The story of Under Armour’s start-up success is a well-known representation of the American Dream of entrepreneurship – a dream that is alive and well in today’s youth. In fact, a survey of 500 teens conducted by Junior Achievement (JA) and ORC International found that 87 percent of high school students want to start a business someday.
With guidance from UA teammates, some innovative students are getting the chance to do just that.
Twelve Baltimore City high school students are the brains behind Creators 4 Change, a non-profit developed as part of Junior Achievement of Central Maryland’s JA Company Program, a 15-week entrepreneurship experience that gives students a chance to start and run their own businesses backed by real investors and revenue. The group meets weekly on Under Armour’s campus to discuss business strategies with UA teammates, who serve as volunteer mentors.
The mission of Creators 4 Change is to improve Baltimore’s image by uniting individuals who believe in the city’s potential for positive transformation. To promote this message, the students are creating a blog that features interviews with influential business and community leaders contributing to Baltimore’s progress.
Funding for this outreach comes from the sale of wristbands and stickers featuring custom designs that reflect the company’s mission. All sales will be donated to Safe Streets Baltimore, an evidence-based violence prevention and interruption program that works to reduce shootings and homicides in high-violence areas.
“Participating in JA Company Program at UA provided me with a lot of valuable experiences,” says Taylor Briggs, a senior at Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, and CEO of the student-run company. “I’ve learned that determination is key. Had I not persevered through the process of creating a business, it wouldn't have opened doors or allowed me to pursue my dreams in business. As a result, I have skills and connections that I wouldn’t have received otherwise. JA gave me confidence in myself. It provided amazing opportunities and mentorship.”
Joining Taylor in Creators 4 Change are peers from City Neighbors, Patterson and Cristo Rey High Schools. The team just participated in the 2019 JA Company of the Year Regional Competition, where they showcased their business acumen to a panel of judges and went head-to-head with eight other student companies spanning Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County. Even though they did not win the top prize, they learned priceless lessons.
And JA students know how to capitalize on those possibilities. Case in point: a recent study showed that JA alumni start businesses at a rate 2.5 times higher than that of the general population.
That's good news because the nation relies on new business formation to add jobs and grow the economy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently hailed Baltimore for its success in attracting tech start-ups and millennial residents, stating that entrepreneurs are "leading Charm City's comeback." And start-ups can also provide an alternative path for at-risk youth or those in areas with high levels of unemployment. Real-world mentors are a vital part of connecting the next generation to that pipeline of opportunities.
“It’s been rewarding to see the level of commitment of the students to building a business from beginning to end, and the influence our UA teammates have had by showing up regularly to guide and support them through the experience,” says Hiltie.
Thanks to the mentorship of Hiltie and her dedicated UA teammates, these students know that a successful business isn't built in 30 seconds. They've had a hands-on look at the line between success and failure, and the difficult decisions needed to stay on the right side of that line. All of that should give them a better understanding of business goals and the ways they can use their drive and initiative to rise within organizations – or compete with them as entrepreneurs.