Junior Achievement project lands Tulsa students in national competition
BY LAURIE WINSLOW World Staff Writer
Friday, July 27, 2012
7/27/12 at 5:32 AM
You could say that Lauren Rutherford and Becca Thompson hope judges are charmed by their business and deem it a national winner.
On Saturday, the two Union High School graduates are headed to Washington, D.C., where their charm bracelet business, Simply Charming, will compete against 14 other Junior Achievement teams from across the nation.
This is the third year in a row that Tulsa students have been selected to compete in The JA Company of the Year national championships at the Junior Achievement National Student Leadership Summit, which is being held at George Washington University, where students will spend five days. As part of the competition, teams must make a commercial about their student company, give a presentation to judges and compete in a trade fair on Capitol Hill.
Thompson and Rutherford are excited about the opportunity. Students Jenny Kwun and Rachael Davis also were part of the company but are not attending the competition. The girls said their JA volunteer, Janae Castell, who works for Curzon Cumbey & Kunkel, will be joining them.
Recently, the two soon-to-be college freshmen sat down at the JA Tulsa office to display some of their charm bracelets and talk about their journey in creating a profitable business and what they gained from the experience.
For Thompson, the endeavor gave clarity to what she might like to do in the future.
"I always thought I was interested in business ... and I actually realized that I want to do something in finance," she said.
This fall she heads to Oklahoma State University, where she would like to major in finance and economics.
Rutherford, meanwhile, said she has taken away a lesson that determination is a key to accomplishment.
"Something I really learned from this experience was that you really can do something if you put your mind to it," she said.
When the four girls came up with the idea of making and selling charm bracelets, they knew they would have to raise more than $1,000 for startup costs, but they didn't know for sure if their business plan would make money.
They sold 115 shares at $2 a share to raise $230 in capital and relied on parental support for the rest of the initial costs.
Union High School was their main market; all four girls sold bracelets during lunch and visited classrooms to promote their product. They also took their bracelets to Moore Elementary to sell to teachers and attended an event hosted by Tulsa's Young Professionals, or TYPros.
Their business created bracelets out of locally purchased leather, charms and rivets. Clients could custom-order bracelets, selecting from 52 different charms.
In all, the business sold 98 bracelets. It generated total sales revenue of $1,824.17 and a net profit of $602.34.
Earlier this week, the girls shared some of their pre-made samples, wrapping several around their arms for a photographer. The pre-made bracelets reflected themes, including bridal, Western, breast cancer research and Christianity.
The charms are wide-ranging and include a lot of animals, such as a lion, elephant and owl, and sundry other symbols such as a peace sign, four-leaf clover, star, key, puzzle piece and the Eiffel Tower.
One of the challenges was finding time to create the bracelets, Thompson said.
The girls often would spend entire evenings working on the bracelets at home.
At the end of the school year, Rutherford bought the business and all of the inventory and renamed it Simply Charming Designs by Lauren, which she hopes to continue managing while majoring in journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
"I enjoyed making the bracelets, and that's probably part of the reason why I still do it is because I think it's really fun to pick out the charms," Rutherford said. "I'm hoping I'll be able to sustain it through college, and then we'll see after that."
Said Thompson, "I told her if she starts doing really well, I'll be her business partner again."
Junior Achievement of Oklahoma
Established locally: 1966
Purpose: Brings the business world to life inside the classroom with hands-on learning experiences.
Participants: Serves more than 40,000 Oklahoma students, kindergarten through 12th grade, in 55 school districts and 266 schools. More than 2,000 community members help implement the program.
JA information: tulsaworld.com/ja or 918-663-2150.
Order from Simply Charming: tulsaworld.com/charming
Simply Charming on YouTube: tulsaworld.com/charmingvideo
Original Print Headline: Charm schooled
Laurie Winslow 918-581-8466
Junior Achievement participants Becca Thompson (left) and Lauren Rutherford will be traveling to Washington, D.C., this week to compete in a national championship for their business, Simply Charming. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World