In the last 5 years, Maria and Stephen earned enough credit card points to pay for economy and first class tickets for themselves, friends, and family members to travel all over the world. One particularly memorable trip was a 10-day visit to Paris in 2012 where both their flights and 4 star hotel were covered with points. They were really able to enjoy the trip without worrying about finances because Stephen had done the research.
They launched Credit Card Genius in June 2017 with the aim of empowering Canadian consumers, helping them make better financial decisions and helping them save money. Their goal is to make the process of choosing the right credit card easy. According to Maria and Stephen, knowledge isn’t enough–you have to take in information and then act on what you’ve learnt. So, in today’s busy world, Credit Card Genius can help you make the right choice in as little as 60 seconds.
What inspired you to start your business?
Stephen: After university, I was a little taken aback by how expensive life was. So, I got into deal hunting. I started researching, really educating myself. I’d shop on sale, do price matching, coupon hunting. I’d spend hours in deal forums and reading the fine print on everything. I realized that there were a lot of nuggets of really good information out there. I then noticed that there wasn’t really anyone out there in Canada offering the kind of information I was searching for in one easy to read, easy to access source. So, I started a website called How To Save Money. I then started looking into credit card rewards, and that’s how Credit Card Genius was born.
Where are you located?
We’re primarily based in Moncton but our entire team works remotely out of their home offices and a couple of them even work from outside of Moncton. We get together in person twice a month though so we can better gel as a team. For us it’s about finding the right people, regardless of where they live. We prefer to hire locally, but we’re open to other areas as well.
How many people currently work for you and what do you look for in an employee?
We’re a team of six: four full time employees and then Maria and me. As for the ideal employee, we’re looking for someone who cares about our business as if it were their own. That’s the main thing, because from there, everything else will flow. The ability to wear multiple hats is also important as we are a small team.
What kinds of roles are you hiring for?
Maria: We need tech power – we look at other websites and they have for instance ten software developers and fifty employees. We want to be the best, and I think we will get there, the question is just how soon. We’re always looking for freelance writers who have an interest in personal finance. We’re also keeping an eye out for that genius business developer.
Anything an outsider may not know and that an insider might take for granted – but that sets you apart as a great company?
It’s going to sound strange, but we have a corporate team book club. We choose books strategically to help us learn, grow and become more effective. The last book we read was Running Lean by Ash Maurya.
What are the demands of a small startup team and that of a husband and wife team?
Working in a startup is not a typical job. A startup demands the best of you, every single day. Some days are a struggle, and others give you great fulfillment. There’s nowhere to hide in a startup, and the work that you do really speaks for itself. If you want the space to learn, grow and develop your personal skill set, a startup will do that for you. As for our relationship, we’ve actually gotten closer through working together. We never had a mutual hobby. I mean it’s not always easy – there’s no distance – but it’s made us stronger, forced us to communicate better and to appreciate all the work we do. The challenge is to switch off, but we promised each other that when the kids come home, it’s family time until they go to bed.
“When you love what you’re doing, failure is not an option.”
Did you ever have major challenges or moments of doubt?
Stephen: I was never worried. I’m not one to doubt, I’m one to finish.
Maria: I can attest to that. Stephen showed me incredible perseverance in the four years when he worked a full-time job, spent time with his family and grew How To Save Money by himself. I’m a good starter, Stephen is a good finisher.
Advice from Maria and Stephen: always pay your balance every month. Always shop and compare credit cards and don’t ever settle. Find something that meets your needs, whether it be rewards, lower interest rates or no fees. To find out more about Credit Card Genius, go to https://creditcardgenius.ca/.