If you’re walking your dog around Aberdeen one day, don’t be surprised if a little boy tries to sell you homemade, healthy doggy treats.
He’s probably Tyson McRann-Frolek.
The nine-year-old Aberdeen elementary student is starting to make a name for himself not only for his product, which even the pickiest dog can’t seem to resist, but also for his business acumen.
“We’ve been doing it for two months now,” said Tyson. “I’m enjoying more and more helping dogs and working with my mom and my mom’s boyfriend and making money to buy stuff.”
Money was actually the main motivator for this initiative, said mom Leah McRann. She has a distaste for the modern tendency of buying every child’s whim, believing instead that earning luxury items builds character.
“The earlier they can start with learning how to make some money and their responsibilities with bills and their own business, it’s awesome,” she said.
Investment experts agree with McRann’s approach.
A recent report by researchers at the University of Cambridge commissioned by the U.K.’s Money Advice Service revealed that kids’ money habits are formed by age seven.
“Research shows that children develop financial and economic understanding when they have personal economic experiences,” states the report. “The sources and amounts of money that children control influence their learning. Social context also shapes economic beliefs, attitudes, and values, leading to different levels of knowledge and financial behaviour.”
McRann got Tyson on the path when she said he would have to bring his own spending money on their upcoming trip to Mexico.
Too young to be hired at any real job, he and his mother looked up options on the Internet. That’s when they came across the idea of making doggy treats.
And as the owner of his own small dog, Nilo, Tyson wanted to make the treats adaptable to all dogs. For example, “some are gluten free because we heard that some dogs have wheat allergies,” he said.
They came up with seven variations, which Tyson sells for $5 a bag: cheeseburger appies, herbed tuna tots, gobble gobble turkey treats, bacon bite appies, chicken and pumpkin cookies, banana-rama bites and peanut butter Scooby snacks.
Next was marketing. Tyson created a logo for his product, which he called Doggy Bagz. Then McRann printed up homemade cards and menus and set up at a table at the Sahali Centre Mall farmer’s market.
He also sells to customers, who reach him through email at email@example.com.
So far the dog biscuits have been a hit.
“One of my family members, they have a little dog and their dog has never eaten a dog treat and he snapped one in half and the dog (jumped on it and) just ate it,” said Tyson.
They’ve sold 40 bags through the market and many more to family, friends and supporters, including Aberdeen elementary principal and dog owner Sally Zryd.
It’s also been an excellent way for Tyson to build confidence, said McRann.
“If he sees somebody walking down the street with a dog he’ll run over to them and introduce himself and give them his menu,” said McRann. “It’s perfect to just kind of getting him out of his shell a little bit and feeling good about himself. There’s nothing that could possibly be bad about it.”
So far Tyson has saved $500. He plans to spend some in Mexico and also buy himself an iPad and a baseball glove, among other things.
McRann said as far as she’s concerned, that list can just keep on growing.
“When kids make their own money and buy their own things they tend to take care of it better and get a little more drive to keep doing it,” she said.
With her parenting approach, McRann is also doing her own mother proud. Pauline Erwin says she’s impressed with her daughter’s philosophy even though it can be a bit of a sacrifice for doting grandparents.
“You didn’t have the money to spend on your own kids so you tend to go overboard sometimes (with grandchildren),” said Erwin. “So she kind of reins me in on that.”
Whether the family knows it, Tyson is part of a wave of go-getters under 12 who have been encouraged by business books and online forums created just for kids and their parents.
And he’s not only part of the wave, he’s helping to perpetuate it as Erwin soon discovered.
“When (Tyson’s cousins in Penticton) heard about this little venture of Tyson’s, his one cousin, Owen, who’s nine, was so excited about it and he phoned Tyson and said, ‘Can we be partners? Can we do something together with this?’ ” she laughed.
“So Tyson said, ‘Well, we’ll see what we can do.’ ”