Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins knows what it’s like to worry about money. She comes from a family that struggled financially and remembers the stigma of growing up in poverty.
And she tells Forbes columnist Pauleanna Reid that she could never understand why technology wasn’t helping to level the playing field for the working class: “I thought, ‘How could something that is so clearly taking over—something so forceful—have such a negative impact on so many people?’ ”
Ellis-Lamkins is now working to change that. She isn’t some billionaire philanthropist who can wipe out people’s debts. But her software company, Promise, is working with utilities and government agencies to provide more flexible payment options for people who are behind on their bills.
“For me, it was taking shame out of poverty, giving people dignity, making sure people had grace,” she told Reid. Her software helps people avoid utility shut-offs, license revocations, and even jail time. And in a year when so many lost their jobs to the pandemic, Promise has been more important than ever.
“We believe that people want to pay their rent. They want to have water. The job is to create systems that work for them.”