By Sarah Boswell, JA Ottawa alumna
From a very young age, I knew that the impact we have on our environment speaks louder than words, and I wanted to have one. I needed to find the opportunity and I found it while participating in my Focus Program, where we had the chance to create a company. We were paired with our teachers Daniel Chenard and Stéphane Duguay, who served as mentors. As a very enthusiastic business student I was presented with the JA Ottawa In-School Company Program in my last year of high school, and my classmates and I were determined to start a company that we were all going to be proud of.
The company that we decided to create was Totéco, and we sold 100% eco-friendly tote bags. For every bag sold we planted 10 trees as we wanted to contribute to a green future. Instead of getting a company to print the tree and logo on our bags, we decided to do it ourselves to cut the production costs but also practice a more ecological manufacturing process. Recyclable business cards were used as tags and we used creativity and ingenuity to use the opportunity to lower our carbon footprint in our manufacturing and workplace.
As VP of Marketing, I was able to utilize and improve many skills throughout the program, such as practicing my communication skills by selling our products, putting into practice my social media skills by posting on different platforms to sell our product and improving on my leadership skills as we often worked in teams and collaborated together. In the end, we helped plant 3,100 trees in Madagascar and contributed to the environment but also the economy as we provided jobs to local residents.
As students, we were able to put into practice the knowledge and skills acquired in the classroom into a real business environment. The JA Company program has changed my life, and I’m sure the program has positively impacted countless others as well. JA Ottawa gave students all around the Ottawa community the chance to create a business of their own and utilize and improve on skills they never knew they possessed.
This coming year, the new JA Ottawa Companies will focus on sustainability and the environment, and their products or services will show the innovation from our young leaders. Their innovative ideas will have an impact on our future, and I can’t wait to see what they will bring!
JA Ottawa is delivered by the Ottawa Network for Education (ONFE). To learn how to get involved with the program as a student or volunteer, please visit our website: onfe-rope.ca/our-work/ja-ottawa/