Ethan Franz stood nervously among his Junior Achievement team members as they waited to pitch their business idea to a panel of judges. He was holding a jar of dirt.
"Our group created mason jar herb gardens," said Jessica Beaudin. She's a Customer Service Representative at the ATB Entrepreneur Centre in Edmonton. And, she's been mentoring the student group since February along with fellow Senior Customer Service Representative, Shayna Miles.
Jarred was an apt company name.
The students are from grades 8 to 12. Through the Junior Achievement company program they're asked to create a company of their own. With the help of business mentors, the students elect an executive team, develop a product, source materials, and then take their product to market.
"The students had so many amazing ideas. It was hard for them to decide but once they did, they were off to the races and stayed ahead on projects and requirements seamlessly," Miles added.
The group meets once per week at the Entrepreneur Centre with Beaudin and Miles until the end of the semester. So far, Jarred is selling six different herb varieties and is exploring different grassroots, local marketing avenues—like potentially partnering with local farmers markets. They’re also thinking about expanding their herb varieties.
“It’s been useful to work with ATB because they work with entrepreneurs,” said Franz, still clutching a jar of thyme from his presentation. “Our advisors are able to give us good advice about exactly what entrepreneurs go through and how we can get past that because a smart person learns from their own mistakes but a genius learns from someone else’s. And that’s kind of the opportunity we’ve been presented through the Entrepreneur Centre.”
After a couple more months of selling under their belts, the student groups will then dissolve their companies—retaining all the valuable knowledge they learned from the hands-on experience.
"ATB is all about doing the right thing for the greater good of Albertans. Supporting these kids and giving them a safe environment to grow shows me that the young entrepreneurs of our society are coming out of school fearless and ready to conquer the world,” said Miles.
ATB is involved in both Edmonton and Calgary Junior Achievement programs. Learn more about Junior Achievement by visiting their website.