Developing the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs: Comcast Business and Junior Achievement – Week 10

February 02, 2016

This is the tenth in a series on Comcast Business and its work with Junior Achievement. For a look at the previous article, click here.

This week, we thought it would be fun to catch up with some of our Junior Achievement (JA) Company Program students to get their perspective on building OneLove. Grant Plotkin and Damani Okuri agreed to share their thoughts. Grant is a senior at Radnor High School in Radnor, Pennsylvania and works on the OneLove product development team. Damani is a junior at Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia and works on the OneLove sales team.

Me: Why did you become involved in Junior Achievement?

GRANT: I had a friend who participated in the JA Company Program through Microsoft last year, and when my business marketing teacher told me about this year’s opportunity, I thought I’d give it a try. It's a great reason to get out of the suburbs and into the city once a week, and the chance to work with Comcast was appealing to me, especially since its associated with NBC Universal.

DAMANI: I got into Roman Catholic High School on a sports scholarship. I thought I knew everything already and that I could succeed on sports alone, but my mom told me that I had to be more well-rounded. I saw all the kids doing all this stuff at school and getting scholarships for college and started to think I needed to do that too. My economics teacher recommended Junior Achievement on his student blog, and only two of us signed up.

ME: What were your initial thoughts/feelings about participating in the JA Company Program?

GRANT: I was really energized and ready to get started. My first product idea was to develop a kinetic energy mobile battery charger, but that was a bit ambitious in hindsight. Given the limited time we have to build a company, it made more sense to go with something simple.

DAMANI: I’m usually more in the background. I thought the program was going to go 100 miles an hour and the rest of the students were going to blow me in the dust. But during week two, I started talking more and became a little more social, and I thought I might actually want to do sales.

ME: What are your opinions now that you’re nearly mid-way through the program? 

GRANT: I’m pumped! I’m ready to see where the business goes! The process of learning how to market a product, sell it and set a price point has been so cool. Learning that has really opened my eyes. 

DAMANI: I’m ready to go, I want to build a business and I’m enjoying the experience. I thought it was going to be more complex but this is super fun.  I’ve found that I like socializing and JA gives me an excuse to talk to people. I’ve made new friends with teachers and other students just selling our OneLove blanket! Its even given me the opportunity to make amends with teachers I used to butt heads with.

When I first started, you convinced me to do sales. Within five minutes of working on that team, I knew it was going to be a good fit, and the people I was with knew it, so it’s been a great experience.

ME: What has surprised you most about building a business? 

GRANT: The biggest surprise for me has been the teamwork aspect. I’ve done sports, but being on a team in a business sense is different. It takes a lot more mental stamina and you need to focus on time management. For example, I was out on Saturday night a couple of weeks ago and when I came back, there was a bunch of emails waiting for me that I answered at 1 a.m. With sports, you only get together for practice and games; it’s more structured. In business, it’s 24/7.

DAMANI: I’ve found that I am freakishly social, and that sales is great for me. In sports, I tried not to be the “celebrity person.” My mom told me not to be one of those people. Now I’m noticing that I can talk and make friends. 

The other thing that came as a surprise to me is the way we’re able to get things done. I thought there was going to be a lot more disagreeing and complaining among the students, but there hasn’t been a lot of that. Instead, there’s been lots of compromise.

ME: What do you like the most about this experience? What new skills have you learned? 

GRANT: What I’ve taken away so far is how to be an effective leader. You don’t want to minimize the role of others, but you also need to realize that if someone isn’t going to get something done, you need to do it.  

I’ve also improved my communication skills. I think I’ve sent more emails recently than I have in a full year! On that note, I’ve found that Basecamp, our online collaboration tool, has made it easier to connect with people and I find it’s better than email where meanings can get lost in translation.

DAMANI: The mentors have been great. Their leadership style is something that I’d like to emulate. You can tell they take a lot of pride in what they do, and they take time out of normal business hours to do work that requires a lot of back and forth. 

Read Week 11

This week, we thought it would be fun to catch up with some of our Junior Achievement (JA) Company Program students.

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