International Women’s Day: Meet the founder of GoHenry, the cash card for kids

Published: 2:30 PM March 3, 2022 Updated: 2:31 PM March 3, 2022 Ten years after launching the UK’s first debit card for children, Lymington fin-tech entrepreneur Louise Hill talks to Rebecca Pitcairn about how financial education has never been more important

In an increasingly cashless and digital world, teaching our children the value of money isn’t an easy task. Like many parents, Lymington mum-of-two Louise Hill faced this challenge with her own children who, at the age of eight and 11, were totting up debt on Louise’s iCloud account.   ‘They had been given iPods for their birthdays, or Christmas, and I had stupidly given them the log-in to my iCloud account so they were downloading music willy-nilly,’ she explains. ‘I started printed out the receipts and sticking them on the fridge to try and help them understand why their GBP4 a week pocket money was now just 50p, all the time thinking that there must be a better way to teach them about money.’ 

Fast forward 10 years and Louise, 58, has helped build a multi-million-pound fin-tech company and a community of over two million customers across the UK and US, who fiercely believe that good money management is a vital life skill.   It all started on the side-line of a school football match in Lymington, when Louise began talking to other parents about the pocket money-related frustrations she’d been having.   ‘Similar stories started coming out,’ she remembers. ‘One parent even shared that their child had managed to buy what he thought was a small model of something from ebay and it arrived at their house a few days later on a pick-up truck!’ 

Louise and two other parents began meeting up each Thursday at the Indian restaurant on Lymington High Street to discuss if there was anything out there that could help them educate their kids better. Unable to find a simple readymade solution, they hatched their own business plan for a debit card and financial education app that would help children aged six to 18 get a better handle on their finances.   Originally called PKTMNY (pocket money without the vowels, a name which was later scrapped in favour of the more consumer friendly, GoHenry, named after the card’s first ever user) would enable children to have more freedom over their pocket money, while helping them learn about the consequences of spending – or not spending – it.

Parents pay a small monthly fee for the card (GBP2.99), which they can transfer pocket money to and set paid tasks for their children. Adults can keep an eye on spending through the app, while children get access to videos and quizzes, earning points and badges as they go to encourage them to save.    ‘These days everything is digital and available on demand, including money.

Our children simply see us paying for things online or with plastic and taking cash out from a machine in the wall with no real concept of where that money comes from,’ says Louise, who prior to GoHenry was at the forefront of the retail industry’s transition to digital, launching the first wave of ecommerce websites for some of the UK’s biggest household names, including Next Directory and John Lewis. ‘GoHenry is a safe environment to give children independence and empowers them to make their own decisions about money. Many of our customers say their child’s behaviour has changed since using the card too. They suddenly want to do chores around the house so they can earn more money to buy something, or they change their mind about how much they ‘desperately’ want something when they realise it will wipe out that entire week’s pocket money.

It introduces them to the sort of decisions they will have to make as adults but in a safe environment.’ 

The prepaid debit cards can be personalised 

The prepaid debit cards can be personalised – Credit: GoHenry Of course, Helen and the other parents needed money of their own to bring their idea to life – GBP750,000 of investment to be precise – and so 18 months of Dragon’s Den-style pitches ensued, some more successful than others.   ‘We were right at the stage of signing the papers for one deal and they pulled the plug right at the last minute as one of the investors had changed their mind,’ Louise recalls. “It was such a huge blow, and I remember on the train home wondering if we’d ever get there,”  

Many, many others did get behind the concept however and, to date, GoHenry has raised over GBP50million of investment, much of which has come through equity crowdfunding. In fact, Louise is Crowdcube’s top female fundraiser, raising GBP12m in four rounds, including a single, record breaking raise of GBP6m in September 2018.  The fact that GoHenry customers now make up over 50 per cent of the company’s stakeholders is testament to how concerned parents are about the lack of financial literacy among children.

And, if the latest research is anything to go by they have good reason.   According to analysis carried out by GoHenry in partnership with Censuswide and Development Economics at the end of last year, those who did not receive financial education as a child are more likely to be unemployed, or earn less today, than those who did. The ‘Money Missions’ research also suggests that prioritising financial education will add GBP202 billion to the UK economy by 2050.  

Louise is vehemently passionate about education and it remains at the core of the Go Henry brand. Their latest development is to launch in-app gamified financial education lessons that have been developed with teachers and financial education experts to build financial literacy.    ‘I think everyone has a role in educating our children about finance; teachers, parents and the government, as well as those in the financial industry like us,’ she says. ‘We all need to come together to help children be smart with money and nurture and enable a lifetime of financial wellbeing for everyone.’ 

Despite the uncertain economy over the past couple of years, lockdown was a time of real growth for GoHenry, which has recently moved from its original HQ in a former sweet shop on Lymington High Street to a bigger office in Stirley House at Ampress Park. The company now has over 200 employees and three other offices in Farnborough, London and New York.   ‘Life is becoming even more cashless.

Covid accelerated that. Many shops no longer accept cash and digital subscriptions have become much more popular for everything from books to food, so GoHenry has become all the more salient,’ says Louise. ‘We hired over 100 people in 2021 and of course I want us to grow more, but we’ll always be a Lymington company, it’s where I’m from and it’s where the GoHenry story started.’  

The prepaid cards can be personalised

The prepaid cards can be personalised – Credit: GoHenry Louise’s top crowdfunding tips 

  • B2C works best.

    Go for a concept that speaks to the consumer and one that can be articulated clearly. 

  • Before you start on your crowdfunding journey, get a firm commitment from existing friends, family and customers that they will sign up. Aim for one third of your target amount. When others see that you already have some investment, they’re more likely to invest – it gives them confidence.  

  • Prep for questions.

    We put together an entire FAQ sheet of questions we expected we might get asked and made sure one of us was available 24/7 to respond throughout the opening weekend.  

Louise’s top spend and save tips  

  • Go crabbing at Lymington Harbour.

    If you’re here on holiday or want a fun inexpensive activity to do at the weekend, a crabbing line costs about GBP2 from one of the local shops and will provide hours of fun for the kids.  

  • Buy a Go New Forest card. They cost GBP10 and are available from the council and local retailers.

    You get discounts on all sorts of shopping and leisure activities and if you’re here for a few days, you will quickly make the cost back and more.  

  • St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery often has free activities for youngsters.