Exactly ten years ago I got the opportunity to be president of my first ever company with Junior Achievement (JA). The skills and confidence JA was able to give me are fundamental to who I am now. So thank you JA. I was proud to be a featured alumni in your Achiever Stories and excited to share my story here.
For me, Junior Achievement has been a family affair. My mother was a JA mentor for over 18 years and in addition to coaching hundreds of young people – she ensured that her three children took every JA program possible along the way. I think this stemmed from her own experience with starting a business with her family when they moved to Canada and knowing, first hand, the opportunities and growth entrepreneurship created.
My first real memory of JA was when I was 11. Like every kid sister, all I wanted to do was do what my older siblings were doing so I convinced them to let me come to their Company Program meeting where I happily assembled gift sets, oil candles, bracelets or whatever else they needed making. In so many ways, this was my school. My education. And with the advantage of hindsight, I now know how invaluable JA was to my growth and learning.
Of course, I wasn’t always just a tag along to my older siblings! I was an official participant of Junior Achievement for four years and president of my company for three of them. The kind of things I learned – taking a product to market, managing large teams, creating organizational culture – I still employ today. Our company won many awards throughout the years, including company of the year in 2009. I also had the opportunity to represent JA Canada in Florida at a leadership conference for young entrepreneurs and volunteered many hours with the local Toronto office mentoring other JA companies. In 2010, I was honoured to receive the Junior Achievement two millionth student award and obtained funding for my first year at Wilfred Laurier University.
Saying JA had an impact on my life is an understatement. It helped shape the person I have become, as well as given me the leadership ability and confidence I need to succeed in my career. I’ve taken my experience in branding and packaging products and worked for companies like Proctor and Gamble, Unilever, and Disney Consumer Products while in university. Since then I’ve dived into the world of technology, start-ups, and education as a manager at Mozilla Foundation. In this role, I hop around the world to promote the growth of digital literacy and advocacy.
I often look fondly back to the time I was 14 years old and running my first ever company, a JA company which sold DIY plant kits. I remember taking our product to offices, malls and cafeterias around the city selling to strangers while simultaneously hustling family and friends to support our venture.
Thank you JA for providing a space where I could discover my potential and grow!