Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meet a Money-Savvy Dad & Soulful "Inventor-preneur"

Kevin Royes at CBC after his success on Dragons' Den
Image from MSN
I first heard about Kevin Royes, and his Debbie Travis-endorsed Kelvin.23 super tool, on Dragons' Den. Inventor and president of his own Vancouver-based company, Kelvin Tools, Kevin pitched in the Den earlier this year and walked away with a hefty amount of money to expand his tool company. This week, I was fortunate to spend an hour on Skype with this busy, forty-something dad and talk to him about entrepreneurship, financial literacy and what we should teach our kids about money.

Though he has money now, that wasn't always the case for Kevin. He grew up in a rough area of Toronto in a single parent family (something I can relate to as a sole parent). Financial literacy was not part of his upbringing during his elementary school years, but his inventor's spirit was alive and well.

When I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he told me about the first time he saw a motor home in his neighbourhood. "I was nine or ten years old. I couldn't believe that someone thought of making a house on wheels and actually had it built." His desire to become an "inventor-preneur," as he likes to call himself, was piqued. But without guidance his dreams and passions were largely dormant until he met George Prez.

Early in Kevin's grade eleven year at a Mississauga high school, Prez visited both his marketing and accounting classes to deliver a fifteen-minute presentation about Junior Achievement of Canada, an entrepreneurial program that provides hands-on business training for students. Hearing Prez's spiel, not once but twice, hooked him.

Kevin eagerly participated in the Junior Achievement Program and by age 20 he had invented a locking device for snowboards that two years later was picked up by Burton, a major snowboard manufacturer. This allowed him to quit his mail room job at Kimberly Clark and go into business. I'm pretty sure that he has never looked back.

"I never really was a good employee," he told me with a smile. And when I asked him what the main difference is between being an employee and an entrepreneur, he said, "As an entrepreneur you get to follow your dream. As an employee you have to follow a dream that belongs to someone else." What could I say to that? I nodded my head and we moved on to talk about his teen boys, ages 13 and 15, and how he is getting them ready to deal with money.

At first, Kevin was pretty sure that he didn't have anything useful to share with me on the topic of kids and money. But as we got talking, he spilled this little gem of parenting wisdom. As his boys are getting older, he is consciously pulling back on the amount of stuff he buys for them. That way the kids will have to figure out how to earn money themselves and then manage it so that they can afford buy the things that Dad won't buy them any more. And that wasn't the only little gem that came out of our conversation.

When I asked him the same question that I had asked the Dragons' Den stars--If you had just three things that you could teach a Canadian five-year old about money what would they be?--Kevin said:
  1. Follow your soul and money will follow.
  2. Make as much money as you can "before you die" (a nod to Kevin O'Leary's response) because it allows you to express yourself in the world.
  3. Enjoy it.
I wrapped up the interview by asking Kevin what he thinks about the absence of financial education in Canada's elementary schools. He stated bluntly, "It's a shame because everything we do puts us in contact with money." He added, "The sooner we learn to use money and integrate it into our way of thinking the more natural it becomes."

The idea of money feeling "natural" resonates with me. My approach to financial literacy in Money&Me, my You Tube show, is to teach young children personal finance and business vocabulary one word at a time. It's about fluency and confidence for me. It's about naturalness for Kevin. But we're really talking about the same thing: literacy or "the ability to understand and use information in daily activities at home and work and in the community" (UNESCO). To echo what Kevin said, money is part of just about everything we do and the younger we are when we learn the language of money the easier it is to become fluent in it.

Consider these other bits of wisdom that Kevin shared during our talk: "the more I tried to squeeze money, the more it would squeeze through my fingers;" and "there is no soul or satisfaction in the pursuit of money." This is powerful stuff coming from a powerful guy who, ironically, in the first minute of our conversation told me that he is not a role model for kids when it comes to money. Not true.

Photo by Michael Kalus
It may be that Kevin does not see himself as a financial role model because he is so entirely engrossed in the process of creation--creating useful products, creating a business, creating jobs--that he does not focus on wealth itself. Instead, Kevin seems to focus on joyfully expressing himself through the process of creating things that create wealth. As he told me, "There is soul in what I do." That was evident during the interview, from hello to good-bye.

It's not surprising that just as we were to end our Skype call, Kevin shared yet another creative and soulful idea with me: the idea that I am a "soul" parent, and not just a "sole" parent. Wow! Not a role model? Not money-savvy? I don't think so.

Copyright 2010. Laura Thomas. All rights reserved.
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1 comment:

  1. Execellent article and advise for all ages!