Magnetic charts, gold stars, marble jars, piggy banks – Jennifer and Greg Beck had tried many chore/reward systems for their children but nothing seemed to work. Sometimes the system was dumped in a drawer, unseen and forgotten; sometimes the couple forgot to pay their kids for household chores they had done.
And the Becks could find nothing to teach children their own belief that there are responsibilities kids should have out of teamwork with the family, not because they are paid. So the Becks developed their own system. The Fisherkids Responsibility Station, an engaging, organized, space-saving board, is designed to help parents teach children lessons in responsibility – chores, family duties, financial management and accountability – so they will grow up to become independent, contributing members of society.
“Parenting is very difficult. I saw the need for helping parents with the responsibility of raising their kids,” Jennifer Beck said. “We thought there’s got to be a way we can help parents with this huge responsibility for raising ultimately responsible children who then become responsible adults. Surely there’s a way to help keep us accountable as well as our children.” The Becks met as graduate students at Colorado State University. Jennifer had earned a biology degree and her teacher’s certification before receiving a master’s degree in sports physiology. She taught science for four years at The Oakridge School in Arlington before switching to sales for a local pharmaceutical company. Greg graduated with a degree in exercise physiology and worked in sports marketing and management before starting his Fort Worth-based video production company, Two Trees Productions. During that time the couple had three children, Anna, now 12, Claire, 11, and Henry, 6. Henry wasn’t born yet when his parents formed their company, Fisherkids LLC, and began designing the Responsibility Station teaching aid. The company is named for the proverb: “If I fish for you, you eat for a day. If I teach you to fish, you eat for a lifetime.” Working on a shoestring budget, the Becks took almost three years to develop their first prototype. They sent out a series of feedback surveys to family and friends to gather information and create a final product.
After tweaking the product from feedback received, the couple launched a website in November 2009. Business started slowly. Almost two weeks later, the first order came in from Colorado – from the best man in Jennifer and Greg’s wedding. Today, Fisherkids is sold internationally and is in more than 6,000 homes. The company has five distributors, and the owners’ growth plan for 2014 is to bring in additional distributors. Although Fisherkids’ corporate address is in Aledo, the company has moved its distribution/fulfillment center to a warehouse in East Fort Worth and may soon open another distribution center in England. The products are sold primarily online and include a home-school version of the Responsibility Station, a Consequence Spinner, a Boredom Spinner and a Dinner Spinner. Locally, Southern Vintage Glam in Plano carries Fisherkids products.
“We’re not a toy. It’s an educational product,” Jennifer Beck said of the Responsibility Station. “Our main goal is to make it engaging for kids because they’re the ones using it.” Recommended for ages 3-18, each metal pegboard station accommodates one child (Fisherkids also offers add-on kits to allow children to share the board) and includes a dry-erase responsibility magnet, a bucket of 20 chore sticks, a paycheck notepad and three money bags. Everything is in one place, which makes it easier to stick to the program. A downloadable Parent’s Guide is included. The basic station sells for $48 and the home-school station is $65. The board really appeals to kids, Greg Beck said. They can decorate the system in their own style and personality and can take charge of their own goals and accomplishments.
“It’s a huge tangible sense of ownership,” he said. “More people comment on the ownership of it, although we also hear all the time, ‘Can I get one of these for my husband?’” Each paycheck from the station features a different teachable quote, everything from adages to sayings by U.S. presidents and modern-day celebrities. “The idea is for families to sit around and discuss the quotes with their kids,” Jennifer Beck said. “The No. 1 teacher in any child’s life is the parent. And the family is a team. The more we help out each other the more free time we have for each other.”