What better place to educate people about finance than on a school bus?
When Marsha Barnes set her mind to becoming an independent financial coach, she decided to buy a $3,500 bus on Craigslist and use it as a mobile classroom that offers clients a “menu” of money management techniques.
She hired a designer, set up shop, and hit the pavement to bring seminars on credit score boosting, debt management, and budgeting, to the people of Charlotte, North Carolina.
The name “bar” was derived from the fact that her clients sit on mini-barstools during their consultations.
Despite the setting, people can’t just hop on board The Finance Bar — individuals pay $10 a month for membership and visit the bus wherever it is parked that day. Essentially, the bus sets its hours, like any other office, except it changes locations.
“If I’m at the gas station there have been moments when I’ll get a request to look inside or for someone’s kids to get a picture inside. I love those moments, it makes me feel connected to the community,” she told Good News Network.
Groups and organizations can also request her presence–at meetings or conferences.
Ultimately, her hope is that The Finance Bar can change how people perceive and approach the topic of money and personal finance.
“We have to realize that if people could change their situation many would,” Barnes said. “You also have a percentage of people who have experienced life altering situations that were unavoidable like disabilities, deaths, unemployment, layoffs, and the list goes on.”
With a background in nonprofit management and banking, Barnes had been teaching personal finance in the four years leading up to the launch of the Finance Bar on November 10, 2014.
To date, the business, which has just been approved as an official nonprofit, has 300 virtual members, and Barnes has worked with 4,500 people on the bus. The status will allow her to apply for grants and be able to raise funds to serve more people.
It’s easy to verbalize what we would like to see happen with our money, she continued, but acting on it is a whole other story.
“Generally, the topic of finance can be scary, especially in those moments when we feel less than confident about our situation,” she said. “The Finance Bar has a zero judgment policy. My mission is to continuously help those that have challenges understand how to make their money work for them and offer tips they can use to remain committed to the process.”
Photos by Maya Elious and Joshua Galloway