The Joy in Entrepreneurship
How Jennifer Kirby leveraged her strengths and experiences to transition careers, launch a thriving RIA, and help others reach their goals
A lifelong entrepreneur, Jennifer Kirby’s career has spanned industries and focuses—but with several common threads.
“I’m an accidental advisor,” laughs Jennifer. “While I began this portion of my career a bit later in life, looking back I realize that the writing was always on the wall. I have consistently worked in a front-facing capacity, while producing, managing budgets and goals, and meeting with clients. I think you sometimes don’t draw those connections until retrospect.”
Starting her first business as an financial consultant for artists at the age of 19, it was early on that Jennifer recognized her penchant for coming into a situation with fresh ideas and overhauling it through positive change. “I carried my knack for change and continual improvement through my 25 years in nonprofit media and media production. Transitioning into financial advising in 2013, I leveraged that spirit to help clients build the financial futures they want.”
While working at one of the largest investment and wealth management firms afforded Jennifer the ability to utilize her strengths, she learned that she wanted more freedom than the environment could offer. “Working in an ossified structure, there’s only a certain degree of allowable change. I knew I wanted to eliminate that ceiling, design my own practice, and be my own boss.”
Operating with business partner Frank Granizo as The Granizo Kirby Group within Merrill Lynch, the two investigated going out on their own. They considered supported independence and a hybrid structure but, eventually at the suggestion of a legal entity, realized that they were prepared to go fully independent.
It was in 2021 that Jennifer and Frank established Talisman Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisor (RIA). “Together we made the call to go RIA out of the gate, leaving behind the security of a tuck-in model. We knew we had all the tools in place to make a start fresh. While it wasn’t always easy, it’s 100% been worth it.”
Jennifer notes that her operational experience has been critical as they began their RIA. “Working in a novel setting, you have to figure out how to make the boat seaworthy,” she says. Understanding the environment and landscape, she did her due diligence to plan and map out as much as she could, adjusting along the way.
As Co-founder, Managing Partner, and Senior Financial Advisor at Talisman Wealth Advisors, Jennifer helps self-reliant women balance today’s wants and tomorrow’s needs—without depending on anyone else. “Women are so much more knowledgeable than they sometimes give themselves credit for,” says Jennifer. “My approach is to meet them where they are. To be successful in achieving their goals, we assess their current situation, align their finances, and develop a doable action plan.”
Talisman Wealth Advisors is a boutique firm that is proud to be free of big bank biases, allowing Jennifer and Frank to fulfill their fiduciary duty to clients with complete independence. “As a team of two, Frank and I have built our firm as a complete marriage of our skill sets. Frank is largely focused on investments—many of his clients are small business owners and their families. I tend to be more focused on planning, with many of my clients being key financial decision makers in the home—who are often women who find comfort in partnering with me as a woman advisor.”
A large portion of Jennifer’s client base are women with demanding careers. “They want to make sure that they’re making wise financial decisions, and that they are eliminating any holes in their financial pictures. I guide primary earners, single earners, and women business owners through a financial planning process designed to ensure that they feel confident that they are taking care of the future while enjoying life today.”
Reflecting on getting to where she is today, Jennifer is thankful for the career mentorship she has received. “It was my mother-in-law who initially introduced me to the field,” she says. “She was a late career changer as well, and did really well working at one of the big wirehouses. She encouraged me, saying that I have the right temperament for the business. While I didn’t initially take her advice, I recalled her words years later during a moment of inflection in my life. I was home with my daughter while she underwent a serious illness, and I reassessed what I wanted out of a career. I wanted freedom, flexibility, choice, and the capacity to make as much or as little money as I wanted. It was then that I looked into the advisory space.”
Today and throughout her career, Jennifer is committed to mentoring others. For the past decade, she served as a Scout Leader for Girl Scouts of America. She was also a member of the alumni board for Rutgers Business School, where she organized networking events and related activities for the Rutgers Executive MBA program. Now she mentors women financial advisors. “It’s super fun to try to inspire people,” says Jennifer.
Jennifer feels extraordinarily fortunate for the authentic connections that she’s built throughout her career. “I’ve had a lot of amazing mentors in all of the fields that I’ve worked in, and I’ve had those mentors because I’ve asked for them,” says Jennifer. She’s a firm believer that having humility, along with the gumption to ask and the ability to listen, can work wonders. She looks to provide the same level of support to newcomers to the field, and to experienced advisors that she intends to bring into her practice. “It’s fun to inspire people, help them avoid any mistakes I’ve made, and spare them any agony,” she says.
Jennifer also feels that financial advising is a space where it is hugely beneficial to have diverse representation. “Each of us has such a gift that we can provide to clients—a sense of peace, a path, a grip on something that can be overwhelming. There are so many areas where groups may be underserved, and infinite opportunity to provide value. People are looking for advisors who understand them; they want access to people who know their needs and problems.”
She’s found that being a woman in the financial advisory space allows her to make a unique connection with a huge portion of the population. “Being a woman in this industry can be the greatest thing ever,” she says. “You’re here to make things possible for people, and to provide an experience for them that you would want as a client. If you can pinpoint and fill that gap, there’s nothing but opportunity, and great joy to be had in the work.”