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UNC first-year wins national empowerment award for her work on TikTok

UNC first-year Mary Esposito poses on the steps of Wilson Library on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023.

A young Mary Esposito asked a question to her high school friends: “What do you know about investing?”

The difference in the responses she received between genders sparked action. 

“My guy friends would be like, ‘Yeah, I invest.’ Then I talked to one of my girlfriends, and she told me, ‘Yeah, I think so. My dad manages all that,’” she said. “That's when I realized that guys are having these talks with their dads about investing in financial literacy as soon as middle school, whereas, us girls, no one even thinks to introduce us to that.”

At 14 years old, Esposito started her first business and got into investing. In October 2021, she created a TikTok account in hopes of increasing the accessibility of financial literacy resources for younger generations, specifically Gen-Z women. 

Now a first-year student at UNC, she is currently working to create a club for women in finance at Kenan-Flagler Business School this spring.

Esposito’s dedication has led her to win the 2022 BMTX Annual Financial Empowerment Scholarship. She was selected out of over 1,000 applicants and used her financial literacy TikTok account as the anchor of her application. 

She said she refuses to conform to what people believe a typical financial literacy educator should look like. 

“I do enjoy wearing the alternative clothing style. I do enjoy talking about stigmatized topics like my autism diagnosis or my LGBTQ sexuality. So, things that help people who are typically marginalized in this industry,” Esposito said. “They have someone that they can relate to and someone that they feel connected to. Having representation in industries can encourage marginalized people to get more involved.”

Esposito said she has often found herself in an uncomfortable position as the only girl at entrepreneurship events or in investing clubs. She said she was disappointed by the way her small private school handled the subject and worked to make a difference.

While she was required to take biology, chemistry and other STEM classes, she felt as if there wasn't any financial literacy preparation in the curriculum.

“Part of me just kinda sat down and wondered, 'How is Gen Z supposed to matriculate into the real world if we are not equipped with the skills to do so?'" she said. "Whether people like it or not, money plays a huge role in society.”

To continue pursuing her passion of investing, she created her Tik Tok account — @moneywithmary — which now has more than 95 thousand followers.

Her account has influenced many people so far, including one of Esposito’s friends, Odell Escorcia-Puente. Esposito was able to help Escorcia-Puente and his parents start investing, which has created long-term benefits for his family.

“It kind of lets you safely increase your money at a faster rate than a bank account. I think that it could be something everybody utilizes if they’re taught it,” Escorcia-Puente said.

Another way Esposito has used her passion is by working for a college admissions consulting company called The Edvisory. Through the company, she has been able to share more of her financial literacy knowledge with young people.

“She is incredible. She’s extremely motivated, passionate and empathetic,” Cathleen McCaffery, CEO and founder of The Edvisory said.

Esposito's life experiences and priorities have allowed her to succeed in numerous ways within her career already. And, she said that a quote by Lauren Thatcher Ulrich motivates her to continue.

“'Well-behaved women seldom make history,'” Esposito said.


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