This year, I had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer with the Junior Achievement of Georgia Fellows Program through my company, Accountants One. Junior Achievement is a program that educates youth on business, economics and succeeding in a global economy. I initially learned about Junior Achievement through my college business club, SIFE, (Students in Free Enterprise) at Brenau University. We were involved in many community projects in which business principles were taught. Although I was not directly involved in the Junior Achievement project at Brenau, it was inspiring to see the impact that it made on the students and volunteers alike.
At this year’s initial volunteer training session, I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive. I felt honored to be a part of such an exceptional organization, however, I wondered if I was truly qualified to teach the students. I quickly realized that there were volunteers involved from very diverse backgrounds with all levels of experience. Naturally, this made me feel much better! Kerry Wilkerson, a co-worker of mine at Accountants One, is a 3 year veteran of the Fellows Program and she was also there to help guide and encourage me.
Over the course of the 16 week program, students learned valuable concepts essential to starting a business from the ground up. First, the students elected an Executive Board consisting of the company President, VP of Finance, VP of Public Relations, VP of Marketing, VP of Human Resources and VP of Production. Next, they chose a company name, which they named “MagneticKits,” which reflected their product. The product was a clear boxed set of different magnetic calendars, to-do-lists, grocery lists and markers. The student then sold actual company stock, conceptualized ideas for a product, gathered materials and produced the product and then finally marketed and sold the product. In addition to running the company throughout the year, the students also learned about a myriad of business functions including: Business Ethics, Interviewing Skills, Resume Writing, Liquidation, Production, Sales, Marketing, Finance, and much more. As the year progressed, the students were able to apply the concepts and ideas that they had learned to their actual company, MagneticKits.
It was important to me to be able to share my experiences thus far in business with the students. It was crucial to be able to provide them with real life scenarios to help them realize that the principles that they were learning now would be of use to them in the future. My favorite lesson was on Business Ethics. It was humorous to hear the student’s responses to the scenarios that we were discussing. They were definitely playing the devil’s advocate. By the end of the lesson, the students realized how vital compliance regarding ethics in the workplace actually is. Some students even shared their own personal experiences with ethics that they have encountered while in school. The takeaway was that even though they are not currently in a professional environment, the ethical issues that they are dealing with now can be applied to a professional situation in the future.
At the end of the year, MagneticKits was a success. Our company was able learn crucial business concepts, deliver a 200% return back to our company shareholders, exceed our company sales goal of 200 units and win Company of the Year! In addition, the President of MagneticKits, Kevin Shutzberg also won “Young Business Person of the Year.” All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I’m certain that I learned just as much as the students did which reaffirmed my assertion that there are some business principles that are better defined through real world experience. I look forward to volunteering with the JA Fellows program again next year.