Local junior Achievement teams make business pitches at challenge

Patricia Faulhaber
Suburbanite correspondent

STARK COUNTY – Junior Achievement of North Central Ohio (NCO) showcased the accomplishments of its JA Company program students at the virtual JA Entrepreneurship Challenge event on April 22.

The competition started with opening remarks from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose before 11 company teams from four Stark County high schools gave their presention to a live panel of judges.

There were three teams each from GlenOak High School, Lake High School and Hoover High School. Jackson High School had two teams. First place winners ($1,500) were one of the teams from GlenOak. Second Place ($1,000) went to one of the teams from Hoover. Third Place ($500) went to another team from GlenOak.

“Developing the companies and the products is the capstone project to JA’s Company Program, said Vice President of Development Josh Lehman. The Company Program is a semester long program held at local high schools. This year, we had a blended model of in-person and virtual. There is also a middle school program that leads students into the high school program.”

The Company Program has students breaking into teams to form a company. They assign officers; developing products; obtaining financing; and produce, package and deliver their products.

The winning teams then use the Challenge cash awards to close out the companies and pay off any loans they may have obtained from JA or others sources.

This year, many of the teams developed products for their company related to continuing the health and safety of customers through the ongoing pandemic. Some of the products included:

The Sweetest Box from Lake

Trash Stash from Lake

fulfilled from Lake

• Easy on the Ears (masks) from Jackson

Topanga from Jackson

The winning products included:

• Disease Defense from GlenOak

FinLet from Hoover

• Ice Breakers from GlenOak

During each of the presentations, juniors and seniors from the four high schools shared their company’s product, mission and financial health. The team members shared the challenges they faced during the academic year and lessons learned from the experience.

The presentation judges included: Rick Schultz, author, inventor and lecturer; founder of RMPS Publishing and past founder and CEO of Spectrum Surgical Instruments; Patricia Wicks, founder and CEO of PATHworks, Tabitha Messmore, interim assistant director of LaunchNET at Kent State University; and Rose Saborse, director of community & partnerships at Bounce Innovation Hub.

Before the event, student teams submitted a Company Annual Report and an informational commercial, which were evaluated by a separate panel of judges including NCO Board of Director members Jay Griffith, executive vice president of Welty Building Company; Jessica Hiner, director of strategy at DSS Swagelok; Jon Mann (vice president at Mann Marketing; and Katie Tolin, president of CPA Growth Guides.

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In addition to awarding the top three teams, any competing team was automatically entered to win the Impact Award for social impact of a product or service, the Innovation Award for the most innovative product or service and Financial Performance Award for outstanding financial responsibility. One student will be awarded the Burton D. Morgan Foundation Entrepreneurial Excellence Award based on teacher recommendations.

“This is a valuable program to help students understand how they can create a business,” Lehman said. More students are asking for programming on creating their own business. Students learn about creating ideas, problem solving, how to raise money to start a business, doing a business plan and how to produce, sell and distribute products.

“The feedback from students is that they can’t believe they had such a great opportunity to participate in the program. When we surveyed alumni, 143 percent of them said there are more likely to create their own business because of the experience.”

The event can still be viewed at www.facebook.com/jancohio/videos/439617623799686

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. 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 in more than 100 other countries worldwide. JA of North Central Ohio operates in 15 Ohio Counties, impacting 18,095 students in 2019-20.