The Aqua-sponsored Junior Achievement team, uFusion, received the FedEx Access Award during the Junior Achievement National Student Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. at the end of June. The student-run team was one of a few selected to receive an award out of 15 other JA companies also in attendance.
This is the first time Aqua’s JA team has won an award at the national competition, which brought together JA teams from across the country. Each team presented their business ideas to a panel of judges through several events, including a booth presentation, a stage presentation and one-on-one interviews.
uFusion’s group, led by Aqua employee Erin Feeney, impressed judges with their gel infused air fresheners. The students made each of the air fresheners by hand and sold many of them. They made some of their largest gains during two sales at Aqua’s Bryn Mawr offices.
This is Feeney’s first year as head JA volunteer. She started volunteering for the group back in 2012, working closely with Aqua employee Meghan Kreszwick, who led the program at that time.
“I really admired the way Meghan led the program and mentored the students and I wanted to follow in her footsteps,” Feeney said.
Throughout the school year, Feeney — along with fellow Aqua employees Sarah Eccles, Karen Walker, Caroline Wallo, Tim Smeltzer, Scott Szczygiel and Greg Galiffa — helped the students develop and execute their business plan by meeting with them once a week on Thursday evenings. The volunteers offered advice on how to successfully grow the uFusion business and present their achievements.
“All of the students who participate are very passionate about their ideas and they work hard to succeed. Our main goal as volunteers is simply to guide these students toward informed and effective decision-making,” Feeney said. “We start by introducing them to the basic principles of business: the brainstorming process, marketing research, product analysis, expenses, production, inventory, financial records, selling, and finally liquidation. Throughout the process our most important role is to challenge their decisions, forcing them to understand why their tactics were or were not successful. The students come from a variety of schools and backgrounds and have to learn to work together to make decisions, by challenging their decisions they improve their communication skills and learn to grow as a team.”
Students from high schools across southeastern Pennsylvania came together to make up uFusion. There were about 18 total kids, five of which went to D.C. to represent the company.
All of their work paid off when they took that stage at the Ronald Reagan Trade Center to accept the FedEx Access Award. According to the JA website, the award is given to the team “with the best business plan demonstration potential for job creation, growing small business and expanding global development.”
“The massive change from start to finish of this past year together has been incredible. After introductions and getting to know each other, they grew individually and as a team to make sound business decisions,” Feeney said. “Growing pains, trial and error, it was all necessary for their development, and once they grew to understand the consequences of all of their business decisions, they could employ more effective strategies. They blossomed from high school students to future business leaders.”
This marks the second year Aqua’s JA team made it to the national competition; they attended in 2014. They also received awards during April’s regional competition outside of Philadelphia, which qualified them for their eventual triumphant visit to nationals.