The JA Company program has been a signature program of Junior Achievement since its inception in 1919. While it has evolved to keep up with the needs of students today, its core values have always been to let students experience firsthand how to create a successful company. One of JA Kentuckiana’s board members and volunteers, Julayne Amstutz from First Harrison Bank, has been a pioneer in leading the JA Company program over the years. “This program is very hands on and student driven. After a couple classes where the volunteer helps the students gain basic knowledge and the layout of the program, the students take over all aspects of the company. As a result, each class takes on a life of its own.”
That “life of its own” leads to the greatest experience and impact on students. Once the volunteer has laid the groundwork for student knowledge, they are in control of the success of their new companies and products. “The fact that the students have to work together and determine each other’s likes and strengths makes a huge difference. No one tells them who should be in marketing, finance or production. Each class has to determine who is good at what and figure out how to work together for the company’s success. This creates self awareness, confidence, teamwork and leadership within the kids.”
No startup company goes without difficulties in their beginning stages. Students not only work to create a product and establish a viable company, but they must navigate the challenges of working together and compromising with their team. Julayne explains “Trying to get the team to move the same way on product development and having them compromise when they all want to be in charge can be a challenge.”
Julayne has shared her experience and knowledge to help more than 25 classes engage in JA programs. The secret to success with the JA Company program though is no secret at all. “There is no guarantee with this! The best way to improve success is to have an engaged team that will work together and listen to the clients they are targeting, if they do that, and are willing to adjust things as they go, they will succeed.”
And some of Julayne’s classes have definitely succeeded! “One of my Sacred Heart classes was able to design, make and sell leather strap bracelets that were then picked up by a boutique locally. It was great to see them negotiate with a local business to sell their product!”
The ability to turn “I can’t” into “I can” is an endless possibility with the JA Company program.