Eleven years ago, Junior Achievement of New York developed a capstone program that would ultimately become a premier starting point for young entrepreneurs, igniting the spark in hundreds of high school students each year to pursue a career in business. The JA New York Business Plan Competition (BPC) was not only meant to be a lesson in the basics of entrepreneurship, but it was designed as an intense education program that inspires students to think far outside the box and prepare for a real-world business pitch to top New York City executives. And that’s exactly what it became.
Starting with the preliminary application round, over 150 student teams are paired with a corporate or community volunteer mentor – a businessperson who has the knowledge and experience to help the team fine-tune their business plan. After six-weeks of development, teams submit their written business plans to be evaluated by a pool of volunteer judges who will choose the strongest, most creative, and most innovative business plans to advance to the next round of competition.
After two rounds of judging, just under twenty teams are invited to compete in the semifinals. But the real competition happens during the final round where only six teams vie for the first place title. The teams that have made it this far have already surpassed dozens of other business plans; worked with veteran businesspeople one-on-one to perfect their pitches; and defended their ideas to a panel of judges made up of C-suite executives, founders of businesses, and marketing gurus.
The past ten years of BPC have introduced young, savvy businesspeople into the marketplace, ready to unleash their innovative ideas and abilities to transform the business world and the future of the economy. From classroom to conference room, many BPC alumni attribute much of their success in business to JA New York and the opportunities that it provided.
Jackson Finio, a 2012 BPC alumnus, co-founded Fund3, a hedge fund that employs machine learning algorithms to capitalize on the volatility of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Awad Sayeed, a 2008 BPC alumnus, is now the Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Pixlee, a visual marketing platform that helps brands market and sell their products using real customer photos and videos. Both of these former BPC champions have incorporated the skills they learned throughout the competition into their careers, from the basics of writing a business plan to advocating for their ideas to high-profile investors.
We at Junior Achievement of New York are thrilled to watch as each year’s competitors go head to head because we know the results of BPC are undeniable. Alumni have turned their plans into reality, former BPC “CEO’s” have pursued the corner office in the real world, and thousands of students have left the bounds of high school with the knowledge of how to start a business and the confidence that they can.