CANTON When high school students began brainstorming names, sourcing products and plotting marketing strategies for their Junior Achievement companies last fall, nobody could have predicted the challenges they would face during the spring semester.
Despite those challenges, Junior Achievement of North Central Ohio recently celebrated students’ accomplishments and announce the winners of the virtual 2020 JA Entrepreneurship Challenge & Expo.
Sponsored by Coastal Pet Products and supported by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and The Impact Group, this culmination of the JA Company program featured eight student-run companies from high schools in Medina, Summit and Stark counties.
Companies were scored for their overall team performance and individual members’ personal development. Each company submitted an annual report and informational video, which were reviewed by the event’s judges Reka Barabas of Young Entrepreneur Institute, Julie Messing and Tabitha Messmore of LaunchNet at Kent State University, Kevin Nelson of NelDerm and entrepreneur Matthew Petruzzi.
“The competition shows the determination that it takes to be an entrepreneur and overcome challenges,” said Kim Stout, president of Coastal Pet Products, in a news release. “We’re excited to be a part of the celebration. Coastal Pet Products has supported Junior Achievement for about 10 year and what stood out to us is that you learn so much when you work with others. JA has really been a great forum for our associates to work with students, to work with those in the community to share their knowledge but to also learn from each other. We can do so much when you work together and you commit and so we’re very proud to be a part of this event today.”
Lori McCleese, president of Junior Achievement of North Central, shared her thankfulness for all participating students:
“I know you have had a lot of really special moments taken away from you the last eight weeks,” she said in a news release. “But one thing that came through in every conversation with students is resilience. I am amazed at what I witnessed today. I have no doubt you are all going to be very successful in life.”
The 2020 JA Entrepreneurship Challenge & Expo winners were announced May 15 in a Facebook Live event featuring Stout; McCleese; and industry experts John Dearborn, principal at Advise and Connect LLC & Board Member for Bounce Innovation HUB; Kevin Nelson, founder and CEO of NelDerm; and Katie Tolin, a JA board member and president of CPA Growth Guides.
YouChoose of Hoover High School placed first and received the $1,500 grand prize. What’s in a name? Shakespeare’s Juliet may have posed the original question but the student entrepreneurs of YouChoose took the idea further as they explored the connection between mental health and words. Their bright, engraved tumblers featured empowering words, promoting daily reminders to bring more “Confidence,” “Positivity” and “Strength,” into our lives.
“All the effort you put into this really came through” Dearborn commented. “It showed your hustle and how you were able to adapt selling from multi-channel perspectives.”
ColorWall of Lake High School placed second and received $1,000. The goal of ColorWall is create community connections, globally and locally, by promoting fair trade awareness in its products and profits. Selling certified fair source tapestries as well as student-designed color-your-own pieces, ColorWall’s mission allowed us to create beautiful spaces and promote beauty in our world.
“I really liked your learning experience,” said Nelson. “You talked about how you started out and learned throughout the process and the next steps you would take. Also, a great focus on your mission.”
ScreenBreak of Hoover High School placed third and received $500. Throughout the year, ScreenBreak challenged smartphone users to look up from their phones and break into healthy screen habits. Their 21-day challenge featured varied tasks like taking a selfie every time you pick up your phone and sleeping with your phone in a different room. “You did a great job identifying a problem,” Tolin commented. “For all of us, how many of our phones are within an arm’s reach at a moment’s notice. I really like the fact that you went with that direction.”
“Be bold,” Stout said in closing remarks. “Work through this atypical timeframe, to continue to lean in and take on things that are difficult because you will achieve so much more where you beat those challenges.”
About Junior Achievement
Junior Achievement is the world's largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices. JA programs are delivered by corporate and community volunteers, and provide relevant, hands-on experiences that give students from kindergarten through high school knowledge and skills in financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship. Today, JA reaches 4.8 million students per year in more than 100 markets across the United States, with an additional 5.6 million students served by operations over 100 other countries worldwide. Visit jaofnco.ja.org for more information.