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NAWBO Iowa Business Institute Q&A – Kendra Erkamaa

 Kendra Erkamaa

Kendra Erkamaa is owner and financial advisor at Triangle Financial Services, Inc. in Des Moines. Her firm provides financial planning for individuals and small businesses, helping people reach their lifetime goals for value living. Kendra was selected as a member of the 2019 Class of the Business Record’s “Forty Under 40.”

What is your background?

I grew up in a blended family in Iowa City, Iowa. My dad immigrated from China, but my parents divorced when I was an infant. My step-dad was a helicopter mechanic and my mom was a nurse. I was always interested in life coaching and planning—I had my first Franklin Planner at age 14!

I attended Iowa State University under the George Washington Carver scholarship, and I started off majoring in chemical engineering. I loved the subject, but I realized most of the jobs in that field were working in chemical manufacturing. That wasn’t a job that appealed to me.

I switched my major many times, searching for a program that combined my passion for analytics, math, and science. I ended up with a degree in family consumer sciences, with a minor in Spanish and business consumer management.

When I graduated, I got a job as a manager in catering at Principal Financial. I worked for a year and a half, and then I decided to take some time to put thought and intention into finding my career.

I wanted to follow my heart and give back to people and wanted to be in a business that helps people. I also wanted a job that allowed me to do what I enjoyed—running the business, analytics, and the financial side of business.

This search led me to the financial advisor field. It interested me, but I still wanted to learn more before settling on a career. I cold-called financial advisors to see if any of them would meet with me to share their experiences. Lo and behold—not only did many of them call me back, but a number asked me to interview for positions with their firms!

I met with many different people from a variety of large, small, and individual firms. Then a friend connected me with Tom Stam, who was looking for someone to train and take over his family business, Triangle Financial. I took him up on this opportunity, and I joined him in 2004.

What is your business?

I believe that my heart led me to where I am.  The beauty of being a financial advisor is the planning—making decisions based on running the numbers and being intentional with goals. I love doing this, and it’s where I excel. Not all people have this talent, so my perspective is valuable.

What attracted me to Triangle Financial above all others was that the firm was independent and could truly put clients first. Tom’s sales pitch to me was that he wants to help people with their financial dreams, not that he wants to get rich by playing golf. I also liked the idea of taking over an existing business instead of building one from the ground up.

Shortly after I took over in 2007, the recession hit and I had my first child. But I was ready to jump in, work hard, and do what it took to make Triangle successful. I focused on being able to show up for clients and filling a unique niche for women business owners. By being intentional and figuring out the next steps, I have been able to sustain this business.

There has been a lot of growth since I joined and took over. Today, Triangle Financial is a team of four women. My goal is to grow Triangle into a million-dollar business and to leave a legacy so Triangle is sustainable even when it is time for me to leave.

We are currently working to add a new line of business by offering certified divorce financial analyst services. This is an area that has a lot of growth potential. I am also personally passionate about the idea of collaborative divorce, which represents a huge paradigm shift in the field.

What do you hope to gain from the NAWBO Iowa Business Institute?

I feel young but seasoned at the same time—a good position to be in. I have gone through similar programming in the past—including creating my 3-5-year business action plan through the Small Business Administration’s E200 program.

However, I know that if I want to create a legacy and grow my business, I need accountability and structure. It was time to create a strategic growth action plan again.

I chose the Business Institute because I knew it would be full of brilliant women. When women business owners get together, we are authentic supporters who are willing to open doors and experiences to each other. Through the Business Institute, I have access to experts who can support me while I figure out what is outside my expertise. It allows me to be engaged in and trust the process without having to do it alone. I don’t see this level of collaboration modeled anywhere else.

The most important thing about the Business Institute is it is fun! I believe that true joy comes from being connected with other people. There is no way I would be where I am today without the connections I have with fellow women business owners.

Member SIPC. Securities and Advisory Services offered through Harbour Investments, Inc.