Google what a stadium full of 100,000 people looks like and then multiply it by 10. That is what Tori Dunlap, 2016 University of Portland Alum, did when she found out she has reached an audience of over 1 million women through her business, HerFirst100k.
When we last checked in with Dunlap, she had just reached her goal of saving 100,000 dollars within three years of graduating from UP. She was also featured on Business Insider, Forbes, Good Morning America, and many other media outlets to give insight on how she was able to tackle this milestone in her career.
Dunlap then garnered a large following and curated her business “HerFirst100k” around her financial success and newly founded agency. Her mission is to help women by improving their financial literacy through programs she has developed. Through these programs, and one on one coaching sessions, she has helped women access the resources and tools that are needed when tapping into their full potential.
“I always dreamed that maybe I could build something that had an impact,” Dunlap said. “I didn't realize that the impact would be this big, so soon, but I’m just getting started, and it’s really exciting.”
Fast forward to the present day, one year later. She has helped over 1 million women fight the patriarchy through financial literacy and was able to speak with David Kamin, Director of the National Economic Council, under the Biden-Harris Administration.
The White House invited her to discuss the American Rescue Plan and how it would affect the community she helped build.
“We have an administration who, not without its flaws, is really committed to hearing from young people, hearing from women, and uplifting communities that are affected most by these sorts of things,” Dunlap said. “They respect what I'm building in the financial feminist movement enough to say ‘Hey we want you to come and ask us questions. We value your opinion,’ and that's hugely validating.”
While Dunlap was excited to be invited to speak with Kamin, she knew that she holds a responsibility for asking questions that directly affect the community she is advocating for. Topics like student debt forgiveness, women dropping out of the workforce, and the minimum wage, were at the top of her priority when thinking of questions to ask.
“I think these issues are so important, and we've known about wealth inequality for a really long time, and I think COVID has just brought it to the surface of how money affects women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community, and differently-abled people. . . in a different way,” Dunlap said. “So, I don't want to just go and ask questions that are easy to answer.”
Within the interview, Dunlap was able to address all of her initial questions besides the topic of student debt forgiveness. However, she was able to delve deeper into issues like child poverty, stimulus checks for individuals and for parents on behalf of their children, as well as how the plan will support people of color and businesses owned by people of color.
When Dunlap posted the video of the interview on her Instagram, many of her followers were ecstatic to see a woman being at the table where conversations are happening and including topics that directly affect women. But the internet is not always kind.
Dunlap recognizes the grit that is needed when being a public figure online and dealing with the more negative aspects that social media carries on its back.
“I grew [HerFirst100k’s] Tik Tok following to 800,000 in 6 months. I also got death threats, hate comments every five seconds, and went negative viral in November, “ Dunlap said. “That was really scary and that's something I don't think we talk about enough.”
After Dunlap uploaded a short video giving advice to her followers on how to better advocate for themselves, it was met with mixed reactions on social media. The negative and hateful comments generally come from people who Dunlap believes to be against the financial feminism movement or who are unaccustomed to seeing women in positions of power and authority in a typically male-dominated workforce. However, to Dunlap, it is all worth it when she realizes where her work is going and what it stands for.
“It's proved to me time and time again that if we get money into women's hands the entire world starts to change.” Dunlap said, “If we get money into marginalized groups' hands, the entire world starts to change. Everything in your world starts to open up when you have financial agency.”
Dunlap enjoys reading the comments her followers leave when they have reached their own financial milestone. Some write that they have learned how to better advocate for themselves using the tips Dunlap has relayed to them, and others write about their newfound independence.
“Every hour we get a message from a woman who [says something] like, ‘I was able to leave my abusive partner because I have enough money to do so.” Dunlap said, “I paid off my credit card debt and can finally start saving for a house!’ or ‘I paid off my student loans and it feels so amazing!’ These are the stories I hear now every single day and it's absolutely amazing.”
Dunlap reposts these types of success story comments to both uplift the people she has helped and to show other women that they should be able to celebrate their financial success just as much as what society deems to be more important in a woman’s life, like their relationship or maternal status.
“I'm really trying to create a community where we can have these financial wins and these milestones that are as big as getting engaged, getting married, having babies because I think they should be celebrated just as much,” Dunlap said.
Sophia Cohen, Admin and Partnership Coordinator of HerFirst100k, is grateful to be part of a business that helps so many and has had the opportunity to learn from Dunlap, whose work ethic is inspiring.
“She just has a bank full of dreams of varying sizes and timelines,” Cohen said. “There's never a shortage of exciting things to do ... There’s always bigger goals that we’re reaching for and that’s really exciting. It’s my ideal type of work environment.”
Dunlap’s drive and motivation have always been noticed especially during her time at UP. Robin Anderson, former dean of the Pamplin School of Business Administration and founder of the Entrepreneur Scholars (E-Scholars) Program at UP, and Maureen ‘Mo’ Briare, School of Nursing instructor, have been impressed with all that Dunlap has accomplished, but are not surprised.
“Not only is she looking at the numbers but she focuses on every person to bring out their own gifts…[she] focuses on the heart of the person, and whenever I think of a product or even a platform [that] is focused on the human, it will be successful,” Briare said.
Braire remembers the different perspective that Dunlap would add when she used to accompany her within the liturgical choir at UP and feels that Dunlap’s approach to things is what makes her successful to this day.
She compares Dunlap’s business moves to the risks Dunlap would take when playing alongside Briare. She recommends that people make more bold moves, similar to how a musician might when changing the key to a song, an often occurring trait of Dunlap.
Anderson remembers pushing all of his students who are within the E-Scholars program to challenge themselves as they go out into the workforce and make something that they can be proud of, and he can see that Dunlap accomplished that.
“I say, ‘I want you to do something extraordinary, something so big that you will look back 25 years from now and say, Wow, I can't believe I did that when I was 21 years old,’” Anderson said. “And I think with Tori, she takes that to heart.”
Cohen would agree especially seeing firsthand how large the business has grown throughout 2020, a year full of turmoil for so many communities.
“[The] 2020 goals were [about] 100,000 [dollars] in revenue and [a goal of] 30,000 followers on Instagram,” Cohen said. “Those were really stretched goals and we blew those out of the water.”
Dunlap is always on the search for new goals within her highly interactive business model and is excited to see what will be in store for her next. Until then, she will continue to educate women and those who want to improve their financial literacy, one negotiation at a time.
Michael Lang contributed to this story. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Brie Haro is a Reporter for The Beacon and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.