Owen Winkelmolen - PlanEasy
Tell us about yourself
Like many entrepreneurs, I believe there is an enormous gap in the market. I believe that there is a lack of unbiased financial advice and this has a large impact on the average Canadian family. I founded an online financial planning platform called PlanEasy.ca to provide unbiased, advice-only financial planning, at a very reasonable cost.
Starting a business, however, meant transitioning from a 12-year career with Labatt Breweries and essentially starting over. This was a large risk and it required a lot of planning. However, this isn’t my first business. I started a woodworking business while studying Engineering Physics and Management at McMaster University. Each summer I would sell my handcrafted log furniture in cottage country earning as much as $2,000+ in a single weekend. Quickly I learned how important it was to get in front of your ideal customer. My parents are also entrepreneurs, having immigrated to Canada in the 70’s to start a successful tree nursery in southern Ontario. Although I knew starting a business was a large risk, I was excited by how large a problem PlanEasy.ca could help solve.
Tell us about your business
PlanEasy.ca is an unbiased advice-only financial planning platform. There are no products, no commissions, just advice. Our goal is to make advice-only financial planning easy, accessible and inexpensive.
Our clients start their financial plan online and then connect virtually with an advice-only financial planner to customize their financial plan and discuss recommendations. Engagements range from as little as $500 up to $2,000 depending on the client’s complexity and needs. Every financial plan is customized to the clients needs and goals. We help our clients address important questions around their finances and optimize their plan to help them achieve their goals in the best way possible. Most important, though, is that clients have the peace of mind knowing that they’re on track to achieve their financial goals even when the path ahead appears difficult.
What led you to start this business?
I founded PlanEasy because I wasn’t satisfied with existing financial service options. Incentives for clients and traditional financial advisors aren’t necessarily aligned. Clients may second guess the advice they receive from a traditional financial advisor and this can lead to a lack of execution. By providing unbiased financial advice we find that our clients are extremely open with us about their financial goals and current situation.
What were some of the challenges you faced getting started and how did you overcome them?
We’ve faced numerous challenges while building PlanEasy.ca. Some we expected while others we had to figure out. We’ve been fortunate to receive support from many local groups like the Small Business Centre, Innovation Works, TechAlliance, and Ontario Centers of Excellence. We’ve also been fortunate to meet other tech entrepreneurs in London who are also facing similar challenges as they start and scale their businesses. It’s been exciting to share both successes and failures with this vast support network here in London.
What advice would you give to someone starting a small business today?
My advice for new entrepreneurs is to know your market; do as many surveys and client interviews as you can before getting started. Then, be prepared to change or update your business model frequently as you gain more insights into your ideal client. It’s important to be adaptable and flexible because every day is different.
Has your business been impacted by COVID-19?
Because PlanEasy was designed to provide financial advice online we’ve thankfully had only a small impact from COVID-19 thus far. Although we’ve shifted from our office at Innovation Works to our home offices, we’re still meeting with clients on a daily basis online and by phone. We experienced a dip in March and April as people adjusted to the ever changing situation, but now we’re having more and more conversations with potential clients about their short-term finances and their long-term goals. We’re also actively working on our next phase of platform development, which will expand the platform and allow us to introduce an even more affordable financial planning option for clients.