UPDATE: As of April 26, the Charm Department was announced the Junior Achievement Company of the Year with 62 points. As they head off to the national conference this summer, the Charm Department will represent Greater Miami and Gables with Mr. Creegan, JA Volunteer of the Year.
With the morning sun streaming through the windows of Ms. Brown’s classroom, her second-period Academy of Finance entrepreneurship class huddled together, determined to make their first mark in the Junior Achievement Company Program entry. With their eyes set on the prize, they spent hours brainstorming for products to sell. It was not until sophomore Daniel Pozo pitched a business idea that the class felt truly inspired to take on the challenge.Under Ms. Brown’s guidance, the team set out to create a product that would become a symbol of their school spirit: school-based Croc Charms.
Charming to Success
As Ms. Brown aimed to give her AOFstudents a practical understanding of business operations, she enrolled in her first challenge in the JA Company Program. Through this program, students can gain hands-on experience in running a business while developing important teamwork abilities. In addition to managing a virtual stock portfolio, participants have the chance to compete against other schools throughout Florida and on a national level.
“I decided to do the Junior Achievement Company Program for my second period since I wanted to give ‘more meat to them’. After consulting with teachers who have previously worked with Junior Achievement, such as Mr. Paz who had participated in the [JA] Stock Challenge, I was convinced that my students were prepared for the challenge,” Ms. Brown said.
Uniting the student body and allowing the inclusion of Gables’ spiritedness in the form of small accessories, the Charm Department was created. The corporation aims to adopt the ever-changing needs of customersby refining the charm products and utilizing all hands from inventory.
“We accommodate our customers by creating charms that are generalized and could be purchased and worn by anyone, regardless of status, whether that is a student, teacher, or an old alumnus. Getting feedback from our audience has helped us amplify our sales and expand our catalog of charms,” sophomore Nathalie Diez said.
Within the corporate structure, 21 students are investors with a $15 per stock share, and there are six captains overseeing different aspects of the corporation. These sophomore captains include Eros Vinneccy, who leads the leadership team, Anahi Montano-Abarca taking responsibility for Head of Marketing, Lia Samper who is Head of Sales, Diez is tasked with managing production, Jeser Rubioperdomo is in charge of finance and Pozo, the founder and Chief Executive Officer.
“I wanted to join this corporation because I saw a big opportunity to expand my name past the school itself. I wanted to help create a business with our class. When Ms. Brown told us we were going to compete in a Junior Achievement challenge, I wanted to become more involved in the corporation than just an investor,” Vinneccy said.
Starting their business back on Nov. 4, the Charm Dept. mapped out their sales strategy and designed their charms. In order to turn their idea into a tangible product, Ms. Brown helped the team partner a collaboration with Ms. Garcia, a technology design teacher who had access to a 3-D printer. Printing out six charms every 30 minutes, the Charm Dept. was able to bring their concept to life and create the first Croc charm, featuring a CG logo.
“For the second charm design, we got the picture of the school’s logo, and we traced out each individual piece on the computer. After that, we used our 3-D program which raises and lowers the charms like walls. Once we set up the elevation, we do each individual section and move it around until we have it at the proper depth, thickness, and cut into each other,” senior Angel Cabrera said.
Currently placed in the 9000 building, to expand their customer base, the Charm Dept. has established their ‘brick-and-mortar’ sales location where customers can use credit cards or Apple Pay to purchase their products for $3.
Additionally, the Charm Dept. plans to launch another sales outlet before the 2000 building and pitch sales presentations in classrooms. Students scrolling through their phones may encounter promotional advertisements and one-on-one interviews on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, under the handle, @charmdept and through their online store.
“The ideas I currently have are boosting sales on social media since that is where most of our target audience is. We have also been doing sales pitches in classrooms such as Ms. Chase, Ms. Jackson and Mr. Reisert which are basically giving the students at Gables a little information on our business, why they should buy our product and how it would raise more school spirit,” Montano-Abarca said.
Moreover, on March 24, the Charm Dept. placed ‘Top 10′ in representing Greater Miami nationally. Continuing further in the 2023 JA Company Program Competition, the Charm Dept. has to submit a 1-minute commercial video before April 12, where they showcase the benefits of their product and meet customers’ needs.
“I did not know what to expect from the competition. I saw the company as just a class project and the competition as just another class assignment. I was pleasantly surprised and gratified by the news due to all the hard work the company and its people have put into the project,” Samper said.
With their innovative approach to business, the corporation will continue to sell the Croc Charms through the rest of March and liquidate their business on April 14, completing the JA challenge. After calculating their profits, the Charm Dept. will donate 10% of their earnings to the Mexican American Council, a nonprofit organization based on improving the quality of Hispanic farmworker families in South Florida.
As CEO and founder, the key to running a successful business is having solid communication lines and allowing for the free-flow exchange of ideas
— Daniel Pozo
“We absolutely think that if someone finds inspiration in students starting their own business, they should definitely do so. It is a great learning opportunity, and can create great relationships and establish a good foundation in terms of networking,” Rubioperdomo said.
Inspiring their fellow class to pursue their own creative ideas, the corporation’s success is a testament to the determination of what can be achieved when a group of passionate individuals comes together to pursue a common goal.
Behind the Charms
With the goal of selling 1,000 units, the Charm Dept. had faced a major roadblock in their pursuit of success. Opening on March 3, their Croc Charms had become a hit with students, but the demand was simply too high for their current production rate to keep up with Ms. Garcia. Feeling the pressure of their customers’ expectations, the Charm Dept. turned to outside help to expand their reach beyond Gables.
Enter Vanessa Valle, Vice President of Education at JA of Greater Miami. As a liaison for the corporation, Ms. Valle puts in a tireless effort to make sure the Charm Dept’s. message is effectively communicated and their initiatives successfully promote change.
“I am the middle person between Ms. Brown’s classroom, the district, our office, and our business partners. My job is to execute the implementation of the program alongside overlooking all the competition that takes part in the Company Program. Just like the students behind the Charm Department, finding a product you are passionate about, but not giving up on because the process may get hard along the way, will always help you build stronger and teach you bigger capacities,” JA Official Vanessa Valle said.
Touching base with Ms. Brown to stay in the loop, Ms. Valle suggested a partner for the corporation.
“We work with different business partners and the purpose is to have the business leaders come into the classrooms being role models for students and also share their areas of expertise to demonstrate that the work is not just context, but something obtainable,” Ms. Valle said.
Following the advice from Ms. Valle, Ms. Brown invited Patrick Creegan, Director of Institutional Defined Contribution from BlackRock to the classroom. Working with Charm Dept. on a weekly basis, Mr. Creegan is both the corporation’s volunteer and senior advisor.
“My role for the Charm Department is being that ‘outside influence’ to help execute and implement their vision and make it a reality. I’m heavily involved with the corporation, visiting them frequently and being in Zoom Meeting calls for hours. Seeing as how we already turned a profit in Week 1 with 150 sales, in the Junior Achievement Company Program, we [Gables] are also the only corporation out of 35 high schools to be manufacturing our own products in-house,” Mr. Creegan said.
Drawing from his extensive experience as a successful businessman, Mr. Creegan has offered advice on how to develop effective marketing strategies to appeal the charms to potential students.
“I want these students to see that they invested in the corporation and reach their 1,000 goal with $3,000 in total. I want them to think that instead of wanting to double their investment, think about multiplying 10 times more. For example, when I came to the class [March 10], we sent out three sales teams to go to individual classrooms and present with other teachers, bringing them in. Before they left I told them, ‘Don’t come back until you’ve sold something’, and they ended up coming back selling 25 charms,” Mr. Creegan said.
Additionally, Mr. Creegan has facilitated a connection with the University of Miami’s School of Architecture adviser, Matthew Fernandez, who later suggested junior Mykayla Pauls take on the task as their personal manufacturer.
“They asked for students who would want to work with Gables for the business and I showed interest in the flyer. From there, they connected me with Patrick Creegan and we started to think about the designs, sizes, and colors for the higher-quality charms,” U-SoA student Mykayla Pauls said.
The Sindoh 3-D printers located in the Fabrication Laboratory within the U-SoA’s premises are accessible to all college students. To create these new charms, Pauls begins by utilizing Rhinoceros, a software for 3-D designs, to save the design file on her computer. Later, she transfers the file to the 3-D printer using a geometric code command, which directs the printer on what to do while inserting a filament to create the charm’s shape.
Creating approximately 50 charms every week as a college student can be quite challenging with a college-used printer. However, despite the difficulties, Pauls has successfully managed to keep up with the task and deliver the finished products to Mr. Creegan on time.
“This project has reminded me that there are other events that I can do outside of my college campus. Even though I’m overwhelmed with college, working, and life in general, there is always some type of way to give back and connect with people that I usually wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. This experience has also led me to have an opportunity to open myself out there and bring excitement to students,” Pauls said.
From Pozo raising his hand to the tireless efforts in making a profitable business, the Cavalier-style Croc Charms not only showcased the ingenuity and creativity of members within, but also their ability to work as a team and overcome obstacles.
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