A pair of Ottawa high school students have come up with a winning strategy for teaching their peers the ins and outs of managing money – a fun approach to budgeting they hope will also earn them some extra cash down the road.
Valentina Mounzer and Danika Hindson’s idea – a board game called Breadwinner – ended up taking first place in the My Money, My Future competition, a contest organized by the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education and CIBC that challenged students aged 14-18 to come up with creative ways of helping young Canadians better understand financial literacy.
The Grade 12 Canterbury High School students say Breadwinner teaches valuable skills they eventually hope to spread across the country.
“These lessons that we try and teach kids through the board game are lessons that they should know before they enter the real world,” Mounzer says. “Whether you want to go into business or not, these are the foundations that will set you up for the rest of your life.”
Mounzer and Hindson are now in talks with CIBC to find a manufacturer to mass-produce the game. Their first goal is to donate around 10,000 copies of Breadwinner to various underprivileged communities in Ottawa and across Canada.
“Danika and I have been very lucky that our school had a (dedicated) business program we could go into to learn this kind of stuff,” Mounzer says. “We are looking at communities that don't necessarily have that access.”
Eyeing cross-Canada sales
Down the road, the pair would like to deliver the game to a mass audience.
“There's a few things like logistic things we need to figure out, but we’re definitely planning to produce it,” Hindson says.
Mounzer and Hindson were inspired to create Breadwinner during the pandemic while enrolled in a business class at Canterbury.
“We wanted to make something that could be fun … and that could open up a conversation with parents and kids about finance,” Hindson explains.
“We saw the way our generation specifically likes to spend, but we don't like to do the saving, which is just as much of an important aspect,” adds Mounzer. “We really wanted to address that and try and help the next generation to be successful and happy.”
"We saw the way our generation specifically likes to spend, but we don't like to do the saving."
Each player in Breadwinner inherits a family bakery that is deeply in debt and needs to be saved. At the start of the game, the players roll dice and multiply the number by 1,000 to equal their debt.
They then move their character around the board, purchasing assets needed to run their business while attempting to pay down their debt. Players may also run into unexpected obstacles that cost them money, such as burnt buns or spoiled dairy.
“We wanted kids to understand that you can’t plan for everything in life, and you may need to adjust your lifestyle,” Mounzer says.
Participants in the My Money, My Future competition had two months to prepare their entry. But because Mounzer and Hindson learned about the contest just three weeks before the deadline, they were forced to spend “a lot of early mornings and late nights” crafting their board game.
“We had like 30 pages of different tests that we had to try out over and over again to work out the smallest little details,” Mounzer says. “It was definitely a lot of fun to do it, but there were times where we were a bit stressed or overwhelmed when it came to the board game, school and the pandemic.”
Gary Rabbior, president of the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education, says the judges evaluated more than 3,000 contest entries from across the country, including websites, podcasts, songs, poems and video games.
But Rabbior says there were “very few board games” entered, noting that ultimately it was Breadwinner’s winning combination of educational and entertainment potential that earned the Ottawa students the top prize.
“I think they developed a very elaborate and well-put-together game that was engaging for young people,” he says. “It actually taught significant outcomes and (its lessons) would probably be retained by the people who participated in it.”
But first place brought the teens more than just bragging rights – it also came with a $10,000 prize.
Unsurprisingly, Mounzer and Hindson plan to be financially responsible with their windfall.
“School is expensive, so we’ve got to save up, and hopefully we're going to open up a diversified portfolio of investments with part of that money,” Hindson says.
Although their first board game concept has captured a lot of attention, a career with Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley or the like does not appear to be in the cards for the Canterbury students.
Mounzer is interested in getting into the film and fashion industry, while Hindson is considering a career in either business or health care.