Everyone doesn’t have the luxury of going to a local Bank of America to cash a check or a Chase Bank to create a savings account. In many rural communities across the U.S., there are significant hurdles to accessing banking services.
Sheena Allen, a rural Mississippi-native and the founder of CapWay, wanted to bridge the gap for unbanked communities with her app. CapWay is a mobile banking service that allows users to cash checks, set up checking accounts, and send money straight from their phones.
Allen knows from experience what it is like to live in a one-bank town. She attributes her life in Terry, Mississippi, a small town outside of Jackson, as the inspiration for her newest venture.
“Jackson has some of the highest rates of unbanked residents in the United States,” Allen said. “I was very familiar with people not having fair or proper access to mainstream financial services and products.”
It was common to see people in her community cashing checks at grocery stores and payday lenders, but Allen saw her business as a way to disrupt an industry while helping unbanked and underbanked groups. She wants her company to solve the banking problem that Silicon Valley is overlooking.
“Silicon Valley’s definition of real-world problems and everyone else’s definition of real-world problems are not the same,” Allen said. “They live in such a bubble.”
CapWay is FDIC-approved and provides many of the options that bigger banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America offer, without the hassle of physical locations. The company allows users to transfer money to send, request, and receive money, and has a round-up feature to help users save their extra change.
Hidden fees are a no-go at CapWay. To offset some of the predatory practices of major banks, CapWay does not have overdraft charges and will notify account holders when their money is running low. The company is set to launch a debit card for its customers next year.
CapWay is Allen’s second business venture. She began in the tech space in 2011 with her first startup Sheena Allen Apps, a company of five separate apps. The company eventually dissolved in 2018 when Allen began shifting her focus to CapWay.
Sheena Allen Apps set the foundation for the success of CapWay. Allen said her first company allowed her to build a network and learn the importance of bootstrapping.
“I didn’t raise capital for my first company,” Allen said. “We made money, but most of the money was reinvested into the company.”
With plans to expand nationally, Allen sought outside funding for CapWay, and the company is currently backed by Initialized Capital, Backstage Capital, and Liberty Bank.