Write everything down—your three biggest strengths and skills that are going to make your dreams possible, as well as every challenge you overcome, because this will help you through the next challenge. This is one of many takeaways from the opening keynote for Denver Start Up Week’s final day, in which Junior Achievement welcomed 200 teens to gain insight from professional leaders and entrepreneurs.
Danielle Shoots, Vice President of Finance and Business Operations for Comcast, delivered this advice, kicking off a powerful day that gave Colorado’s young entrepreneurial minds a rare glimpse into what it takes to be successful in a modern business environment. Throughout the day in downtown Denver, students attended workshops normally reserved for established professionals.
“I didn’t know what to expect but I really like the public speakers, they answered a lot of questions I had,” said Northglenn High School sophomore, Simone Ruckman, who intends on starting her own fashion business. “There’s been a lot of stuff that I haven’t thought about that I probably should, like networking. I have not networked whatsoever, and if I want to create a company I’ve got to get the word out there.”
Fellow Northglenn sophomore Maddie McPherson hopes to someday own her own bakery and coffee shop. The idea of owning her own bakery on Pearl Street in Boulder and really getting to know her customers is what motivates her.
“So many businesses don’t have the opportunity to get to know their customers, but I want to really know them!” she said. “But first I want to go to college and earn a four-year degree. I’d like to study finance and accounting so I don’t have to rely on someone else to do that for my business.”
Nearly 20 Junior Achievement volunteers accompanied and mentored the teens throughout the day, helping them reflect on each workshop.
“Everyone was really excited to learn how to start a business, how to grow capital, and figure out the right next steps,” said volunteer Jenn Stewart from Bridgepoint Education, an innovative education company that sponsored JA’s Denver Start Up Week event. “They’re really open to learning and finding out new things.”
“This is a perfect partnership for Bridgepoint because we’re all about innovative ways of expanding educational opportunities and access to those who need a chance, and Junior Achievement is doing the same thing,” she added.
This was Stewart’s first time volunteering with Junior Achievement. She is especially passionate for the accessibility of JA programs for underserved students.
“A lot of kids don’t know all of the options they have, and without organizations like Junior Achievement they might fall into the same path as those around them,” she said. “Being able to participate in programs like this opens their eyes to so many different things and they see that the sky’s the limit.”