JA of Southwest New England Team Wins FedEx Junior Business Challenge Final


October 3, 2017

JA of Southwest New England Team Wins FedEx Junior Business Challenge Final

The FedEx Junior Business Challenge

Earlier this year, FedEx and JA launched the FedEx Junior Business Challenge, an extension of the JA Company Program, produced in conjunction with the FedEx Cup and PGA Tour in five U.S. cities:

  • March 29: Qualifier at the Shell Houston Open in Humble, Texas
  • May 10: Qualifier at The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
  • June 21: Qualifier at the Travelers Championship in Hartford, Connecticut
  • August 2: Qualifier at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio
  • September 20: Final at the PGA TOUR Championship in Atlanta, Georgia

At each event, JA students participated in Shark Tank–style presentations, pitching their original business ideas to a panel of judges comprised of local business leaders and PGA TOUR players. One team advanced from each tournament to compete at the FedEx Junior Business Challenge Final in Atlanta, where FedEx pledged a $75,000 donation to the local JA chapter of the winning team.

The panel of judges for the Atlanta final included two-time Super Bowl Champion and University of Georgia alumnus Hines Ward; PGA TOUR player Patrick Reed; Jenny Robertson, ‎Director of Citizenship and Reputation Management at FedEx; Ryan Lane, Founder of Dream Beard and FedEx Small Business Grant Winner; and Peggy Loos, VP Connections, Investments and Assets for Coca-Cola. Emcee for the event was Danny Shoy of East Lake Foundation.

The five student teams competing at the final included:

  • JA of Georgia’s Team Fur Fighters, which produced and sold fashionable dog bandanas.
  • JA of Southeast Texas’ Team Oasis, which produced handmade items designed by students: fish-shaped pouches, embroidered shirts, student designed t-shirts, scrunchies, and bracelets.
  • JA of North Florida’s Team Antibee, which created an anti-bullying app for students to connect, encourage, and communicate with each other.
  • JA of Southwest New England’s Team Lo-K8, which created a digital locater device to track keys and other easy-to-lose objects.
  • JA of North Central Ohio’s Heroes Over Heroin from Cloverleaf High School, which sold wristbands and T-shirts to raise money and awareness for the fight against the opioid epidemic in their community.

After evening coaching sessions, and the trade fair and live presentations at the course, judges declared Team Lo-K8 the winner. Jeremy Race, President of JA of JA of Southwest New England, was at the event: “The FedEx Junior Business Challenge provided a truly life-changing experience for our JA students from Connecticut,” he said, “transforming these young people from ‘students’ to ‘entrepreneurs.’ Thank you, FedEx, for this amazing opportunity!”

We caught up with Lo-K8 after the event and asked the team a few questions through an informal interview:

Tell us about Lo-K8.

Briana Muller, Rashmi Rajesh, and Anna Szekeres make up Lo-K8. Briana is 18 years old and a freshman in college, formerly a student at Berlin High School. Rashmi is 17 and a senior at Farmington High School. Anna is 16 and a junior at Avon High School.

How did your team come together? Did you know each other before starting the JA Company Program, or did you meet through JA?

Students from high schools throughout Connecticut were chosen by their teachers to participate. When we went in, we didn’t know each other, but it’s such a friendly setting it felt like we’ve known each other for years.

How did you come up with your product? What were some other product ideas you decided not to pursue?

Each one of us thought of product ideas and wrote them out on white boards in front of the room. There were so many ideas written that it took up three white boards! We then developed anonymous surveys for people to vote on a product they would personally buy and team sent these out to everyone we knew so we could determine a product customers wanted. After that, we minimized our options in a group effort, based on our preferences, and Lo-K8 was the best option to pursue, given the data we gathered.

What were some of the technical skills you needed to create your locator app?

Due to our short time period, we didn’t need to create the programming of the app as we purchased the product from a supplier. We used an international supplier to design a model of exactly what we wanted our location device to include. They had a variety of models to choose from, so we had to design market research and competitive analysis projects in order to decide which model would be best to pursue to please customers and investors. Our marketing team learned the art of logo design in order to put our Lo-K8 logo to print on the packages and the product.

What other skills did you learn (for example, initiative, goal-setting, leadership, responsibility, creativity, teamwork, perseverance, resourcefulness, self-confidence, resilience) along the way?

We had to input our personal data growth into excel sheets for products sold and that was a huge responsibility, since our numbers originated from these data sheets. In the marketing aspect, creativity was key for designing our logo, name, and product overall. We thought of everything on our own and utilized many websites to create different looks for our company. Organization and time management were also great skills we learned throughout this process. Leadership, teamwork, and perseverance are the three major qualities that brought us to where we are today.

What challenges and frustrations did you face? How did you solve for them?

New England weather is not the greatest, and we needed to recoup after an unforeseen snow day that delayed our ordering process and selling period. We had to crack down and work as a team to find innovative ways to sell all of our 450 products. We bought two shipments, organized selling events, distributed product, and created a commissions system all in a matter of five weeks. Our strength was the fact that we were a team, and that we prioritized the success of our company!

Tell us about your JA volunteer(s). What did you learn from him/her/them? Is there anything you’d like to say to him/her/them? Could you see yourselves being JA volunteers in the future?

Nicole Diorio and Jackie Lombardi were so supportive and helpful throughout the entire experience, and we’re so fortunate to have been able to meet them and learn from their expertise. Nicole organized the main entrepreneurial program. She not only helped us with the subject matter of the program, but also encouraged us to reach our full potential as business students. She was easily approachable and was always willing to lend a helping hand. We cannot thank her enough for all that she has done for us!

Jackie helped us throughout the FedEx Program and, honestly, without her we could not have pulled off such a dynamic presentation or booth. She was willing to guide and provide advice at any moment, and encouraged our group to work hard. She is so supportive and helpful and, once again, we can’t thank her enough for everything that she has done!

JA has been so influential in our path to becoming the future business leaders of tomorrow. We are so thankful for the experience and wish we could do it all over again. JA has directed us on an amazing path toward future success in the business field, and if we ever have the chance to come back and help out as volunteers, we would definitely love to!

What’s next for your team, together and as individuals?

We liquidated our company, and the majority of our team went off to college soon after the program ended. However, we still keep in touch, especially after this big win for us. As individuals, we’ll return back to school and keep our doors open for more opportunities like this to come our way. It was such a remarkable and breathtaking experience that we each hope for many more to come into our future!   

The team also appeared last week on the CBS Hartford evening news:

FedEx’s relationship with JA Worldwide goes back to 1996 and, since then, the shipping giant has donated over $13 million to the organization. The FedEx Junior Business Challenge falls under the FedEx Cares global initiative, through which the company plans to invest $200 million in more than 200 communities around the world by 2020 to “create opportunities and deliver solutions for people around the world.” With the financial support of funders like FedEx, more young people are being equipped with the knowledge and experience to become entrepreneurs.