A guy who was more than $20,000 in debt straight out of high school after stupidly buying a car on his credit card, and another guy who naively thought he could enjoy the good life in Whistler while making just $9 an hour, seems like an unlikely pair of financial gurus.
But Kevin Cochran and Jay Seabrook, both now 36, have managed to turn around their youthful financial foibles in order to help teach kids - and their parents - crucial money management skills.
Their novel educational product – EnRICHed Academy – came after they noticed during motivational talks at high schools that kids were heading blindly into the financial abyss.
"We started seeing this giant hole in the education system around financial literacy," said Mr. Seabrook, who lives in Vancouver.
"We were blown away by how much they didn't know," added Mr. Cochran of Uxbridge, Ont.
The entrepreneurs already had already enjoyed success by co-founding Dominion Lending Centres, which is now a nationwide mortgage brokerage, and thought they'd try their hands at financial literacy. Their creation, a six-DVD set with workbooks aimed at those aged 10 to 23 tries to explain things including credit cards, paycheques, investments, real estate and career choices in an entertaining way, recently knocked the socks off those in the Dragons' Den.
All five investors of the CBC television show wanted a piece of their product. But Jim Treliving, the dining visionary behind Boston Pizza International, and Bruce Croxon, co-founder of popular online dating service Lavalife, are now aboard each with a 3 per cent share in sales in Canada and the United States in exchange for their advice and celebrity endorsements, the two founders say.
EnRICHed Academy revenue could reach $150-million within five years, according to its founders. But they still have a way to go. When the company launched in December, 2011, they hoped to sell 1,000 units within six months. They sold 1,300 in the first week. They say 6,000 have now gone out the door from online orders (the product is currently on sale for $124.99 including taxes and shipping) and a retail presence is in their future. Sales were about $500,000 last year.
It's something that Calgary father Chris Jurewicz said would be useful down the road. Right now his son Mason is only 2, but Mr. Jurewicz and his wife, Alison, have already decided to make money and finance a regular topic of conversation around the house.
"We both grew up at a time when money was almost a taboo subject," Mr. Jurewicz said. "It's nice that more and more people are talking about the importance of educating youth about money."
He'd like to see more courses offered from elementary to high school to help young people get a basic understanding of money management.
That's something the Investor Education Fund, a non-profit financial literacy group, has been trying to do. In Ontario, it has been working with the provincial government to add the subject to the curriculum for grades 4-12.
The organization, which is funded through the Ontario Securities Commission's fines and settlements, released a study last summer that found that while 70 per cent of teens surveyed thought learning to manage their money was important, just four in 10 said they were at least somewhat prepared to handle their finances once they leave high school.
"The problem is big enough that there is a pressing need for parents to address their kids' financial understanding," said Tom Hamza, president of the Investor Education Fund.
He said only time will tell if the EnRICHed Academy product will fly off the shelves and help fill the knowledge gap.
"There certainly is no shortage of need out there. To add a product is not a bad thing," Mr. Hamza said.
EnRICHed Academy isn't a get rich quick scheme, according to the men behind it, but it doesn't mean it couldn't help young people make a boatload of cash one day.
"Creating the Dragons of tomorrow – that's our tagline," Mr. Seabrook said.