In just six months, more than 100 students not only learned about entrepreneurship and the life cycle of a business, they also got to be entrepreneurs and start their own companies.
The students from nine different high schools in Virginia Beach and Norfolk participated in Junior Achievement’s Spark Hampton Roads: Light Speed event April 18.
“This is all about connecting the business community with the future of the business community,” said Frank Hughlett, president of JA of Greater Hampton Roads. “Small businesses are the No. 1 employer in the country and more small businesses are failing than starting up. This is about keeping our economy strong.”
The event in the Student Center at Tidewater Community College in Virginia Beach is the culmination of the JA company program.
Over the course of 13 weeks, the students worked with mentors from the business community as they were guided through every facet of business creation – from ideation to capitalization, production to liquidation.
Mirielle McMillin, JA education manager, said the real success of the program is in lessons learned.
“These students have been working tirelessly throughout the academic year to improve their business plans, pitches, products and services,” McMillin said.
Carol Curtis, founder and president of Noah Enterprises, opened the event with a heartwarming speech about her humble beginnings to creating and growing a multimillion-dollar company.
“Life is going to have many lessons for you,” Curtis said. “They are just a chapter in your life; they’re not the book.”
The Spark competition challenges students to pitch their companies in just four minutes to a panel of judges followed by a four-minute Q&A with the judges.
This year’s judges were: Cheryl Tan, founder, Cheryl Tan Media; Zack Miller, founder of startup accelerator, Hatch; Chris Shelton, executive director of StartWheel; Bob Pizzini, owner of iFly Virginia Beach; Bob Stephens, CEO of Genesis Development and Consulting Services; and Matt Tuttle, vice president of Total Business Solutions.
Students also set up a display showing details of their business in the trade fair expo that is held simultaneously to the presentations.
The competition brought together the top 18 student companies to compete for the title of JA Company of the Year.
The first place winner was THE FIND IT, a team from Kellam High School that created a wireless location finder key fob. Several Taylor’s Do It Centers are carrying the students’ product. They profited $2,534 since November. THE FIND IT team won a $500 scholarship.
“The biggest learning experience was that we realized we needed to work as a group,” said Caroline Mundy, a senior.
Second place was awarded to Kooky Kontainers, a team from Kempsville High School that creates one-of-a-kind gifts in unique containers. The Kooky Kontainers team was awarded a $300 scholarship; it has profited $635.
Local Locations, a company started by students from Ocean Lakes High School, earned the third place spot. The focus of their business was to create long-lasting stickers that show pride for the city of Virginia Beach in a trendy way. The team, which had 30 designs, sold more than 1,200 stickers at $1 each yielding them a $710.19 profit.
The title of Best Commercial was presented to Cookie Creations from Cox High School; the Most Innovative Company award was given to 5tay-Charged from Lake Taylor High School.
“The enthusiasm you brought today is important,” Hughlett said. “That’s what it’s all about.”