5SR - February 21, 2024

Hitha on Yulia Navalnaya, credit cards, and the ultimate multi-hyphenate

Today’s curator is the founder of #5SmartReads, Hitha Palepu. She’s a consummate multihyphenate - CEO of Rhoshan Pharmaceuticals, author of WE’RE SPEAKING: The Life Lessons of Kamala Harris and How to Pack: Travel Smart for Any Trip, and professional speaker. Hitha is an unabashed fan of Taco Bell, Philadelphia sports teams & F1, romance novels, and is a mediocre crafter. She lives in NYC with her husband and two sons.

If you haven’t watched Yulia Navalnaya’s full video statement, watch it before reading this article or commentary:

I went down a Yulia rabbit hole after I watched her powerful statement, and this one does the best of capturing the multi-faceted woman who’s become the de facto leader of the Russian opposition.

This is a powerful read about a powerful woman.

It’s a rare moment - usually once a decade - when Beyoncé grants an interview.

This particular one is worth the wait, as she and Ms. Tina Knowles detail their forthcoming hair care line that I am genuinely intrigued by (given Ms. Tina’s longtime cosmetology career and how her salon was such a significant place for her and her daughters).

The nerd in me is excited to study and test their specific keratin complex that’s the basis of Cécred’s products. The fan in me is just thrilled to have this thoughtful interview and the art accompanying the stories they shared.

Every word in the interview, every detail in the picture is intentional and powerful. But what struck me the most is the reverence Beyoncé speaks with when she talks about building this business with her mother. It’s a privilege I’ve been lucky to share with my father, and it was a deeply personal part of the interview that made an impact on me.

In the myriad of “Roman Empire” topics that seize our attention, I’m guessing Big Credit is not one of them.

But it does warrant a bit more of our attention for a singular reason:

“Even though some 4,000 banks offer credit cards, the top 10 issuers, including both Discover and Capital One, account for more than 80% of loans.

That concentration seems to have given the biggest lenders the ability to jack up the interest rates they charge on outstanding credit card balances.”

As of the end of 2023, the total credit card balance in the United States is $1.129 TRILLION. When you consider that the average interest rate from one of the big 4 credit card companies is 23% (smaller banks & cards offer 20% on average), that’s a huge revenue source to these already profitable companies.

And when said profit is made at the expense of people struggling to afford the daily necessities…it’s messed up.

Credit card debt is a part of a larger debt problem in this country - particularly in how it’s used to suppress people. Namely, Black Americans.

This article is the most important history lesson we’re rarely taught, and how the pre-Civil War era laws on debt have evolved and continue to exist today.

There’s a specific quote from this piece that connects our past to the present, and is one I’ve been sitting with since I read it:

“White fear of Black freedom made it relatively easy for lawmakers to pass legislation requiring free Black people to carry passes. A complementary legal and economic system oriented toward the supremacy of property rights made it only “fair” that free people pay their debts.

Holders of student loans today might also be said to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. While they made the free choice to borrow money, they also entered higher education at a time of soaring college costs, in part due to state legislatures’ refusal to fund higher education. In addition, new college graduates are more likely to find themselves unemployed and unable to make payments on the debt that was supposed to make it easy for them to find a job that pays well.”

Some people refer to the cliche of “those who don’t learn from their history are doomed to repeat it.” I personally fear those who learned the history so well that they focus on preserving it to preserve their own power.

I’m quite proud of my multi-hyphenate status. But I have NOTHING on Bridgit Mendler - Disney Channel star, singer, Ph.D and law school candidate, CEO of a satellite data startup, and wife and mother.

I know every working mom loathes being asked “but how do you do it all?” I genuinely want to know every detail of how Mendler schedules her day and gets it done, because it’s impressive.

This piece is really centered on Northwood Space, Mendler’s startup, which aims to mass produce ground stations to help bring data from satellites to Earth faster, cheaper, and more efficiently - specifically focusing on helping other space startups that don’t have the scale of the major players.

And they’re well on their way, with an impressive first round of financing and a first test (connecting to a spacecraft in orbit) planned for this year.

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