Entrepreneurs Grind

5 #LowKeyInvestors Making Major Business Moves

Venture capital is no longer limited to the suits of the finance set.

From Hollywood’s A-list to internationally known rock stars, many celebrities have started to nudge their way into the investment world, often with a surprising amount of stealth. In our #LowKeyInvestors series, we unearth some of the most successful under-the-radar business ventures of celebritydom you might have missed.

Check out the notable stories of these five #LowKeyInvestors. 

Photo by Vivien Killilea / Getty Images

On “0 to 100,” Drake spits a philosophical maxim: “Know yourself, know your worth.” In other words, be self-aware of your skills—knowing your strengths and weaknesses will push you to work with talented individuals who can fill in the gaps. Over the years, Drake has stayed true to his own advice, collaborating with everyone from eSports companies to whiskey distilling experts.

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Ashton Kutcher
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

It looks as if Ashton Kutcher wasn’t just method acting when he was playing the role of Steve Jobs. Investing heavily in companies like Uber and Bird, Kutcher has transformed from everyone’s favorite merry prankster into a venture capital mastermind. Whoa, dude! 

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Mike Shinoda
Frank Maddocks / WBR

In the 2000s, the members of Linkin Park were making bank, selling out stadiums and hitting multiplatinum milestones left and right. But Mike Shinoda and his bandmates had another lucrative hustle: investing in startups. Launching their VC firm Machine Shop Ventures in 2015, the rap-rock shredders have made millions since, continuing to prove that musicians can also be incredible businessmen. 

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Kenny G
Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

Kenny G, the master of the sax, has also shown an incredible capacity for smart investing. Supposedly around 80 percent of his investments netted a profit. Forget Charles Schwab or Ameritrade—Kenny G is your new stock market guru.

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Nas during the 1998 MTV VMA party / Jeff Kravitz/Film Magic Inc/Getty Images

Nas has been in the investing game for quite some time. From Dropbox to Lyft, the Queens-born rapper has proved himself to be quite the shrewd investor for the past 20 years. When it comes to lyrics versus money, it’s hard to tell what Nas is better at handling. 

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Sports Strength

Let’s Check In on the Clubs That David Beckham Owns

It’s not often that a semiprofessional soccer club gets promoted to the professional level. But what if the ownership group is something special? Salford City—a team owned by “Class of ’92” grads David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Gary and Phil Neville, and Nicky Butt—has done just that.

Let’s take a step back first. There are four tiers of professional football in England. The Premier League is at the top, followed by the Championship, then League 1 and finally League 2. Everything below that is essentially the semiprofessional level. Salford City has gone from the 8th tier of English football to the 4th division, in the span of five years. It’s an unbelievable achievement, made even better because the club is owned by former English pro players.

Salford City isn’t Beckham’s main interest, however; he’s also the owner of a new MLS team called Inter Miami CF. This project has been in the works for years and is now nearing the final stages. Beckham’s main vision is to grow a youth academy to produce more homegrown talent.  

MLS clubs launched professional academy programs in 2017 with the principal goal of producing homegrown players who could develop into top professional players.

“I think my dream for the Academy is to see young kids come and learn to play the game, come and learn everything they can about this great sport, but also be given a chance to play in a safe environment, be given a chance to be coached by great coaches and also be given the chance to live their dream of playing in this professional game for us,” club owner David Beckham said in a statement.

For the public, four “pitches”—regulation-size soccer fields that can be used for other sports—will be created, as well as a dog park, a running trail, a playground and a public park. The estimated investment, including a new $30 million stadium, could go up to $60 million as reported by local media outlet Sun-Sentinel.

A hefty chunk of money will be invested in the entire complex for Inter Miami CF.

The $1 billion development calls for a 25,000-seat stadium and a hotel, office park and commercial campus on the city-owned Melreese golf course, which spans 73 acres. Beckham’s MLS team would also build a public park on an adjacent site.

To complete the package, Beckham is certainly looking to attract some star players. He’s even rumored to have spoken with Neymar about a potential switch to Miami after his time in Paris. Regardless if it’s Neymar or not, Beckham will need to make an impact signing that will take this project to the next level. New MLS club Los Angeles FC made this decision by signing star striker Carlos Vela, who is currently the leading goal scorer in MLS this season.

The future is unwritten for Miami CF. But after years of slow progress, things are beginning to turn around.

Leaders Style

How 2 Young Entrepreneurs Launched Their Unisex Jewelry Brand

Anwar Hadid knows he’s fortunate. As the son of Mohamed Hadid, a luxury real estate developer, and Yolanda Hadid, the television personality and model, he and his siblings are in a league of their own. Oh yeah, have we mentioned two of his sisters are Bella and Gigi Hadid, the world-famous supermodels?

When this particular Hadid met artist Yoni Laham drinking coffee at Croft Alley on Melrose Place in West Hollywood, Hadid’s fit sparked a curious conversation. How could they encapsulate Hadid’s enviable punk rock street style into a business?

Two years later, the two young creatives have joined forces to launch Martyre, a unisex jewelry line whose campaign features Hadid himself. ONE37pm interviewed the duo, about whether they’ve capitalized on their family’s resources, how important the business marketing plan is to them and their top advice for young entrepreneurs.

Kevin Ohana

Have you always worn jewelry?

Anwar Hadid: I’ve always worn accessories, from a very young age. When I was little I used to ask to wear my mom’s jewelry and I think that’s when my initial love for it began. The idea of “family heirlooms” and passing down jewelry from generation to generation is super special to me.

Yoni Laham: We both have an appreciation for the timelessness and symbolism that jewelry has versus other categories in fashion. Only recently did I start wearing jewelry as part of my everyday style, but I’ve always had special pieces that were given to me throughout the years.

Describe the moment when you knew you wanted to start this venture.

Hadid: Yoni and I became fast friends and shortly after that we started brainstorming ways for us to create something together, we just hadn’t pinpointed what that was.

Laham: One day, we were sitting and drinking coffee at Croft Alley, and I looked at Anwar and he had this punk rock fit on and this perfect mix of accessories and we both had the same thought: jewelry. Everything kind of spiraled from there and that moment. That was a little over 2 years ago.

Kevin Ohana
Kevin Ohana

None of your pieces have an assigned gender. Why?

Laham and Hadid: We never wanted to assign an archetype to either the “man” or “woman” that wears our jewelry—we never thought it mattered. We intentionally design our pieces to be inclusive, everyone can wear it, no matter your gender.

What resources that are available to you have you used to help launch your business?

Laham: Our shared network has definitely been a helpful resource for the business.

Hadid: We’d be remiss not to say our friends and family have helped guide us during this process. We’re very fortunate to have so many mentors and around us that have achieved great success—it’s super inspiring for us.

Kevin Ohana
Kevin Ohana

The campaign images are beautiful. How important was the marketing plan in your allocation of resources?

Laham: The campaign and the imagery we continue to create is of the highest importance to us. We actually don’t view this as part of our marketing plan, but rather a part of our brand identity.

Hadid: Working in fashion, I’ve come to learn the importance and power a single image can have over a brand. From day one, we wanted to prioritize the content we create alongside the product we design.

Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs who’d like to make their dream business a reality?

Laham and Hadid: WORK HARD. Nothing comes easy, even when it appears to be so, but hard work will always pay off one way or another.

Anwar Hadid, Founder of Martyre

Work hard. Nothing comes easy, even when it appears to be so, but hard work will always pay off one way or another. 

Entrepreneurs Grind

Chop It Up: How Beyond Meat Got A Big Cut of a Trillion Dollar Market

Chop It Up is ONE37pm’s weekly web series where hosts Brandon Bryant and John Henry examine business and culture through an entrepreneurial lens. You can catch new episodes of Chop It Up every Wednesday at 3 p.m. on ONE37pm’s YouTube channel.

This episode of #ChopItUp is all about DISRUPTION. Brandon Bryant and John Henry kick things off by laying out why big media companies are losing to independent content creators.

The real “meat” of this episode is the guys breaking down Beyond Meat‘s insane IPO and how the company with a plant-based purpose is carving out space in a trillion dollar meat market. Finally, Brandon and John get into the role that data played in Rent The Runway becoming a billion dollar business and get into why the future of retail will be experiential.

#ChopItUp breaks down business and culture through the lens of entrepreneurship. From million dollar deals to flipping kicks on Stock X—we are here to help you find success at YOUR hustle, whatever that may be.

Entrepreneurs Grind

This Immersive Art Museum is Backed by ‘Game of Thrones’ Author George R.R. Martin

Imagine walking into a Victorian-style house filled with average home essentials: couches, fish tanks, newspapers on the breakfast table. There’s one major difference between this home and a regular one: It has portals that lead into other worlds. Fireplaces, washing machines and refrigerators act as entries into psychedelic neon glowing gardens, spaceships and cave-like dwellings.

Meow Wolf/Facebook

It is the House of Eternal Return, and it’s an experiential art installation in Santa Fe, New Mexico, created by Meow Wolf—a collective of artists who have grown their passion for the bizarre into a multimillion-dollar business.

Meow Wolf was founded by six members, and chief executive Vince Kadlubek has helped lead the collective from hosting parties that would get shut down by the cops to becoming a start-up that is on the path to building 15 more locations similar to the House of Eternal Return in the next five years.

In a recent interview with The New York Times Magazine, Kadlubek admits to his own lack of artistic ability and says he always wanted to be surrounded by artists. Since high school, he’s had a passion for creating pitch decks and selling his ambitious ideas to anyone who would listen.

The success of Meow Wolf’s first location—the House—came over a year after the grueling and exhausting work necessary to make the space truly unique.

Meow Wolf/Facebook

One of the first investors was Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, and Kadlubek, along with co-founder Sean Di Ianni, attended a pitch competition in Albuquerque in 2014 where they received $25,000 to begin development on the House.

According to the Times, by opening day in 2016, Meow Wolf had less than $1,000 in its bank account—but the work paid off. Within the first three months of opening, 125,000 people came through the House of Eternal Return. Lines were out the door, with visitors waiting for hours to peek inside. Meow Wolf made three times more than what it predicted for its first year. Ticket prices for entry range from $17 to $29, and annual family passes go for $300.

The space has gained celebrity attention, such as from R&B artist T-Pain, who filmed the music video for his song “A Million Times” inside the House of Eternal Return earlier this year.

“My wife sent me an advertisement for Meow Wolf, and it just blew my mind. I mean it was just something so different, something I’d really love for my house to look like, ” T-Pain said in an interview with the collective.

Singer Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips has also collaborated with the space, installing an art piece titled “The King’s Mouth” last year.

Fast-forward to 2019, and Meow Wolf has grown exponentially. Its most recent success, according to Albuquerque Business First, is raising more than $158 million in investments for its future ventures. These funds will first go toward opening Area15 in Las Vegas, which, similar to its Santa Fe location, will host events. If last year’s crowd of 1 million visitors to the House is indicative of Area15’s success, Meow Wolf is set to have an incredible 2019.

Entrepreneurs Grind

These Startup Founders Want You to Grow Your Own Shrooms

It all started with some mushrooms.

As two seniors about to graduate with a double major in finance and economics at UC Berkeley, Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora would have been the first to admit they knew absolutely “nothing about food or agriculture.” But on one fateful day during a business ethics class, their career paths shifted dramatically.

In an interview with Fast Company, Arora recalls that transformative moment: “Our professor said you could grow gourmet mushrooms on agricultural waste, like coffee grounds,” Arora remembers. “We both reached out after class to ask for more information, and he was like, ‘Honestly, I have no idea, but this other kid asked me about it too. You guys should link up.’”

Following his advice, Arora eventually linked up with Velez, and the two became fast friends. After dedicating their spring break to creating a mushroom farm in a frat house kitchen, they made a 180-degree turn and set their sights on a greener future: They decided to jump-start a mushroom wholesale business.

Success came quickly, and the shroom slingers found themselves selling hundreds of pounds of oyster mushrooms to local vendors and restaurants. But their ambitions outgrew their small farm and morphed into a new venture of creating an indoor and urban gardening company called Back to the Roots.

In ONE37pm’s interview with cofounder Alejandro Velez, he shared that curiosity with us, detailing the future plans for Back to the Roots, his inspiring meeting with Gary Vee and how the company managed to get New York City’s public school system to switch out sugary Kellogg’s cereal for their organic line.

Tell me about where you and your partner found your passion for urban farming and organic food.

Alejandro Velez: It was either investment banking or being a teacher. Those were my two thoughts and Nikhil Arora was going into consulting, and we both heard in our business ethics class that you could grow mushrooms with coffee waste. I thought that was remarkably random and kind of cool that you can take the waste and grow stuff on it. That led us to try to develop a product out of our kitchen during spring break. We cold emailed a guy that had written that you could potentially do this and nobody had ever really done it commercially. We eventually started hustling mushrooms in college, and that turned into giving up our job offers and becoming full-time waste collectors and mushroom farmers.

It seems like you are trying to change the way Americans eat and think about food. Is cultivating a deeper appreciation for food through gardening kits enough?

Velez: I wish I could say it was, but the answer is no—absolutely not. There are so many factors that go into bringing healthy food to every single kid and family in the country. I just finished Michelle Obama’s book and a lot of the things she shared speak to the path that we’re on. I think it’s so clear how many layers there are to bringing healthy food to all schools, all kids and families. Just like Mrs. Obama mentioned in her book and Sam Kass, who she referenced a lot, I think we are trying to do our part. We think that by creating gardening kits that teach kids and families how to grow these mushrooms using coffee waste—as crazy and almost esoteric and random as it may seem—it is also this kind of magical moment for kids all over the country to say, “Holy crap, I can grow this thing, what else can I grow?” We don’t see our urban indoor gardening kits leading the charge to solve world hunger. We are an all-around inspiration and trying to ignite curiosity and teach these kids in a way that makes them feel like they are having fun learning.

What’s been the greatest challenge for you?

Velez: I think scaling our business, as well as getting the word out about what we do. The published articles about our business are everything to us, and as soon as teachers find out that our products exist and use them, they fall in love with it. We have received so many phone calls from educators crying and get all of these incredible letters from the students themselves about the projects they’re doing in school and how it’s turned into them building a garden outside and eating so many more vegetables, caring about where it comes from. It’s crazy how these tiny little kits that we create here turned into this much bigger movement. At the end of the day, I think that we have an opportunity to make a big impact.

Alejandro Velez, Cofounder of Back to the Roots

We hung out with Gary for around an hour and a half, and in that brainstorming session, he did the impossible and ate the entire pound of mushrooms from our kit.

You said you plan to sell 1 million new organic gardens in 2019. How’s that going?

Velez: The first few months of this journey have been really exciting. You know, at the end of the day, we owe a lot to our retailers where we are able to interact with our consumers. We are in about 12,000 stores around the country, anywhere from The Home Depot, our longest standing partner, to Lowe’s to Target to Costco. We’re also having conversations with Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and Petco. It is online with Amazon as well. So I think we’re on our way. We have a lot of growth to do, but the most exciting thing and what makes us work so hard is the progress we are seeing.

You recently introduced your first hemp home grow kit. Why hemp?

Velez: Like so many of our other products, hemp is really easy to grow. It was recently legalized through the Hemp Farming Act. The hemp grow kit is just one other way for us to be able to get families interested in growing.

On your journey, who have you met who has really inspired you? 

Velez: Nikhil and I had the chance to meet Gary Vee years ago in his hotel room in San Francisco. We came in and had a fully grown mushroom kit to show him. We hung out with Gary for around an hour and a half, and in that brainstorming session, he did the impossible and ate the entire pound of mushrooms from our kit. So far, he is the only person we know who has devoured that much in that amount of time. We were like, “This guy is a beast.” He told us that he saw us in five years igniting the same movement that Toms did and making a huge impact. That has really stayed with us, for sure.

How did your collaboration with Ayesha Curry come about?

Velez: We’re both based in Oakland and we share such similar philosophies when it comes to bringing healthier food to kids. As soon as we got together, we immediately envisioned this product that we could develop together, and that’s how we created the Ayesha Kitchen Herb Garden. We recently went to a community center in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her and Steph Curry—they made investments to beautify the whole space and build a brand-new basketball court and a new state-of-the-art kitchen. We brought hundreds of our kits to donate to the kids. Obviously, it was way cooler to have [Steph and Ayesha] give away the kits. The kids were definitely more likely to get excited and talk about it with the teachers and get them on board.

We also did a collaboration with Fall Out Boy. Fall Out Boy reached out to us and we ended up meeting. Like the Ayesha situation, we came to a similar kind of idea of “Hey, we love what you guys do. We’re from Chicago. Can we do something special here?” And to get the word out, we donated 20,000 of our gardening kits. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but 20,000 ended up being 10 percent of all elementary school kids in Chicago.

So how do you forge connections with companies, brands and people outside of the food and education space? 

Velez: What’s been fun is that much of what happened has been really natural.

Last year, we teamed up with Carmelo Anthony because of his kid. We recently just displaced Kellogg’s at New York public schools. Our cereal has a fourth of the sugar that Kellogg’s has. In a blind taste test, kids chose our cereal over theirs. Our cereal is now feeding 1.1 million public school kids.

That was the first time in the United States that an organic cereal had launched in any public school district, let alone the largest one in the country, and that connection was through Carmelo’s son. He tried it and loved it. We didn’tknow this at first, but Melo is a huge cereal fan, and we ended up sitting down with them. It’s the little things like that where the relationship happens organically. We don’t have a department that focuses on forging these relationships, and I think that’s the beauty in it. People have reached out to Back to the Roots just because theybelieve, or want to believe, in the same thing we believe in.

Are U.S. consumers your primary target, or do you have aspirations of taking Back to the Roots globally?

Velez: Absolutely. We want to see every kid, whether they’re American or not, be more connected to food and, ultimately, be really conscious and serious about where their food comes from. From a mission standpoint, we want this to be something that eventually goes worldwide. Luckily, we’ve had some amazing retail partners that believe in the same crazy idea we have, that an indoor gardening category needs to exist. Home Depot six years ago wasn’t talking about organics or non-GMOs. We were the first to bring it to the gardening category. Now there are indoor gardening categories in every major home improvement store and national retailer.

Entrepreneurs Grind

Chop It Up: 11 Ways to Grow Your Business for $100 or Less

Chop It Up is ONE37pm’s weekly web series where hosts Brandon Bryant and John Henry examine business and culture through an entrepreneurial lens. You can catch new episodes of Chop It Up every Wednesday at 3 p.m. on ONE37pm’s YouTube channel.

On this week’s episode of #ChopItUp, a viewer question about building brand awareness on a small budget turns into a rapid-fire rundown of 11 ways to grow your business for less than a hundred bucks.

But before that, John Henry and Brandon Bryant get into how StockX became a billion dollar business, the role that authentication played in its success, and how the blockchain could factor into the future of the fashion industry. Brandon Bryant reveals that: “Stock X built their model on authentication—as it works now, you have a fresh pair of kicks and you want to sell them and when Stock X lines up a buyer, you ship the sneakers to Stock X—they verify them and then ship to the buyer. Once the transaction is complete you, the seller, get paid.”

Then your hosts tell you why Accenture’s acquisition of advertising agency Droga5 could mean that there is a big payday coming for creators and how big Russell Wilson’s gift to his teammates could grow in 10 years.

Do you think it’s possible to grow a business for less than $100?

Grind Productivity

If You Want to Be An Entrepreneur, Watch These 3 Films

Entrepreneurs are constantly learning on the go: From their peers to their idols, and, most definitely, from their own mistakes—the course of starting (and running) your own business is full of lessons learned.

However, when you can learn some of these lessons before embarking on your own journey—it only makes the process that much easier. Aspiring entrepreneurs should try to learn as much as they can about the field they’re trying to break into before taking the leap. This means doing market research, talking to people with experience, and perhaps reading novels from those who have blazed the trails before them.

For me, though, I feel that there are a number of valuable lessons for the aspiring entrepreneur in films—which is an incredibly important medium for transferring information. And while, in many cases, some of the information expressed through film may be veiled or hidden under an extravagant plot—if you keep your eyes (and ears) open to them, you can take away a lot of valuable advice from good movies.

Below are a few pictures that I feel aspiring entrepreneurs should see—and learn from. And with the release of the Criterion Channel last month, they’re easier to watch than ever. 

Andrei Rublev

Andrei Tarkovsky’s arthouse masterpiece “Andrei Rublev” is more than just a brilliantly shot portrait of 15th century Russia—and one of its most iconic painters, Andrei Rublev. It is a film that bears countless virtues for viewers today, despite being filmed in 1965.

However, the scene I feel is most poignant for any aspiring entrepreneur is the final one: Focusing on Boriska, a young man determined to follow in his late father’s footsteps as a bellmaker. Boriska claims to know the secret of bellmaking and uses this as leverage to gain support from the Prince in recasting a bell for the village church tower. 

As the film progresses, we learn that Boriska never actually learned his father’s secret, and instead relies on his own instincts and a fair amount of trial and error to succeed in his endeavor. And this is similar, in nature, to the type of obstacle many young entrepreneurs will face in the early stages of whatever they’re trying to build. 

You may not have the all of the answers—or in Boriska’s case, the secret—that outline exactly how to succeed in the field you’re trying to break into, at least not early on. But the most important thing is self-belief. When push came to shove, Boriska had to trust in his training and the fire inside him to come up with his own answers, his own secret.

When trying to start a business, far more progress is halted from doubt than a lack of experience or expertise. If you’ve put the work in, have organized your plan and have the desire to succeed burning in your gut—what’s really stopping you? 

Bicycle Thieves

There seem to be countless lessons inside Vittorio di Sica’s 1948 neorealist film “Bicycle Thieves” that would resonate with the aspiring entrepreneur, but, for me, there’s one that stands out in particular.

And that is to focus on the things that truly matter.

In di Sica’s film, a man hocks his own family’s bedsheets in order to afford a bicycle—to take up a job gluing posters to walls and, ultimately, support his family. But on his first day on the job, the bike gets stolen, and he spends the rest of the film searching for it—with the help of his son. Crumbling under the pressure of not being able to provide for his wife and son, the man inadvertently puts his son in danger.

While, on the surface, the bike appeared to be the most important thing to the protagonist but it caused him to lose sight of his true goal. He only purchased the bicycle so that he would have a means of putting food on the table for his family. But, then, once the bicycle was stolen, his focus changed from family to solely the bicycle, and his tunnel vision began to impact his overall decision making. 

This is an important lesson for people looking to start their own business. When things get stressful, it’s easy to lose sight of your true goals and get caught up worrying about smaller obstacles along the way. Obstacles are inevitable, and much about what makes a person successful deals with how they handle the obstacles—not avoid them.

The American Friend

The American Friend is a film by Wim Wenders, (somewhat loosely) adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel “Ripley’s Game.” 

The plot of the film—full of subplots, murder attempts, and mayhem—is seemingly set into motion when the film’s protagonist (the late, great Bruno Ganz) inadvertently insults Tom Ripley (played by the late, and equally great, Dennis Hopper) when meeting him for the first time. 

And this goes to show you the importance of first impressions, especially in business. In the film, Jonathan’s (Ganz) refusal to shake Ripley’s hand, makes him the subject to a long-winded revenge trip throughout the film. And while many aspiring entrepreneurs won’t endure those types of consequences for poor first impressions, it is important to maintain good business relations—and you can never take for granted how others in the industry will perceive you.

Entrepreneurs Grind

This Is the Easiest Way to Get a College Degree Without Debt

Chop It Up is ONE37pm’s weekly web series where hosts Brandon Bryant and John Henry examine business and culture through an entrepreneurial lens. You can catch new episodes of Chop It Up every Wednesday at 3 p.m. on ONE37pm’s YouTube channel.

In this week’s episode of Chop It Up, Brandon and John Henry tell you how to turn the bad housing market into a huge investment opportunity. Then, the guys discuss why a rising minimum wage shouldn’t stop you from finding other sources of income. Finally, Brandon and John explain how Income Sharing Agreements can help you get a college degree debt-free.

John Henry stresses that: “Income inequality is a hot topic right now and will likely be a major point in the 2020 election. What this means is that banks are making a lot of money, optimistic about the 2019 economy and the good guys are giving that back to their employees.”

Finally, the guys discuss a new financial tool to help college students pay off their debt in a more manageable way. It’s called an Income Sharing Agreement (ISA). And it’s for when you need to take out money for a student loan, but instead of being on the hook for the capital no matter what, with an ISA people pay off the loan as a percentage of their salary.

Would you take out an ISA as a means to pay off your school?