THE Junior Achievement student company 'Knotz Enterprise' from Wolmer's High School for Girls was named the 2014 Junior Achievement Company of Entrepreneurs (JACE) Company of the Year at an awards banquet held recently at the University of the West Indies in St Andrew.
President of the company Sasha Miller said she was not surprised that her company topped the over 40 other high schools who did the JACE programme this year.
"It is an overwhelming feeling. We really worked hard for it. We weren't surprised but we were not overly confident," Miller said.
The JACE programme is a practical programme where students are guided in starting and running businesses. It focuses on strengthening the capacity of youth to be leaders in various sectors, while building competencies needed to excel academically and in the global economy.
The students from the Kingston-based school emerged victors following several forms of assessment including oral presentations to private-sector judges and entrepreneurs, a public exhibit of their products and company model and written reports of the progress and operations of their business.
In addition to the trophies they already received, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has sponsored an all-expense-paid trip for the top student in the company to attend the Next Generation Leader's Forum, which is a global entrepreneurship conference and competition, scheduled for August in Canada.
Miller explained that it was no "walk in the park" for her company, which manufactures headbands, bracelets and belts made of rope, to make it to the top. She said that support from their parents, staff advisor and sponsor, and the Liguanea branch of CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank (CIBC FCIB) formed an integral part of their success.
"I was bossy at times. But my team members really believed in me and we worked together, night and day, and made a lot of sacrifices to make the product and company a success," Miller said.
Manager of CIBC FCIB Liguanea branch Maggie McGann-Williams expressed great pride in Wolmer's being the champions and delight that the branch was able to work with the students.
"We met the young ladies here in the branch and gave them advice on how to improve their products and company model. We also ensured that they were well aware of some of the requirements of the bank to access loans for business expansion," said McGann-Williams.
Although many of the students involved in running the company have completed their tenure at Wolmer's and will be moving on to tertiary studies in September of this year, Miller is confident that the company will continue to be successful.
"The students remaining (at Wolmer's) are looking to continue. We want to do a mentorship programme to guide them in being successful entrepreneurs," she said.
Ardenne High, 2013 champions Charlemont High, St Andrew Technical High and Kingston College took the second, third, fourth and fifth spots respectively. The top schools for the deaf were Lister Mair Gilby School and Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf. USAID is also sponsoring a representative from each of these six schools to accompany Wolmer's to Canada in August.