This Entrepreneur Went From High School Dropout To Teaching Entrepreneurship and Financial Skills to SA Youth

Posted on February 2nd, 2018
Kathryn Main Money Savvy Kids 500 x 330
Money Savvy Kids founder, Kathryn Main.

As a child, Kathryn Main, like many other students, was never exposed to entrepreneurship and financial literacy, which she says meant that she never saw it as a viable career option, and also never learned to manage her finances. This was made worse by the fact that she dropped out of school at the age of 15 and had even fewer career options available to her, according to an article by Elle.

Main says she turned her life around when she became an entrepreneur years later. She launched her first business, marketing agency Main Multimedia, with her husband in 2008. The agency specialises in long-term brand solutions and develops campaigns for clients and partners. They have worked with corporates and brands such as FNB, and car brands Jaguar and LandRover.

Main is now working to help other young people learn the skills she never had a chance to. In 2015, Main launched Money Savvy Kids (MSK), an educational platform that teaches children about financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills.

The MSK financial curriculum ranges from grade 0 to grade 7 and combines real-world education with easy-to-understand modules to further enhance the children’s learning. Previously, educators of the platform would teach the programme at private schools around Gauteng, however Main says they were excluding a lot of schools and areas. To solve this, Main says they are now building an online portal that will make the product available nationwide.

Main has also recently published Raising Money Savvy Kids, a book that helps parents teach these skills to their children. She believes that it’s everyone’s duty to foster entrepreneurial and financial skills in children.

“There needs to be larger conversations with parents and schools, so we can educate them on how to have these conversations with their kids. We need to change the narrative around financial literacy and entrepreneurship,” Main says.

To find out more about MSK we talk to Main about what triggered the business, and why she thinks entrepreneurial and financial education needs to be taught from a young age.

Q: What inspired you to start Money Savvy Kids?
When my oldest son was about 11 he wanted to be a journalist and he actually mocked up a school newspaper for kids by kids and I thought it was such a great idea.

We sat him down, talked him through what a business plan is, how do you make money and how would he monetize this business idea and at 11 years old he really understood all the terminology I threw at him and he had such a huge interest in it. That is what forced me to look at the school curriculum to see what they were teaching.

“If the message from the parents is “we can’t afford this” we want to teach them “how can I afford this”

Q: Why do you think it’s so important to teach financial literacy and entrepreneurship to children?
So up until the age of 12, the first learning neural pathways are developing in children’s brains and that’s the time you want to start creating their money value, because by the time you’re an adult, the money value system has already been established based on the examples of your parents, your peers, friends and family.

By the time you’re an adult it’s way to late and really difficult to change mindsets of learning habits and behaviours. So while those pathways are developing that’s when you want to create a mindset, and we want to teach them how to think differently. If the message from the parents is “we can’t afford this” we want to teach them “how can I afford this”.

Q: What’s the difference between MSK’s and the traditional schooling system?
MSK is revolutionising the way financial knowledge is disseminated to younger generations of South Africans. It is questioning the traditional schooling system, which currently produces more followers than leaders. It infuses children, from a very young age, with the problem-solving and critical thinking skills they need to make financial decisions now and in the future, using the analytical skills they learn through the program.

MSK teaches over 50 different financial concepts. The current school curriculum is out of date. Even at a high school level kids are still being taught about cheque books. Who uses cheque books these days? Our curriculum is current and teaches new financial literacy concepts like crypto currencies, digital banking, crowd funding, investments and so much more. This is the real education that kids need to be financially successful adults.

Q: Financial Literacy and entrepreneurship may not appeal to all children. How does MSK make the content fun and interesting?
“Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I’ll remember, involve me and I’ll understand,” – Benjamin Franklin.
We at MSK take inspiration from this quote. Our curriculum and approach to teaching it to our youth money skills is exceptionally hands on. More importantly, we encourage the involvement of children from an early age. We also ensure that our financial literacy lesson plans are aligned to their level of competence and capacity to understand.

Each module revolves around money lessons for kids, delivered in a fun, practical and relevant manner. Much like the success of educational toys for kids, MSK combines a highly intellectual curriculum with fun ways to teach kids about the importance of having good money skills, or “being money savvy.”

“Financial literacy is a cornerstone of prosperity and security. It builds confidence and knowledge in the lives of individuals and the country as a whole.”

Q: What do you wish children and parents knew about the importance of learning financial literacy and entrepreneurship at a young age?
I want them to know how important it is to learn about both subjects. There needs to be larger conversations with parents and schools, so we can educate them on how to have these conversations with their kids. We need to start to change the narrative around financial literacy and entrepreneurship.

Financial literacy is a cornerstone of prosperity and security. It builds confidence and knowledge in the lives of individuals and the country as a whole. We cannot address the issues of financial inclusion and equitable and sustainable socio-economic development without addressing financial literacy.

Q: What do you think you would’ve achieved if you were taught entrepreneurship and financial skills growing up?
I would have started working on diversifying my income before I was 30. I only started saving, investing and budgeting after I had lost everything. Understanding that there is more than 1 kind of income and how to create passive income streams as well as earned and investment income.

Q: How do you select the educators for MSK?
We have a job creation plan as part of our business called train the trainer. We go out and look for unemployed youth who have matric, don’t have a criminal record that can speak well and understand the content and we train them for free on our product and we then pay them to be the trainers. So our target market of trainers is youth 18-25 and then women over 50 as well.

Q: Is expansion on the cards?
With the online solution now almost ready we’re exploring some conversations with potential partners in the UK, the UK has a massive need for a product like this, and we’re also converting it into different languages so that we can get into other parts of Africa, so we’re going to be doing Portuegese and French so we can cater for french and portuegese speaking Africans as well.

Q: Are there any success stories of Money Savvy Kids that you could share to inspire others to participate in the programme or read the book?

Please meet Jack. He did our program. He started a sold his business after doing our course.

We also work with corporates and do financial literacy education. We worked with FNB in 2017 and helped them launch the FNBy (youth account). We created 10 financial literacy videos for them and they are now hosted on the FNB banking app.

Q: Are there any plans to launch a similar programme for adults?
So we already have two brands Money Savvy Kids and Money Savvy Generation, and Money Savvy Generation is specifically to help people in our generation deal with their financial pitfalls. So we do quite a lot of custom corporate content so we create custom financial literacy content for corporates and we have Money Savvy Teens and Money Savvy Adults that is in development at the moment.