Combating the lack of financial literacy skills among the Pacific community motivated Brittany Teei and her mother Teri (Tereapii) to launch Kids Coin, an online tool that empowers students from years 3 to 10 to teach themselves about money, learning to save in the classroom and the rewards it brings.
Through their web application www.kidscoin.co.nz kids earn ‘Kids Coins’ through online quizzes that teach the fundamentals of transactions, banking, saving, making loans, paying tax, entrepreneurship and more.
Kids Coin is designed help to equip young people through hands on learning, with basic financial management skills.
These skills are increasingly important as the lure of consumerism grows and advertisers become smarter at selling products, hence the reason Brittany says children need to learn how to differentiate needs from wants to prevent impulse buying.
The family live in the Grey Lynn home in Central Auckland which they’ve owned for decades. The inner-city suburb was popular for early migrants from the Pacific. Teri says being one of the few Pacific families still in the neighbourhood was a motivating factor for Brittany to come up with the concept of Kids Coin.
“It’s sad that we’re one of the few Pacific families left in this area still in our own home,” says Teri.
“For my Mum, not having the rent man come into our home every week to collect our money was a big motivating factor for the family to own our home. I agree it’s even harder with the Auckland housing market the way it is now. But the crucial thing for today’s young ones is to understand how money works so you can make it work for you instead of the other way round. Starting it the younger the better is the best way to create good habits.”
Brittany remembers her first foray to becoming an entrepreneur as a five-year-old at a backpackers lodge on Waiheke Island.
“I went to the beach, found a couple of nice shells, cleaned them and used the playground nearby to display them for sale,” recalls Brittany, who is of Cook Islands (Avatiu, Rarotonga and Atiu through her mother Teri) and New Zealand Maori (Ngai Tahu) descent.
“I had a couple priced at 5 cents and a couple for 10. A passer-by asked why she should pay me money when there are so many shells on the beach. I said these were the best ones and I took the time to clean them and make them look even nicer.”
Brittany made 15 cents, enough to buy herself a packet of lollies, which was all she wanted.
She also appeared on the Holmes show and in Woman’s Day magazine in the 1990s having set up an incorporated company called Purple Monkey.
“It was about having parties for kids set up by kids,” she recalls.
“I was still a kid, so I figured I knew what was needed.”
At age eight, Brittany visited her local tennis club in Central Auckland, started to hit a few balls and immediately caught the eye of a national selector. She was soon playing tournaments around the world.
Injuries hampered her promising career when she broke her foot. It wasn’t diagnosed for more than a year and she spent two years on crutches following that.
She returned to the circuit to represent the Cook Islands at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India. But illness prevented her from competing at the 2012 Olympics in London, and she retired.
At first, Brittany admits she didn’t know what to do, only that she wanted to give back to those that supported her.
Amongst those was, and is, her mother Teri, who ran a variety of businesses, including tourism and pearls in the Cook Islands, education businesses in Asia and an English language school in Auckland.
Teri is now at Sylvia Park Primary School in Mt Wellington.
Teri’s aim is to take the Kids Coin programme to the Cook Islands and the duo have presented to the Ministry of Education – determined to make this a reality.
Both say the involvement of the Pacific Business Trust and CEO Kim Tuaine a year after it was launched has given the project renewed momentum and energy.
“Being a fellow Cook Islander, female, tech and business-savvy is something I can relate and aspire to,” says Brittany.
“Kim understood what we’re trying to do and made some suggestions in regards to the direction we should take the programme. She also asks relevant questions which has helped us refine what we’re trying to do and given us a better direction.
“Being Pacific and in Auckland we’re well aware of the financial struggles we face. The bills, the nerves when putting your card in the petrol pump hoping you’ll have enough to drive where you need to go. We also understand the benefits of teaching kids when they’re young so they can understand and create good habits.”