Kathryn Finney

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Kathryn Finney
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
OccupationAuthor, entrepreneur, blogger
Years active2003–present
Known forFounder of The Budget Fashionista, digitalundivided
Websitewww.digitalundivided.comwww.thebudgetfashionista.com www.kathrynfinney.com

Kathryn A. Finney is an American author,[1] researcher,[2] investor,[3] entrepreneur,[4] innovator and businesswoman. She is the founder and CEO of digitalundivided, a social enterprise that leads high potential Black and Latinx women founders through the startup pipeline from idea to exit.[5] Her pioneering research, #ProjectDiane, drew widespread buzz for disrupting the dialogue around women and entrepreneurship.[6] Released in 2016, #ProjectDiane is the first research initiative to explore the state of Black and Latinx women entrepreneurs.[7] The report was covered by several major business and tech publications for shining a spotlight on the untold story about women of color founders and their startup journey. In 2018, digitalundivided released a follow-up to the 2016 report.

Finney is a former General Partner in the Harriet Fund – the first fund focused on Black and Latinx women founders.[8]

Finney's pioneering leadership in creating diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystems has been recognized by press outlets including The Wall Street Journal,[9] Forbes,[10] USA Today, Marie Claire,[11] and Vanity Fair.[12] In 2018, she was named one of America's Top 50 Women In Tech by Forbes.[13] She is a 2016 Echoing Green Fellow[14] and the recipient of numerous other awards and recognition including The White House Champion of Change Award (2013)[15][16] Anita Borg Institute's Social Impact ABIE Award (2016),[17] EBONY Power 100 List of the Most Inspiring African-Americans (2013), and AOL's Top Ten Women in Money (2010).[18]

In 2015, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer honored Finney with the “Kathryn Finney Appreciation Day”.[19] In 2017, Finney received an honorary doctorate from Mount Holyoke College.[20]

In the early stages of getting digitalundivided off the ground, Finney hosted the FOCUS 100 Conference for three consecutive years on the first weekend in October in New York City. Considered to be the “most diverse tech conference”,[21] FOCUS 100 spun off several initiatives dedicated to supporting diverse women founders including the FOCUS Fellows program - a tech incubator and fellowship program for Black women founders. FOCUS Fellows received training, access to startup resources, support, mentorship, and seed funding. To date, more than half of the FOCUS Fellows have raised angel and venture funding, and a few have gone on to raise $1MM+. Many now have executive roles at tech companies like Uber and Facebook.[22]

Finney's first foray into tech was as a lifestyle blogger. In 2003, long before blogging became popular, Finney launched and ran her own fashion blog, The Budget Fashionista, which was named by MSN as one of the 100 Most Useful Sites on the web. She was the first blogger to be credentialed for NYC Fashion Week, and the first blogger to receive a major book deal.[23]  From 2006 - 2008, Finney was a frequent contributor to NBC's The Today Show.[24] She was the first blogger to appear on the popular morning show.

Early life[edit]

Kathryn Finney was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her father, Robert Finney, was a brewery worker who went on to become a senior engineer at Microsoft and later EMC. He led the development of one of the first high school based computer-based technology academies at St Louis Park High School in St Louis Park, Minnesota.[25] His successful career in technology inspired Finney to consider a similar career path.[26]

Finney graduated from Minneapolis’ Washburn High School where she was her Class President, inducted into the National Honor Society, served as a delegate to Girls State and Girls Nation, and received the Washburn High School Service Award. Finney was selected to be the commencement speaker for Washburn's 2019 graduating class.

Finney received her undergraduate degree from Rutgers University in Women's Studies and Politics. As a student at Rutgers, she was a member of the Rutgers College Student Government, Rutgers College Honors Program, The USA Today All Academic team, and a James Dickson Carr Scholar. She was also voted by her graduating class to receive the class of 1998 Alumni Award for Outstanding Scholarship and Community Service.[27] During her junior year, Finney was a Washington Center Washington Fellow and interned at the White House as well as with the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN).

Finney earned a Master of Public Health degree with Honors from the Yale University where she was a Courtland Van Creed Scholar. She received the Weinerman Fellowship for her work as an international epidemiologist in the South African region.

Prior to starting The Budget Fashionista, Finney worked for USAID and other non-profits in Ghana, West Africa and South Africa.


2012- present: FOCUS 100 and digitalundivided (DID)[edit]

While laying the foundation for digitalundivided, Finney hosted the first FOCUS 100 conference in October, 2012 in New York City. The inaugural conference received support from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, global advertising agency Ogilvy, and other top firms. The following year, the conference partnered with Google, American Express, and (for a second year) Andreessen Horowitz and Ogilvy.[28] In 2014, its third and final year, American Express returned as a sponsor along with Facebook, Mobile Future, and the Portland Development Commission. At the close of the final FOCUS 100 conference in 2014, Finney announced the expansion of its FOCUS Fellows program into an incubator for Black women-led startups under the DID organizational umbrella.[29]

In 2016, DID launched the BIG Innovation Center in Atlanta, GA.[30] Touted as "the first-of-its-kind open innovation center dedicated to the future success of Black and Latina women tech founders",[31] it houses the BIG Incubator (BIG), an incubator program for tech-enabled startups led by Black and Latina women.[32] BIG is a winner of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2015-2016 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition.[33] In 2018, BIG hosted its fourth Demo Day for its fourth cohort of Black and Latinx women founders. In 2019, BIG will welcome its fifth cohort of diverse founders and, for the first time, expand to Newark, New Jersey.[34]

In addition to BIG, DID develops ongoing, proprietary programming for startup ecosystems across the country in partnership with various organizations and companies such as J.P. Morgan Chase,[35] SURDNA Foundation,[36] Case Foundation[37] and Kauffman Foundation.[38]

2003 - 2014: The Budget Fashionista[edit]

Finney started her blog, “The Budget Fashionista”, in April 2003 as a hobby before turning it into a media company and full-time career in June 2004. "The Budget Fashionista" was among the first blogs of our time,[39] and was named one of the top fashion blogs on the internet.[40][41]

Finney is considered an icon and pioneer in the style blogging community,[42] having earned the monikers of "Master of Cheap Chic" [43] and "Scheherazade of the Sales Rack".[44] She has been crowned one of America's best bargain shoppers (Style Network, 2004) and has appeared on several national TV shows such as NBC's Today Show, Fox Network News, CNN, CNBC, ABC's Good Morning America and E! Entertainment. She has also appeared in numerous publications including Essence, USA Today, The New York Times, LA Times [45] and Redbook, as a style expert on looking fabulous for less.

In May 2006, her first book, How to be a Budget Fashionista: The Ultimate Guide to Looking Fabulous for Less, was published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House. It became an Amazon bestselling book in the Art and Photography category. It is now in its 13th printing.

From 2012-2014, Finney was the Editor-at-Large at BlogHer, a global media group representing over 40 million women.[46][47] Around this same time, Finney sold her media company for an undisclosed amount.

Awards received[edit]

Finney has received numerous accolades and widespread recognition for her work in building tech ecosystems in urban communities. In November 2018, she was featured among "America's Top 50 Women In Tech" by Forbes.

Other awards include: 2016 Echoing Green Fellowship, Marie Claire's “10 Women to Watch in 2016”, Entrepreneur Magazine's “Woman to Watch in 2016”, the Champion of Change Award from the White House(2013) [48] “Kathryn Finney Appreciation Day” Borough of Manhattan (2015),[49] Social Impact ABIE Award from the Anita Borg Institute(2016),[50] New York Business Journal's Women of Influence Award,[51] UPSTART 100 List of Top Innovators,[52] SXSW Black Innovator Award, The Grio 100,[53] Ebony Power 100 List of the Most Influential African Americans, Black Enterprise “40 under 40” list,[54] and induction into Spelman College's “Game Changers Academy”.[55]


Finney is a well sought-after keynote speaker at large scale conferences, summits, and events. In May 2017, she delivered the commencement address at Mount Holyoke College where she was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters. She has delivered keynote addresses at the White House,[56] Omidyar Network,[57] SXSW Interactive,[58] and more. She is currently associated with the American Program Bureau.[59]

Other roles[edit]

Finney serves as an adviser to black women-led startups and organizations, including Quirktastic and All-Star Code.[60] She is also a trustee of The Robert Finney Foundation,[61] a foundation she started with her mother and brother to honor her late father. The foundation provides scholarships to African-American students pursuing studies in the field of technology. Kathryn also serves on the board of PRI International[62] - a global non-profit media company focused on the intersection of journalism and engagement to effect positive change in people's lives. PRI International creates a more informed, empathetic and connected world by sharing powerful stories, encouraging exploration, connecting people and culture.

In modern culture[edit]

Finney is credited with coining several major shopping and internet marketing terms, including "The Budget Fashionista" [63], the term "Love what you buy and buy what you love", meaning shoppers should focus on purchasing items that make them feel and look great and "blogroots", which is a term meaning to aggressively market a product, book, idea, through networking with blogs.[64]


  • Kathryn Finney (2006-05-30). How to Be a Budget Fashionista: The Ultimate Guide to Looking Fabulous for Less. Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-8129-7516-1.


  1. ^ Kathryn Finney Author Bookshelf - Random House - Books - Audiobooks - Ebooks Random House Author Page- Kathryn Finney
  2. ^ www.bizjournals.com https://www.bizjournals.com/bizwomen/news/latest-news/2016/02/startup-setback-fewer-than-1-percent-of-startups.html?page=all. Retrieved 2019-03-28. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Massie, Victoria M. (2016-03-14). "Black women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs. So where are the investors?". Vox. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  4. ^ Minorities Entering Tech Wall Street Journal
  5. ^ "Programs". digitalundivided. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  6. ^ "Keynote with Kathryn Finney". Innovate. 2017-03-17. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  7. ^ "REPORT: The Number of Black Women-led Startups Has More Than Doubled Since 2016 According to digitalundivided's Latest Research, ProjectDiane 2018". Case Foundation. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  8. ^ Finney, Kathryn (2018-02-10). "Why I'm Leaving the Harriet Fund". Medium. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  9. ^ Gage, Deborah (2012-08-30). "More Women and Minority Entrepreneurs Entering Tech". WSJ. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  10. ^ "Kathryn Finney". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  11. ^ Finney, Kathryn (2018-03-27). "How I'm Celebrating and Investing in Black Brilliance". Marie Claire. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  12. ^ Shetterly, Margot Lee. "26 Women of Color Diversifying Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley, Media, and Beyond". The Hive. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  13. ^ "Kathryn Finney". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  14. ^ "Kathryn Finney". www.echoinggreen.org. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  15. ^ WhiteHouse.Gov WhiteHouse.gov
  16. ^ Black Enterprise: White House Recognizes Tech Leaders As ‘Champions of Change for Tech Inclusion’ Black Enterprise
  17. ^ Institute, Anita Borg (2016-08-09). "Announcing the 2016 GHC ABIE Award Winners". GlobeNewswire News Room. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  18. ^ Staff, A. O. L. "The top 10 women in money". AOL.com. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  19. ^ Silicon Harlem Network (2015-02-26), Manhattan Borough President's Black History Month Reception, retrieved 2019-03-28
  20. ^ "Kathryn A. Finney, Doctor of Humane Letters". Mount Holyoke College. 2017-05-21. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  21. ^ Martinez, Janel (2014-10-07). "Women In Tech: Focus 100 Offers The Basics For Breaking Into The Industry". MadameNoire. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  22. ^ "FOCUS100's Push for Greater Diversity in the Tech Industry". Federal Communications Commission. 2014-10-27. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  23. ^ "Kathryn "The Budget Fashionista" Finney and Simply Good Media Attracts over 500 Budget-Conscious Style Mavens for 5th Anniversary Fashion Week Bash". www.businesswire.com. 2008-09-11. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  24. ^ "Kathryn Finney Is FOCUSed on Getting Black Women STARTed in Tech". Black Enterprise. 2013-04-10. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  25. ^ Robert Finney, Computer Guru at St Louis Park High School Highbeam
  26. ^ www.bizjournals.com https://www.bizjournals.com/newyork/news/2015/03/26/meet-kathryn-finney-women-of-influence-honoree.html. Retrieved 2019-03-28. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ "Kathryn Finney | LinkedIn". LinkedIn. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  28. ^ Venture Beat, Black Female and Smart Venture Beat
  29. ^ [1] #FOCUS100 NYC Conference Saturday Session Recap
  30. ^ Young, Danielle. "Digitalundivided Launches BIG Innovation Center in Atlanta for Black and Latina Women in Tech". The Root. Retrieved 2017-02-28.
  31. ^ "Digitalundivided to Open Innovation Center for Black and Latina Women Founders". Tech.Co. 2016-03-21. Retrieved 2017-02-28.
  32. ^ "Incubator". www.digitalundivided.com. Retrieved 2017-02-28.
  33. ^ "Digitalundivided's BIG Innovation Center Wins 2016 SBA Growth Accelerator Fund Competition | The Network Journal". www.tnj.com. Archived from the original on 2017-02-28. Retrieved 2017-02-28.
  34. ^ "Brick City the next Silicon Valley? Tech start-ups get help in Newark". North Jersey. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  35. ^ "JPMorgan Chase Plans To Invest $1 Million To Support Women Entrepreneurs Of Color In Tech". Essence. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  36. ^ "digitalundivided". Surdna Foundation. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  37. ^ "Case Studies". digitalundivided. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  38. ^ "Grants to Level the Playing Field". www.kauffman.org. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  39. ^ "Shoppers flock to designer deals" Deseret News (Salt Lake City)
  40. ^ Chicago Sun-Times: jump local: Fashion's best blogs Archived July 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  41. ^ mode femme vetement fashion verbaudet at fashionnewssite.com Archived June 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  42. ^ Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Fabulousness: The Budget Fashionista 5th Anniversary « Clutch Magazine
  43. ^ Book Review: How To Be A Budget Fashionista
  44. ^ Express: A Publication of The Washington Post
  45. ^ http://www.look-look.com/look/abus.news.html?sectionName%3Donline%26id%3D1. Retrieved 2010-08-20. Missing or empty |title= (help) Archived copy at WebCite (January 24, 2006).
  46. ^ [2] BlogHer Names Kathryn Finney, Editor at Large
  47. ^ [3] BlogHer Names 'The Budget Fashionista', It's new Editor at Large
  48. ^ [4] Kathryn Finney | White House Champion of Change
  49. ^ [5] Manhattan Borough President's Black History Month Reception
  50. ^ "Meet Kathryn Finney, Our 2016 Social Change ABIE Award Winner - Anita Borg Institute". Anita Borg Institute. 2016-10-03. Retrieved 2017-02-28.
  51. ^ [6] Meet Kathryn Finney, Women of Influence honoree, and learn how her father's work ethic influenced her career
  52. ^ [7] Kathryn Finney Profile on Upstart100
  53. ^ [8] theGrio's 100: Kathryn Finney
  54. ^ [9] 40 Rising Stars 40 & Under
  55. ^ [10] Spelman College Announces Honorees and Speakers for 2015 Women of Color Conference
  56. ^ [11] Kathryn Finney | White House Champion of Change
  57. ^ [12] Social impact drives Omidyar Network's civil tech investments
  58. ^ [13] Kathryn Finney's Lanyrd profile
  59. ^ "Kathryn Finney | Book for Speaking, Events and Appearances". www.apbspeakers.com. 2016-05-23. Retrieved 2017-02-28.
  60. ^ [14] Kathryn Finney's LinkedIn Profile
  61. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-07-07. Retrieved 2010-08-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  62. ^ "Media Visionaries Kathryn Finney and Michael Armstrong Appointed to PRI's Board of Directors". Public Radio International. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  63. ^ I Am Not A Fashionista: Why We’re Over All Words Ending in ‘-ista’ Coco & Creme
  64. ^ "6 Brilliant Advice On Starting A Blog Help To Solve Biggest Problems". Blog Marketing Sea. Retrieved 2015-06-14.

External links[edit]