For Robinson Secondary School senior Kurien Thomas, signing up for JA Company Program was about achieving a lifelong goal: to be a part of a startup project at an early age.
“The [JA] Company Program was advertised as an experience that would teach me leadership, marketing, sales, financial management, and supply chain management. However, it has done much more than that,” said Kurien. “It has taught me how to be an active community member and a self-made individual with a philanthropic mindset.”
For a natural leader and go-getter like Kurien, the JA Company Program seemed like the logical next step in his JA journey.
As a middle school student, Kurien honed his financial literacy skills by participating in the JA Finance Park experience. During his junior year of high school, Kurien decided to enroll in the JA Entrepreneurship Summit, where he learned exactly what it takes to start a business by founding his own company with other high school students in the D.C. metro region.
Kurien was elected CEO of the company, Sticky Solutions. The team went on to win first place in the Business Pitch Competition for their smartphone application aimed at reducing food waste in the region.
“The whole process of creating an idea and developing it to become a viable solution tested my communication skills, my ability to collaborate, and my ability to lead,” said Kurien.
Through his experience at the Summit, Kurien got a taste of startup innovation and discovered his passion for business; but he wanted more.
He knew he could look to JA for another program to further his entrepreneurial skills because of the “JA learning style.”
“JA seems to be the only organization that truly ‘gets it,’ said Kurien. “The organization understands that education needs to be student-driven, and it gives students opportunities to embrace their individualities and capitalize on their skills. I’ve noticed the difference in the JA curriculum; each activity is successfully designed to help a student understand their own strengths by taking their own initiative and working with the people around them. The JA learning style is why I’ve been inspired to come back and start my own ventures.”
So he took the leap and signed up for the JA Company Program.
Kurien and his four JA Company Program teammates embarked on an entrepreneurial adventure where they would challenge themselves to think outside the box and develop a business that will solve problems and address local needs.
It was clear from the beginning that this experience would be transformational, enlightening, and complex. Kurien sought a way to capture his team’s entrepreneurial journey, through all their trials and successes. He found his answer in the form of a podcast.
After having his interest piqued by the JA Entrepreneurship Summit, Kurien began listening to a variety of business podcasts and one day, came across one called “StartUp.” In his podcast, host, Alex Blumberg describes his day-to-day activities building his very own media company.
“The stories really captured the essence of the entrepreneurial journey,” said Kurien. “I was inspired to create my own podcast where I could document my experiences building something from start to finish.”
Furthermore, he saw the podcast as “a good opportunity for self-investment.”
“Throughout high school, I took rigorous courses and participated in extracurricular activities, but I’ve always wanted to do something that wasn’t graded and gave me the ability to learn new skills on my own,” said Kurien. “The podcast was an outlet for me to foster my interest and skills in sound-editing, social-media marketing, and story-telling.”
And thus, “The Company” podcast came to life.
Each podcast chronicles one of the team’s meetings, from brainstorming potential business ideas to addressing the Company Structure and the plan of action for their idea.
“Just as I listened to different podcasts to gain insight into how to start a company, I want my podcast to inspire and motivate young aspiring entrepreneurs that want to turn their ideas into a reality,” said Kurien. “By sharing my team’s efforts in creating a company throughout the course of 16 meetings, I hope to show how simple it is to build something as long as one takes the initiative.”
Kurien, who is deeply interested in technology marketing and business management and has a strong passion for youth education, will be continuing his education at the University of Virginia in the fall. While there, he hopes to continue his experiences with entrepreneurship and mental health care through various organizations at the school.
If you would like to learn more about Kurien’s team’s product, the Pick-Me-Up Box, click here to read another article that delves into more detail about the company and the entrepreneurs behind it. You can also donate to Pick-Me-Up, visit their website, or follow them on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.