Kathryn Finney Is Focused on Getting Black Women Started in Tech
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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Kathryn Finney of Budget Fashionista launched DigitalUndivided with the intent to increase participation of black women in tech (Image: Source)

Attention tech entrepreneurs: If you’ve never heard of Kathryn Finney before, then pay attention; she is someone you should know. In fact, more importantly, if she knows you, she can be the best friend you’ve never had.

Known across the blogosphere as The Budget Fashionista, Finney is famous for teaching the fashion-conscious, but financially-challenged among us, how to look runway-ready for a fifth of the cost. The Yale epidemiology graduate started the blog in 2003, before the invention of WordPress, and after her husband, a web-developer at Victoria’s Secret, pointed out that her shopping was putting a crimp in their pocketbooks.

“When I started doing the Budget Fashionista I was newly married, living in Philadelphia. Knew no one, but my husband [who] worked a lot. I was shopping. I was bored. I was spending a lot of money,” says Finney, who previously worked as a research scientist, specializing in HIV/AIDS in women. “I’ve always been the flyest scientist. I went to India and didn’t bring any clothes in my suitcase so I could bring back fabrics.”

Budget Fashionista’s popularity grew tremendously. Finney scored a position as editor-at-large for BlogHer, was tapped as a regular fashion contributor for NBC’s Today show; became the first fashion blogger to receive a book deal from Random House, penning  How To Be A Budget Fashionista: The Ultimate Guide to Looking Fabulous for Less; and even moved to Los Angeles to begin working on a television show.

Right now, you might be wondering what fashion blogging has to do with the innovation economy. Well, the television show never came to fruition. After everything had been negotiated, the title cards were complete, and only the word Action! was left, Finney’s decided not to pursue a career in entertainment. She felt a deeper calling was still ahead for her in technology.

She credits her father, Robert Finney. Because it was he, she says, who bestowed upon her the worker-bee work ethic that helps her keep all of the balls in the air, without forgetting to give back. In him, she witnessed a 36-year-old husband and father of two small kids, a high school dropout, and displaced factory worker, take an unpaid internship, flip that into a full-time job, move his family a state away to Minnesota, work his way up the ladder in corporate America, earn a bachelor’s degree, and eventually become a senior software engineer at Microsoft. Growing up in the eighties, around her childhood home Finney remembers finding napkins and scraps of paper scrawled with software code. When her father died in 2001, he was an executive at EMC, a world leader in data storage.

Robert didn’t do it alone. He had help. When he was laid off from the Schlitz brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (the same one where fictional characters Laverne and Shirley worked) he sought the help of the Opportunities Industrialization Centers, founded by Rev. Leon Sullivan, a man who was heaven-bent on providing the black working class a leg-up to elude poverty and oppression. He did this by taking individuals with little hope and few prospects, offering them job training and instruction in life skills and then helped place them into jobs.  That program changed her father’s life.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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