Unlocking the Power of Community with Snowball Wealth's Pamela Martinez

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This is a podcast episode titled, Unlocking the Power of Community with Snowball Wealth's Pamela Martinez. The summary for this episode is: <p>"People are dealing with imposter syndrome, we're dealing with kind of a lot of these struggles, so having that extra encouragement and reminding them that they can do it, and they will do it if they put their minds to it, and if they're doing well, making sure you remind them of that and recognize them, that can really help propel those people."</p><p><br></p><p>For Pamela Martinez, the co-founder and CTO of Snowball Wealth, community is the fuel that drove her to her CTO role today, and it's why she's hyperfocused on the power of community at Snowball Wealth.</p><p><br></p><p>Moving from Mexico to Texas in elementary school, Pamela experienced a community shift early in life. Being one of the only girls in an engineering program at high school brought a whole new community experience, and then attending Stanford University for undergraduate school brought yet another new community. After spending some time at Microsoft, Pamela decided it was time to enter the startup world, join a new community, and empower the community of underrepresented individuals through financial assistance.</p><p><br></p><p>In this episode of the American Dream podcast, Pamela explains why she joined and almost left, the computer science community, why she and her co-founder started Snowball Wealth, and the early results Snowball Wealth is seeing by empowering individuals to take control of their finances.</p><p><br></p><p>Be sure to hit the subscribe button to get new episodes when they drop every other Tuesday.</p><p><br></p><p>In the meantime, be sure to leave a ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Elias on Twitter at @eliast and @DriftPodcasts, and Pam on LinkedIn.</p><p><br></p><p>For more learnings from Elias, check out his quarterly newsletter, The American Dream. You can subscribe at https://www.drift.com/insider/learn/newsletters/american-dream/</p>
Why Pamela's family moved from Mexico to Texas
02:13 MIN
How Pamela's community in Texas compared to her community in Mexico
02:28 MIN
Pamela's high school experience
03:48 MIN
Pamela goes to Stanford
04:53 MIN
What "community" looked like at Stanford
06:37 MIN
The mission behind Snowball wealth
10:03 MIN
Outcomes customers have seen with Snowball Wealth
02:53 MIN
How Snowball Wealth works
02:03 MIN

Elias Torres: Hola. I'm Elias Torres, co- founder and CTO of Drift. You are listening to The American Dream podcast. Did you know that Drift is part of just 2% of VC- backed startups led by Latin American founders? Well, I'm on a mission to change that. On this show, you will hear from leaders who have achieved their own version of the American dream. We'll talk about what the process looked like to get there, the obstacles they face along the way, and the work we still have to do to build the new face of a diverse corporate America. foreign language. Today, I'm excited to introduce Pamela Martinez, Pam, to the podcast. Pam is the CTO and co- founder of Snowball Wealth, a platform that provides personalized guidance to pay off debt and build wealth. Pamela started Snowball Wealth after being first exposed to the privilege of generational wealth during her time at Stanford University. Now, she's on a mission to make generational wealth a reality for more people by advising recent graduates, particularly women of color and first- generation immigrants, on how they can think about investing. Pamela credits a lot of her early success to the power of community, so today, she's going to tell us more about what community looked like growing up and how she's giving back to the community through her company and otherwise. Welcome to the show, Pam. Very nice-

Pamela Martinez: Thank-

Elias Torres: ...to have-

Pamela Martinez: ...you.

Elias Torres: Yeah. So I mentioned this episode, the power of community, and we're going to talk about different communities you've been part of through your life journey. Let's talk about the first one. I think we were talking earlier, you were born in Mexico, in Chihuahua, and so tell us about what was that community, transitioning from Mexico to Texas?

Pamela Martinez: Yes, yeah. So I grew up in Chihuahua, and for the first 10 years of my life, I spent my time in Juárez, which is a border town. So growing up, one, I think I was very lucky to have grown up in a really tight- knit community. All of the kids knew each other, all of the parents knew each other, so I grew up feeling very supported and really loved. And being in a border town, I was also exposed to the United States. We used to cross the border every weekend. I got a lot of exposure to American culture, and that was one of the cool things about growing up in a border town, is that you do get multicultural exposure pretty early on. And then when I was 10, my parents had this opportunity to move to the United States, so we decided to just take everything we could with us and drive from Juárez all the way to Houston, Texas, which is where we landed. And that was a really exciting opportunity for us as the children, and it was a really big... I think for my parents, they had to give up their whole community, they had to give up a lot to move to the United States, move to a new country where none of us spoke the language, and start a brand new life.

Elias Torres: Yeah, no, absolutely. Been there, done that. I did that in 1993 with my mother and my two siblings at the time. And we came from Nicaragua, so I came on a plane, so it was not a short drive. It's a short drive in Houston compared to from Juárez. Long story, I drove once when I was 11 or 13, I don't remember, from LA to Nicaragua.

Pamela Martinez: Oh, wow. That-

Elias Torres: crosstalk-

Pamela Martinez: ...must have been-

Elias Torres: It was like-

Pamela Martinez: ...quite a trip.

Elias Torres: Yeah, the car broke down and the car could not make it through that road. Central America destroyed the car. We literally pushed it across the Nicaraguan border downhill. That's a story for another day. So we crossed through Juárez.

Pamela Martinez: Oh, wow. Yeah, so you've seen that-

Elias Torres: That's-

Pamela Martinez: ...city.

Elias Torres: But that was in 1989 or something like that, so I'm a really old person. So then, interesting, so definitely, it's such a culture shock, but I wonder, how different was your community from Mexico to Texas, because if you had a lot of Latinas around you, maybe it was similar, or was it completely different?

Pamela Martinez: I mean, it was completely different. My dad's side of the family lived in the United States, so we did have some family when we moved to the United States, but in terms of culturally, it was just like day and night. When I was in Mexico, every single day, I would hang out with neighbors' kids. We were all outside. It was very community- oriented feel of-

Elias Torres: Then you were all cooped up in your apartment, and never saw anyone, and all you did is watch TV and ate syrup.

Pamela Martinez: Yes, yeah. Moved to the United States and all of a sudden, I was spending most of my time indoors, and I didn't really know the people around me that well, and I think there's the other thing too. Even though Texas and Houston is a very immigrant- friendly city and there's a lot of Latinos, I was still an immigrant, I still didn't speak English, so I still felt like I was an other. I definitely was the new kid. And when I went to school, I was trying to learn a new language, I didn't really know how to communicate with people, so there was definitely a lot of struggle there, and it was a huge shock for me, having been... When you grew up in a city in a country where your native language is the dominant language, you're just excelling and you just have so much more confidence, so I think making that jump did hurt my confidence a little bit when I first moved here, and it was definitely really hard to get adjusted.

Elias Torres: Yeah, no. I love hearing and be able to share people's stories like yours. And how smart and how confident you now are, I'm trying to not jump to the end of the story, but I mean, I will get to the inaudible for a bit, I can't control myself, but it's like, this is... You don't speak the language, you cross... not a lot of financial support, I would venture to say, you guys all trying to make it work with your family, and there's so many amazing things to come. But let's stick to the next step. So you're there, learn the language, been there, done that. I was 17 and I did that. I did it twice. I did it when I was 11 and I did it when I was 17. And then you love school, so you're in school. Where'd you go for high school?

Pamela Martinez: Yes, yeah. So something that I like to tell people sometimes, and one of the reasons I got so interested in education is, I went to nine different schools between my K through 12 education, and a lot of that had to do with being an immigrant. I moved from one country to another, going from one school to another. I was in the public school system here in the United States, and for my high school, I had this opportunity to go to something called a magnet school, which is still in the public school system, but you do have application processes that you can go through. And it was a career- oriented high school, so it was a new concept. The whole idea was that you would join the high school and you would join a tower. They had a technology tower, a business tower, and a medical tower. And then within the technology tower, they had an engineering program, so I had that opportunity to apply to the school and go to the school, and I joined the engineering program there in 10th grade.

Elias Torres: So you knew you liked engineer, so engineering from 10th grade already. You joined this, so what happens? So then, what did you go do after high school?

Pamela Martinez: Yeah, so I think I joined the engineering department because I really had no idea what I wanted to do, and I-

Elias Torres: That was a good one, that was a good one. That's a great fit.

Pamela Martinez: Yeah, yeah, it's so funny because it was like, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and I was always really good at math and science, and because English wasn't my dominant language and it was something that I really struggled with, I was like,"Ugh, I'm never going to make it in the business side." And I got kind of eek- ed out by a lot of medical stuff, so I was like," Okay, I guess I'll do engineering." But that kind of high school experience, I ended up not having a good experience in my engineering class. I had a teacher who was not very supportive. I joined a robotics club and he asked me to become the historian and secretary, and instead of doing actual work in class, he would ask me to write grants and host fundraisers. And I was at the top of my class and I was trying to be salutatorian for my high school, so grades were really, really important for me. And for one of the events that I hosted, he got really mad because my centerpieces weren't very good for a fundraising that I hosted, so he gave me a C. And I always clashed with this teacher had a lot of back and forth, and there was a time where he would literally tell me, in front of everyone else, that I didn't belong and I didn't deserve to be top of my class. Even though this had nothing to do with engineering, it really tainted my desire to be in engineering. It was a very male- dominated class, even in high school. There were only two girls in the whole program, and it was definitely the first time that I encountered sexism and bias and a lot of antagonism. So that was my high school experience. I did have a lot of other really great and really supportive teachers around me who encouraged me to continue excelling and encouraged me to apply to a lot of different colleges. Fast forward, I found out about this program called QuestBridge that allows lower- income kids to apply to a lot of different universities without having to pay for all of the entry fees and application fees, so through that, I got into Stanford, and because I was so-

Elias Torres: You went straight to Stanford from high school?

Pamela Martinez: Yes, for undergrad.

Elias Torres: Undergrad, perfect, perfect.

Pamela Martinez: Yes, for undergrad. Yes, I got into a bunch of different schools, and Stanford was one of them, and because I really didn't know what I wanted to do, I was like," Okay, I guess Stanford, it is. They have great engineering, they have great humanities, they have a lot of different programs. I can really go there and explore and really figure out what I want to do with my life."

Elias Torres: And what degree did you get there?

Pamela Martinez: So I decided to major in computer science at Stanford.

Elias Torres: Wow.

Pamela Martinez: Yeah, yeah. And that was a whole journey of, I joined, I didn't know what I wanted to do freshman year, I was doing pre- med, I was doing public service. I was doing a bunch of different courses because I really had no idea what I wanted to do. And that first year, I really struggled academically as well. Having gone from public school to a very tough and elite institution with people who were very competitive and very studious was definitely very hard for me, and I was feeling really lost that freshman year. But towards the end of that freshman year, I took a class in photography that was under DCS department, and that was the first time that, one, I really enjoyed what I was doing, and two, I was really good. And my photos got shown in front of the whole class, and I was like," Okay, maybe I should try this a little bit further and explore this a little bit more," and that's how I started taking computer science courses.

Elias Torres: Wow. No, what an incredible journey and a reminder to people, that you didn't give up, and that you kept trying, and when we have a bad experience, we can't just let that ruin it for the rest of our lives, because your life would be completely different if you had not followed this steps, right?

Pamela Martinez: Yes, yeah.

Elias Torres: crosstalk we have bad educators and it's okay, and then you have some good educators that inspire you and lured you back in through photography and through recognition and understood you better to help you get into it. Love to hear that. By the way, little proud moment of mine, my daughter is doing computer science at Northeastern. I mean, it's no Stanford, but it's incredible. And I hope the listeners realize and see this, that just, what a great example you are, a role model of, again, first language, move, don't have the culture, don't have the understanding of the system. And thank God for that opportunity you had, and then that full ride. You got to go there and graduated with a CS degree with one of the top schools in the whole world. Google will go and hire everybody out of Stanford. I'm sure you had every offer to work at any company you wanted in the United States or the world with that degree, and that's a great accomplishment to a Latina, to a woman, to a first- generation immigrant. Congrats. You should be so proud of yourself for-

Pamela Martinez: Oh, thank you. And congrats to your daughter, too, for going down the CS route, and-

Elias Torres: Yeah.

Pamela Martinez: ...I hope... Yeah, I hope she's really liking it, and I think it's such an amazing career path and there's so much that you can do. And like you said, I think it's definitely had a lot of setbacks along the way. And my first CS class, the actual intro to CS class, my TA pulled me aside and he really encouraged me. He was like," Hey, look, you're really good at this. You should consider majoring in it," and these are the little moments that I think about a lot now, because especially now that we are business leaders and mentors, giving people that encouragement is something that can go such a long way. Especially for people who are dealing with imposter syndrome, we're dealing with just a lot of these struggles, having that extra encouragement and reminding them that they can do it and they will do it if they put their minds to, and that if they're doing well, making sure that you remind them of that and recognize them, that's something that can really, really help propel those people, and it's something that really helped me stay focused and stick with the rest of the coursework to make sure that I graduated and got this CS degree.

Elias Torres: Yeah, a thousand percent. I mean, it's just the little words that we get. In Nicaragua, life was really tough. In Nicaragua, if you didn't do math well, you would get hit with a ruler on your arm. It was really bad, and so I remember that I did good in math because I did not want to get hit with the ruler. I was the only one that wouldn't get hit on a round of asking for the multiplication tables. I laugh about it, I think. And then when I went to LA for the first time in the US, if I did well in my math, I get the stars and the stickers and the teachers would write all these things. And I'm like," What? This is so much nicer. If I get stars all the time, I'm going to do more math." And because of the language, I also focused on math because it was easier as a continuation, and I can understand numbers, so it's like, love to hear that in... So you go to Stanford, and I have here in some of my notes that you're big culture shock at Stanford. So you go from Chihuahua, you go from Juárez, you go to Houston, and then you go to Palo Alto. You go to California, Stanford. There's scandals there, so much wealth. Tell me about this. What was the shock? What was the thing that you encounter there?

Pamela Martinez: Yeah. I mean, it's funny just thinking about it now, because I'm like," Wow, all of these different lives." When I was in Mexico, my elementary school, we used to clean the classrooms after school. We would take turns. Every day, it was a different kid's turn to go and clean up the classroom. My mom was extremely involved in schools, so she would host fundraisers so that we could get heating in the schools. Going from that to Texas where, same thing, but to start, where I would get stickers and I could turn it into stickers to get extra erasers, that, first of all, it's a huge shock. And then going from public schools, and the public schools that I went to weren't rated very highly, they were mostly people of color, immigrant communities, and going from that... I grew up working class. My mom is a cashier at a restaurant. My dad has been working in manufacturing, so we didn't really have a lot of money. And the first day of Stanford, my moving day, I grabbed my bags, I had my two suitcases, the backpack, and I flew by myself to Stanford. And I checked myself in, I got into the dorm, I got into my room, and all of a sudden, I see parents everywhere. All of the parents have flown in with their kids to help them move in, and that was the first day, and everyone's parents were introducing each other. And it was like, wow, that in its own, that little moment, and that was the first day, was intimidating for me because, one, my parents couldn't afford to fly and drop me off, and that's something that... because people were like," Oh, your parents didn't come," and I was like," Oh, no." One, I didn't know that they were supposed to come. Two, they didn't have that disposable income to pay for one plane ticket, hotel, rental car, to come and drop me off. And then three, they didn't really speak the language. They would've felt totally out of place. The people in my dorm, their parents own multimillion dollar companies, all of these kids, a lot of them had gone to some of the top private schools and top public schools in America, and I think that was the first time that I was exposed to the other half of America, the wealthy part.

Elias Torres: Not half, not half, not half, not half.

Pamela Martinez: Not half, not half, but I-

Elias Torres: The other type.

Pamela Martinez: ...guess, the top 10% of America.

Elias Torres: No, 1%.

Pamela Martinez: The top 1% of America. I think Stanford prides itself of bringing in a lot of people from different cultures and backgrounds, but I think even with the diversity that Stanford claimed to have, it was still a very like well- off community. And there's a lot of people who had just so much money, and that was just something that was unconceivable to me, and that was a really big shock to me. I was really fortunate that Stanford did offer me a full ride because a lot of these private universities, if your family makes under a certain amount, you don't have to pay for anything, which was honestly just life- changing because I could have never afforded anything like that. But-

Elias Torres: Did they pay for your flight?

Pamela Martinez: Yes, they did.

Elias Torres: Wow. I mean, yeah. It's-

Pamela Martinez: Yeah, everything.

Elias Torres: ...not possible. It's just not possible that... Yeah. I'm almost crying. I mean, I can feel that moment. I had many moments like that, but that moment, my transition into this world has been more gradual, in a way, than yours. Yours was shock and awe. You just got transported from one place to the worst, to the highest, highest, utmost highest of elitism. And I was slowly moved up into it, and so it's like I'm a frog in a pot, just slowly boiling. You had to feel that at such a young age and not have your parent. People do not know what the experience is of having a parent that is with you, that doesn't speak the language, and you're translating for them, and you're the only one that has to go through that show, and how you get judged and how you get looked at. So I know it. I know what that feels like. Have you watched In the Heights?

Pamela Martinez: Yes, yeah. I haven't watched all of it, but I've watched some of it, but yeah, that moment of... It was a big shock, for sure. And at that moment, moving to the United States as a 10 year old, I used to translate for my parents. I think a lot of us immigrant kids know this. I was the oldest daughter, so I was the one who grew up faster. I had to figure out a lot of stuff. My parents looked at me for guidance, and this is something that I talk about a lot with people who have parents who are inaudible native to the United States or parents who are white collar workers. I'm like," Look, you don't understand what it's like to..." My parents were looking at me for guidance about what to do with their money, what to do with their house, and I was a 10 year old. I think you do learn a lot of stuff really fast, and you learn to grow up really, really fast as well, and it just creates a different dynamic and different levels of pressure that you have.

Elias Torres: No, it's fascinating. There's so much. We can talk, you and I, for days, I think, about this shared experiences, and you have had an amazing career. You go to Stanford, you show everybody you have the talent, the intelligence, the confidence, and the ability to overcome obstacles. You graduate, you work jobs at Microsoft, you get... Then you say," I want startups." I was at IBM for 10 years and then I wanted startups. I see a similar path, and my time will come. I'm going to share some stuff with you. But you now going the founder route because you had something inside of you that you want to share and that you want to help, that you want to help others. Tell us about this. Tell us about this company that you're building. Tell us, what's the mission?

Pamela Martinez: Yes, yeah. So I'm working on Snowball Wealth, and our mission is to help people pay down debt and start to build generational wealth, so our main goal is to really help people who are a few years out of college. You have to figure out how to pay your student loans. You might have consumer debt, like credit card debt, and figure out how to start saving and investing. And the big reasoning behind this, this is something that I experienced firsthand, and I think a lot of people around me who are the closest to me had to experience this firsthand, where we didn't have our parents to go to for money advice, so we're really trying to build this platform to try to make all of that knowledge and information easy and easily available for everyone. One of our main tenets is to be very community- oriented because we're not really only focused on the money and the numbers and the strategies, but we're really thinking about building community within our use surveys, because we do know that people need to hear from each other to be inspired. They really want to push each other to do better and really help each other in terms of building really great financial habits, and have this shared dream and shared experiences. And more than anything, I think, it's just to really help lift each other up. I'm living my parents' dream. We came here, my first job out of college, I was making triple what my parents were making in a year, and that's, I think, the experience for a lot of people who are... They're first in their families to graduate and get a higher- paying job. So we're really here to help and focus on these people because one of the things that I learned is that the financial industry is not really focused on people like us. It's not built for people who are their first in their families to start making money. They're not focused on people who have a different experience. I've had to help my family financially, and a lot of people who are children of immigrants or their first to graduate college are doing the same thing, so we really focused on this demographic because we know that there's a lot of us out there that deserve attention and products that are built for us.

Elias Torres: Yeah, no, absolutely. No, I think it's a wonderful mission. I'm a big supporter of that because that's the same thing that I'm doing with this podcast. It's, I believe, a thousand percent on role models that inspire us. I've seen people do things, and I saw Brian Halligan grow a company like HubSpot, take it public, with David Cancel, my partner, and I's help. And I said," Well, if he can't do it, if I helped him do it, maybe I can do it too." And that's what's one of the inspirations for Drift, is, can a Latino immigrant, first- generation... English is a second language. I did not go to Stanford, but I did raise money from Sequoia Capital and I was able to raise over a hundred million dollars, and recently, we got a strategic investment from Vista for 1. 2 billion, and so that's where I want to inspire you, say, you started your company, similar path. You are most likely a thousand times smarter than I am because you went to Stanford and you survived that, and so you're going to go... And you created a company, you worked at Microsoft, you worked at startups, and now you're a founder, and you can, too, build a multi- billion dollar company. But on top of that, yours is going to help Latinos and immigrants and people of color and women, to be able to achieve their own success, their own American dream, which is what I'm enjoying sharing with others. So that's your next milestone and you're going to do it.

Pamela Martinez: Thank you. And yeah, you're an inspiration to me as well, so thank you so much for sharing that, because it's hard. And I think after getting that first job at a top tech company to go into startup, I think I was like," Oh, I've seen startups, I've been early at startups." I thought I knew. I thought I had it figured out. I was like," Oh, I got this. I've built products for millions of people before, I've managed engineers, I've helped engineering teams grow, I've been in product, I've done DEI, I'm sure-"

Elias Torres: How hard could this be?

Pamela Martinez: How hard could it be? Just go out there, get money, hire people, build a product. I think I'm definitely at that stage now of like, okay, this is hard. How do we stay in and out? How do we build a product that's really solving our customer's problem and growing? And I think proving that we can be successful is that next phase of my career right now.

Elias Torres: Yeah. You know that saying, if it was easy, then everybody would be doing it. But the truth is, it feels like everybody's doing it, everybody... It's an interesting time in the world, that all this information is pushing more entrepreneurs and more people to go out on it. But what I feel like is just not balanced, is that we need to share that journey more with Latinos, and be like," Okay, you, too, can be entrepreneurs and show people about investment, about investors, about products, about technology," and really show people a wealth of options that exist out there, whether it's an e- commerce business, whether it's a service business, whether it's a brick and mortar, or whether it's investing, banking, and then building product and tech. It's just, there's so many options, but we want to make sure that people know about that because when I first came here, people were saying," You should go work at the post office and you're going to have a great retirement benefits plan," and if you work there for," I don't know," 30, 40, 50 years..." I don't know. That was the advice I was getting, not how to start a company or how to run a business. And here I am, and I'm constantly looking for founders. I just sent a text to a friend of mine who's a billionaire. I get the opportunity to tap into the brains of these people and say," I want to hear what you do. I want to hear what endeavors you're working on. I see you're building companies, I see you're running a VC firm, I see you're running this angel investment, I see you on board. It's like, I want to learn about all those things, of how you split your time, which is the most beneficial for you, and how do they work?" And so, we have to be asking the people that are further ahead in their dreams, how do they do things? And then when they explain them, you realize that it's a matter of just, go for it, like you're doing. You said," How hard could it be?" I like that because we have to be naive. It's crazy to build a business and you need that naivety to jump into it. And then the question is, once you're in it, just like you did it at Stanford, you're going to be able to survive and get through it. You've done already, much harder things in your life than starting a...

Pamela Martinez: Yeah, yeah, that's funny. Yeah, I totally agree. I feel like you have to jump in. If I knew how hard the next step was going to be in every part of my life, I don't know if I would be where I am today, because that fear and that... It's like, that status quo, it feels a lot more enticing at that point. And I think, like what you were saying, something that is a really sad statistic is that black and Latinx founders get maybe less than about 3C of VC funding. So we are grossly underrepresented in the industry, and women founders get about less than 2%, if you're a all female founded company. The odds are already against us in every way, so I think we have to be trailblazers, and we have to push the boundaries, and we have to figure out how to make this work and help each other along the way because we really do need to change the face of Silicon Valley.

Elias Torres: Yeah, absolutely. And what you're doing is so admirable because you have such a great mission. It's like, in one ways, my mission, it was, I want to change the way businesses buy from businesses, and then I have a dream of Drift showing and making a dent in how Silicon Valley looks like, the face of a diverse corporate America. But I'm focused on straight business. It's like, how to impact the way people buy, B2B. You are combining both your mission as a company, but you also want to teach people about finances and to an underrepresented, underestimated community. And so, I think that that's just fabulous. Tell me a story about the kind of outcomes you're starting to see, or you want to see soon with your company, in individuals, in people, in communities. Any story that comes out? I know I'm-

Pamela Martinez: Yeah.

Elias Torres: ...putting you on the spot.

Pamela Martinez: Just a quick note to you on what we're working on, one of the things that we noticed really early on was that this is a huge business opportunity, black, Latinx, and women, we are a very big portion of the population. Women make up 50% of the population, black and Latinx hold a lot of college degrees and holding most student debt, so I think it just was natural for us to start focusing on these demographics, because, one, it's a great business opportunity, there's a ton of people, Latinos make up the majority, or one point something trillion in terms of consumer power, so definitely seeing that there's overlooked opportunities in terms of the consumer space, and that's why we're jumping in on this. And then in terms of stories, one of the reasons why we really care about community is because, as we rolled out some of our tech platform and started helping out people with student debt, we started hearing success stories. And for example, one of our users, and we have a video of her on the internet, it's called Women Building Wealth Series on Snowball Wealth, she came to us. She had over like 20K in credit card debt, and she was living paycheck to paycheck. And we've had a few of our users who come to us, they're living paycheck to paycheck, they feel like they're drowning in debt, they don't see themselves, or they don't know how they can break out of those cycles. And she joined the Snowball community during the pandemic, and a year plus later, she paid off all of her credit card debt, is starting to save and invest, she started a side hustle, and she tried to just gain so much confidence. And it's out there, it's talking about money, it's talking to other people about her journey and inspiring other people to get on that journey as well. Her name's Rosie. Having people like Rosie come in and really just change their lives has been incredibly inspiring. And I think one of the things that we've done is try to give people confidence and give them a path so that they know that they can go off and pay off that debt and get that out of their system and start saving and helping people figure out how to stop living that paycheck to paycheck life. So I think that's one of the reasons why I do what I do and why we really care about this community.

Elias Torres: Oh, absolutely. It is fantastic. I mean, I've been through that journey myself, and sometimes I meet with people that are in that situation, and sometimes I don't know how to help them, because I came out of that, but I went to school, I did computer science, I worked as an engineer, and so that's my only playbook. That's how I told my kids, they hear me over and over and over," Just do CS, you can figure out the rest later," and say," Just do that. I don't care what you do after," because I believe that's the path that I know, but there's so many other ways, and I love that you're doing that for people. I'm older, so do you remember MINT? Do you remember MINT?

Pamela Martinez: Yeah. Yes, I do.

Elias Torres: So is Snowball Wealth like Mint, in that it helps you connect your accounts, and then figure out how you're going to go tackle debt, and then turn that into savings, and then turn that into investments?

Pamela Martinez: Yeah, yeah. So for example, the way that it works today is that you sign up, you sync your accounts, we have a student debt product so that if you have student loans, you can sync your student loan accounts, and then we give you a few recommendations based on the information that you have. We have a mobile app as well, and we just rolled out recently, a community in the product, as well as something called money challenges. And what these money challenges are, they're like savings goals or payoff goals. So you join a challenge, other people join the challenge with you, and a lot of them are month- long challenges, so you can be like," Oh, I want to pay off X amount in this next month." So we're trying to give accountability strategies as well, and as well as a community, so that you're doing this financial journey with other people.

Elias Torres: Yeah. I mean, that's so great because we need to figure out how to do this at scale. It's like, we can't all individually go coach every single person, especially when we're not experts at it, but you're bringing the experts together, and at scale, coach and mentor, a lot of people to go through this one step by the time, and in no time... It's like, in a year or two, people can have their life be completely different, right?

Pamela Martinez: Yeah, yeah. That's a goal. And the way that we make money is, we do have a premium program where you can get matched with a money coach. So we have the free product, which is strategies, information, you can sync your accounts and everything's automated. And then we do have a premium product where you can get paired with a coach. We have a financial advisor who will work with you, more hands on, to make sure that if you need extra attention or you really want to talk to an expert, you do have that opportunity to do so.

Elias Torres: This is amazing. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Thank you for your journey. You achieving your own American dream, you're able to provide, help your parents be successful, well- educated, and now you're paying it forward. So I'm going to share this podcast with my daughter because you're going to be an inspiration to her for what you're doing, because she wants to be a founder someday too. So right now, she thinks it's easy, so we'll see. Thank you so much.

Pamela Martinez: Well, thank you so much and hope you have a good day.

Elias Torres: Thanks for listening to The American Dream podcast. Make sure to hit subscribe so you never miss when a new episode drops. If you liked this episode, please leave a six- star review wherever you listen to your podcast, and if you're interested in learning more about my American dream mission, subscribe to my newsletter, link in the show notes.


"People are dealing with imposter syndrome, we're dealing with kind of a lot of these struggles, so having that extra encouragement and reminding them that they can do it, and they will do it if they put their minds to it, and if they're doing well, making sure you remind them of that and recognize them, that can really help propel those people."

For Pamela Martinez, the co-founder and CTO of Snowball Wealth, community is the fuel that drove her to her CTO role today, and it's why she's hyperfocused on the power of community at Snowball Wealth.

Moving from Mexico to Texas in elementary school, Pamela experienced a community shift early in life. Being one of the only girls in an engineering program at high school brought a whole new community experience, and then attending Stanford University for undergraduate school brought yet another new community. After spending some time at Microsoft, Pamela decided it was time to enter the startup world, join a new community, and empower the community of underrepresented individuals through financial assistance.

In this episode of the American Dream podcast, Pamela explains why she joined and almost left, the computer science community, why she and her co-founder started Snowball Wealth, and the early results Snowball Wealth is seeing by empowering individuals to take control of their finances.

Key Moments:

  • (1:47) Why Pamela's family moved from Mexico to Texas
  • (4:32) How Pamela's community in Texas compared to her community in Mexico
  • (7:05) Pamela's high school experience
  • (11:06) Pamela goes to Stanford
  • (17:13) What "community" looked like at Stanford
  • (23:51) The mission behind Snowball wealth
  • (33:54) Outcomes customers have seen with Snowball Wealth
  • (37:43) How Snowball Wealth works

Check out Snowball Wealth's Women Building Wealth video series: https://youtu.be/pmW8wKGQ3c4

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