“Pay yourself first” is one of alumnus Sam Renick’s mantras. Renick has been a dedicated-money saver since graduating from Loyola Marymount University with a business degree. About 10 years ago, his passion for saving inspired him to start The It’s a Habit! Company, a business aimed at teaching kids about financial responsibility.
Renick, a former financial advisor, says that the biggest challenge to financial education is making it engaging to kids. Simple messages are the hallmark of his company. Messages like “From every dollar, save a dime” and “Saving is a great habit” are repeated throughout It’s a Habit publications, recordings and Web site (www.itsahabit.com).
At the center of It’s a Habit is an engaging, friendly figure named Sammy the Rabbit. Sammy, the main character in Renick’s children’s books, makes appearances at schools around the country to talk about smart money habits. Renick says he intuitively knew that having a lovable character would help establish a connection with school-age children and help open their minds to strategic educational messaging.
The company’s message is especially timely in the current economic climate. Renick stresses that children are more likely to make wise financial choices as adults if they learn to save when they are young. “Kids are under attack [by advertising] from birth,” Renick says. “They feel that money is only for spending. We share with them that saving is another choice.”
The It’s a Habit Company represents Renick’s third career, and he says he has learned many lessons through the process of founding a company. Despite his great deal of passion for the work, he understands that the bottom line is “No money, no mission.” A couple of years after founding the company, Renick realized that he needed help with marketing and funding. He reached out to Fred Kiesner, his former professor in the Entrepreneurship Program at LMU. Renick’s undergraduate project in Kiesner’s class was to write a business plan for a small local business. So he asked Kiesner for help with his own business: a student who could write a small business plan for The It’s a Habit Company. Kiesner sent a student, Mark Celio, a “PR machine” who was “tremendously enthusiastic,” Renick recalls. Celio eventually became a share holder and worked with the company for several years. “It’s been inspiring for me, as a graduate, to get so much support from the university,” Renick says.
Renick says he is honored by his induction to the Entrepreneur Wall of Fame. “It makes you feel your work is making a difference,” he says.