Matthew Lakenbach, Manager of Heir Cash Now, LLC, spoke to Innovation Destination Hartford about his experience transitioning out of the nonprofit world and launching a new business.
INNOVATION DESTINATION HARTFORD: When and how did the business launch?
MATTHEW LAKENBACH: My co-founder Chris Visher and I launched the business in 2017. He’s been in the inheritance advance industry for three decades. Chris was looking for a partner to start a new business and we decided to make a go of it.
IDH: Tell us a little about the services Heir Cash Now provides.
MATT: We advance money to heirs who are waiting for their inheritance, but they can’t access it because it’s held up in probate court. Typically, receiving an inheritance takes at least six months and can easily run to a year or more. Many heirs go through a very stressful time in which they not only lose a loved one but have to deal with financial uncertainty as well.
We help them out by advancing a portion of their inheritance right away, making a challenging time easier. An inheritance advance is actually a purchase in which the heir sells us a fixed dollar amount of their future expected inheritance in exchange for an immediate cash payment.
IDH: What’s the biggest challenge your company has faced as a startup?
MATT: Finding customers and staying ahead of the curve are critical. We were fortunate to start getting clients soon after launch. The challenge is growing the business and reaching new clients in a rapidly changing landscape. The internet has become a living, breathing thing, and we are creating content to expand our presence on the web and make it easier for people to find us.
I’ve also learned the importance of working with partners. I don’t have to be an expert at everything. By networking and building relationships with people in different fields, it’s possible to exchange knowledge without spending a fortune.
IDH: How has your background prepared you for your role as a business owner?
MATT: As it turned out, through my nonprofit background I’d acquired many skills I was able to transfer over to the new business. Everything I had done before came together in an unpredictable way.
After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, I began my career as a writer and editor. My first job was at mysportsguru.com, a Fairfield, CT-based web startup. After that, I moved to Salt Lake City for an opportunity to work in the creative department of the Organizing Committee for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
While in Utah, I did a program called the Landmark Forum that’s about living a life of freedom and full self-expression. I discovered a passion for making the world a peaceful place. After the Olympics, I applied for graduate programs and made my way to Washington, DC to do a master’s in International Peace and Conflict Resolution.
After graduating, I started a nonprofit called the Middle East Peace Civic Forum and organized interfaith programs in the DC area. This was a crash course in launching and managing a small organization. Then I joined Legacy International, an organization run by one of my board members, where I managed international exchange programs.
I was responsible for securing fellowship placements in Congressional offices and area nonprofits for international exchange participants and managing the programs. In that role, I was frequently calling or walking in cold to build relationships. That built up my comfort level with people I had never met.
In my current role, I’m frequently interacting with potential clients over the phone. Before I pick up the phone, I remind myself that this is not just a “prospect,” but a person with a unique story who is facing a difficult situation and could use some assistance.
Personally, it’s been an interesting transition from nonprofit to for-profit. Nonprofits are by their nature mission-driven and, in that world, I was motivated by my desire to build relationships across cultures. At Heir Cash Now, I felt it was important to align my personal mission of making a difference with the ultimate goal of any business, which is to earn a profit.
After several years working in nonprofits, doing work that makes a positive impact had become part of my DNA. I discovered I could be successful in business by integrating my commitment to helping people with the importance of the bottom line. After all, the more successful we are, the more people we can help. More and more businesses are discovering that.
It’s been extremely gratifying to hear our clients talk about how they felt known and appreciated during a difficult time, and that we provided them with a high level of service and were legitimately interested in their situation.
IDH: What’s the best thing about working in the Greater Hartford region?
MATT: Hartford is a lot more dynamic than it used to be. Things are happening in the evenings. People are living downtown. Across the area, there’s a lot of innovation in a range of fields. I’d like to see more partnership between business and some of the more underserved neighborhoods of Hartford. We all need to get involved in providing opportunities for everyone in our community. There’s a lot of opportunity out there.
Learn more about Heir Cash Now, LLC