JA Central Ontario, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping high school students pursue entrepreneurship, hosted its first-ever entrepreneurial trade show featuring 35 companies in the heart of Toronto’s financial district as part of its JA Company program.
The JA Company Program is an 18-week after-school program for high school students to learn every aspect of building a business, including building a marketing strategy, understanding production, and working with an effective team. Teams elect executives and actually sell shares to raise capital, with the goal of eventually liquidating at the end of the program and, hopefully, giving shareholders dividends at the end. The organization said the single day sales goal for companies is $5,000.
Jane Eisbrenner, CEO and president of JA Central Ontario, said that there has been increasing interest in entrepreneurship in recent years both from parents and students; with 1,300 currently enrolled in the program, Eisbrenner said that this is a 40 percent increase from last year’s program.
“We’re proud of that fact that they learn team-building skills because of the fact that companies are made up from students from a variety of diff schools,” Eisbrenner said. “ When you’re hired by an employer you’re working in an environment with people you’ve never met. It teaches them business. It teaches them that they need capital to start a company, and if you want to make a profit you’ve got to have an appropriate margin in the cost of your product.”
The JA Company program is currently supported by companies like TD Bank, CIBC, WIND Mobile, PwC, and Deloitte. In the last 10 years, over 600,000 students have participated in the program.