Secrets to Your Success: Alexa von Tobel

LearnVest founder Alexa von Tobel says financial planning should be accessible to everyone. "Financial planning shouldn't be a luxury," she says. "Every single person in the country should be able to have access to trusted financial advice." And she won't stop her mission until LearnVest is helping millions of people.

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Growing up in Florida, Alexa tagged along with her two older brothers, playing touch football and other outdoor games. She says that taught her to be able to get along with different groups of people. Alexa attended Harvard, studying psychology. During her senior year at Harvard, she came up with the idea for LearnVest, developing the business plan while working as a trader at Morgan Stanley. Alexa left her Wall Street career behind to attend Harvard Business School in 2008.

"I won a business plan competition of sorts," says Alexa, "and I had a few professors say, 'You know what? This is a really big idea.'" So, she walked into the admissions office and dropped out of business school, taking a calculated risk she had been thinking about for two years. "I had been taking micro-steps to start building it, and finally, it was time to commit 100 percent," she says. LearnVest launched a year later.

Her vision was to "make LearnVest the Weight Watchers for personal finance." Alexa strives to be able to offer real financial advice and to help make people's lives better. Today, LearnVest has grown to over half a million members. Alexa has been on several top business lists, including Inc Magazine's "30 Under 30" and Forbes' "Women to Watch."

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Alexa explains starting a company is hard, and if someone knew what it actually takes, they probably would never start a business. "It's not like the hurdles stop," she says, "but it's also the most fun I've ever had in my whole life." She tells entrepreneurs to start something they "live and breathe for," because she truly believes in her cause. "I really believe that financial planning is like a civil right," says Alexa.

Defining success is not about money to Alexa; it's about improving people's lives, she says. Alexa is driven. "I don't think I'm going to be satisfied until we're literally helping tens of millions of people," she says. "We have a lot of work to do."

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