From Here to There: Stephanie Fitzner, JA Alumni
Stephanie Fitzner is a 4th year Bachelor of Commerce Student at Saint Mary’s University. She will graduate in September 2018 and start a full-time position at Deloitte as a Strategy and Operations Consultant. She currently sits on Junior Achievement of Nova Scotia’s Board of Directors. She was also recently one of the recipients of the Frank H. Sobey Award for Excellence in Business Studies.
In grade 11, I acted as President and CEO of ‘Jeanius Accessories’, a Junior Achievement company that produced phone sleeves and wallets from recycled denim. Although material costs were very low, since most of the recycled jeans were donated, our company hit a significant production problem – I was the only team member who could sew.
I returned to JA in my grade 12 year with renewed focus to run a company where all team members could contribute to the production process and personally engage with the mission and vision of the company. I reassumed my role as President, this time for the company ‘Chalkboard Chugs’, which produced white mugs with a reusable chalkboard surface. $2 from the sale of each mug was donated to the Mental Health Association of Nova Scotia to break the stigma around mental health. That year, the whole team was more engaged and motivated to contribute to the company’s success. At the end of the year, our team had demonstrated such cohesion and dedication that we walked away with the Company of the Year prize, and I was personally awarded President of the Year and Achiever of the Year.
Junior Achievement had instilled in me a confidence that by combining my academic success with fierce determination and sheer will, I could accomplish my personal and career objectives. Pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University was a natural next step; I chose to take a double-major in Finance and Economics.
After a year of purchasing expensive university textbooks and struggling to buy and sell used textbooks on Kijiji and Facebook, I joined forces with the JANS Intrapreneurship Committee to launch Let’s Book Swap (LBS). LBS was a student-owned business that allowed university students to obtain textbooks inexpensively and conveniently. 50% of profits were to be donated to JANS. To finance the start-up, I secured over $5 thousand in financing by placing 1st in the Pitch101 Competition hosted at SMU and through a loan from the CBDC. In its first year, LBS earned over $2,000 in revenue and acted as a phenomenal learning opportunity.
The challenges I ran into while running LBS are similar to those faced by many first-time entrepreneurs, such as: achieving product-market fit, growing the team, and cash burn out. Finally, once LBS burnt through all the cash I had allocated to running the business, I decided to shelf the concept for another student to tackle. Even though I consider Let’s Book Swap to be my first business ‘failure’, I’ve also walked away knowing I learned far more about entrepreneurship from running this venture than other experience to date.
In 2016, I was invited to join Junior Achievement of Nova Scotia’s Board of Directors as a representative for the growing population of Junior Achievement Alumni and current participants.
In summary, Junior Achievement’s Company Program allowed me to build the foundational skillset which contributed to my success as an entrepreneur, student, and now as a member of the workforce.