One key goal of Junior Achievement is to inspire children and teens to dream big, embrace their future and apply the inspiring lessons they learn through the program to their daily lives. For 18-year-old Jenny Bazile, participating in the JA Company Program did just that.
Bazille recently graduated from Sheyenne High School in West Fargo, N.D., where she was a cheerleader, on the soccer team, and played the flute. She also competed in the 2017 JAUM Company of the Year Competition with her company, JACE, where she was named the 2017 North Dakota Otto Bremer Student Entrepreneur of the Year. In recognition, Bazile received a $1,000 post-secondary scholarship from the Otto Bremer Entrepreneurship Fund.
JACE, which took its name from the first letter of each of the four team members’ names, designed and sold long- and short-sleeve t-shirts with an eagle on each, representing “America as a nation,” Bazile says.
Before starting the company, Bazile first was introduced to Junior Achievement through a different program last year. “My first interaction with JA was actually during my junior year,” Bazile says. “We were doing a virtual business with JA Titan, [a computer-based business simulation game]. At first, I didn’t think it would really be my forté and I just thought it was a game, but as I started playing it, it was interesting and really fun. It became competitive, and since I’m a competitive person, it became, ‘I want to win this!’”
That first taste of building a virtual business left her excited to experience the real thing. “My teacher told me that for senior year, we’d be doing another JA program where you actually create your own business,” she says. “I was super-excited about that because I’d really like to be a business owner one day. It was a great experience for me and while I’m usually not a risk-taker at all, when we needed a CEO, I decided to go for that and I got it, which made me really happy.”
“We did have some problems with shipments and supplies and ordering, but we found a way to resolve those,” Bazile says. “It was tough talking to [the vendor about them], but I think our main problem had been a lack of communication, both within our company and with our vendors.”
Bazile says that during the competition for the individual scholarship from the Otto Bremer Entrepreneurship Fund, part of the judging criteria involved an essay penned by participants. “I took my chance and wrote about what I truly believe in and what I loved best about being a business owner,” Bazile says. “I loved everything about it, and I also wrote about what JA taught me. For instance, I learned that while it’s very hard to start your own business, communication is key. And I learned you also really need a team. My team, while we did communicate, had disagreements and I learned I should have stepped in at that point as CEO to give us an outline of what we needed to do. I didn’t do that, but as a result, that gave me a great experience in learning what not to do.”
Bazile plans to attend North Dakota State University this fall, pursuing a double-major in architecture and business management.
“I like to draw and create, and at first my plan was to study to be an interior designer,” Bazile says. As part of running the student company through JA, however, she said her aspirations grew to encompass running her own business as a future architect. “I thought I could go above and beyond that and draw and create whole [buildings], which has the interior design part within it. I’d really like to run my own business.”