Millennials get a bad rap. Yeah I said it. As the proud parent of four millennials, I’m sick of boomers dunking on my kids’ whole generation. Which is one reason (among many) I love listening to Bernadette Joy. She’s a millennial. And after my interview with her on this week’s @ManListening #podcast, I did something I was not at all planning to do. I paid her to help me brand my business ManListening. But let’s back up.

Bernadette JoyBernadette sent me a Facebook message asking to be on the podcast after she and I appeared together in a story on the Charlotte on the Cheap website. In my case, it should be called Charlotte Free or maybe Radio Free Charlotte because my podcast is ad-free and it never costs a dime to listen.

I told Bernadette I was very interested in her personal story and not at all interested in a glorified ad pitch for her business. That’s good because she wasn’t interested in talking business per se. But Bernadette’s business arises straight out of her own pain points and her own personal experience (as does mine) so it’s inevitable we would talk shop eventually.

But before we got to money and debt and branding, I wanted to know how she can tell Asians from the Philippines from Asians from Korea (skin tone maybe?). I wanted to know if she’s ever eaten balut (fertilized eggs from poultry sold as street food in the Philippines) – and no, she has trouble swallowing the idea. I wanted to hear about her all-Asian NYC high school handball team and the finer points of one wall versus three-wall handball. And then she told me she had a Tiger Dad – not a Tiger Mom.

Her report cards might say, “Bernadette is a joy to teach in this class.” Her father’s note in signing the grades? “She will do better.” Wait. WHAT? She found it funny. He was serious. Most millennials get the bad rap that their tender little egos are stroked with constant praise, complete with trophies for just showing up. Not her. She got two degrees in the time it takes most college kids to get one.

Does she still bear some scars from all that criticism? Yeah, TBH, she says she probably does. But she and her husband AJ also buckled down and paid off $300,000 in debt in less than three years. WOW. That’s impressive. Now she’s working on a new debt-free business aimed at helping women and people of color get out from under the crushing weight of debt. It’s called “Crush Your Money Goals.” And it recognizes that women and people of color have distinct problems paying off debts like, oh say student loans.

I’m not a woman. I’m not a person of color. I’m not young. No one in our immediate family has any student loan debt. So why am I talking to Bernadette?

Well, she strikes me as a smart experienced business owner. She understood intuitively the need to focus on a brand. And she is doing it just as I am. So I’ve found it helpful to talk on Zoom with Bernadette about my podcast and book, about what it offers and what it does not, and about how it can grow.

We don’t talk about any of this ON this week’s episode. We talk about HER! But we do talk about how she is finding her way in business, about the need for mentors and the nimbleness to pivot. I’m working through the whole story of my brand with her. I’m also plowing through spreadsheets and to-do lists aimed at getting some serious stuff accomplished.

Will it work? I think so. But two things are guaranteed: 1) I’ll make mistakes. And 2) I’ll learn from them. It helps to have a coach who is doing the same thing.

Bernadette is the age of my oldest daughter. That bothers me not one bit. We speak to one another as peers. Because when it comes to starting a business, I can stand to learn a thing or two. And Bernadette’s a pretty good teacher. Am I joy to have in her class? Let’s not get carried away. I will do better.