September 8, 2011
Given today’s turbulent economic climate, credit unions are continually searching for a way to have a positive impact on America’s financial future. One of the most effective ways that credit unions have found is by providing funding for “Biz Kid$,” a television show aimed at providing financial education for kids, which is now filming its fifth season at its North Seattle-based production studio.
“Biz Kid$” was created by the producers of “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” As the team searched for funding, the four executive producers, Jamie Hammond, Jeannine Glista, Erren Gottlieb and James McKenna, met with RoxAnne Kruger of the Washington Credit Union Foundation (WCUF) in March 2005 to discuss the possibility of working with the credit union industry to produce the show.
“I had been a member of Navy Federal Credit Union since I was 13, which was quite a few decades ago, so I’ve always been particularly fond of working with credit unions,” Hammond said. “With financial education at the core of this series, which has been a passion of mine, it seemed like a really good fit.”
After an informational dinner at Convention in October 2005 and a significant subsequent fundraising effort by the Foundation, “Biz Kid$” signed its first contract with the WCUF in June 2006. The show quickly took off, and credit unions followed suit; over the past six years, more than 260 credit unions have combined to raise more than $10.4 million as exclusive supporters of the show’s production, website and curriculum.
Since the series launch, “Biz Kid$” has aired in all of the top 75 markets, reaching more than 271 million people. According to American Public Television, Biz Kid$ has the highest recorded carriage of any children’s programming ever carried on public television, with an average viewing audience of more than 1.2 million per episode. The show aired on over 338 public television stations and reached 98 percent of the country at its peak. With a motto of “where kids teach kids about business,” the show has been nominated for seven national Emmy awards, including receiving one for graphic design and animation.
Hammond originally started her career as a certified public accountant, and she found her way into the television industry largely by chance. She was doing the books for a show that went well over budget, and when she found a way to right the ship, she suddenly found herself in a new line of work. That background in finance was ultimately one of the underlying motivators for Hammond to create “Biz Kid$”.
“It was very clear to me for my entire adult life that people really were lacking in financial education, unless that was their major in college, and that over and over again we had problems arise in this country because of it,” Hammond said. “People have gotten way over their head into credit card debt, and people really need to understand how to budget money, live within their means, and to save for the rainy day, because the bankruptcy rates kept getting higher and higher. I believe very strongly that if you start teaching kids at an early age, you can change behavior. So the opportunity to make a difference in this area was an incredible motivator for me.”
Financial literacy and responsibility are not exactly the most exciting topics for kids—or for viewers of any age, for that matter—but the message remains an important one to communicate. So, the producers of “Biz Kid$” set out to create an avenue for accidental learning, finding ways to subtly educate kids through sketches and scripted comedy as well as through real-life examples of kids around the country who had started their own businesses, raised funds for worthy causes, and just generally exhibited a spirit of entrepreneurship. Through their regular segments featuring these young entrepreneurs, “Biz Kid$” has also been able to show kids what is possible—and hopefully inspire them to do something similar.
“[The goal is] to inspire them with the ‘I-can-do-that’ factor,” Hammond said of their practice of profiling young entrepreneurs. “If other kids are doing that, demonstrating success at that, or growing and learning from that, then other kids are going to find it very intriguing to get involved.”
In June 2011, the WCUF transitioned the administration of “Biz Kid$” project to the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF). The move was made in an effort to help the program continue to grow and gave the program even greater potential for national reach and prominence. Responsible for fundraising, outreach and administrative responsibilities for “Biz Kid$,” the Foundation's involvement serves to emphasize the commitment that credit unions have on a national level to equipping youth with the skills necessary to be financially literate.
In reaching its fifth season, “Biz Kid$” will also reach a significant milestone. Having filmed 52 episodes in the show’s first four seasons, 13 episodes are being recorded for the fifth season, pushing the total to 65—enough to position the show for national daily syndication, which would be a huge step toward not only getting “Biz Kid$” into more homes, but also into more classrooms, as the show offers a corresponding curriculum for educators.
Still, despite already having four seasons under its belt, the show is far from stagnant, as changes to the United States economy continue to make “Biz Kid$” increasingly relevant.
“We are teaching entrepreneurship skills and financial education,” Hammond said, “and I believe that entrepreneurship is really going to be the key to the recovery of this country financially and the engine of the new economy. Kids, whether they have businesses or not, have to learn to manage the business of their lives, learn how to manage their money and save and invest and make personal financial goals, whether they’re going to go into business for themselves or become a fabulous employee.”
And she emphasized that credit unions have truly made a lasting impact through their collective support of “Biz Kid$.”
“It’s a wonderful thing to celebrate the credit unions making this possible through their joint contributions around the country, because it’s a legacy that they’re going to give to the American youth that will last through several generations at least.”
New ‘Biz Kid$’ Curriculum Made Available
Supporters of “Biz Kid$” can now receive a new “Biz Kid$” starter kit, filled with DVDs and materials to teach “Biz Kid$” to schools in their area. The kits are available for a donation to the NCUF at a suggested level.
“The new kits make it easy for credit unions to leverage ‘Biz Kid$’ to teach financial literacy concepts in a fun and engaging way,” said Danielle Brown, the NCUF’s new national coordinator for “Biz Kid$.” “Everything a volunteer needs is there—all you need are the students!”
Each “Biz Kid$” starter kit includes:
- DVDs with five core “Biz Kid$” episodes plus one 4-minute promotional DVD to introduce the series
- CD with PowerPoint training document and PDFs of the curriculum for the five episodes included
- "Guide for Success in the Classroom" training & tips document
- One stapled package of curriculum for one episode
- 40 “Biz Kid$” pencils
- 40 “Biz Kid$” stickers
For more information about “Biz Kid$,” click here.
Questions or Concerns? Contact Matt Halvorson, Anthem Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org.