From Here to There: Alessandra Pagnotella, JA Alumni

From Alessandra's speech at the 2018 Business Hall of Fame Laureate Announcement:

"My name is Alessandra Pagnottella.  I was born and raised here in Halifax by a local hairstylist turned property developer. Today I work alongside my family where we own and manage a portfolio of mixed used properties in and around the downtown core. On top of managing our properties, we also own and manage a tanning salon in downtown Halifax. There is no doubt that I would not be where I am today without the skills I’d learned through Junior Achievement Company Program and the path it has lead me on.

Entrepreneurship has been instilled in me since a young age, 8 to be exact. I started out by sweeping up after hair cuts at my parent’s hair salon, eventually working as a receptionist taking appointments and processing sales. I was around 14 years old when our property portfolio began to grow and property management would become an integral part of my life. 

Throughout high school, I was enrolled in sciences; I was aspiring to one day attend medical school; but in the back of my mind there was always this desire to start and grow my own business, one day hopefully taking over for my family’s portfolio. It was around that time,  in 2007, that I joined JA company program at Citadel High School. 

Environmentally friendly products were capturing the business spotlight and our small JA company followed suit. In our first year, we produced fleece coffee cup sleeves and a recipe book for environmentally friendly cleaning products.  

The following year, I returned to JA again, where we started another environmentally conscious company called “g”. (I may have a shirt from back then that I can bring to show). We outsourced BPA free travel mugs, that could be customized with the users photos inside. 

Looking back at those two years as a Junior Achiever, I reflect on the skills I learned: being able to think on your feet, adjusting to changing client needs, promoting effectively, and ultimately investing your time into something you’re passionate about. Those learning moments are drivers of success. 

My involvement in JA did not end after high school graduation.  I went on to attend Saint Mary’s University, where I completed a bachelor of Commerce degree with a major in Accounting. I was a JA advisor in my first year of university, back where it all began, at Citadel High.  I then continued on to pursue my MBA and a CPA designation. Thoughts of medical school had come and gone. 

And here I am - I have been an active JA advisor at Citadel High School for an additional two year -  I wanted to give back to the program that helped shaped me. JA Company Program opened my eyes to all aspects of business: marketing and promotion, production quality and processes, digital technology, accounting and record keeping, human resource management, performance management, and environmental considerations. To this day, as an advisor, I am still learning. The students have insights I would never think of- who knew tie-dye t-shirts were coming back into style?! Did you know Snap Chat is the most popular social media outlet for today’s high schoolers and Facebook is considered obsolete?!

This year, our JA company, The Other Half, created colour blocked hoodies - myself and two other advisors, lead five extremely talented and dedicated young ladies who have been instrumental in the success of this company - we’ve reached over $6000 in sales, in a matter of 4 months.  Proud would be an understatement. JA provides students what they need to bring a vision to life -  and that is just what these students did this year. 

Junior Achievement taught me more than just business skills - it taught me how to work as a team, how to mediate different opinions, how to plan for contingency. It opened my eyes to the trials and tribulations of running a business but also to celebrate and acknowledge your growth and success.  JA has been influential in my life, as I know it has been for many others.  Thank you for providing the resources needed to guide me and shape me into the person I am today. I look forward to many more years of continued participation!

Laureates, congratulations on your well deserved accomplishment. You embody all that entrepreneurs strive to be." 

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From Here to There: Braden Newell, JA Alumni

From Braden's speech at the 2018 Laureate Appreciation Event: 

Junior Achievement is a program close to my heart. JA teaches young people skills in financial literacy and entrepreneurship that helps to support the existing education curriculum in Nova Scotia.

Financial literacy and entrepreneurship are passions of mine. Whether you are looking to start a career with a large company or start your own business these skills are clearly valuable. JA is a program that plants the idea of financial independence and entrepreneurship early-on.

In my final year of high school, a close friend of mine, Megan, encouraged me to come with her to the first Junior Achievement session of the year.

Having my own passion for business I was intrigued about what JA. Shortly thereafter we had to figure out what our business would be.

For the past two years I had worked for a telecommunications company as a CSR and noticed that we had a lot of seniors coming in looking for tutorials on basic device literacy. I suggested to my JA team that a technology training service may be a good idea.

That, ladies and gentleman, was how Tech Teens was born. Tech Teens was a technology training company that taught seniors and entrepreneurs about device literacy, social media, and a host of other topics.

We had to decide whether we would charge for the service or figure out another revenue model. Our company decided to go with a sponsorship model where we signed on local business’ to sponsor the training sessions in exchange for feature tutorials of their apps or websites.

Over the eighteen weeks of company program I served as president of the Tech Teens and it was by far one of the best experiences of my life. Teaching me skills like time management, leadership, writing a business plan, and pitching. In total I spent more than 150 hours on the program and the company earned $4500 gross.

Come the year end I MC’d the celebration of achievement and won the professional engagement award. I still have the news articles, certificates, and even a tech teens mouse pad I had made as mementos of my time in company program.

A year later, in my first semester of university I joined Enactus. A program I simply like to call “Junior Achievement for adults.” For a year I used the skills and credibility I gained from operating tech teams to run another technology literacy program called ConnectED, this time a training program, aimed to help at risk youth develop computer literacy skills. I was also given the chance to speak at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce for Junior Achievement.

Currently, I attend Saint Mary’s University for a Bachelor of Commerce with a major of Computing and Information Systems with a minor in history. I now serve as the Director of Technology for Enactus. Next week my team and I will be traveling to Toronto for the Enactus National Exposition.

And most meaningful of all I’m still involved with Junior Achievement as a classroom volunteer where I teach young people from grades six to nine about financial literacy and the world of entrepreneurship.

The opportunity to be a part of the education of people not much younger than I am is incredibly rewarding.

I believe that if others have the skills that I was fortunate enough to develop, young people wouldn’t be leaving Nova Scotia but instead working on making their home better.

I want to congratulate Stu, Diane, and Rob on becoming the next Business Hall of Famers. Just one thing before I go though, watch out, because someday soon I intend to be joining you in the business hall of fame.

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