The Rapidian

JA of the Michigan Great Lakes Hosts Inaugural Pitch Competition for High School Students to Compete for Over $3,000 in Scholarship Awards to Grand Rapids Community College

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Students participated in a "Shark Tank style" business competition with community leaders acting as judges

Event Judges and Keynote Speaker

Keynote Speaker:

  • Dr. Bill Pink , President, Grand Rapids Community College

Pitch judges:

  • Brooke Corbin, Business Programs Manager at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce
  • Darel Ross, Director of Start Garden
  • Attah Obande, Director of Dream Fulfillment at Spring GR
  • Russ Waligorski, Branch Manager at Michigan State University Credit Union
  • Brad Lundvick, Principal at CA Frost Environmental Science Academy
  • Henry Morley, Founder of DPT Solutions. 

Student EXPO Judges:

  • Robert Hughes, Small Business Mentor at SCORE
  • Brittney Hesse, Product Marketing Sr. Specialist at Steelcase
  • Ann Kennedy, Small Business Mentor at SCORE
  • Zach Roth, Senior Creative Media Specialist at Mercantile Bank
  • Victor Sturgis, CPA, CCIFP at Crowe LLP.



Team Eatibles on the Go during their pitch presentation

Team Eatibles on the Go during their pitch presentation /Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes

Team Eckin Granite Wood Works took home the prize of JA Company of the Year

Team Eckin Granite Wood Works took home the prize of JA Company of the Year /Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes

Judges listen to students marketing plan during the Student EXPO part of the event

Judges listen to students marketing plan during the Student EXPO part of the event /Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes

Last week, Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes hosted its inaugural JA Pitch Day event, held at Consumers Energy’s John. G. Russell Leadership Center, where two teams shared the top honors of the following awards: Best Business Pitch, Best Student EXPO, and JA Company Program of the Year.

Eckin Granite Wood Works from Kelloggsville High School –  a student company who makes custom granite and wood décor –  took home two awards including “Best Business Pitch” and “JA Company Program of the Year.” Eatibles on the Go from Innovation Central High school – a student company who re-sells wholesale snacks and candy – earned the “Best Student EXPO” award. Each team member was awarded a $250 scholarship to GRCC, courtesy of the GRCC Foundation.

High school student teams who participated in a 2018-2019 JA Company Program were eligible to compete in the event. The JA Company Program is a 13-week course where students manage their own quick-start businesses throughout a semester with the guidance of a qualified entrepreneur or business professional volunteer from the community. 

Students had the opportunity to promote their businesses twice during the event. The first opportunity was "The Pitch" in which students used PowerPoint presentations to tell judges about their motivations for creating the business, sales so far, and their strategic process behind the business plan. Judges were also able to interact with their products and ask students questions. A different group of judges were present during the Student EXPO in which students presented the same businesses but focused on marketing. Products were displayed and tri-folds were used to demonstrate their marketing plans and vision for the company. 

Brooklynn Yasha, a member of Eatibles on the Go, reflected on what she learned at the JA Pitch Day event, "We’re all trying to do the same thing, so even though we’re competitors were all learning and don’t be afraid or be too nervous. I also learned to listen and not burn bridges." 

Her temmate, Nartese Richardson, said, "I learned that you need other people to grow. You need to network with other people to really get your business out there and get started."

Javier Careenas from Innovation Central reflected on the day by saying, "It has been really fun and exciting. I was kind of nervous at the beginning but once I got the presentation going – it’s a nice experience. We came here knowing that if we won – great, but if not, we were just gonna have fun. We really enjoyed that they made this happen." Beyond the event, Javier says that the JA Company Program as a whole has changed his thinking about his future, "I feel like the Company program has really made me have dreams. I’ve expanded my thought and my vision for what I want to do in life."

The JA Company Program of the Year, Eckin Granite Wood Works, will be working directly with Company Program Coordinator, Alee’a Ulsh-Cherry, to apply for the National Leadership Summit. Finalists will be announced to all JA Areas on Friday, May 10.  If chosen, the Kelloggsville students will be the first team from the JA of the Michigan Great Lakes area to be selected to compete.

Marco Hernandez and Anthony Leon, two members of the winning team, have a dream to continue expanding their business, and hope to someday have a physical space in which to sell their products. 

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