Introducing RISE UP finalist and Fundpay founder, Renee Bignell. Fundpay is a budgeting and payment platform that can be downloaded as an easy-to-use app on your phone. Smart, discreet and debt-free, Fundpay is New Zealand’s first digital wallet for discretionary spending. It allows users to make regular payments into the app, save up and then splash out without guilt or debt!

What were you doing prior to starting your own business?

For the latter half of my 20’s I owned and operated Palm Boutique, a curated retail store in Nelson. Owning a business has been a goal of mine for a long time, having been raised in a very entrepreneurial family. We were taught to work hard, take every opportunity and think big from an early age. My parents were cherry growers, so unlike my peers, I was working each day of each summer since I can remember!

Working for myself has been a transformative experience, I am so thankful for every hurdle and win. I had a few years working for a big seafood company before I bought Palm Boutique and this set me up well to see both sides of business; a big powerful business with lots of resources but slow reactions, versus being a small owner operator business that is agile but vulnerable.

How did the idea for Fundpay come about?

While running Palm Boutique I spotted a gap in the market for retail payment options. The only options for helping customers break down the lumpy expense of their purchases involved debt; credit cards or Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL). Palm is an upmarket boutique, so many of our customers liked the idea of splitting the cost of that $500 dress but they just weren’t a fan of the debt-based solutions. I didn’t like it either, BNPL is expensive for retailers and risky for consumers. Fundpay is a competitive solution that offers a discreet wallet and budgeting tool for all of your beauty and retail spending without the debt.

Initially in 2020 I started running Fundpay on a very crude scale. Palm Boutique customers who were interested in pre-paying a balance at Palm would make a payment to Fundpay and I would keep an update of their balance and they would come in and spend it. Our customers loved it, they said it ‘felt like their purchase was free’ as they left without having to swipe a card or hide the evidence! So I took the plunge, I did a Co-Starters course at the end of 2020, slowly saved up and had an app launched at the end of 2021, and now we have a functioning product with consumers and other merchants.

What do you love most about being a business founder?

I love the excitement of a wide-open horizon. There is so much opportunity, it’s exhilarating but terrifying. I also love the camaraderie that exists among business founders/owners. It’s the understanding nod, the dark joke, the sense of ultimate responsibility and freedom at the same time.

What has been your biggest challenge so far in your entrepreneurial journey?

Realising that Fundpay isn’t a ‘retail’ start-up, it is actually a ‘fintech’ start-up. This means a deep dive into industries that have been foreign to me - finance, law and technology. Navigating this has been a huge challenge, even understanding who to ask for help on some very basic things at the start! I eventually just started being really honest with people, letting them know I was totally at a loss of where to begin. Asking for help is the best way to get it, so that’s what I did.

What’s a business highlight you’re proud of?

Owning a retail store over the last few years and actually being able to see it grow and flourish despite Covid challenges has given me confidence to try something new with Fundpay. Fundpay milestones that still give me the warm fuzzies include the day the app was published in Google Play and Apple, and when a local retailer, Trouble & Fox, joined the app as one of our first merchants.

What or who inspires you?

I am inspired by people who show exceptional resilience. I think it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there after suffering loss, trauma or failure. You can either shy away from risk or step up to it knowing that you have the tools and proven ability to navigate challenges.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

Pluck up the courage and ask someone for a coffee/drink to pick their brains. Follow up on any introductions they make, and don’t be afraid to network and reach out to others. I can’t even remember how I eventually met my developer - it was a string of introductions that eventually led me to meeting him and now we have an app!

Do you have any advice for female entrepreneurs?

Know your biases and check them. Some of the things I thought were really smart ideas have ended up delivering little value and were the first things that external advisors told me to cut, and they were right. If you ask for advice, LISTEN to it, weigh it up and then act on it. (P.s. this is really hard and I have to remind myself daily).

How do you unwind?

I like to laugh a lot. I used to take life too seriously and then one day something really serious and sad happened to me. Life is too short to lose sleep over things that can't be fixed immediately. If I am stressed at night I write a note on my phone, remind myself of how far I have come and then get to sleep. Plus I like to take baths, have a glass of wine, watch a silly comedy or get one of those painful but epic Thai massages.

What three things can’t you live without?

My classic shade of lippy, iPhone Notes, and my Fundpay app ;)

If you won RISE UP, what would you use the money for?

I would use half of the money towards a marketing campaign to drive consumer and merchant sign up. We haven’t spent any money on marketing yet and it’s going to be crucial to getting our name out there. I would love to see a targeted merchant campaign that explains why we are the only payment platform working for them!

The second half will go to continuing development of features and ongoing security and compliance upgrades. Boring but crucial. This is the important part of Fundpay that ensures we can build and keep our users' trust.

Money is always helpful but a strong reason for me entering the RISE UP competition was to make use of the stellar judging panel. The feedback and exposure from these industry leaders can add exponential value to a business, I am all ears!