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COLUMN – Melinda the money matters angel

Today's-FutureName: Melinda Belle

Age: 32

Education: Harrison College; Barbados Community College;

University of the West Indies, Cave Hill;

Florida State University.

Qualifications: BSc in computer science and management;

Associate degree in computer studies;

Certificate In Financial Planning (to be completed in 2016).

Occupation: financial consultant.


Who is Melinda Belle?

I am a compassionate person who helps people transition from their current state to a better one. I see my role as that of an architect, and I am committed to the shaping of financial landscapes of individuals, families and businesses.

Melinda Belle

Melinda Belle

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about the financial stability of homes across this nation.

Do you have a philosophy that you live by?

You are what you think.

What influenced you to attend the Barbados Community College and not continue to sixth form?

Sixth form’s subject offerings were limited, and I found the Barbados Community College had more programmes to choose from. I eventually settled to pursue an Associate degree in computer studies.   

What did the transition from “secondary school” to “college” reveal to you about yourself and also tertiary education?

Freedom! I was no longer in uniform. But the transition showed me that I am a self-starter. I became a college student instantly before the age I went to university. It was my responsibility to ensure I met my deadlines and excelled in my studies. This prepared me well for Cave Hill; being responsible.

Why the decision to pursue computer studies at BCC?

At that time I was quite fascinated by computers. Believe it or not, I wanted to be a 3D animator.

You continued with computer studies when you attended UWI, but added management. Why?

Part of the training at the Barbados Community College included social sciences such as accounting and management. I realized how much I was into these courses. I thought it would make me a well rounded individual adding management to my degree, in that I knew I wanted to be a manager someday.

If you were a shoe, which style would you be, and why?

I would be a pump. Pumps are classy and they fit my sophisticated and unique style.

If you had a free airline ticket to any where in the world, where would you go, and why?

I would go to Canada. Canada is ripe with business opportunities and I would like to explore the possibilities. There is a relationship already between Barbados and Canada through the implementation of the tax treaty and other initiatives. I would like to play my role in fostering and maintaining that relationship.

Your Facebook page indicates that you recently decided to start following soccer, and have chosen a specific club to follow. Why the sudden interest?

As I continue to develop, I am learning more about myself; what I like and what I don’t like. I became fascinated by football one Saturday and realized this is something I could get into, outside of working or thinking about my company. It is important for me to be balanced and include fun pastimes from time to time.

But what sold me on becoming a Chelsea fan was the confidence the manager of the team exuded. If you think you are a winner, then you’ll be nothing but the best.

From a career in information technology to accounts, now to an entrepreneur. Tell us about this decision.

I got my first job as an accounts officer with a law firm. I had no idea how much I would fall in love with accounting. My next job was with an offshore company, and that’s where my love for finance started. I saw how many were affected by the financial crisis and I soon realized that I could play a role in helping many make better financial decisions.

I have a heart of a teacher; so I saw it as my duty to share this knowledge. I always wanted to have my own business, but the timing was not yet right –– until 2012 when I knew I was ready to enter into entrepreneurship. I had gained the knowledge and experience and it was the ripe time to launch out.

Melinda Belle at one of her public speaking engagements.

Melinda Belle at one of her public speaking engagements.

Just over two years ago you started Astrape Finance. Tell us about your company and the history behind the name.

In 2010, I had this idea of starting an accounting firm for small businesses. I looked for a suitable name for my business and came across the word Astrape, which is Greek for “light of the gleam of the lamp”. I decided this was the perfect name, and after working with a graphics designer on the logo, we decided to incorporate a lighthouse into the corporate logo.

A lighthouse essentially guides boats and prevents them from crashing on the shore. In the same way, Astrape Finance provides tools, which are useful for effective financial decision making to guide and prevent people from “crashing” also. Our mission is to create a community of persons who understand the tenets of financial management and are able to execute clear sound personal and corporate plans for growth.

From a reserved and generally shy young lady to a bold and confident conference, seminar and workshop speaker.  When did this transition occur and what motivated it?

This transition occurred when I finally realized my importance. I do not speak from a position of elevation, but I speak from a position of knowing that what I am doing is necessary to cause this nation and people to prosper. The word important means you are of great significance or value and likely to have a profound effect on success, survival, or well-being of those around you.

And transforming financial landscapes is important work. If I stay in the background and say nothing and be nothing, several lives would be jeopardized.

Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. What are some of the challenges and successes you have experienced?

I have had to overcome my struggles with self-esteem. I did not think that I was significant, therefore I did not think what I was doing was important. I soon discovered my worth and how important my life’s work was to the success of others.

The successes I have experienced are the referrals by my clients. I know I am doing a good job when my clients recommend me.

What are your views about teaching children about financial matters?

I was fascinated by numbers from a little girl. Every time my father came home with groceries, I would ask for the receipt, get a calculator and pretend I was the cashier.

I was in the Brownies and well on my way to receiving my badge for knitting. I had an instant idea and thought I could sell what I am making. I made purses with the knitting that I created and placed a sign in the patio saying Purses For Sale. I always had the entrepreneurial spirit within me.

Children are not too young to learn about money. I myself being a child was able to conceptualize what you do with money. You earn and you spend money. Learning about money will not make kids greedy or selfish. This knowledge will empower and prepare them to make sound decisions and have successful financial futures.

Many will not know that you have written a book. Tell us about it and what inspired you to become an author.

When I was younger, I always lit up when it was time to write my composition. Teachers often commented how well laid out my stories were. As I got older, I stopped writing. I lost my love for it. However, I started my company and created a blog. I soon realized I had the same very gift. I never lost it.

I wrote my first book entitled Winning With Your Money, where financial lessons for everyday living are taught through the acronym TRANSFORM.

I have quality information to share. What better way to communicate it than through this book and many more books to come. Oh, by the way it is an e-book and it is free to download from our website. This is our gift to you to help you jump-start your recovery

You are currently enrolled in a programme with Florida State University. Why this programme and why now?

If I am to do a good job in helping others with their financial affairs, I need to be always learning and training so as to be ready and prepared to handle the unique situations laid before me by my clients. One of my current goals is to receive my certification as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).

I am currently enrolled in the Certificate In Financial Planning programme to further develop my skill set in financial management and to strengthen my ability in preparing financial plans.

You have started to produce webinars on financial management. How has the response and reviews been so far?

I think people are keener to be part of an online class than a physical class. It saves them gas and time. One participant thought the information dispensed was well researched and presented. They are geared to be part of the next webinar scheduled for March 31.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

I see myself with the CFP designation; speaking in various Caribbean countries; writing a best-seller and leading a team
of skilled professionals who can take this company farther than I can on my own.

Who has contributed to your success?

Jesus Christ who commands my destiny. Without Him I am nothing. He has given me parents who contributed significantly to my success. They have watched, guarded and guided me and I wouldn’t be who I am without their parenting. I am blessed to have close family, namely my husband Jason, and close friends who inspire me to be better. My clients have spread the word about my work and they too have made me successful.

What advice would you give to our readers in regards to wise financial planning and management?

Take one moment to look at your finger.

Do you know no one in the world has your fingerprint? It is how you are identified. You have specific goals you wish to accomplish. You have a unique path to walk on. Don’t try to walk on someone else’s path.

For example, if you want to be a food blogger and travel the world, you are not going to apply for a 30-year mortgage. What you do is save money towards the various trips you wish to take.

Take the time to write down your goals. With your goals in mind, it becomes easier to budget. Your goals guide your spending.

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