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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