Sometimes, the best way to teach children important lessons is by letting them learn for themselves.
Early last year, Nina Othman was in confinement with her third child when her two boys aged 6 and 4 suddenly came up to her and asked for a pair of roller shoes, one of the trends of that time.
She had to tell them that their family was on a bit of a tight budget due to the birth of their youngest sibling. Instead, she suggested that they think of ways to earn their own money.
Coincidentally, at that time they had taken a liking to Mail, a character from hit TV series ‘Upin & Ipin’, who was known to be a seller who made money by selling fried chicken. This inspired the children to do the same.
Nina then suggested a healthier alternative, which was selling healthy chicken and lamb sausages produced by a fellow entrepreneur.
“I would help them gather orders via Instagram & Facebook on weekdays and they would deliver them on weekends with their father. After 2 weeks of selling over 100 packets of those healthy sausages, they made enough for each of them to buy a pair of Roller Shoes,” shared Nina.
That was the beginning of what soon would become something that could help shape children’s futures everywhere.
What started out as a fundraising project became a regular activity that filled their time on the weekends and soon escalated to other parents wanting their kids to be ‘agents’ for these healthy sausages too.
Beginnings Of A Mother Goose
After her confinement days were over, Nina was approached by various people to create a module for kids on the whole topic of entrepreneurship after seeing how well she nurtured her own kin.
Deciding to take the challenge, she combined her 10 years worth of entrepreneurship experience with simple tactics and concepts that children could easily follow.
One of the solutions she came up with was introducing an old money jar system. She made it into a kid-friendly version where children could easily learn how to save money, give back money and invest money at the same time.
September 2015 was the month that their first workshop was conducted and they decided on the name Grow The Goose.
Grow The Goose, which was adapted from the fable ‘The Farmer and the Magic Goose’, is essentially a 2-day programme where children from the age of 6 to 12 are able to learn various topics covering finance and entrepreneurship. What the programme wants to do is to nurture the act of saving and teach them the value of money while also building up their entrepreneurship skills.
Currently, the team runs the workshop on a monthly basis. The children participating will learn theories and concepts about the topics followed by a practical earning challenge.
“Some months we get 10-15 participants per workshop and on school holidays it goes up to about 30 participants per session. We cap it at 30 kids for the workshops but have conducted previews in schools for 200 kids during 2 hour sessions,” said Nina.
Although the workshops started off geared for kids aged 6 to 12, it wasn’t until November 2016 when the team launched a teen edition that specifically catered to those aged 13 to 16.
Though she has a decade of experience as an entrepreneur, Nina believes that her experience as a mother also helps with her guidance during workshops.
“Because I’m a mother, I feel that I’m able to deliver my key messages to the participants in a more effective manner and naturally just entertain their queries like I do with my own kids. I think being a mother has truly taught me the patience I need to attend to these other kids,” said Nina.
Helping Children Save Up
When Grow The Goose started off, it was run just as a business. Most of their participants paying for the programs are from affluent urban families.
“When we started out back in September of last year, we were running a traditional profit driven business. It was only in August of this year that we switched to a Social Enterprise model after being introduced on the concept by another Social Entrepreneur, Anja Juliah Abu Bakar.
We now run similar workshops for the beneficiaries that we work with—underprivileged kids and teens in homes, shelters and orphanages,” shared Nina who proclaimed her desire to make sure children of any background can benefit from their lessons.
The main difference between the beneficiaries? Paying participants generally have parents supporting them with post workshop learning. Therefore, Grow The Goose needs more focus and intervention to support the underprivileged kids and teenagers.
“That’s why we need more volunteers to help us run these beneficiary workshops and provide that extra support to ensure the sustainability of the program and create the intended outcome which is for these underprivileged kids and teens to be financially savvy and financially disciplined by 18,” said Nina.
The Hardships Of Educating
Some of the challenges she faced don’t come from the participants themselves but from the others surrounding them instead.
The main one is to firstly gain a parent’s interest in cultivating this habit into their children at an early age.
It’s one thing to enroll the children into these workshops so can they learn the methods but in order for these habits to stick, it’s best to have the parents involved in supporting their children after the classes end.
“After realising how important it was to get the parents to participate with the children’s habits post-workshops, we included a compulsory parents briefing in the workshop and have received positive feedback from parents who now realise what and how they can support their kids’ learning,” said Nina.
One of her hopes is to see parents realise their kids’ potential early on. Nina wants parents to see that it is possible for their children to excel in studies while having a mini company of their own to make money from and potentially even bring the whole family off for a decent holiday.
She believes anything is possible as long as the parents act as the support system needed.
Another issue they faced was addressing the stigma that kids may be too young to learn about entrepreneurship or investments.
Nina herself cited that she had only properly learned about all of this when it was too late and she was already an adult and she couldn’t achieve her dream of having her own chocolate factory.
To her, it is never really too early for children to learn because it is when their minds are the youngest and freshest that it’s best to instill these life lessons into them.
When asked if there was difference in behaviour according to age, Nina says there is some.
“The younger kids are usually more excited about sharing their dreams and goals or what they want to do with the money they’ve saved up. They’re also champions during the practical earning challenge. Some can just approach strangers and start selling the items provided to them with no qualms and they enjoy it so much. Whereas for the teens, they are more reserved and do tend to hold back their excitement,” said Nina.
Beyond The Teachings
Beyond her own lessons, a step forward to helping tackle this issue would be a change in our current education system so that children are encouraged to learn about these early.
“According to AKPK, the rising case of bankruptcy among youth is due to poor financial management. Maybe, just maybe if it was introduced into our education system at an early age, we could potentially see a decrease in those numbers.
Humans after all are creatures of habits, and healthy habits like saving, earning and investing should be taught as early as possible,” said Nina.
As to future plans for Grow the Goose, Nina shares that she wishes to set up Grow the Goose Clubs in schools and communities nationwide to provide financial empowerment workshops. More importantly, she wants to set up a platform for peer-to-peer learning and support where these kids & teens can then brainstorm business ideas & projects, innovate solutions and collaborate with each other.
The end dream? To have all kids and teens in Malaysia be financially savvy and financially disciplined by 18, shared the team.
Feature Image Credit: Grow The Goose Facebook