S4E42 Mari Collins Harris How to help kids become better with money

S4E42 – Mari Collins Harris – How to help kids become better with money
How to help kids become better with money. My next guest is a mother of three who created a business with her husband that helps kids manage money wisely. In this episode, we talk about the business model, how the business makes money, and how they help kids and parents become better with managing money. Please welcome, Mari Collins Harris.

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Key Timecodes

  • (00:37) – Show intro and background history
  • (01:17) – Deeper into her background history
  • (02:12) – Understanding her business model
  • (05:14) – Deeper into her business strategies
  • (08:42) – A bit about her educational platform
  • (11:49) – Deeper into her philosophy for kids financial education
  • (15:54) – A bit about her marketing strategies
  • (17:17) – A key takeaway from the guest
  • (21:26) – What is the worst advice she ever received
  • (22:43) – What is the best advice she ever received
  • (25:47) – Guest contacts


[00:00:00.320] – Show Intro
Hey, this is Sean Tapper, the host of Payback Time, an approachable and transparent podcast on building businesses, increasing wealth, and achieving financial freedom. I’d like to bring on guests to hear authentic stories while giving you actionable takeaways you can use today. Let’s go.  
[00:00:17.820] – Guest Intro
My next guest is a mother of three that created a business with her husband that helps kids become better with money. In this episode, we talk about the business model, how the business makes money, and how this business, that specifically solves problems for both kids and parents. Please welcome Mari Collins-Harris.  
[00:00:37.090] – Sean
Mari, welcome to the show.  
[00:00:38.660] – Mari
Hi. Nice to see you, Sean.  
[00:00:41.120] – Sean
Good to have you here. So why don’t you kick us off and tell us about your background?  
[00:00:44.960] – Mari
Yeah. So I am a mother of three. I have a four-year-old, a six-year-old, and an eight-year-old. So as you can imagine, it’s pretty loud and chaotic in my home. And then my My husband and I started a business together, which is an app that helps families teach financial responsibility in a hands-on way to their kids. And that business is called Ketshop. And we’ve been working on it pretty much since COVID started.  
[00:01:17.420] – Sean
All right. Thanks for the quick intro there. Let’s rewind the clocks back a little bit. What were you doing before catch up?  
[00:01:24.480] – Mari
So in a previous life, I worked in educational design. I I worked for a startup that built educational cartoons that explain how complicated financial systems like insurance work. So I did copywriting and illustration and animation for that.  
[00:01:45.700] – Sean
Got you. That’s pretty cool.  
[00:01:47.970] – Mari
Yeah, it’s a cool idea to be able to take something that’s super complicated and opaque, and as you may be familiar with, be able to break that down into bite-sized pieces. So it’s easier for your everyday person to understand.  
[00:02:04.070] – Sean
Right on. Simplify. The world needs more of that. We’re trying. We’re trying to do our best here at Ticker.  
[00:02:11.320] – Mari
Yeah, for sure.  
[00:02:12.670] – Sean
So this is a great segue right into Cat Shop, which is doing exactly that for kids. Now, let’s unpack the business a little bit here. We’ll dive into the business model at a high level, and then let’s dive into some of the things it’s teaching kids kids, and I’m assuming parents as well. So this is an app? Is it a free app? Is it a paid app?  
[00:02:36.050] – Mari
Yeah, it’s totally free. We have a web app, so you can use it on your computer or you can download it wherever you get your apps to your phone and use it on your device or share it on your kids’ devices as well.  
[00:02:50.780] – Sean
Got it. Okay, so it’s a free platform. Do you have any way to monetize it right now?  
[00:02:56.120] – Mari
Right now, we have a little bit of sales commission. So if you complete a sale, we get a small portion of that. We do have some products that we sell ourselves, but those are fairly limited. Our first round when we were starting, I wanted to have total control of our inventory, and I thought I knew what everyone in the world would want to buy. So since then, we’ve scaled up because it turns out that not everyone has my taste. So it’s important to be able to move with what your audience needs.  
[00:03:30.030] – Sean
Got it. Okay. So what are you selling specifically?  
[00:03:33.470] – Mari
Well, so it’s really anything. At this point, our business is built around teaching kids how to do their own shopping, whether that be shopping for an experience, shopping for back to school stuff, or if your kid’s into a certain toy, they can buy that for themselves. But it’s all about empowering kids to learn the basics of smart shopping, how to find the value, how to find good deals and how to make those decisions so that they don’t mess up big time when they’re 18 and out in the real world.  
[00:04:08.580] – Sean
Yeah, right. Got it. So that’s the educational bit. But as far as the monetization is, are you selling some physical product and take an affiliate commission or how are you making money there?  
[00:04:21.740] – Mari
Yeah, it’s mostly affiliate commissions at this point. So if you click on something and buy it from one of the from Amazon or from Target or wherever you buy it from, we get a little kickback.  
[00:04:36.310] – Sean
You got it. Okay, so that’s how the model is.  
[00:04:38.640] – Mari
But it’s totally free to our users. And that little kickback is not added to your price.  
[00:04:44.960] – Sean
Right. Of course. And then is this a business you guys bootstrapped on your own or did you get some venture capital or angel?  
[00:04:52.180] – Mari
No, it’s just us. It’s our family business. And we’ve been mostly… I mean, I’m a I’m a designer, and my husband is a developer. So between the two of us, we could do most of it. And yeah, we’ve had some contractors that we had helping us. But it’s very much a passion project and mom and pop shop.  
[00:05:13.320] – Sean
Got you. Okay. All right. Well, let’s dive into how this business works a little bit. So I’m used to, and I really admire platforms like Duolingo. I think it’s awesome how they teach people how to learn a language in these short bite size little modules. Is your app, is the experience very similar to that?  
[00:05:36.520] – Mari
No, no. I would say we’re closer to an Amazon experience, but with guardrails in place because we are used by younger children. So the way early childhood finance is set up most of the time is either you have coins in a piggy bank and your child is physically counting money, or they’re given a credit card or a debit card that’s prepaid, and then they’re off on their own. And there’s a pretty big gap between 10 cents in your hand and $1,000 on a credit card. So we are that bridge that takes children from just getting introduced to money to learning how to use it responsibly. So we are basically a marketplace where kids can sign on to catch up, browse for products, all of which have been filtered. So you won’t find guns, you won’t find drugs, you won’t find sex. So it’s been filtered for a child audience. And then kids can start saving up towards the things that they’re interested in. They can’t spend more money than they have. They can’t buy something that their parent does not approve. But they do have the opportunity to independently and autonomously start learning shopping habits that are sustainable and safe.  
[00:06:56.980] – Sean
I’m bouncing around in your site here just to share with the audience. There’s categories like books, stem. You’ve got arts and crafts, toys, puzzles, construction toys. I’m actually clicking on that right now. I see a little Lego icon as so leads into, I see a lot of Legos here. Oh, yeah.  
[00:07:14.760] – Mari
Lots That’s a Lego.  
[00:07:15.620] – Sean
I was a Lego kid all day, so I get it. Sports and outdoors, I’m clicking on that real quick. I see walkie-talkies, tents, okay. I know for the show, you said you’re based in California, so a lot of beautiful- Yeah. To go camping out there.  
[00:07:34.010] – Mari
Sure is.  
[00:07:34.460] – Sean
Very cool. So it sounds like you create this tight swim lane. You could say. These are, as you said, the guardrails. This is what you stay within and what you get to buy and sell. Now, as far as the purchasing, are you guys processing the payments on your end?  
[00:07:55.770] – Mari
No. So we send that over to a third party. We do have some items, like I said, that we sell ourselves. So we have, you can see some Lego kits, some stem stuff behind me. We do sell some items, but the majority of our inventory is just a link. And so the cool thing about that is that it’s not limited to our inventory. If you see something at your corner store that you like, you can snap a picture of it, upload it, and come back to it later. So we really… You can list anything you want. If your child would be incentivized by a pizza party at your local parlor, you can make that an item that they can work towards. So it’s very all-inclusive.  
[00:08:41.870] – Sean
So with the guardrails in place, do you provide any educational modules or maybe, I don’t know if there’s a pop-up or something that teaches kids about spending habits and behaviors? The reason I asked that question is, you mentioned a key detail here is you have to spend money you have. And in the world we live in, there’s a lot of people that they don’t follow that rule, right? They put it on credit card, just run up the tab, I’ll deal with it later. So what are you doing with these kids at a younger age?  
[00:09:13.010] – Mari
Yeah, I’m so glad you asked that. So we do down the line plan to have more educational modules where it’s more like a classroom setting where you can learn specific elements of spending. But in this case, we are We’re mainly trying to open the dialog between parent and child about what these purchases mean to them. So one of the things we do is if a child can’t afford something, there is no buy now or add to cart thing the way you would see it a traditional retailer. Instead, you can set it as a goal. And so we have a progress bar. So you can see, oh, okay, this is a $50 item. You have $17.50. And so as you get closer and closer to your goal, you can see $2 in your hand isn’t $2 you can spend. It’s $2 closer to that thing that you said you wanted. And so we’re really trying to get parents to be involved in these choices as well and being like, hey, if you want to make the extra $50, you can mow the lawn. You can go bake some stuff and sell it. Helping families have ideas for monetizing organizing chores.  
[00:10:31.970] – Sean
Yes, that’s smart. I know I’m talking to parents are dealing with a common question is, When can I get my own cell phone or smartphone or iPhone or whatever? That’s a really common question I hear from parents. Their kids happen to be asking them, I’m clicking on your electronics area. Do you guys talk about that at all?  
[00:10:53.030] – Mari
I think it really varies from family to family. I know kids as young as four or five who have their own iPads. And then there’s a lot of families in this day and age who are trying to limit screen time, myself included. And so we are an app that can be put on any device, but But whether you share one with your parent or it’s your own, we do sell those items. But if a parent doesn’t want those things to come up, they can always, first of all, veto a purchase that your kid instigates, or you can hide certain items. If an iPad comes up and you’re like, I don’t want my kid to have an iPad, I’m going to hide it. And so then when your kid signs on, that iPad will not show up. Got you. Which is really handy when your kid gets fixated on something and bugs you about it indefinitely. It’s nice not to have constant advertising coming back to them.  
[00:11:49.920] – Sean
Yeah, right. And I know some parents, they create incentives where you just mentioned they can do chores or they can find a way to earn money to go towards that thing. That way there’s more ownership. It’s not just, Hey, I lost my phone. Can you just buy me another iPhone? And the parent buys it. You’re not doing any favors for your kid at that moment. No. It’s like, Oh, this is an expensive device. Here’s what you need to do to earn this. So of course, when they do finally get it, it’s taken better care of.  
[00:12:21.610] – Mari
For sure. For sure. That’s been a huge change in our family, which I love seeing. As a parent, obviously, you have to provide certain things for your kids, back to school supplies, warm coats, water bottles, that stuff. But I have noticed that when my kids buy things for themselves, they take better care of it because they know, Oh, this costs $23 of my money. I don’t say that everyone should do this, but in our family, if you lose something, you are responsible for replacing it, regardless of who bought it in the first place. We We do have a much lower loss rate than we did before we started KetChop.  
[00:13:05.910] – Sean
Isn’t that interesting?  
[00:13:07.930] – Mari
I know, isn’t it?  
[00:13:09.970] – Sean
That’s good. Aside from the e-commerce play where you can allow kids to shop for things that you have pre-approved, and then, of course, parents can approve. What else does your platform do? And what else are you doing to help out kids and families?  
[00:13:24.630] – Mari
Yeah, I’m so glad you asked that. So one of the things that we added is the ability to make donations. And so that can be to your favorite charitable organization, your church, your school, whatever matters to your family. But it can also be like, oh, our neighbor lost his job, and we want to give him $50 for a Christmas gift. And so you can set your own charitable organizations. And so the idea is we’re a platform where kids learn to spend their money. But part of spending your money is also learning learning how to use your money and help your money work for you. And obviously, at some point we’d like to get into investing and the whole financial education on a much grander scale. But at this point, we’re trying to keep it a little more focused on the goals that the child can see. So that feeling of I contributed, I bought, being able to understand this money went to that purpose. And so we do that, which I think has been really cool to see where kids are spending their money. There’s a lot of our customers that give to their churches on a regular basis or fundraisers, school fundraisers, stuff like that, but also a lot of environmental funds and hunger easement stuff.  
[00:14:50.080] – Mari
So it’s been really cool seeing that starting to kick off.  
[00:14:54.830] – Sean
That’s cool. That’s really cool. Let’s take a quick commercial break. So I have to show I’ll show you guys my favorite feature in Ticker. If you don’t know what Ticker is, it’s a platform that helps you manage your own investments with confidence. So check this out. On the left navigation here, you can see some of the key menu items such as stocks, ETFs, crypto, even a portfolio tracker. But my favorite feature is the watchlist. And when you add stocks to your watchlist, like you see here, you can see I have Adobe, Apple, AMD, PayPal, Microsoft, Palantir. If anything changes regarding your summary, score, or margin of safety, you get notified. An example is, let’s say you’ve got a really strong stock that’s on sale, and then all of a sudden it changes to overpriced. Well, guess what? You get an email letting you know something is going wrong in the business. That way you can sell before things go south. Of course, don’t take my word for it. When I talk about Ticker, go to Trustpilot, see what our customers have to say where we have a 4.9 out of 5. And if you’re interested, you can join Ticker for free.  
[00:15:54.020] – Sean
And then how are you… This is more of a business question. How are you sharing this or getting it out to people outside maybe your immediate circle of friends and family?  
[00:16:04.220] – Mari
Yeah. Well, we are hoping that our users will talk about it because I think we’re providing such a cool service that doesn’t exist anywhere else. There’s nothing else that gives kids the ability to shop independently without a parent looking over their shoulder all the time. But we’re very grassroots. So we’re reaching out through a lot of social networks, both online and in person. We have made some partnerships with toy stores to try and get them to help move things forward. And because we have a foot in the fundraising as well, we are reaching out to schools, churches, PTAs, that thing, to try and get them to spread the word as well. If we can get into those networks, then we give a percentage back to those groups as well.  
[00:16:57.420] – Sean
That’s great. That’s the exact I would do. It’s what I would call the channel partner play, is how do you build relationships with some larger organizations that have been around a while, and hopefully, they can share this platform with a much larger audience. That’s the goal. Yeah. Awesome. All right. Thank you. Before we transition to the rapid fire round, is there one key takeaway you can give our audience?  
[00:17:24.340] – Mari
I would say my key takeaway is that it’s It’s better to fail early and feel that pain of making the wrong choice or not saving up while kids are young. And so giving children this opportunity not to watch you make mistakes, but to feel those mistakes themselves and say, Oh, I bought the cheapest toy out there and it broke. Dang it. Or, Oh, I spent all my money and I can’t get the thing I really want. Dang it. Giving them this opportunity at seven, eight, nine is such a gift so that when they are full-grown adults, they won’t buy this shiny new brand new car that they can’t afford monthly payments on. So I think build that base early and let them experience the whole range of the joys and sorrows of money management.  
[00:18:20.460] – Sean
Right. That’s a great call. Start early so they don’t… In the bad habit of buying that car, they don’t need that depreciates 15 to 20 % the moment you dry it off. I’m going to drive it off the lot.  
[00:18:31.200] – Mari
For sure. It’s a hard lesson.  
[00:18:33.440] – Sean
All right. All right. Let’s transition to the rapid fire round. This is part of the episode where we get to find out who Mari really is. If you can, try to answer each question in about 15 seconds or less. You Ready?  
[00:18:45.770] – Mari
[00:18:46.410] – Sean
All right. What is your favorite podcast?  
[00:18:49.660] – Mari
Oh, I mean, besides Payback Time, I really like the $100 MBA. It’s run by Omar Zenhalm, and he does these very short format podcast, but he focuses on one thing that entrepreneurs can use. And it’s such good advice in such a short, easy to digest little snippet. I’ve definitely instituted a lot of his feedback.  
[00:19:17.130] – Sean
I love his podcast, bite-size, get to the Point. Here’s a quick tip and move on with your day. It’s a great format. For sure. For sure. Next question here. What is the recent book you read and would recommend?  
[00:19:29.920] – Mari
I recently read Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, which I think everyone in the world is reading right now. But it’s a love and friendship story of two entrepreneurs who start a video game company together. It’s a lot about their relationship, a lot about the development of a successful business. But it also has this metaphor of the restart of a new life. Every 10 years, you’re a new person. Every time your video game character dies, you’re starting over. And so this ability to start over and become a different person is really interesting, and I love that.  
[00:20:13.340] – Sean
Awesome. All right, the movie question, what is your favorite movie?  
[00:20:17.830] – Mari
For a very long time, it was Jurassic Park, because what’s better than that? I mean, classic. Most recently, though, I have really I really love this movie called Palm Springs. It’s a comedy. It’s like a Groundhog Day story where you’re stuck in a time loop. Maybe that’s a theme in my preferences, but you’re stuck in a time loop. But it’s not just one man, it’s a man and a woman, and they’re stuck at a wedding. And so it’s fun because it’s like, no matter what happens, it starts over. But being able to interact with all the different people and have someone who’s a co-conspirator really changes the dynamic. It was funny and really cool movie to watch.  
[00:21:05.240] – Sean
I’m on IMDb right now. I actually have that on my watch list. I’ve got to get to that. That’s Andy Sandberg.  
[00:21:09.710] – Mari
You should. It’s a good one. Yeah. It’s a good one to watch with friends, too, because It’s like a feel good, but hilarious movie.  
[00:21:19.320] – Sean
That’s awesome. I love Sandberg. He’s hilarious. Good recommendation. Thank you. All right. All right. Next up, a few more serious questions. What is the worst advice advice you ever received?  
[00:21:31.640] – Mari
I think the worst advice I’ve ever received came from society. It wasn’t just one person, but this idea of putting your best face forward. You need to always be well-prepared and look good and be everything to everyone. I think that when you present that way, you might be able to fool a few people But it really deadens anything that’s special about you. And so being able to show those vulnerable moments, like when you’re out in public, I think showing I’m upset today or I failed at this thing. When you open up about those hardships, that’s when you actually create true human connection. So I think it’s really important to show that vulnerability, especially with kids.  
[00:22:26.580] – Sean
Yes, I love that. And I think we all know somebody, and I’ve known a few, that they’re always on, always corporate on. Don’t want to say anything that offends anybody. Don’t take your guard down. It drives me nuts.  
[00:22:41.430] – Mari
Yeah, very vanilla.  
[00:22:42.540] – Sean
All right, flip that equation. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?  
[00:22:47.320] – Mari
I think so. I have a parenting guru that I have followed, listened to, volunteered for since I became a mother. And I remember I remember hearing her. She had a talk that was essentially like, when your child is talking to you, put down what you’re doing and focus on them. Not every single time because it doesn’t always matter. Sometimes you’re busy. But if you just get in and really see them for that five minutes a day or whatever, you are really connecting with them differently. I think on my journey, I’m trying to be a better listener and be better at really hearing what people are feeling and saying rather than just like, yeah, I know what you’re going to say. Okay, let’s move on. Because I think in a busy life, it’s very easy to think you know what people are telling you and not actually listen to them. So being able to stop and listen and repeat what they say really helps you feel that human connection.  
[00:23:53.910] – Sean
It’s huge. That is great advice. And I try to do the same, too, as when somebody talking to you, give them some attention. Don’t be looking at your phone or looking around or looking 20 yards beyond them. It’s like, no, I’m with you. I’m right there. That makes a big deal. I found by doing that, you can build trust faster, you build more authentic relationships.  
[00:24:17.430] – Mari
So a good call. Yeah. And it’s tough because you do that the most to the people you’re closest to because you’re around them all the time. So it’s very easy to overlook your wife, husband, partner, children because you get so much FaceTime with them that you don’t focus on them the same way you would an old friend that you only see once a year.  
[00:24:39.810] – Sean
Right. All right. Last question here is the time machine question. If you could go back in time to give your younger self advice, what age would you visit and what would you say?  
[00:24:48.610] – Mari
Oh, my gosh. I mean, can I take multiple trips? I needed a lot of my advice coming up. I think I would go back to myself in high school and I would tell myself to take a gap year between high school and college. I think I entered college, still a child, and I approached it with like, I’m here to have fun. And Now, looking back, I’m like, Oh, my God. I went to UC Berkeley, and there’s so many things I didn’t take advantage of. My world was so small because I was just focused on my immediate surroundings, what was happening this week, what I was studying in this class. And I think there were a lot of opportunities that I didn’t even know existed. And if I’d had a little bit more perspective and a little bit more maturity, man, I could kill it college now.  
[00:25:43.960] – Sean
I think we all could. That’s good advice. All right. And where can the audience reach you?  
[00:25:50.010] – Mari
Our website is ketshop. Com, K-E-T-S-H-O-P. We’re also on Instagram, @ketchopapp. And then you can find me on LinkedIn, @maricollinsharris.  
[00:26:04.170] – Sean
Awesome. All right, Mari, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.  
[00:26:07.130] – Mari
Yeah. Great talking with you.  
[00:26:09.430] – Outro
Hey, I’d like to say thank you for checking out this podcast. I know there’s a lot of other podcasts out there you could be listening to. So thanks for spending some time with me. And if you have a moment, please head over to Apple Podcasts and leave a five-star review. The more reviews we get, especially five-star reviews, the higher this podcast will rank in Apple. So thanks for doing that. And remember, this show is for entertainment purposes only. If you heard any stocks mentioned on this podcast, please do not buy or sell those stocks based solely on what you hear. All right, thanks for your time. We’ll see you.