. It can be a challenge to break through this feeling but if it’s the career path you want to take, and/or you are the expert in the field you are starting in, go in and just do what you need to do. It would be more upsetting if you let these doubts get in the way of something you really love. One life ladies, we should live it regardless!

What do you have that can help women break through some of these challenges?

When I started in Fintech I had no experience whatsoever in the payments industry, but I didn’t let that put me off. Understandably, I went in with a mind of ‘everyones better than me’ ‘I’m out of depth here’, ‘what do i know?’. Strangely enough this helped me, it made me question, learn and explore. I actually learnt to listen very well, (some may say I would struggle in that area haha!) I have met a lot of naysayers on my journey which doesn’t help when you feel out of place, but I soon learnt to take what they say with a pinch of salt and work harder to prove them wrong. If you let them, they will affect you, and to be honest, I did let them get me down in the beginning but no more, now, when I come across them (and I do very often), they are now a motivation for me haha!

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on?

It’s not really advice, and I can’t remember where I heard it, but, there’s a tag line that has always stuck with me: ‘Get comfortable being uncomfortable’ - I don’t know why but it helps me when I’m feeling, well; uncomfortable.

What one thing have you learned building a startup that has served you well over the years?

Being put into a situation where investment falls through was mega tough, but, a pure blessing in disguise. It drives real focus into what you are doing. I would recommend anyone that has their own business to think, ‘if we were to lose funding or suddenly had no money, what would your priorities be, where would you focus the team?'

What do you do for fun/relaxation?

I love Crossfit, shockingly it helps me relax! I have an amazing man, and a 1 year old little girl, who I love going for walks on the beach with. They are my precious moments, they make my heart warm. I consider myself to be very lucky, I can definitely say, they get me through the hard times.

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Team Swiftaid
Mar 08, 2020


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