I wanted a new couch, so when I was 13 or so, I went to the local furniture store every week and gave them my babysitting money on layaway until finally I had paid it off. I took the paper, put it in our driveway, and drove over it as many times as I could to get a bunch of tire tracks on it.
We had that couch in our living room until my mom moved 15 or so years later. My mother found Cooper Union in one of those books and was like, "Oh, you should go here—it's free." Luckily, I had the grades, and the home test was right up my alley. Then I wrote an essay about how there was nothing that I could draw that couldn't be driven on.
Today, I have 20 employees, which I couldn't even have imagined in my wildest dreams when I started out.
I hope that a lot more African-American females choose to do entrepreneurial endeavors that aren't haircare- or beauty-related.
And I hope that kids who come from backgrounds similar to mine realize that they're actually getting an incredible education in how the world really works.
I'm a millionaire on paper, based on what my company is worth, but I don't actually make that much.
So I started devising ideas for Sweeten—as in "home sweet home"—as early as 2008.
(It wouldn't go live until 2011.) Meanwhile, I had become this evangelist for the Internet and architecture, and was running around town giving talks.
My mom would sit at the kitchen table, crying about how overwhelmed she was with the finances, that she didn't know where anything was.
I felt awful, and I wanted to help, so I began focusing my reading on learning everything I could about financial management and investing.
Lauer is the Brooklyn-based founder of Sweeten, a startup that connects home renovators with vetted contractors.