NAN PRICE: You’ve been with Pangaro Wealth Management since it was founded in 2014. How did you transition your corporate experience into what you’re doing now?
KARI McLEOD: I’ve always been in finance and I always knew I would be impactful on a larger scale than if I was working my way up in corporate America. It wasn’t until into my early 30s when I made the break from the corporate workplace.
Things aligned when I was transitioning out of a job and creating my new world as a single mom. I was thinking about making a life change. A colleague connected me with Jeff Pangaro, who is my now business partner. He said you two need to do this, you’re both speaking the same language. We took his advice and decided to team up. I haven’t looked back since.
NAN: Starting out, how did you get clients and develop your niche?
KARI: I knew I couldn’t just go through my phone and cold call everyone to ask if they wanted to work with me. So, the first few years were challenging. I went to some local chambers and Business and Industry groups, but I still wasn’t connecting with the kind of people I wanted to connect with.
NAN: How did you finally make the right connections?
KARI: I think it was owning my own story and finding my niche. When you’re starting off as an entrepreneur, you’re so self-conscious about who you are. You gradually become more confident. The more I spoke about my personal life and my approach, the more comfortable I became.
I realized how much I like working with women—especially divorced women—and my niche became women who are interested in planning their financial future. They want be empowered and I can help.
NAN: Let’s talk about mentorship.
KARI: It’s a great topic. I had some mentors when I was in my corporate role who then inspired me to do more mentoring and give back. I’m grateful for my mentors and I’m always looking for more people to learn from as I evolve. And not just women—I’ve been seeking male mentors too, so I can understand all perspectives.
I enjoy giving back, whether it’s working with clients or interns or people who are new to my industry. To me, that’s the most rewarding part about everything.
NAN: It’s great that your firm provides internship experiences.
KARI: I agree. It’s been fulfilling to provide those opportunities. We bring in a couple of high school and college student interns every summer and at some point throughout the year. Right now, we have an intern who’s a senior from Cheshire High School and wants to be a financial advisor. She reached out and told me: I want to be a financial advisor; you are a woman advisor and I want to learn from you. That was really inspiring.
NAN: Tell us a little about what you’ve learned on your entrepreneurial journey.
KARI: Honestly, I didn’t anticipate it being as difficult as I thought it was going to be. I don’t know if other entrepreneurs say this, but the struggle needs to be talked about and owned. Entrepreneurship is a totally different mindset. I think everyone should try it and just see what the struggle is like.
Some days you don’t want to get out of bed, but you realize: If I don’t get up, no one is going to earn any money! Other days, you wake up thinking: I love my life! I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this! And then slowly as you go on, you have more good days than bad days. It’s one of the things that keeps me going. That and being able to give back to others.