Ali Rodway, Director of People @ Caribou Coffee shares what "money" means to her | Liquid Assets

Posted by LearnLux

The concept of "money" means something different to each of us. Meet Ali Rodway, Director of People at Caribou coffee who shares her thoughts and feelings around personal finances with some serious energy. This is an interview you won't want to miss! 

Rebecca Liebman, CEO of LearnLux sat down with Ali to enjoy a "liquid asset" (Caribou Coffee, of course) and talk through:

  • One financial goal she's saving for right now
  • A big purchase she doesn't regret, but would have done differently
  • What "money" means to her
  • Why the Kardashians would be great HR hires & more

Prefer to watch the interview? Click below to launch the video, or read on for the full Q&A.



Ali: I am Ali Rodway. I am the Director of People at Caribou Coffee based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  As the director of people at Caribou Coffee, I am responsible for our HR business partnerships, our learning and development function and all things, diversity, equity and inclusion.

Rebecca:  Today we are just going to talk a little bit about some taboo questions when we think about money. So, let's kick it off

Ali: Let's push the envelope!

Rebecca: Yes. So, if you could go back in time and meet with your 16-year-old self, what's one piece of financial advice you would say?

If you could go back in time and meet with your 16-year-old self, what's one piece of financial advice you would say?

Ali: I mean, there's so much advice. Some of it would be financial. Some of it would be a relationship. 

I think that the biggest piece of financial advice I would give my 16-year-old self would be, be curious about the possibilities around finances. I think that as a 16-year-old kiddo, I had so many assumptions that were part of just my world.

I grew up very privileged, as white person I continue to be extremely privileged. And because of that privilege, I think that I missed out on some things that I could have learned about how money really works in the world. And if I would have known that, I think that I would have taken different steps to understand how to not only better myself financially, but how to lift others up financially. I think that I've missed a lot of opportunities to lift others up financially in my career. And that's a big regret of mine. Like what? We've got tons to go around. Let's spread it around.

So that's, that's what I would tell a 16-year-old Ali is like, go get curious, learn some things and lift some other peeps up.

What's one financial goal you're saving for right now?

Ali: That's not a hard question. Get your goals, talk about money! I'll be real honest with you. My wife and I are just north of, uh, just over a hundred thousand dollars in debt for student loans. We are a part of the, what is it like 45 million Americans? We are two of them and we pay it off. We pay our monthly payments and we squirrel away to make more payments.

Student loan debt is an absolute barrier to so many people.  And to be honest, it's a barrier for us. And we recognize that there are things that we would love to do with money that we aren't able to do because we're paying down those big old loans. So that's, that is goal number one.

By pushing really hard to pay that off, what we're really also looking to do is to invest in our community. So one of the things that I love is I'm a tinkerer and so I love to fix things and I love to, um, you know, snake a good drain. You know what I mean? You know, I love being a homeowner. And so I would love to own rental property and I would love to be able to take care of tenants in that way. I'd love to get a midnight call from someone who's like, "Ah, I can't fix that!" So that's a, that's a goal of mine is to be a property owner and be someone who is kind and generous and gentle with tenants. So that I can make their lives better and better my own financial future.


FIll in the blank: To me, money is ....

Ali: To me money. Is a winnable game. Can I tell a quick story? Okay.  Let me back it up, Rebecca and I go back. When I met her, I was a full-time business owner. So I, own a coaching and consulting business that I do in addition to working full-time for Caribou and being a new mom, it's a lot, a lot, but you know what we're making, we're making it work.

So as a business owner every year in the very beginning, you're just trying to figure it out. Like how can you make a buck? How can you figure out who your people are, who your market is, how you can, you know, land that next sale. And I'll never forget. I went to a guy who is actually still my accountant, lol.

And I was so depressed and I was so embarrassed about that I didn't make this like really high goal that I had, uh, around sales that year. And I come in and I like show him all my stuff. And he looks at me with this, like knowing tender face. And he says, Ali, I am so proud of you. I said, Keith, what? He says, you made more money this year than you did last year. You are so capable of making as much money as you want to. And in that moment, my life changed.

He wasn't trying to change my life. But what I learned in that moment is that money is a winnable game and that it is something that I think people have their head in the sand about because money is drama. Money is feelings. Money is time, is all these things to people. If you relate to money as a game and as something that you can get good at and be strategic about and talk about and get people bought into your strategies around, you can win this game, you can win this game.

All it takes is the intention. And all it takes is a lot of hard work and getting supported. Um, and so for me, money is a winnable game. Shout out to Keith.

What's a purchase that you made that you regret ?

Ali: You know what? I didn't regret it, until recently. Let me tell you the story. A purchase that I regret is when my wife and I moved to Minneapolis, we bought a brand new gorgeous Jeep Wrangler. Gorgeous, functional, fun, take a roof off in the summer, you know, just plow through those snow drifts in the winter. It was so great. And what I've learned in my money journey is that buying a new car, what took a lot less work than buying a used car because you just walk in and you're like, "Ta-da!" It was such a breeze and you do some negotiations, you know, drive off with the dang thing.

And what I didn't do is I didn't actually do a ton of research into, um, a used Jeep. I wish I would have, and I love that Jeep sitting in my driveway right now, and she's now fully paid off, but it was in retrospect, a hasty decision and maybe even a lazy decision that had I put a little bit more time and a little bit more effort I could have saved my family a significant amount of money and what would I have done with that? I don't even know! And I can't go back.

The next car that I buy, it's going to be a real junker. I can't wait to buy like a car that's as old as I am, just barely making it into the grocery store parking lot. "There goes Ali in her junkie car. She's rich. She's rich! And you know it, cause she's driving an old beat up Camry. That's how, you know she got rocks."

Money is, and can be a very taboo topic, especially in the workplace. You're so open about money. Why do you think employees and employers should have the conversation about money?

Ali: I think that employers and employees should have conversations about money for a couple of reasons. Number one, let's be above board. Let's let's be grownups. And what I mean by that is there's a sense of the thing that I hate the most in the world is a sense of scarcity. And that there's not enough.

And I'm here to tell you there's a lot out there. There's a lot of money to be made and a lot of money to be paid in this world. And whoever you are watching this video right now, there's a lot of money for you to make baby. There is a ton of money out there for your brain, for your ideas, for your hustle muscle there's money to be made and knowing the truth about what you're getting paid and how it compares to peers, or the market allows you as a commodity to then look around and say, how can I get my full value for my full brilliance? That's what I want. I want people to get full value for their full brilliance.

So they get to bring their full selves to it. Because what I hate is the idea of somebody maybe, you know, kind of half-assing it at work because they're like, well, I don't really get paid that much. Wait a minute, that's a lose-lose, and you're not getting paid that much. And on the other hand, you're not working that hard.

So we're not getting your full value, like. What if we, what if you worked super hard because you loved it and you felt powerful in how much you're getting paid. And then you also got that pay. Like, hello! So I feel that talking about money at work actually drives people, enjoying their jobs more and has a better, more clear alignment between the employee and the employer.

Also pay equity. Okay. Let's talk about it because as we know, pay inequity is real. And in the global pandemic of 2020 now into 2021, women are, as we know, have now gone backwards in terms of our quest for pay equity. And that's horrifying and that should be horrifying to not only women, but it should be horrifying to men.

It should not only be horrifying to people with money and without money, it should be horrifying to everybody because the more that we have pay equity, the more that our societies can thrive our communities can thrive for children can thrive. If you are a woman I'm looking at you, I'm, I'm grabbing your face.

And I'm saying my love. Please go talk about money. Be courageous in your conversations about money. I promise you that if they're weird about money, you can go make more somewhere else sister, girl, trust me when I say you can always make more money.


If you had $5 million to get anything for your team members, what would you want to get them to help them?

Ali: So I have a small team, but Caribou Coffee has a lot of peeps who are out making phenomenal drinks across the country.

Rebecca: My favorite iced coffee!

Ali: Come on down to Minneapolis. Find a caribou near you, boo. Or you can just buy it online. Anyways, I digress.

Um, you know, I feel like I would want to just stock it away. I just like shove it into their 401k and not tell them. You know what I mean? Like just like slide into those DMS. I'm just going to slide into their 401k.

I feel like for a lot of people, especially people that maybe are in their first jobs, like at a coffee shop, no one talks to you about a 401k. And people are like, oh, you know, that's for the future.

Or, you know, I don't have the money to do it. And I feel like if I had a pocket full of cash and could just give it away. Um, I would, I would invest in their future because you know what? Everybody deserves to be a rich, old lady.  I want everybody to have their Caftan, you know, and just be sipping on their, whatever they want to sip on. Have a cocktail, have a cup of coffee, live your life, do your thing. Um, but I want people to be able to have that satisfaction of that they lived a great life and they get to celebrate that and, and have this beautiful retirement.

And we don't talk about retirement when we're young. Why would we? We're young, we're wild. Like, live fast, die young. No. Invest in your 401k. I'm doing the face grab again. Invest in your 401k. If I had $5 million, I would invest in your 401k.


If you could hire one celebrity to join your team, who you would work with, who would you choose?

Ali: Any of the Kardashians, but let me tell you why I'm not a Kardashian fan. Do not get it twisted. I do not watch their shows. I follow them on the internet.

You know what that family is. They are futurists. They do not build for the now they build for tomorrow. That family, I mean the matriarch in general... what's her name? Kris. They're futurists. They know they see what's happening in an extremely gifted way. These people - love 'em hate 'em couldn't care less. They are creating the future.  Would I want to hang out with them? Probably not! But as a skill that I would love to have and that I would love to give to my team and for all of us to be able to live into the future and create the future that we want and that we believe in the powerful gift, that's a powerful, powerful gift.

And I believe that that family was actually pretty darn good at it.

Rebecca: Such a great thought, just thinking about their Kardashians, running an HR team, you know?

Ali: Right.

Rebecca: Amazing. Thank you so much for doing this interview. We got one last cheers of our coffee here!


Thank you, Ali for helping smash the sigmas around money and career! For more interviews in the Liquid Assets series, click here. 

Tags: liquid assets

Encourage candid conversations about money in ~your~ workplace.

Tell us about your company, and we'll work together to find the best fit financial wellbeing program for you and your team.