Students’ business profits from life lessons in Junior AchievementBy Darren Lum
Six Junior Achievement Company program participants learned even in business there is more to it than money.
After close to a 40 year hiatus, this program returned to the Highlands to allow Grade 12 students Jessica Karaguesian, Curran Chambers, Cierra Hurley, Trey Kyle, Lucus Esson and Krista Duncan, to form the company W.ink that produced, marketed and sold wooden coasters with local images.
Junior Achievement fosters an opportunity for students to become entrepreneurs risk free, as it provides support and guidance from local business mentors and the Junior Achievement Peterborough Lakeland Muskoka over an 18-week period starting in December.
Open to all high school students, these teens not only learned how to run a business, which earned a 20 per cent return for its shareholders and a profit for the company, but also yielded incredible life lessons.
Hurley, vice-president of human resources, said she cannot express enough how much value she derived from the past few months with W.ink.
“I think every one of us here has a different path that we’re going on. No matter what you’re doing in life you can take the lessons you learn in life and apply them to anything, really,” she said. “So, I think it’s a really good idea to do this program because you learn a lot more than running a business. You learn important things like team work and you learn so much about yourself.”
The company sourced raw material from the Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve, produced, marketed and sold coasters with different themes with images chosen to reflect the community, Karaguesian said.
Initially, shares were sold to cover the cost of raw materials and start-up.
During the past few months, the teenagers overcame production challenges and learned how important time management and communication are to a business’s success. All of the coasters produced were sold.
Karaguesian pointed out being flexible to customer demands was important to revenue. The company sold sets of coasters and listened to and met requests to sell them individually.
Once the program concluded the company was dissolved and the shareholders were repaid.
Mentor and branch manager of the Haliburton Bank of Montreal Richard Wannan was amazed at how the students evolved from a group of six students into a functional and successful business.
“We saw them come together as six individuals who knew themselves, but in the end six individuals that were a team, that were a company, that were an entity. To say I’m proud is truly beyond it,” he said.
From the first shareholders’ meeting, he said, this group excelled, and matured beyond their years. He said they will be the standard of excellence for future students.
“It’s going to be a tough group to ever meet and match ever again,” he said.
Wannan credited the overall program success to program manager Sara McGriskin.
The group’s other mentors were Janine Papadopolous, owner of Into the Blue Bakery and Cheryl McCombe, business manager of The Highlander newspaper.
The company and its mentors met once a week for two hours upstairs at the Bank of the Montreal.
W.ink made the majority of its profit in May when it earned 61 per cent of their total.
They said the dramatic increase in revenue was attributed mainly to their presence at the Home and Cottage Show in May in Haliburton. A space at the show was donated by Wayne Hussey. Other factors were exposure in the local media, word of mouth and improved time management in terms of production and having a supply of product.
The group agreed that the program would benefit from starting before December, as the program’s end conflicted with the end of school this month.
The success was attributed to their shareholders and the mentors.
A not-for-profit organization, Junior Achievement has received financial support from the Haliburton County Development Corporation, the Haliburton Rotary Club and the Haliburton District Lions Club.
Sara McGriskin also recognized the support from program partner Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club of Haliburton, Haliburton Foodland, Parker Pad and Printing, Walkers Home Hardware and Heather Kennedy.
Curran said he has every intention of continuing with the venture now that the program has concluded. Karaguesian, the company’s president, feels a sense of satisfaction having been able to run a successful business.
“To look at those coasters and our business cards and the money we made just to show, wow, we actually started this and were successful. It feels nice. It’s not really about the $50 cheque we might get at the end, but it’s nice to know that this is our little company,” she said.