Heroes Among Us
Last Saturday, crowded in a small ballroom in the Ipanema neighborhood of Rio, the future of Latin America unfolded. There, one hundred students from across the region came together to compete for the honor of being Junior Achievement’s Company of the Year. Beyond the event, though, these students will become the future entrepreneurs in their nations. Their creativity, passion and innovations will drive the economic future of this region.
As the Sales Director for FedEx Express in Latin America, I see how business is changing what’s possible. Every day I work with customers, both small and large, who are taking the resources of their communities and creating products and services the world demands. As I met with each of the 19 students teams from Guatemala, Paraguay, and Argentina and more, I was struck at the similarity of the conversations I had with these students and with most of our customers.
The future of Latin America is in its youth and their entrepreneurial spirit. By supporting Junior Achievement in this region, FedEx is sending a clear message to these students that the global marketplace is available to them, both to source and sell their products. However, we don’t make Access happen – it depends fully on their willingness to reach out and leverage the ideas, the information and the markets available to them.
One of those teams was Juggly JA from Ecuador. The FedEx panel of judges, including myself, was asked to identify the company presenting the best business plan with the potential to create jobs, grow small businesses, expand global development and improve the environment, all powerful indicators of Access. While all of the teams captured aspects of Access, the winner of this year’s FedEx Access Award maximized the tools and demonstrated impacts.
During the competition, we sat down with the team to learn how they did it.
Matt: Tell us a little about your company.
Juggly JA: JUGGLY JA produces and commercializes leather foot-bags filled with bird-seed, providing activity for kids between the ages of 3 and 16 in Quito, Ecuador. We are attempting to create a NEW culture of healthy entertainment through the use of carefully elaborated and designed foot-bags.
Matt: What makes the production of these foot-bags unique?
Juggly JA: The foot-bags are made of leather and each Juggly is presented in a multi-use package, made of 100% recycled fabric. While the company is from Quito, the leather used to manufacture the foot-bags was not. The raw material (leather) was obtained in Quisapincha, a town that was five hours away but known for its high quality leather. It was not difficult to collaborate with our provider because they were committed to offer an excellent service. The multi-use package was made of recycled fabric that was obtained in a textile factory located a few minutes away.
Matt: How did Juggly JA use these bags to create jobs?
Juggly JA: Our main supplier was in Ecuador and generated employment for underprivileged women through the production of the multi-use packages.
Matt: How did Juggly JA demonstrate concern for the environment?
Juggly JA: Jugglies are biodegradable footbags. We also offered a product that promoted physical activity.
Matt: How did you consider your impact globally?
Juggly JA: Jugglies got a lot of acceptance at our school, so we expanded our sales to other schools. We always envision our company going beyond the Ecuadorian borders which is why we chose a name that could have an international appeal. We also created a web site, opened a Facebook account and a Hi5 account.
Matt: Finally, what was the most rewarding part of JA Company Program?
Juggly JA: The most gratifying feeling about the Junior Achievement experience was truly the lives we were able to touch. We believe in our product, we believe in our company and we believe we can make a difference not tomorrow but TODAY!