Teaching about credit through chores and building up the Black tech community
By Barry University student Kevin Holliday for Opportunity Miami
For most people, the learning curves of finance come well into adulthood. Missing a car payment and all the repercussions that come with it. But what if you learned earlier in life how to manage and build up your credit, all while doing basic chores like making your bed? Evan Leaphart founded the chore-tracking app Kiddie Kredit to teach the next generation about the credit system by completing chores.
Learning about credit and understanding the system early on was an important lesson for Leaphart, he told us in an interview. At 14, he asked his mother for a loan to start his first business. Although she told him it was still “too early” for the loan, the experience was one of many that helped jumpstart his entrepreneurial career. Leaphart is also the co-founder of Black Men Talk Tech, an entrepreneurship collective that promotes collaboration between Black tech founders and other members of the tech ecosystem. The conference is coming back for its fifth year in November.
Here is our conversation with Leaphart, edited for brevity.
Your startup Kiddie Kredit focuses on preparing the next generation for financial management through a mobile chore app. Please explain to us briefly how the app works.
It’s basically a chore-tracking app or activity management. How do we teach about credit through chores? Think of missed chores like missed payments, the longer you’ve got a chore, the longer you’ve got a credit card payment. And any time a kid’s trying to redeem something, it’s like an inquiry. We’re just trying to simplify the concept of credit because it’s still widely misunderstood by adults.
Why do you see financial habits as an important area for youth to focus on or be prepared for?
Studies show between the ages of seven and nine is really when you start to form your habits around money. So if you start the conversation too late, it’s already too late. And some of the things I did as a young kid carried over into an adult, and they can be very hard to break. So it’s just important to start earlier.
A lot of people are still learning about credit. At what age do you think is best for someone to start building up their credit?
You don’t really start getting products on your own until you’re 18. But there are things that you can do before 18 like you can be added as an authorized user to a trade line so that way you can start to build some credit history, so you’re not unscored or have no credit file. So that way, when you’re 19, 20, and you got a job, you want to get a car, and you don’t want to ask your mom or dad for it, and you have a good credit score, you can get that car on your own. But if you don’t necessarily have that score, then it gets kind of tough for people to be able to give you a loan. So it’s important not just to get access to these things but also to understand how they work. I think a lot of times, we end up starting to get these financial products before we actually understand them. And that’s very counterintuitive to seeing somebody succeed.
I went onto your Twitter profile, and I saw your pinned Tweet, which asks your mother for a business loan. Can you expand on what your experiences were growing up in terms of your own financial habits compared to those of your peers?
I was 14 years old. I had this business idea where I was going to essentially take older electronic parts and resell them. Mind you, I’m a little older, so these are things like telephone cords, fax machines, things that didn’t cost too much money. And then I would just resell them. That was my whole plan. [The Tweet is an image of the first page of his letter of intent, sent to his mother, breaking down the costs to start and operate the site he wanted to name EZdiscount.net. His mother told him it was “too early.”]
I’ve always been entrepreneurial-minded. I was the kid with the lemonade stand. I was the kid that built a computer from scratch, so I could make CD mixes for my friends. But, I think just seeing my mom’s entrepreneurial spirit, she had a gift basket business. I’ve always been very drawn towards things that have a very creative mind.
Going back to KiddieKredit, do you think today’s youths are financially ready in terms of their planning?
I think it’s more important that they understand. We’re here to develop an understanding around the concepts, not necessarily give them the use from that age. What we want to do is have the kid that’s 11 years old that says, “Oh, man, I missed my chore today. I didn’t make my bed.” When they turn 18, they say, “I missed my car payment, that’s like when I didn’t make my bed that day.”
The Black Men Talk Tech conference helps support Black entrepreneurs. Can you explain the challenges Black entrepreneurs face?
One of the big things that they face is access to a lot of things. It doesn’t just have to be capital. It could be knowledge, things people may have accessed before. Our sphere of influence. A lot of times, we come from environments where the folks around us aren’t necessarily in tech. We’re the only ones around us really doing this. The conversations that we’re trying to gain access to, we’re slowly trying to break down barriers. So Black Men Talk Tech has been cool because it really brings us all in one room, allows us to celebrate each other, and then builds upon and strengthens each other’s networks.
Where do you see the future of Black entrepreneurship, particularly in Miami, where you started Kiddie Kredit and where many other companies and organizations are headquartered?
I think the future for us is bright. It’s up to us to continually spotlight what one another’s doing, find ways to work together, and partner. And being an olive branch. It definitely takes a village to succeed. Black entrepreneurs, I think we can really go far with group economics down here. A lot of communities were able to thrive here, and I think that’s going to be very important for us to do, talk about how quickly the dollar leaves the black community, and a lot of those statistics need to change. So it’s really just up to us to find ways to grow our businesses but also support our fellow entrepreneurs collectively.
[You can read more about how to propel Black entrepreneurship and innovation in Miami from our report here.]
What advice would you give a college student, such as myself, who wants to start a business?
Ask as many questions as possible. Seek out mentors. No question is too stupid. The more that you know, the better of a product or service you’ll be able to build if you’re trying to go down the pathway of entrepreneurship or if there’s just a specific career pathway you’re trying to take, you’ll be better equipped if you spoke to people that have already seen around the corner, as I like to say.
This is the second conversation in an ongoing partnership with Barry University, allowing students to create and produce content for Opportunity Miami.