Grit and the gridiron might have helped shape Parker Graham’s business acumen, but it’s the influence of his coach in the game of life who inspired Destiny Wealth — his fintech startup that soon will move to Kansas City.
“My Mom stretched herself so thin and sometimes it was hard to put food on the table, clothes on our backs, and shoes on our feet — for a big guy like me, I ran through a lot of shoes,” the 6-foot-7 former football player-turned-CEO told a crowded room Thursday at the inaugural Demo Day for Fountain City Fintech.
The event served as a night of announcements. Not only did Graham reveal his company’s plan to relocate its headquarters to Kansas City; founders from fellow cohort members Onward, SavR and NuMoola noted their intentions to open second HQ offices in the City of Fountains, while Track mentioned plans to hire in Kansas City and maintain a local presence.
Click here to read more about Australian-led SavR’s decision to move to KC.
Destiny — a soon-to-launch debt optimization app — was inspired by the mountains of debt Graham’s mother, Karen, had accumulated when she enrolled in nursing school mid-career, Graham said, weaving a picture of her financial struggles for the Demo Day crowd.
“It just felt like magic sometimes, how she would be able to make money happen when we knew she didn’t have it,” he said.
Karen Graham’s story is relatable for millions of Americans, her son said sympathetically. It especially can impact those who choose to chase a dream –– like higher education — later in life, he said.
“Think of Destiny as your ladder out of that deep dark hole [of debt],” Graham told the crowd.
From concept to reality, Graham and his chief technology officer — longtime friend Jerry Workman — cultivated Destiny over 75 days in the inaugural cohort of Fountain City Fintech, a recently launched accelerator program backed by nbkc bank — connecting startups to financial ties from day one of their venture. Such an accomplishment is often met with barriers, noted Zach Anderson Pettet, the accelerator’s managing director.
Sign up for the Destiny’s beta testing here.
Although new in concept, the desire to become an entrepreneur was deposited in the duo’s minds long ago, said Karen Graham.
“When they were in junior high, they sat in my living room and said, ‘Someday we’re going to have a business together, the two of us,’ and fast forward … here they are. It’s pretty incredible,” she reflected after the Demo Day presentations.
An undrafted free agent, signed by the Baltimore Ravens in 2014, Graham was cut by the team before the start of the season. That outcome led him to a new career as a financial advisor, he recalled, crediting his love for football as another catalyst that shaped his entrepreneurial hustle and his brush with the NFL for pushing him closer to his own destiny.
“Every single day, you’re dying until you’re not,” Graham said of being an entrepreneur, adding that teamwork and problem solving are two of the on-field skills he’s used most in the building of Destiny. “Being lucky enough to have experienced sports at that high level really has made this transition easier than I think it would have been without.”
As his vision becomes reality, Graham is hopeful Destiny will score big with consumers.
“What we do is take the money you’re already putting toward your debt, we reorganize it — if you look at your income and we tell you exactly how much money to pay toward [your debt] each day,” he said noting, 43 percent of millennials are drowning in credit card debt.
“If my mom would’ve had something like this, back when she was going through her debt recovery, it would’ve been the difference in tens of thousands of dollars.”
Graham was also quick to note 34 percent of millennials go into debt because of emergency spending, with 53 percent having saved less than $1,000 for such situations. Destiny aims to help those consumers before it’s too late, he added.
While openly sharing her financial story isn’t always easy, Karen Graham said allowing her son to tell it could help other people in her shoes see the light at the end of the tunnel — a way out of what can seem like an endless stream of past due notices and phone calls from angry debt collectors.
“I’m overwhelmed and flattered that he chose our story as an inspiration,” she said, her voice weighted with emotion. “It’s an incredible feeling to think that he’s come as far as he has — with an idea — and now he’s implementing it. The sky’s the limit!”
Fueled by passion for bettering lives and preventing mistakes, Graham and Workman are ready to roll up their sleeves come January — the official launch date for Destiny. Fully aware they’ll advance from entrepreneurial practice inside the walls of Fountain City Fintech to the grind of startup game day, he said.
“We wanted to get out [of Webb City] and spread our wings and it’s exactly what we did. I just think to come full circle [reuniting with Workman to build a company] is the coolest experience I’ve been able to have in life to this point.”
Click here to read more about Fountain City Fintech companies.