Meet the teenage girl who is already building a life of financial freedom! Leanna Giancola is only 16 and already this female entrepreneur has launched her Profit Playbook program to teach kids investing and financial literacy for kids aged 5-15.
Melinda Wittstock: My guest today is Leanna Giancola. Now I'm blown away by this young woman! She's only 16 and already she's launching her Profit Playbook Coaching and Mentoring Program for kids aged 5 to 15. She's been targeting a life of financial freedom by investing for several years all to support her passion of film directing. She's already launched a video series called ‘Family Financial Freedom' and we'll talk about that, her investment portfolio, her new film, and much more. Welcome to Wings, Leanna!
Leanna Giancola: Thank you. I'm so excited to be here.
Melinda Wittstock: I am really excited to talk to you too because I think it's amazing to watch young women talk about things like financial freedom, something that a lot of adults haven't even figured out. Tell me a little bit about how you got into that.
Leanna Giancola: My dad has been an entrepreneur since as far back as I can remember. I definitely grew up with having the mindset that you didn't always have to go into a corporate world. Recently he joined a group of other multimillionaire entrepreneurs and I just got really immersed in it. It just all seemed so interesting to me and I just wanted to do it. My sister and I started doing it a few years ago and now it's just completely taken off and it's really amazing.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, give us example of something that you invested in.
Leanna Giancola: The first thing we invested in was the stock market. We've done this all with our own money too, which a lot of people ask us like, “Oh, maybe …” They think maybe our parents gave us the money. It's all money that we saved up from christenings, everything throughout our whole life. We started with the stock market. We've invested 20% in a rental property with our parents.
We bought it for $220,000 and sold it for $270,000 for overall a 30% return, annual return on our investment. We're currently doing a hard money loan right now at 12% interest and next year, we're going to be investing in a distressed debt fund where they buy mortgages at a discount and then try to get them up to speed and eventually sell it for a higher price.Melinda Wittstock: That's amazing. I think when … I don't know. Look, I'm blown away. It's very rare that I'm at a loss for words because I don't know many 16-year-olds that are that sophisticated about understanding how to invest. Obviously, you've had help from your dad, which I think is also amazing. I want to talk a little bit about that, the role of fathers and men in empowering women to go out there and be savvy about money and be entrepreneurs.
Leanna Giancola: Yeah. I'm so blessed to have a dad that was just always trying to teach me that anything that I could put my mind to, I could do it, as cliché as that may sound. He's made it clear to me that because I'm a girl, it's going to be, some things are going to be more difficult. He's never let that hold me back and he's always tried to help me strive for the best that I could possibly do. I was very lucky to have that growing up.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, one of the things that we talk a lot about on this podcast are women who are entrepreneurs who struggle to get access to the capital that they need to grow their businesses and to really live out in full really their full potential. Make sure that their ideas not only come to life but can scale and grow.
I think you have an interesting perspective here in developing financial freedom so that you're not dependent so much on other people's money. Is that something conscious for you that you want to just have that nest egg, if you will, so you can go out and pioneer anything you want to pioneer?
Leanna Giancola: Yeah, definitely. That's one of the things that I love so much about investing is that I can use it, I can do it my whole life and it doesn't take up, it's not I have to focus on it 100% of the time. I could focus on it maybe 50% of the time and use the other 50% of the time to just do whatever I feel passionate about. Like you mentioned earlier, I have a huge passion for film and I definitely want to do that when I get out of high school. The fact that I have this that will help me is just so much less stress that I have to worry about than most people have to worry about.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. I just, for full disclosure, I first met you at an event called Family Freedom. It was put on by my entrepreneurial group, Maverick, and an amazing event where parents mostly entrepreneurs brought their kids. I brought my two kids to it and I remember meeting you and your sister.
At the time, you were working on a website project and we were talking about a lot of these issues. What was it like to be around so many high performing entrepreneurs not only at that event, but from some of the other events that you get exposed to because your parents are entrepreneurs? What kinds of things have you learnt from the adults?
Leanna Giancola: I've learned so much. I honestly would not be where I am today without being exposed to all these people. I've just learned that no matter what walks of life people come from, how they grew up, where they grew up, it doesn't matter. What matters is if you have the drive to do something, then you can get it done.
That's the one thing that all of these people that have gone to all these events for have in common is they don't worry about who it is that they're with or what gender or nationality, any of that stuff they're with. As long as they all have the same passion to do something, then they're all going to get it done. It's really amazing to be around that group of people.
Melinda Wittstock: It really is. People are very positive. More kind of, “Oh, well, I'm going to … If I'm blocked somehow, look, I'm just going to find a way or make one.” This sense that anything's possible.
Leanna Giancola: Yeah, absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: How do you find that that plays out? I'm thinking of you as a 16-year-old with your friends. I can imagine that this perspective is really unusual. How do your friends both girls and boys relate to you about all of this?
Leanna Giancola: They're all just so supportive. I honestly I could not ask for a better group of people at school because I always try to radiate as much positivity as I can. I've finally really found a group that just does the exact same back. I did a webinar recently, my first one. I was super nervous for it. As soon as I finished, about an hour later, three of my best friends wrapped my door with a bouquet of roses to congratulate me because they were so happy for me. It's just amazing that I have this group of people that are so supportive and just positive people. You can't really ask for more than that.
Melinda Wittstock: That's a very profound point actually because when … well, I've known and so many entrepreneurs in my entrepreneurial journey. One of the things that I've come to understand with all the women that I've interviewed for this podcast and my book is that it's a predictor of success to have supportive people around you. If you don't have that, it's much, much harder, so to be really conscious of the people that you let into your life or let influence you. Have you had any experiences where people have not been as supportive, say, as you would like?
Leanna Giancola: Oh, absolutely. Actually a little while ago when I was first starting to be more open about the investing everything because at first, I didn't really want people to know about it, I started telling people about it. I had this one friend who just every time I brought it up, she would say like, “Oh, well, you know most small businesses fail. You probably won't do that well.” Just so negative! I ended up just realizing I don't need this in my life.
I had to just leave that group of people because I just realized that that's not the kind of person I want to be. That's not the kind of person I want to surround myself with. I realized how much happier I was when I was around people that were more positive. I've noticed since leaving that person how much more productive I've been and just how much happier I've been as a person. It's crazy. I never even thought that that would have such a big impact on my life, but I feel so much more free now that I'm just around people who are just always so positive.
Melinda Wittstock: That's awesome. It's also, requires some bravery, I guess, to separate yourself out from somebody like that. There's so much negativity around us in society. I've come to learn that when someone says something like that, like, “Oh, it's really hard” or whatever, it's really saying more about their beliefs. Perhaps they're coming from a place of insecurity. To be strong enough to say, “Wait a minute, no. I reject that” is saying something. Not everybody does that.
Leanna Giancola: Yeah, absolutely. It was definitely a difficult thing to do because I was very close with this person. I just had to sit down and realize that it's the best thing that was going to help me for my own mental stability, basically. Even though it is difficult, it's one of those things that you just have to go through no matter how bad it may seem.
Melinda Wittstock: A lot of the women I interview I always ask do they have a female role model or a super shero that they look up to that has inspired them. How about you?
Leanna Giancola: I don't have really any person specific. That's a weird unique thing about me. There's not a specific person that inspires me. Just every time I look online and see a woman entrepreneur or just someone in the media who's done something positive, I just automatically feel so much happier and like, “Oh, I can do that, too. Definitely.” I don't really have one specific person, but basically, everyone in general.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, it's interesting. The more we claim and affirm each other, I think the better we all feel and the better we all do. I remember when I was coming up because I'm much older than you and I remember coming up and women weren't that supportive of each other when I was in my 20s. In fact, most of my mentors and role models were men. It was difficult to find another woman who was supportive because I think women were in such scarcity thinking about this, thinking that there were only a few positions for women to go around.
They would sometimes even go so far as undermine or compete in a negative way with another woman rather than helping her up. I'm excited now because I think so many of those dynamics and forces are changing, but not always. I think there's always somebody somewhere that's going to try and pull you down. Again, if you are conscious and you say, “Look, I'm going to be around people that are abundance minded, grateful, really have my back”, that's a big part of your future success just right there.
Leanna Giancola: Yeah, absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: What about in high school? I recall you telling me for my book that you had a, was it a guidance counselor or a teacher who said, “Oh, Leanna, you don't have to worry about that. Just marry a rich guy.”?
Leanna Giancola: Oh, yeah. About a year ago, my friends and I were in the hallways talking about what we want to do outside of high school. I said that I wanted to do something with directing and but I said that it's a little difficult to make money in that because it's just a very competitive field.
A teacher who I didn't even really know happened to be walking by and he just turned to me and said, “Oh, you don't have to worry about that. Just marry someone who's rich and you'll be fine.” That just struck something in me and I was like, “Why can't I be the rich one that someone wants to marry? Why does it have to be the guy?” That's definitely one thing that's stuck with me and keeps me motivated.
Melinda Wittstock: That's awesome. I find it incredible that someone would say that in this day and age and what that person hopes to do. How could that possibly be helping you [inaudible 00:13:46-
Leanna Giancola: I know.
Melinda Wittstock: Understand what would motivate a comment like that.
Leanna Giancola: Yeah. I was very shocked by it, especially that it was a teacher at a school. I was like, “That's a little weird.”
Melinda Wittstock: Tell me a little bit more about your Profit Playbook Coaching and Mentoring Program. Kids aged 5 to 15, that's a considerable age range. What are you going to be teaching them and how are you going to be doing it?
Leanna Giancola: Yeah, so basically there are three main building blocks, I call them, that I'm going to go through, which are how to create income, how to increase income, and how to increase your income streams. I'm basically just going to assign tasks and different things that I can teach them that'll help them learn all these important things because these are the three main topics that helped me the most in my career, if that's what you want to call it, so far.
I just realized how lucky I was to have learned all this by such a young age. I wanted to help teach other young like-minded kids. Even though it is a pretty broad range, I definitely have been working to tailor it to each age group so that I'm not teaching a 15-year-old something I would be teaching a 5-year-old. That's going to be a little bit of a challenge, but I'm really looking forward to it.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. When you think of how to … actually, a better way of asking this question. The schools don't teach anything about money. Most people graduate and they have really no idea and no preparation for this at all. How are you going to get the word out to kids and I guess their parents? You're probably selling the parents, right?
Leanna Giancola: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: On getting this to kids, so how are you going to get the word out?
Leanna Giancola: I just want to make, show that there's a different way that you can go through life. A lot of parents maybe don't really understand that, so I just want to do pretty much anything I can to just show that even though parents may be busy, because that's another thing is parents are busy. They're like, “Oh, I don't have enough time to teach my kids these things. Someone will teach them. They'll figure it out.” I just want to make it easier for the parents to be able to get this across to their kids. I feel like it's just so important to know. It's crazy that schools don't teach it to us.
Melinda Wittstock: What's the biggest thing that's surprised you about money?
Leanna Giancola: That's a good question. I guess just how little I knew about it. I thought a couple years ago, I was like, “Oh yeah, you'll get a job and then you'll have money automatically.” Then I realized there's so much more to it than I thought there was. It's crazy, but it's also even though there's a lot of it, it's pretty simple to understand. It's just things that you just don't really know.
Melinda Wittstock: That's so true, just things you don't know. I remember playing with my kids. I've got a son who's 11 and a daughter who's 14. We got that game Cashflow. It's sort of like Monopoly except you understand cashflow living. What was fascinating about it is that everybody would compete to, “Oh, I want to be the lawyer in this” or “I want to be someone who's making a big salary”.
What was interesting about that game is that you could do better than everybody else even as a nurse or as the bus driver. It was how you saved and how you leveraged your money. What amount of risk to take, when not to take risks, how much to save, how much to defer. So many of these things and just getting into the discipline of putting a little bit of money away as you started to do. Remind me again, how old were you when you started saving?
Leanna Giancola: When I started investing, I believe I was 14.
Leanna Giancola: Yeah. It was pretty much just money that was in our savings account from even as far back as our christenings when we were babies. Just things that our parents had put away for us to use in the future like college and things. We realized that college wasn't really necessarily the answer for my sister and I, so we wanted to take that money and use it for a different way of looking at higher education. Instead of going to a college, we wanted to use it for the education of real world things.
Melinda Wittstock: Tell me a little bit, I want to change tack here. Actually, no. There's going to be a big edit in this. [Florante 00:18:37, who's my editor, the brilliance of tape here. Here's what I wanted to ask you. Leanna, a lot of women that I've noticed in my career have a hard time asking for their true value, whether they're asking for a pay raise as an employee or asking for enough money for the job.
A lot of women get a fraction, maybe 70% of what a lot of men are paid for. Often we don't advocate for ourselves or ask for the money we deserve. Women also struggle to ask for enough even in the context of raising money for their business, like instead of asking for $5 million dollars, might ask for “Oh, I think I can do on a million.” Why do you think that is?
Leanna Giancola: I think maybe they just are worried about what the outcome might be of someone maybe insulting them because of their gender or anything like that. I feel like if they just … I think it's just confidence, maybe. I don't really have the most experience at this.
Melinda Wittstock: It sometimes seems like a taboo subject to actually go out and talk about money. That's why I think it's so great having you on this show talking about this at this age and just getting kids, both girls and boys really educated about money and girls in particular so they can just advocate better for themselves.
If you have the knowledge, you're going to understand the concept of value and the concept of leverage and all of these concepts that I think you're right when you said the word ‘confidence'. If you know a lot of that, you're more likely to be able to be confident and ask for what you deserve and what you're worth.
Leanna Giancola: Yeah, absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: One of the reasons that you said that you were really interested in having this financial freedom, the wherewithal to be able to finance yourself, is because you have this big passion for film directing.
Leanna Giancola: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: Tell me about that. I know that you've already made a film. Tell me a little bit about your film.
Leanna Giancola: Yeah, so over the summer, I went to a camp at a local college where it was showing us how to make a short film and what the process was behind it. At the end of the week, we completed our film and we were able to show it to our audience, which was mostly everyone's parents. We submitted it to five different film festivals and we were chosen to go to the final round of judging for one of them. The other ones we're waiting to hear back from.
Melinda Wittstock: Wow. Congratulations. That's awesome.
Leanna Giancola: Thank you. Yeah, it was amazing. I was a little worried going into it because I had never really done anything so serious with it. I absolutely was so happy the entire time. It definitely confirmed that this is what I want to do. It was amazing. I had to pay for it with my own money, which made it so much more special. It was a pretty expensive camp to do, but I wanted to do it so bad. I researched it all myself and I was like, “I'm going to do this.” I had to pay my parents back for it, so that definitely made me take it a lot more serious.
Melinda Wittstock: Wow, that's so inspiring, so what's the name of your film?
Leanna Giancola: It's called ‘Picture Perfect'. It's a student short film about a girl who starts seeing this guy and things aren't exactly what she thought they were, so there's a bit of a twist in it.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, wow. I can't wait to watch it. What is the film festival that it's in the final round of judging for?
Leanna Giancola: It was in the Miami Indie Film Festival. I think it might still be on there. Unfortunately, we didn't win it. They just announced recently. We still have the other four that their judging is later on in the year or earlier next year, so we're waiting to hear back from them.
Melinda Wittstock: That's spectacular to on your first film get that kind of acknowledgement. That's awesome.
Leanna Giancola: Yeah, I was very proud.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. You should be. What are some of the films? What type of films do you really want to be making? What's your big ambition say 10 years from now? I know it's hard to see 10 years from now as a 16-year-old, but I guess in the future, what would be success for you?
Leanna Giancola: I would love to be working in major Hollywood movies. It probably would take a little more than 10 years to get to that point. As soon as I get out of high school, I plan on going to film school and moving up hopefully to New York to be working with people and try to get into the industry. I would love to be working on major films and directing them. That's definitely the end goal.
Melinda Wittstock: That's fantastic. Somehow I have no doubt that you will get where you're going.
Leanna Giancola: Thank you.
Melinda Wittstock: You can [crosstalk 00:23:49, you're taking action, you have this amazing mindset. What would be three pieces of advice you would give to girls and young women who are thinking of becoming entrepreneurs or just following their passions or their dreams? What would be the three pieces of advice that you would give to them?
Leanna Giancola: I would say not to worry about other people's opinions on what you're doing. When I first started investing, I didn't tell anyone. I was so worried that people would judge me for it or think I was a nerd or something like that. Once I started telling people, it was just, I was so much more free. Definitely don't worry about what other people are going to think.
Definitely not to listen to what negative people are saying if they're saying like, “Oh, you'll fail. You're not going to do good in this.” They're probably just jealous or wishing that they were doing what you're doing, so don't listen to them, and that just that girls are some of the most fierce, passionate entrepreneurs I've ever met in my life. Despite what the media might show, despite what anything might show, they're so passionate and amazing. Don't feel intimidated or less confident because it's mostly a “male-dominated world”.
Melinda Wittstock: That's great advice. As you know, Leanna, my mission is to affirm and acclaim entre-pioneering women and to help women like you grow their businesses. I know that you have a special offer today for all our shero listeners and I want you to tell us about it.
Leanna Giancola: Yeah. If you go to successbeach.com, you can buy our video series ‘Family Financial Freedom'. If you buy it, you will get six months of free membership to our weekly service where we'll send out articles that you can read and a bunch of fun exclusive things like that.
Melinda Wittstock: That's awesome. Successbeach.com, everybody, so check that out. Leanna, this is so inspiring. I cannot wait to check in with you again in a few months' time because sometime, somehow I just know that you're on to big things in your life. I'm going to [crosstalk 00:26:05. You'll have to come on again and give us an update. Thank you so much for putting on your wings today and flying with me.
Leanna Giancola: Thank you so much for having me.