Eva Wong, co-founder of Borrowell—one of the largest consumer fintech companies in Canada—takes us through some of her favourite places for inspiration and adventure in Toronto.
The co-founder and chief operating officer of Borrowell is on a mission—to make financial prosperity possible for everyone by helping people understand and build credit.
“We started with a lending product that was created to help people pay off credit-card debt,” says Eva Wong. “And through that process, we realized that as people were applying for this loan, they had no idea what their credit score was. They would say, "I’m surprised I got declined. I've got great credit"—but they really didn’t, and they didn’t know it, because you have to pay a credit bureau $20 just to see your score. This felt really backward to us and led us to being the first company to offer free credit scores to Canadians.”
“The whole tech community is really supportive of each other in Toronto. Borrowell was incubated as part of the DMZ, which is an accelerator based out of Toronto Metropolitan University”
– Eva Wong, Co-founder and COO of Borrowell
Now, with more than three million members, Borrowell is one of the largest consumer fintech companies in Canada.
Like many startups–fintech and otherwise–help can come from many different avenues on the bumpy road to success. “We were incubated as part of the DMZ, which is an accelerator based out of Toronto Metropolitan University,” Eva says. “We actually benefited from a number of accelerators, like OneEleven and MaRS, and communities like TechTO and C100.”
All the different start-up forums made it easy for Eva and her team to get to know other founders. “The whole tech community is really supportive of each other in Toronto,” she says. “That's been huge for us.”
Find inspiration in Toronto's cultural landmarks.
“I like hanging out with my kids,” Eva says. “We go exploring all the time—we call it a Day of Adventure. We just hop on the streetcar and hop off wherever we want. If we see a park, we'll jump out and play in the playground. We sort of eat our way around town. It's a success for my kids if we've ridden every kind of TTC transportation. So we need to be on the subway and take a bus at some point as well.”
The Art Gallery of Ontario often makes the adventure list. It’s free for kids, which Eva says makes it easy to duck into and not feel like you have to spend the whole day there. And as the small-scale interactive exhibit grows at Little Canada, Eva and her family keep going back to check out the new additions. “We'll go to Kensington Market and grab a baguette or stop at Berczy Park to check out the Dog Fountain—wherever the spirit leads us.”
Follow your heart (and the bike paths) across the city.
“We like to ride our bikes out to the Leslie Spit—this is sometimes part of our adventures–and we like to go to Woodbine Beach, too.” Eva’s family is also a fan of the Evergreen Brickworks. “Toronto is such a dense city and so great in terms of the downtown core, but one of the things I really love about it is the accessibility to green spaces. The Brickworks is a good example of this—the walking paths there leave you feeling miles away from the big city.”
Indulge in Toronto's vibrant flavours.
Eva and her family live in the east end of Toronto in the Leslieville neighbourhood. They try to support local, independently owned businesses, of which there are dozens. “We are a big ice cream family, so you will often find us at Ed’s Real Scoop,” she says, also checking off Slowhand Sourdough Pizza, Pilot Coffee and Maha’s Café–“I just checked this out because it’s new. My daughter is a huge fan of Queen Books–she's a big reader, and I occasionally pop into a few of the local boutiques, like Province of Canada and Side Kitchen.
Discover new neighbourhoods—Koreatown, Little India, Ossington and more.
“Toronto is very diverse and multicultural,” Eva says. “Despite the high cost of living, you can find really interesting food from around the world that isn't super expensive. I like going to all the different neighbourhoods—I like the accessibility of being able to go to all the different grocery stores, whether that’s Koreatown at Bloor and Christie or Little India.”
Being such a foodie, it’s little wonder Eva is a fan of the west end’s Ossington Strip. “After tech festivals and things like that,” she says, “there are often after-parties on Ossington. There are some great spots to eat, like Paris Paris and Mamakas Taverna.” Bang Bang Ice Cream & Bakery is also huge favourite with Eva’s family, who visit for Hong Kong-inspired ice cream flavours and waffle cones.
A bit closer to home, the Distillery District also attracts, particularly the sweet treats at SOMA Chocolatemaker. “One of the founders was my first piano teacher, so I have a personal connection there.” And when the occasion calls for dinner out, Eva has a few places she favours, including the fun atmosphere at Kinka Izakaya and the Chinese-Jamaican fusion at Patois.
Listen to new perspectives.
Eva feels that one of the keys to being a successful entrepreneur is being able to listen to the perspectives of the whole team—regardless of how new they are, how young they are or how inexperienced they are. A different perspective can come from anywhere.
“I think resilience is also key—choosing to get up the next day,” she says. “When you get hit in the face, you have to stand up and be ready to get hit in the face again.”
Humility also plays a big part, even in the hiring process. “You have to be OK with being wrong all the time—the humility of not assuming you know what your customers want,” Eva says. “Humility is also something we look for as a trait when we hire people. You have to be able to do your job, but also recognize that you’re not going to have all the answers yourself—and there are always new problems for us to solve.”
Borrowell offers free credit scores and reports, credit building products, and AI-driven financial product recommendations. With degrees from Queen’s and Harvard universities, Eva is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year winner in Ontario and was named one of the Standout 35 on the global Women in FinTech Powerlist curated by Innovative Finance.