“AmyLeo, you want to make a difference and I’m looking for some help!”

AmyLeo, business owner and former financial coaching participant, has had several, as she describes, “ah ha” moments that have changed the course of her life. One was when a colleague said the words above—with an unforgettable Southern drawl—in regards to AmyLeo’s passion for vegan cooking and her children’s dislike for eating meat. Another involved Prepare + Prosper’s financial coaching program, Money Mentors, and her fraught relationship with money.

I wouldn’t have been able to bring my business, Vegan Affairs, to the next level and increase my income if it wasn’t for Prepare + Prosper.

AmyLeo describes herself as a “voice for the animals.” While she studied veterinary science in school, the veterinary practice never fully aligned with her ethics and perspective as an animal rights advocate.

Wherever my ethics might be, my hire-able skill set doesn’t line up. As a result, I’ve been independently employed for most of my life.

Over the years, AmyLeo has sought to make a living from work that aligned with her ethics. She worked as a canvasser for environmental causes, a gardener, a teacher, and a professional cleaner and organizer. With the spark of her colleague’s comment and years of self-employment experience, timing felt right for AmyLeo to professionally follow her passion. She started Vegan Affairs—personal vegan cooking classes and coaching. It was something she could do for the animals and it also allowed her to draw upon the culinary skills she learned growing up, helping her mother cook for a family of 10.

However, with Vegan Affairs and her former self-employed work, income wasn’t consistent nor enough. She struggled to make ends meet many months and lacked a savings cushion to cover the dips in income.

There is just something weird about me and money. I can remember being a kid, convinced I’d never be able to draw in the income I’d need to live comfortably. I grew up comfortably and never had anyone tell me such. I have been tested as an under-earner, as not being goal-driven enough or business-minded enough in my approach to work. I really saw my work as a form of advocacy first.

After hearing about financial coaching while getting help with tax preparation with Prepare + Prosper, AmyLeo decided to give it a try.

Coaching felt like one more thing that just wasn’t going to help me; someone else talking to me about the budgeting I couldn’t stick to. I have never been able to wrap my head around budgeting. I didn’t have enough income for budgeting. Some months, there simply wasn’t money for bills. But I showed up for coaching and I kept going.

In laying out her financial situation with her coach, Shelly, AmyLeo was able to see and own that spending was not her issue but rather her amount of income. It was in Money Mentors that she confronted what it meant to earn more money, which meant addressing her mindset and relationship with money. She worked through that with her coach Shelly and in the hour-long group sessions with her peers in Money Mentors.

During our conversation, AmyLeo paused to emphasize and explain how pivotal Shelly and her peers where to her ultimate success.

The first:

My coach Shelly stood with me in moments when she really didn’t have to; being patient with me while I was dealing with challenges external to the program. She looked at my goals with me to make sure they weren’t too much and pushed me within the limits that we set. Her patience allowed me to bring my full self to the program, to not give up, and to acknowledge my history.


The peer sessions helped me realize I’m not alone. There are a lot of people with challenges. In listening to others stories, I realized how much I could empathize, sympathize, and offer love to others, but not to myself. I needed to start doing that for myself. I changed the way I saw myself.

In working with Shelly to increase her income and better manage her money, AmyLeo found a roommate to share in her monthly housing costs and made a commitment to grow her business, Vegan Affairs. She connected with WomenVenture’s small business essentials program.

It was in working with WomenVenture and taking a deeper look at Vegan Affairs that I realized I was trying to use my business as advocacy and therefore had felt like I could only charge a certain amount of money for my services, or sometimes none at all if people couldn’t afford it. After I was able to own that this was first a business that needed to make money, things fell into place.

In working with Prepare + Prosper and WomenVenture to successfully make her passion her full-time job and increase her income, she also began working with LSS Financial Counseling to pay off her debt and dive into money management. She now has a budget, is able to forecast, has a saving cushion, and is applying for a small business loan through WomenVenture that will give her the resources needed to take her business to the next level.

These three organizations are responsible for where I am today. All of this work had me lose my fear of money. If you can’t be in conversation about something, you are stymied. This collective experience has allowed me to be more comfortable talking about money and not putting shame with it. I don’t know where that shame came from but that’s beside the point, it’s there. This work has allowed me to bring my voice to the conversation, to speak my shame. You only get over something by moving through it.

Prepare + Prosper allowed me to be in a space to voice my silly things with money that actually have huge impacts. And to hear others responses of concurrence or support. Just to put it out there and have it caught and cradled.

There is something about the process, the consistency of Money Mentors. Sometimes I would show up and not feel like I was making progress. But somewhere along the way, it started clicking. Things transformed and I had that ‘ah ha.’ Showing up, that’s the purpose, the real value. Having someone to hold me to account, it allowed me to get here.”

When I asked AmyLeo what she is most proud of as it relates to money, she said that she understands her financial situation right now and for the next three months. She has an emergency fund to cover dips in business and she has the ability to get out there and earn more money. And, in addition to “animal advocate,” she now carries the identity of a “proud, empowered business owner.”

I want to personally thank everyone in front of and behind the scene who has put Money Mentors together and continues to hold it up. It is a very powerful program.