Annandale High Student's Class Project Wins Business Competition
Senior Liam McGhee won the regional business plan competition sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, an organization that supports entrepreneurship education
“They’re an all natural, healthy and delicious alternative to granola. We provide you a product we believe is better than most of the leading brands,” said McGhee, describing the snack bar he created. The preservatives-free bars have as their base gluten-free rice and honey, to which cashew or almond butter, nuts, fruit and chocolate whey can be added. The bars are fresh for up to 10 days in the refrigerator and six days out.
McGhee’s pitch— and business plan — for JuJu Bars is indeed a winner. He won the regional business plan competition sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), an organization that supports entrepreneurship education. Beating other students from Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, McGhee earned $1,500 and a bid to the national competition. McGhee said he initially created the snack bar for his sister, an athlete who needed a snack for energy, but “hated the hard sawdust texture of Nature Valley.” He had the idea for the business last summer, but it wasn’t until he took an entrepreneurship class at AHS that it took off.
This is the first year AHS has offered an entrepreneurship class, open to upperclassmen, and entered the NFTE contest. Students also qualified for a three-hour business course credit through Northern Virginia Community College.
“We really wanted to give kids this option,” said marketing teacher Stephanie Harmony of the entrepreneurship class, which is not offered at every Fairfax County high school.
Students learn that “they can economically take care of themselves. They have skills, passion and knowledge that can make them money,” said Harmony. The first round of competition started in Harmony’s two classes. Students were tasked with planning “a business they can start tomorrow”.
“It’s not something ‘I’d like to own a restaurant someday.’ What skills and talents that you can develop right now,” Harmony said.
The students had to make a pitch that included everything from how they planned to market their product or service to pricing strategies to a panel of business owners and educators.
McGhee, of Springfield, was one of five students to emerge from the classroom competition in January to compete in the NFTE semifinals. Some 900 students in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia are associated with NFTE.
Businesses ideas from the other AHS students who competed in the semifinals include a graphics and marketing materials company tailored to small businesses, a traveling henna tattoo business in which the proprietor gives tattoos at fairs and events, a music recording company and a website to connect Somali immigrants with Somali business owners.
McGhee will compete in the national competition in New York in the fall, although he will be at George Mason University studying business by then. His immediate next step is to launch a retail website, www.originaljujubar.com, where customers can order the bars, made fresh.
“I believe a business should always help someone,” said McGhee, noting the influences of his father, who operates a business that upgrades website so they are accessible to the blind.
McGhee wants to stock the bars in holistic stories and incorporate products from local farmers.
“I was very happy to win the contest, not just for myself but for Annandale High School,” McGhee said. “It’s an honor to win this over other counties that have had this program many more years than we have.”