LA Startup HoneyBee Taps Into 'Rainy Day Loans' Market

Michaella Huck

Michaella Huck is an editorial intern at dot.LA. She's a senior at California State University, Northridge, where she majors in broadcast journalism and minors in Africana studies. Over the course of her college career, she has found a love for student media; she currently works as the editor at the Daily Sundial, a magazine highlighting the issues affecting students.

LA Startup HoneyBee Taps Into 'Rainy Day Loans' Market

HoneyBee co-founder and CEO Ennie Lim found herself taking out high-interest payday loans to pay rent after a financially devastating divorce. She eventually had to move back in with her parents in Montreal, Canada and get back on her feet, but the experience inspired her four-year-old fintech startup.

HoneyBee is a short-term credit program that works through employers, offering those that are strapped "rainy day loans." The company also offers credit and financial counseling to get folks back on track. It's part of a growing group of fintech startups that offer loans working through employers, including Salary Finance and TrueConnect.

Among its dozens of users are Alameda County Community Food Bank and skincare line Kate Somerville. Lim said she's also working with several Fortune 500 companies that she hopes to sign on soon.

Lim set her company to work through employers, who pay a fee for the service because it allowed her to provide services to those most in need without charging them. It also provided a perk to employers.

"A big part is employers finally seeing the importance of financial wellness," Lim said. "We're a turnkey solution and we are able to roll out our program within a single day to companies of all sizes. Repayments are debited directly from employees' bank account."

HoneyBee provides no-interest loans of up to $1,000 that can be paid back in biweekly installments. That's aimed at helping the millions of Americans who often work paycheck to paycheck and can be set back by a major expense such as a car breaking down or an unexpected visit to the emergency room.

Those issues ring true with Lim, who came to Canada as an immigrant and struggled with no credit history. It wasn't until after her marriage that she gained one through her husband's line of credit.

Research shows women overall have lower rates of financial literacy compared to men. A 2020 survey on financial literacy conducted by the TIAA Institute and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center housed at George Washington University School of Business found that financial literacy is notably lower among women, especially Black women and Latinas compared with their white peers

"I was never taught about personal finances growing up. Everything I learned, I had to teach myself and I think we are all trying to do that," Lim said.

About 86% of HoneyBee users are women of color and 68% have at least one dependent.

"A part of our mission is to offer an equitable and inclusive solution. A lot of DEI leaders are starting to look at this option is because we are essentially reducing the financial literacy gap in the workplace," Lim stated." They are finally starting to realize people come from different socio-economic backgrounds and financial education."

HoneyBee raised $5.7 million in a round led by ff Venture Capital. Lim will use the infusion of funds to grow the team and build up the brand.

"Our number one priority is currently marketing," she said. "We have not done any marketing since our launch. A lot of what we have done has been word of mouth."

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.