Cash Smart Kids was launched on the world wide web back in September 2007. But the program is already creating lots of buzz among parents, teachers and community groups. I recently spoke to the program’s creator Jenny Ford (pictured) about teaching money management and business skills to children, and her future plans for the site which was recently named the ‘Website Most Likely to Change the World’.
Jenny Ford was teaching financial education to adults when she realised that many financial woes could be prevented if kids were taught the fundamentals of financial management and business practice at school. Jenny and her husband Chris were already teaching their three daughters the principles of financial management. So it wasn’t a great leap for the Sydney mother, financial educator and psychology graduate, to develop a fun and educational program for kids which could be taught in the home with the involvement of their parents.
Cash Smart Kids is an online cash management and money making program for kids aged six to twelve. Each week parents receive a lesson by email containing a children’s story about generating a passive income, as well as tips for teaching children how to manage their money effectively.
Children enrolled in the Cash Smart Kids program are also taught how to create business opportunities in an economy which can no longer guarantee job security.
“The school system doesn’t really cover money and business very well at all. It basically teaches kids how to get a job,” Jenny said.
“But with our economy the way it is, there’s just no job security. There’s no protection and people have to look after themselves: to understand enough about money to be putting money away for the long term; to be investing it wisely; to know how to generate money and different ways to generate money.”
I asked Jenny what sort of businesses kids start up?
“There are the traditional things like having a paper route, or having a lemonade stand, which is a big one in the US. But also things like collecting lost golf balls for Golf Clubs.”
“One of the local kids who lives in Pitt Water (Sydney), on the weekends, goes out in a little dinghy to the boats anchored on the water and offers to take their garbage to shore for them for a couple of dollars.”
One of the program’s biggest success stories was the story of Jenny and Chris Ford’s twin girls (pictured right with Jenny), who started their first business at the tender age of nine, breeding rats for local pet stores. The twins now aged 11 have since moved on to bigger and better things. Erin runs her own eBay business and Rachel has contracted an adult writer to produce a book about witch craft.
After a stint of working at McDonalds, Jenny’s oldest daughter decided that working for a large corporation wasn’t her best option and is preparing to launch her own website selling body jewellery.
Jenny believes children are better suited to achieving success on the Internet than adults because they are more open to new ideas. “You suggest something to an adult and they will say, ‘That will never work’.”
Cash Smart Kids has attracted world wide attention, with families from Australia, New Zealand, United States and the United Kingdom, enrolling in the program. Jenny has also received expressions of interest from non-English speaking countries and says she is open to the possibility of having the program translated into other languages via a licensing agreement.
I learn from Jenny that the Cash Smart Kids program is very much a family business. All three of her daughters have been involved the program’s development and husband Chris, who also works full-time in the IT industry, is responsible for all technical aspects of the website, as well as building the website www.raisingentrepreneurs.org where Jenny maintains a blog.
When I asked Jenny about her long term plans for the program, she said herself and husband Chris would like to develop a similar program to Cash Smart Kids for teenagers:
“Teenagers are being given things like mobile phones and are in essence, spending money they don’t have. So once the current program is well established, we will develop a teens program.”
Jenny ruled out the possibility of creating a program for adults. But she did say that the program for teens would be accessible to anyone, including adults who have no prior learning in money management and business skills.
I also asked Jenny the one question I ask of all the women I interview: What advice do you have for someone setting up their first business?
“I would say do the market research. Make sure that you’ve identified a group of people who have a need for the product or service and are willing to pay for it.”
One other aspect of Cash Smart Kids which really captured my interest, is the Fundraising Partnership Program. Jenny and Chris Ford allocate between forty and sixty percent of the program’s revenue to schools, community groups and organisations. Not only does this promote the family’s Cash Smart Kids program to their target audience, but provides much needed funding for kids in the community.
The Ford family also donates a proportion of the revenue earned from subscriptions of Cash Smart Kids to a micro-finance charity in the developing world. The charity uses this money to advance small loans to poor families in the third world to enable them to start up a business.
It is for these reasons and for Jenny Ford’s contribution to the well-being of the next generation in Australia and around the globe, that Cash Smart Kids was recently named the ‘Web Site Most Likely to Change the World’ by Wonderful Web Women. CEO of Wonderful Web Women, Janet Beckers said, “I was impressed with the 3 pronged approach Cash-Smart Kids has taken to make sure it can be a catalyst for change in as many areas as possible.”
I have to say after researching Cash Smart Kids and talking to one it’s founders, I too am impressed by the program and the entire Ford family (pictured above) who created it. This is one family business which deserves to do well and I would like to thank Jenny Ford for talking with Australian Women Online.
Update – 17 February 2008
Jenny Ford has been selected to co-author a book on teaching kids about money and business. The book will be released next year, with all proceeds donated to a micro-finance charity. Congratulations Jenny!