Meet the 2022 Self Financial Scholarship Award Winners

By Jackie Lam, AFC®
Published on: 11/07/2022

We here at Self know just how difficult it is to be an entrepreneur. It takes perseverance, vision, passion and a whole lot of heart.

That's why we launched the Self College Scholarship for Aspiring Entrepreneurs. Since 2015, Self has offered this $1,000 student scholarship to help the next generation of entrepreneurs with a vision on how to change the world.

Get to know Mollie Lynch, Mishekie Simms, and Cierra Smith, our 2022 scholarship recipients.

Mollie Lynch, Pensacola State College

MollieLynch

Mollie is a Family Builder: "My daughters are my best friends. I would do anything for them."

Current entrepreneurial pursuits: Social media management and podcasting

Long-term goal: To have my own business.

What was your relationship with money growing up?

I grew up in a very religious household where I was one of eight kids. There were certainly years where things were a little difficult, and others where financially we couldn't do better.

My parents sheltered us from their finances so we could be kids. This had its pros and cons. For instance, we didn't have the pressure of worrying about adult matters like the state of our finances. However, I think I developed unreasonable expectations of how success happens.

I also didn't learn enough about money growing up, and when I was 15 I was sent to a facility in Wyoming for my depression and behavioral issues. I didn't receive the same type of education and socialization as "normal" high schoolers.

What led to having challenges with credit?

At 18 I moved into my parents' house for additional support. A year later I moved out, and then I got pregnant. It was very difficult working full-time, going to school full-time, and I would open credit cards, get student loans, and pray [that I would one day be able to] pay them back.

I was codependent with credit. The credit keeps you hooked. You need them just to pay your bills, but you wouldn't have so many bills if you didn't have so many lines of credit.

I had another child. As a single parent of two kids, some weeks I would wonder where I was going to get my next hot dog, and would visit our college campus's food pantry. I worked and went to school full-time, and tried to get whatever scholarships I could. I [relied heavily on] student loans to make ends meet and in raising two girls by myself.

Why do you think building credit is important?

You need credit to exist in this world. If you want a house, car, or rent an apartment, you need to have a payment history. [In other words, you need to have a payment history of paying your bills on time.] You need a good score that won't get turned away.

Any surprising lessons during your credit-building journey?

I was shocked by the weird things I found in my credit report. I filed [a dispute]. For example, I had a $1,000 unpaid balance from an internet company. I've never had an account with that company.

I've had to rebuild my credit twice. The first time, I had a medical setback. I had to rely on my credit cards again, and my credit took a bit of a hit. I had no plan. I had to seek out resources, and it took years to be able to look into my credit situation. After using Self, my credit score went up.*

This time around, I called credit card companies and explained my circumstances, which were impacted by Hurricane Ian. I put a plan in place to pay down my debt, from the highest-interest rate [first] to the lowest last. Things are improving and are less overwhelming.

I'm still tackling paying off the cards, and sending letters to the credit card companies. I set a limit on the cards, and won't spend any more on my cards until the next payment date. Once I pay off my credit cards and my funds are freed up, I plan on opening another Self account.

What advice would you give to someone who's new to building credit?

Pull your report from all three bureaus, then sit down to come up with a plan. Ninety percent of the battle is to really look at the debt and to come up with a plan.

Once you do that, which only takes a couple hours, hold yourself accountable to your plan. Putting your nose in the "credit mess" is the hardest part.

Mishekie Simms, California State University, East Bay

Mishekiesimms

Mishekie is a Family and Home Builder: "I'm trying to build my credit to show my kids that anyone could do it. My goal is to get a home and have my family settled in it, and to make sure they're okay in regards to their future."

Current entrepreneurial pursuits: Selling infant and toddler clothes

Long-term goal: To buy a house.

What was your relationship with money growing up?

I didn't really have a good handle on money growing up. Whenever I got a paycheck, I would pay whatever bill I needed to pay, then started spending the rest. I grew up in Belize, and I worked part-time while in high school at a company that sold car parts and signs to help my mom pay for her medical bills. And during my transition after moving to the U.S., I started to realize that I need to start saving more and spend less.

What led to having challenges with credit?

In Belize there's no such thing as a credit score or a credit card. I only started learning about it when I moved to the U.S. at the age 18. And I maxed out my credit cards because of bills. I had three, maybe four credit cards at the time, and the limit was $300 each.

Why do you think building credit is important?

I'm married with two kids, so building credit for me is like reaching to buy a house, or getting a mortgage on a house. That would be the main reason why I'd want to build my credit up, and [one day] have great credit.

Anything surprising lessons during your credit-building journey?

The weird part about credit is [having to] pay it off monthly. It's like you don't have that advantage out in Belize. So I would tell my mom, "Oh, I just have to do monthly payments in order to have it. And it's not something that you do in Belize."

I'm also trying to get my credit up by paying off all my debt in small portions. I know that won’t really build my credit overnight, but every penny counts to help reach my dream of getting a house instead of always renting apartments.

What advice would you give to someone who's new to building credit?

I believe that by paying off my debt, I will get a credit score that will help me succeed in the decisions [that I make in the] future. Maybe someday I can teach my kids and others about how to spend or build their credit in a responsible way. Teaching what you know is the best way to help others succeed in their life.

Cierra Smith, William Peace University

CierraSmith

Cierra is a Future Builder: "The future is always on my mind when it comes to how I spend and save my money."

Current entrepreneurial pursuits: Etsy shop and Pinterest (Creator Rewards program)

Long-term goal: To build the highest credit score possible so that I’m set up for all my major future purchases. This includes — but not limited to — getting a bachelor’s degree, my own home, and a car to call my own.

What was your relationship with money growing up?

You could've easily called me a penny-pincher, even back in middle school. I’ve always had this strong tendency to want to save as much money as possible. I made sure that my piggy bank never hit empty, nor did my bank account when I opened one.

What led to having challenges with credit?

Simply not being educated on credit in school. I don't remember a single lesson dedicated to personal credit. So when I graduated high school and was left on my own to pay for college, I went into it blindly. I didn’t understand the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized [student] loans, and I didn’t understand how either would impact my credit score.

The day I turned 18, I took out a credit card, and I did have an idea of how a credit score worked. But everything I knew about a credit score I learned from commercials.

Why do you think building credit is important?

Credit can be both freeing and confining. Having a good credit score [can] open you up to different options and the life that you want. If you have a bad credit score, it can follow you for the rest of your life and [sometimes] hold you back.

Anything surprising lessons during your credit-building journey?

That you can maintain your credit score if you follow the credit-building best practices, like considering the interest rate and fees with a credit card, and limiting the number of credit cards you have.

What advice would you give to someone who's new to building credit?

Before you take out a credit line, you should always consider the interest rate, annual fees, penalties, and rewards associated with a credit card. And once you get that credit card, never use it to buy things that you otherwise couldn’t afford. You'll also want to limit the number of credit cards that you have, and keep track of payment due dates.

*Disclaimer: Individual results will vary. Visit Self.inc for details.

About the Author

A personal finance writer for over 8 years, Jackie Lam covers money management, lending, insurance, investing, and banking, and personal stories. An AFC® accredited financial coach, she is passionate about helping freelance creatives design money systems on irregular income, gain greater awareness of their money narratives, and overcome mental and emotional blocks.

Her work has appeared in publications such as Bankrate, Time's NextAdvisor, CNET, Forbes, Salon.com, and BuzzFeed. She is the 2022 recipient of Money Management International's Financial Literacy and Education in Communities (FLEC) Award, and a two-time Plutus Awards nominee for Best Freelancer in Personal Finance Media. She lives in Los Angeles where she spends her free time swimming, drumming, and daydreaming about stickers.

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Our goal at Self is to provide readers with current and unbiased information on credit, financial health, and related topics. This content is based on research and other related articles from trusted sources. All content at Self is written by experienced contributors in the finance industry and reviewed by an accredited person(s).

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Written on November 7, 2022
Self is a venture-backed startup that helps people build credit and savings. Comments? Questions? Send us a note at hello@self.inc.

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