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Howard County Students Dive into the Uncharted Waters of Business

When Chesapeake Charms CEO Barathi Aravindan joined JA Rising Women in 2017, she thought it would be “just another program” that her mother encouraged her to attend. Now, it’s something that has changed her career trajectory. 

"After participating in JA Rising Women, I realized business was the field for me. I discovered something that finally utilized my skills and interested me,” said Aravindan, who is headed to University of Maryland this fall to major in finance and participate in the entrepreneurship and innovation honors program.

Aravindan and her 16 colleagues – fellow Howard County high school students – found a fashionable way to save the Chesapeake Bay through their business venture, Chesapeake Charms. The young entrepreneurs designed charm bracelets featuring three species native to the Chesapeake Bay, including the loggerhead sea turtle, Eastern Oyster, and blue crab, which sold out in less than two weeks from launch. After reaching their sales goals, the company donated $1,000 to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Chesapeake Charms was selected as one of 14 teams to compete at JA National Student Leadership Summit (NSLS) in Washington, D.C. to demonstrate their business acumen, creativity, and entrepreneurial thinking on a national stage, while showcasing their companies to members of Congress and business leaders.

“The NSLS competition is rough, but everyone is open to learning new ideas. The biggest impact for me was the FedEx seminar, where I realized how global connectivity is important for a successful business and it inspired new ideas of bringing Chesapeake Charms, at the very least, nationwide,” said Marketing Director Ashley Chen. “I also learned how the business world really does need more women.”

As the only all-women student company represented at NSLS, Chen’s thoughts were echoed by her peers, who enjoyed aspects such as networking, educational workshops, and competitive events. For Erin Duncan, chief financial officer, the experience was unforgettable, even though Chesapeake Charms did not win.

“NSLS gave me a chance to experience networking as a real businesswoman. Overall it was a fun business experience that most high schoolers never get the chance to experience,” added Duncan. “We also participated in multiple workshops with C-suite mentors on what it means to be an entrepreneur in your innovation, social responsibility, and global impact. I expect the lessons I learned from JA Rising Women and NSLS to lead me into a strong business-guided future.”

With a year full of new experiences, JA entrepreneurs received an authentic look at the business world, but it’s impact is even greater. Kathy Tran, vice president of sales, felt her JA experience “played a large role” in her personal growth, particularly building her leadership skills.

“JA Rising Women not only taught me about the business world and what it means to be an entrepreneur, but it also taught me to be more confident,” added Aravindan. “I hope to start my own business in the future that will give back to the community that has already given me so much.”

While Aravindan prepares for her freshman year of college this summer, her colleagues have other plans including studying for SAT’s, internships, jobs, and returning to JA Rising Women next fall.

To learn more about JA entrepreneurial programs such as JA Rising Women, contact Nick Anderson at nanderson@jamaryland.org.

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