PlushMONEY Impact Experience – Adrienne Trenwolla

I think an appropriate way to begin my segment on the Impact that plushMoney has made on my life would be to start by explaining where I was in my life before it all came about.

About one month before the program began, I met Neha at Sephora when she needed someone to help her pick out a pink lipstick color. As many (but not everyone) know, picking a lipstick color is a rather time consuming task. And thankfully so. The time it took to find a lipstick was the time Neha and I connected and she told me about the group. I remember that night calling my dad and telling him how excited I was about the project, even though my involvement at that point was an absolute minimum.

Fast forward a month and a coffee date later, I was a full-fledged member of plushMoney. Initially invited as a leader of the group, my excitement of being a part of a project that would talk about money to women who were young, hip and excited about success and the idea of personal confidence through financial stability overwhelmed me and I agreed to a high level of involvement, right off the bat. This sounded like my cup of tea!

It was apparent shortly thereafter however, that my excitement allowed me to fill my plate full of responsibilities a little more than I had the ability to capacitate. I faltered in one of the tasks that had been given to me, and hence, Lesson number 1. How to say no. Better yet, How to ask for help. This has been my biggest challenge my whole life, as my mother will verify. And here it is, a safe environment when I can admit my fault, learn from it, and not be forever scorned.

This is precisely what plushMoney  is about. It may sound like a group solely based on talking about money and financial literacy, but it is more than that. The group of girls in this program not only learned about the ins and outs of the unspoken necessities of life (learning about work attire, relationships and professionalism), but we learned about confidence and being able to find your weaknesses, admit them, and learn new ways of dealing with them. This was a safe environment-a community rather- of women who have a passion for knowledge, a passion for leadership, and a passion for compassion.

At the beginning of the program, my excitement was greatly due to the fact that I was thrilled to have an activity outside my job that let my mind think in different ways than it did on a daily basis. Through a number of factors, including the encouragement of the girls in the group, I have decided to follow my true dream and dive into an industry of which I know nothing about. I have the courage and the confidence to follow my dreams and to make the necessary financial decisions that will make it a smart decision, not a foolish one. I have found a support network that I certainly never would have found at bars or clubs and only few are lucky enough to find in classes in school. The communication we had with each other was rare and awesome.  We were introduced to incredibly intelligent speakers who touched on everything from leadership to stock market savvy. Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine being connected to these types of people.

So the question remains, What did plushMoney do for me? I could give you catch phrases that were often thrown around like “Work smarter not harder”, “Pay it forward”, and “Make an Impanct”, but the truth is, no catch phrase will sum up the enlightenment that I’ve had within the 11 weeks of the program. I have found friends and connections I couldn’t possibly fathom prior to this group. I have had the privilege to spend time with people whose minds I am in awe of and whose energy and passion for life and knowledge is infectious. I have been blessed. I do believe everything happens for a reason, even though not everything can be explained.

I know for a fact I was supposed to be in this group and I know for a fact also, that the other girls (including Neha) feel the same. I can confidently say that I have grown as a result of this program and I cannot wait to see what my cohorts will create in the future. All I have to say is Thank You. There’s no telling where I would have been without the support of plushMoney and the girls who were a part of the program.  It is now time to take what we’ve  Learned,  Do something, and Create.


PlushMONEY Impact Experience – Niki Cyrus

I have been having such a hard time describing my experience with PlushMoney Impact with everyone. I never thought it would be possible to learn so much over two months. What I took away from the Impact program overall was three different things. 1) Always get to know people because you’ll miss out on some inspiring and amazing people if you don’t. 2) Creation is the main key behind learning something the right way. 3) A leader is someone who is genuine, honest and trusts her community.


I have seen many of the girls in our program that have transformed into polished and confident women in such a short period of time. It is amazing to be there and see the transformation. I have found talking on the webinars very difficult, as you can’t see anyone’s facial expressions. However, I saw myself feel more comfortable over time. The girls were always giving me positive feedback and creating a safe environment for me to practice and learn. I knew if I made a mistake there won’t be any harsh consequences. Now that was really really cool. There aren’t many instances in life that we could make mistakes without a consequence. One of the most inspiring moments throughout the program was when Rani approached Neha and I to tell us about this new exciting idea that she wants to share with everyone. I was so impressed, excited and amazed that she wanted to share something with her community. That was the moment that I felt that we have created a community, and knew Rani felt comfortable enough to want to share something with all of us on the webinar.


When Neha told me her vision behind the Impact program I didn’t really understand it at first. The steps are learning=>doing=>creating. But I asked myself, what is the main difference. I learned the difference when Delaney and I put together an event called Polished and Promising at Nordstrom. We had so many different ideas for the event. Everything we thought about was different from how everything turned out. We created the event. We did everything from promoting, creating an agenda and coming up with interactive games for the audience. Now I can say I have learned different skills on how to promote a complimentary event and how to come up with interactive games that apply to all ages and genders.


Lastly, I would like to share some of the characteristics that I know a leader must have. Half way through the program, I took on the leadership position that really helped me learn essential leadership skills. I learned that I have to trust my community like Neha trusted me. Many of the girls helped me handle different tasks in the program. At first it was scary to let go of the control but I was proven wrong that when they did an amazing job. I learned to be myself and always be honest with my community and that way with the help of my community I became a more confident woman. I am very appreciative of my community and Neha for creating this opportunity for all of us.

PlushMONEY Impact Experience – Rani Tiruveedhula


As the program comes to an end, I couldn’t be more proud of my decision to join this community. To explain my journey with PlushMoney, I draw parallels with my experience rock climbing for the first time. Though they seem unrelated, my journey with this community is similar in so many ways.

From the ground, I mapped out my path which seemed to be the best possible route to reach the top. However, during the climb, there were surprises and hurdles that made reaching the top even more rewarding than I had anticipated. I originally joined the program to get to know Neha Kumar, whom I’ve looked up to from speaker events and talking with her on the phone. Of course, learning about finance also interested me but I have learned so much more than finance. Leadership, business acumen, confidence, and going above and beyond have all been themes of this program. I have gotten to know not just Neha, but the other inspiring women as well as speakers whom we had the privilege of hearing from.

During my climb, I reached a point of frustration when I want to give up. My feet were shaking and I couldn’t find a place for my hands, but as I struggled I heard voices beneath me encouraging me to go on and believe in myself. These girls do the same for me, and just at the right moment when I need to push through. I took a leap of faith and reached out to the community by developing exercises which I truly believe would better equip us for our future. They warmly welcomed my ideas and efforts, motivating me to contribute more for this community. Never have I felt so empowered to follow through and get creative, a feeling I wish to carry over to all my efforts.

By the time I came down from the climb, I felt a strange bond with the girl, Lisa, whom I had met just before the climb but had supported and encouraged me throughout my experience. It’s just the way I hadn’t known any of the girls of PlushMoney before this program. I now leave with a feeling of belonging and support. I have had a wonderful journey with these girls and something tells me this isn’t the last time we will be in touch.

It amazes me that this was built from a simple assignment which Neha chose to go above and beyond to impact our lives. I wholeheartedly thank you Neha for all that you have done for PlushMoney. You are an inspirational example for us!

I could go on for pages about all that I’ve learned from this program, but my biggest lesson is that I leave this program with the inspiration to make an impact.

Thank you PlushMoney Impact for being a big part of my summer 2012.

PlushMONEY Impact Experience – Charlsey Kellen

There are hundreds of thousands of self-help courses out there.  They cover pretty much every topic you could possibly imagine, from weight loss to how to become a better artist to how to use a computer. Most of these courses come from an expert in the field or from self-proclaimed “guru” on the material or topic being taught.  While PlushMoney Impact was a course that did help all of us, I’m sure, it is not a self-help course by any means.

PlushMoney Impact is very different from that.  PlushMoney Impact is an empowerment program.  You do not just help yourself, but you help and benefit from every single member of the community.  Whether it was Neha Kumar, who put the program together, one of the many brilliant and ambitious girls who are a part of the program, or any of the fabulous and prestigious speakers that were featured week after week in the PlushMoney Impact webinars, everyone taught someone something and every single person learned at least one new thing every week.  New tidbits of knowledge, up and coming information about technology and companies, New York Times winning strategies, and a whole lot of new friends are all things that have been gained over the course of the PlushMoney Impact program.

But PlushMoney Impact also taught everyone something more important than all of that.  Something you cannot even teach in the top universities in the country, and that is confidence.  PlushMoney Impact taught every one of us that no matter what our particular skill set may be, it is valuable in some way and we can use that to our advantage.  As Neha told us time and time again, “It’s not about working harder, it’s about working smarter”.

A Pleasant Reminder

Written by Shireen Jaffer on Behalf of PlushMoney Impact

“Mommy, Tom is being mean to me!”

“Well, how about you tell Tom that, sweetie?”

“Tom, you’re mean!” said the little girl.

“No, you’re mean!” retorted the boy.

“Hanna, tell Tom how you feel please.”

“Tom, I feel sad when you don’t play with me.”


The wonderful “I feel” language: the solution to all troubles, as we were taught in kindergarden.  I may have read nearly eight books on communication this summer (I was designing a workshop on effective communication), and majority of them mentioned the infamous “I feel” rule.  Since day one, we are taught to express our feelings, and to do it in a exclusive manner.  Why speak for those around us? Who are we to say how they feel? We can only speak for ourselves; that’s the most effective way.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I have complete faith in the “I feel” method.  I was sure to include it in my workshop. In simple words, the “I feel” language is meant to discourage the “you-directive” (you should…, you need to…, etc.) that leads to ineffective communication.  It discourages language that tells people how they feel or how they should behave, and rightfully so.  Who likes to be ordered around or told how they feel anyways? But what I realized, as I personally adopted the “I feel” language, was that I began thinking more and more about my own feelings than about those of others.  To really apply the “I feel” rule in my daily life, I had to make an active effort, which ultimately took attention away from what I believe to be crucial: understanding feelings of those around me.  None of these communication books warned against this potential consequence.

My mind set began to change.  The more I practiced the “I-language,” the less I spoke the “we-language” (I had been conditioned, since childhood, to think as a “we” by my mother).  I began reflecting on what I did, and how I felt, and how I wanted to change the world.  I dismissed thinking about the groups I belonged to, the impacts we could make, the world we could change.  And soon enough, I felt a sense of loneliness and frustration.  What was I doing wrong?

And then, hoping to find someone fun to talk to, I signed on to Facebook.  I read an article once that said people actually feel more lonely when they browse through other people’s profiles since everyone appears more social online.  In my case, the effect was the opposite.  On top of my newsfeed was a wonderful video by Neha and Adrienne.  These girls, strangers not too long ago, had come together to share a wonderful message with the group: we are a community, and we will make an impact, or series of impacts, together.  I could not have asked for a better wake-up call.

Bottom line, regardless of what you are taught (I am a huge fan of the “I feel” language but it too, must be balanced), despite the competition you face in this society, appreciate those around you and seek them out.  Recognize the communities, or tribes (thank you, Dave Logan), that you belong to. Strive to bring people together, and adopt the “we” language.

I feel grateful to be able to use the “we” language, to have the pleasant reminder that we are in this together.  A big Thank You to PlushMoney for being such a fabulous influence, and to all the girls for building such a wonderful community. Much love to all of you.

Fashion Monday: How to Wear Business Casual

Written by Delaney Ware on Behalf of PlushMoney Impact

This week’s Dress to Impress conquers the age old question–How do I dress business casual? Lucky for you, “Business Casual” encompasses many style options. If you are given the “Business Casual” option for an interview or meeting, ignore your traditional suit in the closet and spice up your outfit up a bit! Throw on a colorful, printed, wrap dress with a beige blazer, instead of the same-old black blazer you might wear with your business suit. If its too cold outside, take that same beige blazer and throw it over a bright colored, collared blouse paired with tailored, dark-wash jeans, and nude pumps. Bright colors will make you stand out amongst the crowd of other job hopefuls who didn’t get the memo on how to change up their “Business Casual” look! Good luck at your next “Business Casual” event and look for another PM Dress to Impress post next Monday!

The Bystander Effect: Inaction Guaranteed

Written on behalf of the PlushMoney Impact program by Maree Bandrowczak

I am currently a senior at the University of Southern California, studying International Relations Global Business and Psychology. I always get the same ridiculous response from people, upon hearing that I study Psychology and want to end up in business. “Why the f*#k would you waste your time with that?” They all have this perception that psychology is about diagnosing crazy people with crazy pills. But that really couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, I’ve only taken one such course, which actually ended up being a huge mistake-I positively identified with way too many of the topics we covered, and walked out of the class less stable than when I walked in– I’m pretty sure I’m still recovering from a slight case of the Schizophrenias.

The “Soft-Skills”

At its core, Psychology is about people. On a daily basis, I study how to motivate and interact with people, as well as understand and change behaviors. Many people look at these as  “soft-business skills.” But really, the only constant in the business world, today, is that you will have to deal with people, so I’d say these skills are pretty solid. If anything, my Psych studies have really improved my empathy, so my response to these people is usually, “you’re a dumb-ass.”

The next question I usually get asked is, “can you psycho-analyze me?” At this point, I like to start making stuff up-they clearly have issues anyway.

Psychology: Quick & Dirty

Sometimes I get asked, “What’s the most useful tid-bit that you’ve learned?” This is actually a very interesting question, which I didn’t have a solid response to, until last night. I am part of an amazing program, PlushMoney Impact, where a group of 18 women have joined together for the summer to participate in weekly webinars and projects in order to impact each other and others around us. Most of the girls are USC undergrads, so by definition they’re smart, highly motivated, and awesome! And we all take great pride in this community that we have created, but last night something really interesting happened.

During our weekly webinar, one of the members asked, “If one person can find out and post [whether or not the WSJ offers a student discount] on our FB page?” To my surprise no one responded. You have to understand that these girls are jumping through hoops to make this program work, simply because it’s been such an amazing experience. Actually, this blog is one of the products coming out of this project. So, I was pretty shocked when no one offered their assistance, but I was even more shocked at my own inaction. But then it hit me: this is the classic bystander effect. Then I got really excited, because I had both an answer to that question and something to write about!

What is the bystander effect?

In plain Inglés the bystander effect is a social phenomenon in which the more people present in a given situation, the less likely they are to help someone in distress. This phenomenon is usually caused by a diffusion of responsibility amongst those present.  After an initial amount of surprise, this phenomenon actually starts to make sense.

The most famous case of the bystander effect is the Kitty Genovese murder; remember this name-I promise you can slip it into almost any cocktail conversation. In 1964 Kitty was murdered in the back alley of her NYC apartment building, which was heavily occupied at the time of the murder. During the attack, she screamed for help several times, loud enough for her neighbors to hear, yet no one called the police. Social Psychologists later explained this event through the bystander effect.  No, these New Yorkers were not particularly insensitive; they all just assumed that someone else had already called the police. This phenomenon is both unavoidable and universal (what a crappy combination) from murders to group projects, it’s really something to be mindful of the next time you need a hand.

How do you Avoid the Unavoidable: If you need a favor, do not ask a group, approach an individual

 You might think that by bringing your request to a larger group, there are more people to accept and a higher probability of getting the task done. Wrong.  Had that member reached out to me last night and asked if I could call our career center to find out whether or not we got a discount, I would have said, “Sure.” It seriously would have taken me no more than 5 minutes. But instead, she approached the group, and the result was: inaction.  In retrospect, I really should have just made that darn call­­; now I’m stuck writing this post.

Fashion Monday: How to Wear Business Slacks

Written on behalf of the PlushMoney Impact program by Delaney Ware

It’s Monday, so that means it’s time for our first weekly DRESS TO IMPRESS tip! Business slacks are probably the most difficult fashion change for a young woman to adapt to, when first going into the work force. Why? Because, it is probably the one article of clothing she has never worn before, making it a challenging piece to style appropriately! Dress pants are significantly looser than your favorite pair of jeans, I am sure. This fact makes it imperative to wear a more tailored, tighter fitting blouse in order to balance the amount of material above your waist with the amount below. Also, don’t wear the same chunky belt you would wear with your favorite jeans! Instead, choose a sophisticated, black, patent-leather, skinny belt to accessorize your new look! With these few tips, you are sure to rock your new business wardrobe, dress pants included, at any interview or day in the office! Be sure to read next week for another tip on how to keep your business wardrobe just as stylish as your weekend one!

You Never Know Who You’ll Meet

Written on behalf of the PlushMoney Impact program by Charlsey Kellen

Networking.  If you are a business student, you hear this word at least one hundred times a day.  Whether it’s the latest networking seminar put on by your school, the importance of networking, how networking will get you your next job, the latest platform for networking, the list goes on and on. No one ever seems to explain what this mysterious “networking” word means though.  Why is what seems like just meeting people and making a good impression such a desirable skill?  Before this summer I wondered the exact same thing. 

This summer my favorite band was playing my favorite traveling summer music festival.  Needless to say, I was attending as many dates as I possibly could afford, which happened to be three.  Every day one of the sponsors held a contest where you could win backstage passes to see any band you wanted.  I made sure at the end of the first day when the festival was shutting down to go up to the sponsor employees and explain that I was going to be at all these dates just to see my favorite band and see if they had any tips on how to win the game.  They were more than happy to tell me everything that I wanted to know.  The second day rolled around and my friend and I easily won the game.  Unfortunately my favorite band played too late, so we were not able to see them.  The third day we stopped by just to say hello to our new friend that we had made at the tent.  She offered to put us on the guest list for a fourth date of the tour.  Upon arrival at the fourth date, not only were we on the guest list, but we had backstage passes.  All because we had simply been nice to these wonderful people working on the tour.

Upon meeting my PlushMoney Impact group for the first time, I was very excited to share an idea for a project I had been wanting to work on for a long time, but just had not been able to find the right people to work with.  To my surprise, everyone in the group was just as passionate about the cause as I had been. 

The point that I am trying to make, is that networking is important because in life it’s not just about what you do, it’s also about who you meet.  You never know what you  might share with someone or how the next person you meet will be able to help you in the future toward your goals.  So be kind to everyone you meet, and always make sure to say hello!

Calling All Emerging Leaders

Written on behalf of the PlushMoney Impact program by Kamesha Longsworth

I had the privilege of participating in the Ernst & Young Emerging Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. from June 19-22. 250 students from across North America were invited to the summit and I felt quite an honor to have been selected. The experience was amazing. I enjoyed meeting and participating with a diverse group of students and E&Y professionals. The trip included many informative sessions and speakers on leadership, as well as opportunities to bond with my peers and the E&Y professionals. The seating assignments were aimed to help us meet as many E&Y professionals as possible from the geography we are interested in working. We competed in teams in a scavenger hunt all across D.C. on a record-breaking 100-degree and humid day. It was brutal, but hey, leaders are competitive and we sure did not take the competition lightly! To toot my own horn, out of the 250 participating students, I was one out of six students nominated to do an onsite video interview about the program and I gladly accepted this opportunity. All about branding yourself right?

The summit’s purpose was to strengthen our leadership skills, as we are Ernst & Young’s potential future leaders. However, the speakers wanted to make it clear that even if we do not pursue a career within Ernst & Young, that it is absolutely necessary to practice and have three important qualities as a leader: transparency, integrity, and inclusive leadership. The Global Vice Chair of Public Policy, Beth Brooke, spoke to us about these three qualities. Her professional background is impressive, including 31 years at Ernst & Young and working on a project for First Lady Hillary Clinton during the Clinton administration. The goal of this blog will be to summarize the amazing speech and extremely useful tips she presented.

Transparency simply defined means visibility, openness, accountability; it is more than the truth. Transparency is letting someone know who you are. It means you are not afraid, and that you have nothing to hide. As a leader, your actions better match your words.  You must be transparent. There must be nothing to hide so that people will trust you. This is critical to turning back the tide of corruption in the economy and government that we’ve experienced the past several years. Especially with today’s technology, everyone will know the moves you make. As Beth said, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” It is necessary to be completely transparent from the start.

Integrity: “you either have it or you don’t,” said Beth. Integrity comes from the word integer; you cannot divide it. Integrity includes attitudes and actions, as well as your words. For example, some businesses and professionals discriminate in pay practices, but they are espousing integrity and diverse values. Their attitudes and actions do not match their words. Nothing is more important than your personal reputation. Always do the right thing and do not be afraid to speak up. Guard your integrity because it is your most precious possession. Also, if you are working for a client and you just cannot agree with something, standing up or speaking out (instead of always keeping your mouth shut) keeps your integrity in tact.

Inclusive leadership brings everything together. It is a new style of leadership that fuses transparency, integrity, and leadership altogether. Beth stressed that Ernst & Young wants all its employees to be inclusive leaders for there is an increasing need to work globally and across diversity. Diverse teams outperform homogenous teams every time, for they have the power of diverse perspective and will see so much more than a homogenous team. But the diverse team has to be well led, and a great inclusive leader bridges the diverse gaps to bring out the optimal solutions. A great competitive advantage is knowing how to lead in a world of difference. An inclusive leader has to believe in the group and must know how to lead a diverse group to reach optimal results and solutions. Ask yourself, do you make difference safe as a leader? Valuing differences is important as an inclusive leader.

Beth’s speech really made an impression on me. Inclusive leaders ignite creativity and innovation and as a leader that is what I want to do. I want to engage my teammates and respect their different values and ideas. You have to be who you are and give others the opportunity to be who they are. Only so will you get the most from different perspectives – if you are an inclusive leader and partner. Celebrate differences and you will reach better conclusions that way. Inclusive leadership ties in with integrity and transparency because in order for others to be who they are and to bring their best ideas forth, they have to believe in you as well for whom you are and they have to trust you.

Other tips from Beth Brooke:

  • Advice: always ask questions and why you’re doing what you’re doing.
  • Be yourself; it will allow others to be themselves too.
  • Use the platform in which you have access to make a difference.

To be a leader who makes an IMPACT, be sure to remember “ILT” – Integrity, Inclusive Leadership, and Transparency.