You may need to remind yourself: These are high school students on summer vacation

Charles Bogenberger (third from right) and his JA Business Week company

Charles Bogenberger (third from right) and his JA Business Week company

A volunteer exclaimed, “Speaking with these students today has completely changed my outlook on the next generation.”  This comment followed the JA Business Week Entrepreneurship lunch where more than 20 entrepreneurs sat at tables full of business week students and shared their experience and provided mentoring to young people hoping to run their own businesses someday.

The maturity of the students at JA Business Week is impressive, and it’s easy to forget that most are still 15, 16 or 17 years old; they come ready to collaborate and do their best work.  The students display leadership, and a work ethic that I certainly did not possess when I was a student. 

To give students an opportunity to hone their leadership skills, each company appointed a CEO.  At the beginning of the week, Company Advisors like me were given instructions for how to choose a CEO.  Some teams chose to have elections, other teams opted to nominate specific individuals, and some CEOs were chosen directly by the Company Advisor.  In my company, there was an obvious leader after the first two meetings.  She did a great job of listening, respecting her team and communicating with each group member.  When it came time for the students to choose a leader, I simply asked the team, “Do you feel as though there is one individual who stands out as an obvious leader?”  Their response, “No. Is there someone that you think stands out?”  I said, “I’ll give you a hint, we are all looking at her now, even though I’m the one talking”.  I was pointing out that even though students had scattered themselves around the room, everyone’s focus was on one person who was clearly the leader.  The team chose her as the CEO without even a vote. 

As a CEO she displayed maturity that I haven’t seen in senior-level executives.  One of the perks of being the CEO was that she had the privilege of cutting in line for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  She never felt right about that, however, and she opted to wait with her team. How many times have you flown with a boss who opted to board the plane earlier than you because they had medallion status that you did not?  It caught my attention, and is a trait I hope to embody as a team leader.

The maturity of the students was not limited to the CEO, and the rest of the team demonstrated dedication and a strong work ethic consistently throughout the week.  Of course, there were moments when the students lost focus and sent Snapchats to their friends or played and shared music rather than working on their project. During these moments I had to remind myself that they were high school students.  It’s rather amazing that this kind of behavior didn’t dominate the week, and that’s why JA Business Week students are unique.They are engaged, motivated and driven to succeed.

I appreciated how hard my company worked to create an Otterbox proposal that they could be proud of, and I’m lucky to have had the chance to watch and guide them as their advisor. When you see how hard the students work and how much fun they have, it’s really easy to forget that these are high school students on summer vacation.

-Charles Bogenberger, Supplier Marketing Manager for Arrow Electronics and JA Business Week Company Advisor

E-Mentoring Provides Students with Insights into Entrepreneurship

Chef Lisa Givens

Chef Lisa Givens

I participated in the 2016 JA Business Week E-mentoring session held at  Johnson & Wales University.  This session was similar to"speed dating" or what I called "speed mentoring."  

I talked with six or seven rounds of six to seven students. I wasn't sure what to expect or how the kids would respond to their opportunity to speak with several different entrepreneurs and small business owners. Once lunch arrived, the speed rounds began.  As the students hustled around to find a mentor to sit and “speed mentor” with, it became clear to me that they had a lot on their minds--their company projects and the competition the following day. Their excitement and focus on their projects didn't stop them, however, from engaging with me in a meaningful way.  They listened intently as I shared my background and experience.  

During each round, the students had several thoughtful questions and I realized just how important it was for the students to have this time to meet with real entrepreneurs who could share our  insight, challenges and wisdom.   The session also gave the students an opportunity to see that being an entrepreneur gives you so many options and potential to make an impact in the world.   

One student shared with me that she was nervous and unsure of how her project presentation would go the next day.  I explained to her that we all get a little nervous when we have to speak in front of a group. I told her that if she did her work, gave it her best, spoke confidently and believed that  it would go well, she’d be just fine.  She smiled, and I think I eased her mind. 

I had a great time serving as a Business Week mentor, and I’d highly recommend it to other entrepreneurs. You’ll get back just as much, if not more, than you give. 

By: Chef Lisa Givens
Executive Personal Chef
Owner, Gourmet Away, LLC
Former JA Student, 3 Years

 

So, What Exactly IS JA Business Week?

Ciela Vega

Ciela Vega

As a first year JA Business Week student with virtually no previous business experience, I was pleasantly surprised when I was moved to the Track 2 project working with Smoke Barbecue food truck. I had no idea what I was in for and clearly remember one of my company members on the first day asking, “So what IS Business Week?” I was stumped and could not properly answer her question. Luckily, my CA Jenn Marshall provided a comprehensive look at what our week at Johnson and Wales would entail and even had begun researching the ideas we would need to succeed.

During our first meeting as a company Jenn led us in a vote for the CEO of Company N. I entered myself into the running feeling confident about my leadership abilities, although I did not expect such overwhelming support from the group of ten that I had met only hours before. Every question imaginable came up as I attempted to learn more about business, along with aiding my team in any way possible.

My favorite parts of the week were those when the team would have “aha” moments during a workshop or information session and go running back to our team’s room, full of excitement. That excitement is what allowed our team to become so close and work well together within one short week.

Ultimately, the hard work Company N put in and the risks we took were exactly what allowed us to succeed. And when I was standing in front of a couple hundred people thanking my company for their tireless work, I knew exactly what JA Business Week is all about. JA Business Week is about taking the opportunities you have and dedicating yourself, no matter your experience, to learning and growing, which is exactly what I -- and two hundred other students -- had the great privilege of doing this summer.

-Ciela Vega, JA Business Week student

An Unforgettable Experience

Duncan Mazza

Duncan Mazza

Attending JA Business week for the first time, I was hoping to get a taste of the business world; something to give me an understanding of business and whether it’s something I want to pursue. 

What I ended up getting out of the week was that – and so much more.  Going from a messy brainstormed list of bullet-point ideas to a refined product, project proposal, and presentation was an insightful experience both for product development and working professionally with other people.  

At the beginning of JA Business Week, I didn’t know a single other person, but I always felt welcomed and included. At the end of the week, I didn’t think of my company as a company but as a close team.  The combination of collaboration, problem solving, team building activities, working through adversity, etc. resulted in a very rewarding experience that I will cherish for years to come.  

While working with my company on our phone case was the meat and potatoes of the week, there were plenty of other activities that provided the perfect mix of entertainment and business education.  For example, the etiquette dinner not only had great food but gave me a taste of an important skill in the business world.  My favorite activity was the Entrepreneurial Mentoring Lunch - meeting several entrepreneurs and having conversations with them was an inspiring experience.

The most important thing that I’ll take away from JA Business Week was my leadership experience and the feedback I received from my awesome company advisor.  After each company meeting, my advisor would give me feedback on how I was doing leading the group, as well as advice for what to do next.  I learned a lot from her, which was the cherry on top of my already amazing experience! 

-Duncan Mazza, JA Business Week Student

JA Business Week Gives Kids Vital Skills

Amelia Munson (center) and her JA Business Week Company

Amelia Munson (center) and her JA Business Week Company

As a first-time Company Advisor (CA) who never had the opportunity to attend JA Business Week as a student, I had no idea what the week would have in store for me. I’d heard the hype from veteran CAs and Junior Achievement staffers, but – as I sat in the auditorium with my Company C students listening to the Welcoming Ceremonies – I was feeling equally excited and nervous about the whole thing.   

 Fast forward to six days later, and I can honestly say that JA Business Week not only lived up to the hype – it surpassed it. As a CA, one of the most rewarding aspects of the week was seeing the students of Company C – all with diverse perspectives, backgrounds and levels of exposure to the business world – come together and work towards a common goal.

 JA Business Week doesn’t just present students with a final project they must complete – it challenges them to push themselves outside of their comfort zones. The true value of the experience isn’t about coming up with the best product idea or strategy. It’s about learning the skills that really set you apart in the business world: working well with different personalities, navigating disagreements, and inspiring others to get on board with a unified vision.

 At the end of the week, all of Company C’s hard work and all of the ups and downs of the week paid off, and the students took home first place in the Track 1 Otterbox Challenge. When the judges announced the winning company, it wasn’t just excitement I could see on the students’ faces. Thinking back to everything they had overcome to get to that point, I could see a true sense of pride and newfound belief in themselves. 

-Amelia Munson, JA Business Week Company Advisor

The Good Stuff You Don’t Learn in School

JA Volunteer Alonzo Martinez

JA Volunteer Alonzo Martinez

When I first attended JA Business Week following my sophomore year in high school, I was skeptical of what I was getting myself into. I asked myself WHY? Why would I even consider spending my summer doing more school work and sitting all day in classrooms?

Well, believe it or not, just a few weeks later, after I had completed the program, I found myself sharing with everybody I knew that JA Business Week was the most rewarding life experience I’d ever had. 

The people I met were like-minded individuals who worked together the entire week on a business project while at the same time having a tremendous amount of fun. 

Ten years later, I am back as a JA Business Week volunteer and a small business owner, and I am convinced that JA Business Week students will absolutely be the future business leaders of America. The concepts that students learn, the connections they make, and the overall experience is just not taught in school. 

JA BusinessWeek changed my life, and I know it has changed the lives of many others too. 

-Alonzo Martinez, CEO- Komotodo Sushi Burrito

When the wild imagination of youth converges with the rigorous demands of the business world

Kelyn Lanier and his JA Business Week Company

Kelyn Lanier and his JA Business Week Company

This year, Junior Achievement’s Business Week, presented by Arrow Electronics, showcased what happens when the wild imagination of youth converges with the rigorous demands of the business world. The result was something truly spectacular.

On a Sunday morning, at the Denver campus of Johnson and Wales University, students from around Colorado gathered into a crowded auditorium to receive their first glimpse of the challenging week to come. For many students, this was their first time away from home. The intensive week is designed to equip students with the tools to compete in the real world. These young adults are expected to present a fully feasible marketing concept in one week; no holds barred, no training wheels.

As a three time JA Business Week alum, and always a member of Company G, this moment in the auditorium felt familiar, but this time as a company advisor, it was my turn to pass on the lessons I had learned a decade ago. As my company forged ahead conducting market research, crunching numbers, and making judgement calls, I was reminded of just how real this experience was.

During down time, I checked email in anticipation of a marketing pitch draft, from our sales representative, for a presentation we are expecting to make in the coming week. As both camp and real world deadlines loomed, I realized that the kids are lucky to be learning these skills now because, one day, they might be in the same position that I am.

Before participating in JA Business Week, as a student, my aspirations were vastly different and unfocused. It was only after that week that I realized that I could do more than I had previously imagined. I can confidently say that without this experience, I would not have considered myself capable of becoming an entrepreneur.  As the co-founder of Praetorian Rx LLC, I apply the very lessons I’ve learned in JA Business Week, all those years ago, to help Praetorian gain the competitive edge in our market.

The hard work of Company G, payed off, netting us 3rd place of 13 companies. Though we had our bumps along the way, I explained to the company that it is through mistakes and mishaps that we experience the most growth. In a summary meeting, one student asked how the real business world functioned; nervous that she wouldn’t be able to handle the stress as an adult. My response, “In the real world, you generally have a lot more time to do a lot less.”

Kelyn D. Lanier, MSOD
Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer, Praetorian Rx LLC

I fell in love with business

Jaimie Zhu

Jaimie Zhu

Like all teenagers at the age of 15, I was slightly irritated at the fact that my parents had dragged me to a summer camp that I was originally not interested in. However, my irritation was only temporary and most definitely forgotten by the end of the eventful week. Two years later, I realize that JA Business Week was the beginning of a new passion that I would not have discovered if I hadn’t encountered this program. I don’t know if it was the people, my love for communication, or just the environment in general, but I somehow fell in love with business and everything that comes with it.

The process of creating a marketing plan with a group of people is like no other experience. Extremely different from a school or research project, working with students my own age from all around the area was really an amazing opportunity. One of my favorite parts about the week was getting to work with real local businesses that I am familiar with. It was amazing to create our own Jamba Juice flavor and taste our different combinations. This is not to say, however, that we did not encounter any difficulties along the way, but even so, the challenges were all part of the fun.

Since JA Business Week, I’ve been pursuing my business passions by creating my own small business, trying to get as much experience as I can, and becoming a JA Ambassador. I hope that in the future, I’ll be able to inspire young entrepreneurs to take a step into the business world and to take advantage of all opportunities and unique experiences that it has to offer.

-Jamie Zhu

I learned to take risks

Elvis Ahn (third from right) and his JA Business Week Company 

Elvis Ahn (third from right) and his JA Business Week Company 

As a two year JA Business Week student, I’ve sat through many workshops all surrounding the idea of business. One of the more interesting and beneficial workshops I’ve attended was sponsored by Go Daddy and presented by Darrin Foster, president of Oogie’s Popcorn.

This workshop focused on entrepreneurial methods that can be used in the business world. We were first greeted by Darrin Foster telling us his story of how he became the successful entrepreneur he is today. It was amazing how he started experimenting with different popcorn flavors in Denver, and soon expanded to selling his gourmet popcorn products in all 50 states. I was instantly inspired by his story, and amazed on how someone could go so far with just an idea.

We also got a little bit of a hands-on experience of life as an entrepreneur with an activity involving paper money. This activity gave me a glimpse of the obstacles and the journey that an entrepreneur faces. Both Foster’s story and activity taught me the foundations of an entrepreneur and even inspired me to maybe start my own business. I learned to take risks in the business world and to follow through with my ideas because you never know how far they’ll get you.

-Elvis Ahn, JA Business Week student

Great people, great time

Viridiana Jaquez

Viridiana Jaquez

It seems as if I did not have enough from JA Business Week the first time around. When I attended JA Business Week throughout my high school summers (2007-2011), I was always upset when it was time to go home, and could not wait to come back the next summer. Even after I graduated high school, and I was no longer a candidate for JA Business Week, I was eager to come back, and so I did, but this time as an intern.

Being an intern allowed me to realize how much work goes on in the background before and during JA Business Week. As a student, it was easy for me to take for granted all the hard work and dedication the JA staff puts into get awesome sponsors, such as Arrow Electronics. And I was in complete amazement to see so many volunteers taking the time to engage in JA Business Week.

I am not going to lie, after realizing that I was coming back as an intern and not a student, I started doubting if JA Business Week was even going to be enjoyable.  As always, JA Business Week was fun and very interesting. Although I did not compete, I got something more fulfilling than winning, and that is to expand my knowledge in connections, networking, coordination skills and time management.  Yes, at times it felt like I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off, it was always rewarding to see the first year students competing in the Otterbox challenge enjoy their workshops by engaging, nodding their heads in agreement to what the speaker was saying, and continuously asking follow-up questions.

Since I was lucky enough to meet the speakers before every workshop, it became a game for me to introduce myself as quickly as possible and tell them a little about what I do for Denver Public Schools, see if there was a connection and if not I would make one. Similar trait comes from the ‘Elevator Pitch’ a tactic that I learned as a student in JA Business Week.

JA Business Week has always given me the opportunity to feed my personal development, and this time around it was not different. I met many great people, made new connections to strengthen my growth and had a great time.

-Viridiana Jaquez