How the JA Company Program is Charting New Paths for Young People
- October 1, 2019
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Eric Asare’s journey in entrepreneurship began in the Junior Achievement company program where a challenge to start and run a business inspired a solution to a practical problem he and his friends faced in school.
At 16, Eric is already living his ambitions, both in class and outside. He is the top of his class at Alpha Beta Christian College, acing his IGCSE exams with 9 A*s and representing his school in debate competitions both home and abroad. However, he was yet venture into a real life business.
“The JA Club was the most attractive to me because I wanted to have the skills of running my own business”,Eric reflected on why he chose to participate in the Company Program amongst other extra curricula activities.
High school biology class is very visual, from plants cells, human anatomy to atomic structures. The telling reality of these abstract details that could have been made much more visual would make the study of the subject complicated to the average person. This experience was no different from that of Eric and his friends.
“During a biology class on the digestive system, although an interesting topic, we all found it impossible to visualize it. We did some research and realized a lot of other students in other classes faced similar problems”,Eric explained.
Then an unsolved challenge in their school, the young students were inspired in one of their JA Club meetings to brainstorm ways to solve the problem while creating monetary value out of it. Eric and his team who had previous experience with Virtual Reality, could easily connect the dots.
The idea of the company of Eric and his three friends, Vermo, was born. Vermo is a new age digital education company that is utilizing Virtual Reality technology to help students visualize what they learn in class to facilitate easier understanding and recall.
Virtual Reality (VR) is a simulated experience of a computer generated environment that takes over the user’s current reality. With a VR headset, and a phone, Vermo gives students the experience of viewing plant cell structures, or brain neurons, as though they were looking directly into a plant or a brain. This practical and visual education has been cited severally as a key component in student’s understanding of such technical details.
Although the craze of young people for virtual reality tools has taken the technology industry by storm, it is not readily accessible by all because of its knowledge and cost barriers. Adapting this technology for education, Vermo is democratizing the access of this technology through an affordable subscription model as an aid for visual learning.
To pique the interest of students for their product, the team organized free viewing sessions for students to explore the usage of the technology for their education after which they registered interested students. The influence of Vermo out-stretched its initial target market, its school, to other neighboring schools, funfairs and educational expos. These successes did come at a cost of resilience, and commitment for these young students combining their studies and running a business full time.
“Time management was key. We were forced to minimize all distractions and only focused on set priorities. Of course, we had to pull a lot of late nights but they were worth the sacrifice”,He recalled.
Even some of the initial members who could not find this balance had to quit, increasing the workload on their already small team. The biggest challenge for Vermo was dealing with the pressure of competing in the 2018 National Company of the Year competition amidst their final exams. However, these motivated young entrepreneurs persisted and won the National competition in Ghana, and the third place and Future Tech award in the regional competition contesting against some of the brightest young entrepreneurs across Africa.
While starting a business is one of Eric’s proudest achievements, he believes participating in the JA Company Program was much more than that.
“The JA Company Program gives you a broader perspective on how academic excellence is just a part of being a successful student or person generally in life. Beyond the opportunity of having a working knowledge of the fundamentals of running a business, I’ve learned to communicate effectively, improve my negotiation skills, and ability to confidently embrace challenges with the range of critical thinking and problem solving skills I acquired through the program”.Eric added.