Profile: Elizabeth Peterson, Eastwood Group
Company Description: Payment integration consulting and FinTech software product development
Date of interview: October 2015
Elizabeth Peterson is an artist, an entrepreneur, a mother, a seeker of truth and continuous improvement. She started her education in arts and fashion, but ended up with a career in financial technology; and is in the process of creating payment software to change the pace of payment on-boarding and integration.
On how she got from art to finance to startups:
Elizabeth actually went to school for fine arts, came to Chicago to be in fashion design, and quickly discovered that she wasn’t interested in staying in the fashion industry. She changed her trajectory and ended up with a 10 year long career in financial technology services, which developed her expertise in payment integration infrastructure and implementations for large clients.
“I’m a terrible employee though. I like to find loopholes and skip over everything. I never stop at my job title. I always want to boil the ocean and am looking for what’s next all the time. I’m not an office person. I can’t draw in the lines and follow all the rules.”
Though she generally only consulted for larger companies, her client portfolio brought her in contact with a few earlier stage companies that needed her services.
“I was instructed to help out these much larger companies, and had very high revenue targets. But my gut was telling me that it was really these guys (early stage companies) that needed my help. This was the energy that I wanted to be a part of, so I had to put myself there.”
After being introduced to the 1871 community, she had the opportunity to do payment integration consulting for Rippleshot, Sportslock, and Occasion, which gave her confidence to use what she’d learned and validated to begin driving the creation of her own software to better meet clients’ needs.
On the startup community and scaling:
“I think the startup world in Chicago has a heart of gold. It’s amazing how all of them are connected and partner together on different projects. There’s a different community in startups – it’s more like family. Everyone wants to help everyone out – crowd sourcing, camaraderie, transparency.”
Elizabeth’s specialty is helping startup companies scale their payment technology and infrastructure.
“It’s like watching your kids grow up. You watch these companies go through name changes and team changes – and now they’re getting millions in funding, and have great success stories. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of, and now it is my turn to be a success story.”
On mission, inspiration, and mentorship:
Elizabeth says that she looks for mentors that share her mission, and confesses that connecting with mentors did not come naturally.
“Mentorship was a hard thing to take on for me. I tend to think that I can do everything on my own and wear a million different hats. But you can’t. I’m learning to delegate to people who are better than me and learn from people 10-15 years ahead of me.”
Elizabeth is inspired by the “radical generosity” among women entrepreneurs started by SheEO founder Vicki Saunders and hopes to “be like these people in 10-15 years to be able to help other women.” Who else is she looking ahead to? – Sunny Bates and Marissa Mayer, Ray Kurzweil, and Jack Dorsey to name a few.
On finding new focus:
Last year she founded The Eastwood Group, a FinTech company with the mission of developing new technology to impact the payments industry, and made a last minute decision to go through the General Assembly UX Design Immersive Program to regain some focus and structure for her product vision.
“I had to make some things happen. If you don’t have a structured process, then you’re lost. I was lost – all over the place and was working on too many projects. So I decided I needed to learn how to do it the right way.”
“It definitely took some risk, but you have to just jump. I would’ve never thought I’d be as far as I am today. Now I have so much more focus and I understand what I need to get done. I know the type of person I need to be and I’m excited for the next 10 years.”
You can find Elizabeth at 1871, lending her expertise to clients downtown, attending tech events, and speaking on the future of payments.”