Minnesota Business Venture, Session 2: Day 2 Financial Freedom Day, Sponsored by Wells Fargo

Financial Freedom Day brought tons of important messages about living a meaningful life, reflecting on your values, and of course, how to manage money.


The day started off with a powerful keynote speech delivered by Justin Halverson, Partner at Great Waters Financial. Justin grew up in Arcadia, WI and attended the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management where he studied Entrepreneurship. Justin is a regular guest on Fox 9 and WCCO where he shares his insights on timely financial topics and has also appeared on KARE 11 and KSTP, and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, US News, CNBC and other financial publications. In his free time, Justin enjoys adventuring with his family, traveling, and serving at church.

Halverson’s “Money and Values” keynote explored the importance of balancing personal values with meeting financial goals. “As you think about your future, money seems like something so important” but “at the end of the day, if you’re just chasing money … you’re going to live a very empty life.” Halverson stresses that understanding who you are and what you represent are key to living a fulfilling life. From these core values, priorities can be established with intention and greater clarity. By keeping “your priorities in order,” Halverson is confident that students will be able to find their calling “and the money will take care of itself.” He concluded his speech with inspirational encouragement for students: “be the real you and you’re going to do amazing things.”


The day’s breakout session focused on financial management and set students up for success in everyday financial practices. Sessions included Paying for College, Privacy on Money Apps, Credit is More Than a Card, and Budgeting Matters. The Budgeting Matters session looked at the foundation of creating a monthly budget: income, expenses, and balancing needs versus wants. An important aspect to include in a budget may be credit card expenses. In the Credit is More than a Card session, students learned about the benefits of credit while also exploring the potential pitfalls of poor credit management. Another intersection between topics was explored in Privacy on Money Apps. With online banking seeing popularity on mobile platforms, new services are becoming available that allow users to manage their credit cards and bank accounts from their phone. Services like Venmo, Google Pay, Apple Pay, Wells Fargo, and US Bank all have mobile applications that necessitate the utmost security. Finally, as college application season approaches, the Paying for College presentation gave key insights into financial aid options.


Next, keynote speaker Bella Lam, Founder and CEO of Coconut Whisk, gave an engaging speech on “Developing Your Brand.” Coconut Whisk is a mission-driven vegan and gluten-free baking mix company that helps modern-day families create healthy indulgences. They offer mixes for pancakes, muffins, cookies and more. In addition, with every purchase, Coconut Whisk donates a plant-based meal to a kid in need. Bella and her company have been featured in the Star Tribune, Eater, Minnesota Monthly Magazine and Mill City Times. Bella is also a Mankato Alumni from the College of Nursing & Allied Health Sciences, a 2020 AE Changemaker, MSU- Big Ideas Winner, 2018 BestPrep Student Speaker, a former MBV student and CEO. She’s dedicated to using her unique experiences as an immigrant, first-generation college student and business leader to inspire others to dream big and take action.

Lam’s speech on “Developing Your Brand” gave students clear takeaways on how they can begin crafting their personal brand with intention. Lam explains that as an employer that hires “for culture first,” she pays close attention to the online presence of potential employees. In the modern era of social networking, “even if you have one follower, you’re an influencer,” asserts Lam. The intersection of these two points makes the importance of a strong personal brand clear: we are all capable of influence, employers are keen on understanding who you are as a person, and so it is important to represent yourself well. For students looking to develop their brand, leaning into their “passion is a great place to start.”


Lam gave students her five top tips on creating a strong personal brand:

  1. Get to know yourself.
  2. Pick one platform.
  3. Network in your space.
  4. Be consistent.
  5. Own it.


“You have to start somewhere, you have to start small,” says Lam, and with these five tips, students will be able to do just that.

Following Lam’s keynote, Khadra shared the camper shoutouts of the day and led campers in a classic MBV activity: the Oreo challenge. This MBV tradition relies on facial coordination to get the oreo from your forehead to your mouth. No matter how silly this event may seem, it is always a memorable experience.

Finally, students got to “Ask an Influencer!” Today’s influencer was Tiffany Yu, CEO and Founder of Diversability, an award-winning social enterprise to amplify disabled voices. Yu serves on the San Francisco Mayor’s Disability Council and was a 2020 Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit. She started her career in investment banking at Goldman Sachs and has also worked at Bloomberg and Sean Diddy Combs’ REVOLT Media & TV.


When asked about how she finds the ability to get back up after a low moment, Yu responded that for some people “your mess is your message.” There is something that “really hard for you that you then overcame or embraced” that gets you up in the morning and gives you the motivation to persevere. For Yu, she wants to “show people that the best gift you can give the world is just being yourself.” Yu also discussed how when you “align your work with your top values,” you live a more passionate life. There is no doubt in your mind that you are doing the right thing when your occupation supports your values. Yu recommends that students explore the VIA Character Survey if they are still evaluating what their top values are.


Today’s speakers provided great tools that can help students identify the values that give our lives meaning while ensuring our financial freedom and security. Tomorrow will bring even more inspiration and learning opportunities for our students. Stay tuned for even more takeaways from MBV!