Interested in the future of charcuterie boards, those eye-catching finger food-filled platters of crunchy and crispy, salty, sweet, savory and spicy snacks? Look no further than Torrey Pines High School, where last year, four students working as a team created a winning business idea called CharCute Boards, a customizable charcuterie board company.
The business was chosen as the winner from dozens that competed in last year’s annual Junior Achievement of San Diego County Company Program competition, which will hold its 2023 event later this month.
Run like the reality TV show Shark Tank, where start-up companies seek to win over judges to help push out their ideas, the JA competition is the culmination of a weeks-long program in which high school students from across the county pitch their businesses to vie for the coveted title of JA Student Company of the Year.
Over the course of 13 weeks, students conceptualize and develop their own business ventures guided by JA Company Program curriculum and mentors from the local business community.
The first 10 weeks of the program the students form teams, develop a product/service, create a logo, establish their business and run the day-to-day operations – marketing and promotion, acquiring customers and selling their products.
Along with running their business, the next four weeks students in the program devote time to preparing for the competition, preparing a company report, a commercial, a business presentation and a trade show booth. At the competition, students showcase their business acumen and accomplishments.
Student businesses are evaluated on their annual reports and verbal presentations by a panel of judges composed of area professionals like Maya’s Cookies founder Maya Madsen and SuperDentists founder Dr. Kami Hoss.
“It’s really helping young people understand not just conceptually but in reality,” said Sidd Vivek, president and CEO of nonprofit JA San Diego County. “Everything JA does, we don’t want to just teach you about it, we want to give you the experience. Literally build your own business from ideation to liquidation and everything in between.”
CharCute Boards, a customizable and themed charcuterie board company by the Torrey Pines team took last year’s local win all the way to sixth place of 15 finalists who made it to the JA USA’s National Student Leadership Summit.
“They had a passion for food, themes, and parties, which is where the idea came from,” said Torrey Pines teacher Shannon Taylor. “It was a group of four girls who all took on leadership roles in the varying areas of finance, sales, marketing, management and supply chain. They worked extremely hard to perfect their pitch for the judges, and it paid off. Their scores were outstanding for their pitch as well as their annual reports they submitted. They had thousands of dollars in revenue and were extremely passionate about their company, and I think everyone in the room felt their excitement.”
This year’s event is set for April 27 at the JA campus in the Grantville neighborhood of San Diego.
Vivek said the competition is all about sparking the entrepreneurial mindset in students, “including thinking critically and working collaboratively.”
“Young people will need to use those skills in some capacity,” Vivek said. “We want young people go to through the process to understand how business works, and business broadly defined. Academia is business. Government is business. Personal finances are a business – you need more coming in than going out.”
Brian Baum, a teacher at Canyon Crest Academy, said that the Company Program at JA is instrumental to the school’s Business Management Pathway and part of its Capstone Course, Advanced Business Management.
“The program gives the students real-life applications on how to run a business,” Baum said. “The other two classes in the pathway have projects that are only conceptual, so the real-life applications are important to the growth of our students.”
Last year, CCA had 30 businesses/teams entered, with its top finishers named Seascape Totes and Sea Treasures Jewelry. Sea Treasures fashioned necklaces from glass bottle remnants students collected during beach clean ups. Seascape sold tote bags with ocean-themed artwork created by students.
Taylor of Torrey Pines called partnering with Junior Achievement “an amazing experience,” and said the program ties in perfectly with a first-semester focus on management, leadership and entrepreneurship.
“We have industry partners and mentors that come work with the students throughout the process, which brings even more added value,” Taylor said. “The kids have been so passionate about their businesses, but also about supporting their peers’ businesses all around campus. It ties groups of students together all over the campus, and even teachers support the student businesses and buy their products.”
Junior Achievement of San Diego County
PRESIDENT AND CEO: Sidd Vivek
HEADQUARTERS: Grantville, San Diego
REVENUE: $3 million
SOCIAL IMPACT: JA San Diego serves a diverse population of students from across the socio-economic spectrum.
NOTABLE: JA San Diego is currently offering a TikTok Challenge to promote financial literacy education. Students who participate have the opportunity to be selected for a scholarship.