On April 22nd, 2021, eleven teams from four Stark County schools held their breath as a year-long academic endeavor come to an end. Students from Plain GlenOak, North Canton Hoover, Jackson and Lake High Schools eagerly awaited news of which team would be the 2021 JA Entrepreneurship Challenge winner.
Since the fall, these teams, made of juniors and seniors, have learned to create and to manage their own businesses as part of the JA Company Program through Junior Achievement of North Central Ohio (NCO). From journals to board games to workout bands and videos, each team navigated supply chain, marketing and accounting challenges on their company journey.
The JA Entrepreneurship Challenge kicked off with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose sharing his office’s role in promoting entrepreneurship and connecting business owners to state resources. “You all should be congratulated for the work that you’re doing to be prepared to be an entrepreneur in Ohio,” he said, addressing students. “Entrepreneurship matters. It makes a difference – and it is not easy. It is a courageous thing to start your own business, but we need entrepreneurs. So, please, be willing to embrace risks and do not be discouraged.”
Live student presentations to a judging panel composed of Rick Schultz (author, inventor and lecturer; founder of RMPS Publishing; 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). These presentation scores were added to previously compiled company annual report and product commercial reviews.
Congratulations to Disease Defense (GlenOak High School) for winning first place in the competition. Their innovation, flexibility and teamwork impressed judges. Their team received $1,500 and a classroom banner.
“Thank you so much,” said Disease Defense CEO Aeden Begue. “We have been looking up at the banners hanging up in our room that say ‘Third Place’ since we have been freshmen and have always dreamed about placing in the Junior Achievement competition. Winning it is just a huge opportunity!”
FinLit (Hoover High School) placed second and IceBreaker (GlenOak High School) third.
Outstanding teams also received additional Signature Awards:
While the NCO competition may have been concluded, students are now setting their sights on the JA National Student Leadership Summit. Only 15 JA Company teams from across the US are invited to compete.
“JA Company teams from Stark County have a history of success competing at the JA National Student Leadership Summit. Based on what we saw today, we believe our teams have what it takes to continue this pattern of success. We have top notch teachers and highly engaged volunteers working with the students which absolutely lends to a winning formula,” said Lori McCleese, NCO President.
“Growth of the JA Company Program is a strategic priority for JA of North Central Ohio. It is where our organization started over 100 years ago and we believe it continues to be one of our most impactful programs. We have numerous new schools interested in participating next school year and we are in search of high-quality volunteer mentors willing to help get these programs off the ground,” said McCleese.
“My experience under the JA organization has been life changing. I feel so much more confident about my future and my abilities as an entrepreneur and leader,” said Gavin Williams, CEO of second place team, FinLit.