Their business idea came from Janson Maynard’s grandma.
She had come home from shopping and complained about how the store wasn’t properly wiping down its carts to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19. Research shows that shopping cart handles can be 270 times dirtier than a public toilet handle, and can contain harmful bacteria.
Maynard, a GlenOak High School senior, mentioned the problem to his five team members in his senior-level business class at GlenOak High School. They had been trying to come up with a business idea they could develop and operate through Junior Achievement of North Central Ohio.
The group named their business Disease Defense and developed the Shopping Shield, a 21 inch-by 6-inch washable fabric cover that wraps around the handle of a shopping cart.
The Shopping Shield, which comes with a washing bag, can be purchased for $10 each or three shields for $25 by sending an email to email@example.com.
Aeden Begue, chief executive officer of Disease Defense, said the group was attracted to the idea of the Shopping Shield because they wanted to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus and they wanted to help the environment. He noted that shoppers no longer need to rely on single-use cleaning wipes for their carts.
“We knew we wanted to do something that had an actual impact and not something that was just a novelty,” he said.
To manufacture the shield, the Disease Defense team, comprised of five boys and one girl, had to learn how to use a sewing machine. Two of them now handle the sewing, while another cuts the fabric, one handles the ironing and another adds the two strips of Velcro that holds the sides of the shield together so it securely wraps around the handle.
Begue said the Velcro is durable.
“We’ve literally played tug of war with them,” said Begue, a wrestler and lineman for the GlenOak football team.
So far, sales for the Shopping Shield have been strong. Begue estimates the group has sold roughly $2,000 worth of product since it went live earlier this month.
Disease Defense is donating 10% of its profits to Partners in Health, which supports workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in poor and marginalized communities.
“My mom is a nurse and we saw the impact that the pandemic had on her and all of the other coworkers, so we want to make sure to help them as much as we possibly could,” Begue said.
Disease Defense is one of three student-run businesses at GlenOak and one of 10 businesses created by local high school students through Junior Achievement of North Central Ohio. Hoover High School has three business, while Jackson and Lake high schools each have two businesses each.
In April, each business will compete in the JA Entrepreneurship Challenge & Expo, where they will be judged on not only the success of their business and product, but also on how well they understand why the company performed as it did. The winners of the challenge will be announced April 22. The national JA competition will be held in June.
GlenOak business teacher Amanda de Fays said performing well at the JA competition is great, especially since it includes scholarships for the winning students, but it’s the day-to-day adjustments that students learn to keep their businesses viable for several months that are the most valuable.
Students operating a Junior Achievement company are responsible for creating their business plans and goals, pitching their product ideas to investors for start-up funding and manufacturing as well as marketing and selling their products.
“It gives the kids an opportunity to try out something with the comfort of being in the classroom and being able to make mistakes,” she said. “We’re not preaching perfection, we're looking for progress.”
At the end of the school year, the businesses are liquidated and the students get to keep the profits that remain after repaying their loans, plus interest and paying sales tax. At GlenOak, which is in its fifth year of participating in the Junior Achievement company project, each company also is strongly encouraged to donate a portion of its profits to a group or organization in the community.
More Junior Achievement companies: Hoover students want to get you talking
Reach Kelli Weir at firstname.lastname@example.org.