The JA Company Program and JA companies provide students the opportunity to experience entrepreneurship in a safe environment and under instruction as part of their education. The JA company is not an actual business, but a tool used for entrepreneurship education at the school. The JA entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to realize their business ideas, which may be based on their interests and personal skills.
The JA Company operates using real money and sells its products or services to customers. This increases the efficiency of the program, improves the student’s motivation toward the operation, and introduces elements from the business world. At the same time, the program encourages the students to become more active and take initiative.
In addition to an unforgettable learning experience, the students receive a certificate from JA Finland, which specifies the skills learned during the program. The certificate makes an excellent addition to any CV.
As the advisor, you only have to be yourself and share your experiences with the students a few times during the program. In total, an advisor is expected to use approximately 5–10 hours of their personal time during the school year. You do not have to be a superhero or the CEO of a major corporation. You just need to have enthusiasm, life experience, and the desire to promote learning and entrepreneurship.
JA companies in brief
- A JA Company can be established by a young person participating in the JA Company Program at their educational institution.
- The sales of a JA company typically amount to 100–10,000 euros. The turnover of a JA company is limited to 15,000 euros.
- The JA companies are not taxable for VAT purposes and do not as themselves pay taxes.
- The work performed by a JA company is not eligible for the tax credit for domestic help.
- The revenue from a JA company is considered personally generated income for the participants.
- JA Finland has acquired business and product liability insurance policies for the JA companies. More information about the insurance is available here.
- Fennia offers the young people participating in the program accident insurance for the duration of the program. Read more here.
- JA companies can be established alone or in a group.
- The JA companies are not officially considered businesses, and therefore do not have business IDs.
- The operation of the JA company is not considered engaging in an economic activity.
What lessons are learned during the program?
The JA companies seek advisors who can provide support and a sparring partner. The advisor can be a parent, relative or a local entrepreneur, for example. Where necessary, the advisors are supported by JA Finland.
The JA company does not need an advisor who has detailed knowledge of each aspect of entrepreneurship, but a person who is interested in sharing the experience of entrepreneurship and helping to find the answer to questions the JA company might have. The advisor has no legal responsibility for the business operation.
Tasks of an advisor
The tasks of an advisor include commenting on ideas, suggesting improvements, finding potential contacts with local operators, providing advice and suggestions for improving the production, marketing and sales of the JA company. As an advisor, you will meet with the JA company at agreed times.
When you discuss the operation of the company with the young people, you might notice that you are also learning new things and are introduced to the problems a new company might encounter as well as the interests of the young people.
Why become an advisor?
- You get to follow along as the participating youths grow as entrepreneurs, provide support for the challenges of entrepreneurship, and celebrate their successes.
- You can provide support to young people.
- You gain experience of mentoring and coaching.
If the advisor is also an entrepreneur, their company could act as a sponsor to the JA company.
Phases of the program and mentor meetings
Content for 1st meeting
The students already have a finished business idea. Get to know each other, discuss the students’ business idea and their goals for the program. First ask the students to present their business idea and introduce yourself and explain your career path. Remember that this cooperation is about the students, so you should let them take the central role as you all focus on the operation and development of the JA company.
Topics for discussion:
- the feasibility of the idea during the school year
- teams competence to implement the idea
- the commitment and roles of the team
- students’ goals for the company
- the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and
- threats for the company (SWOT)
- the areas where the students feel they need help and where you could help them
- refining the business idea further
- concrete suggestions for action and intermediate goals for the next meeting
- the scheduling and locations for the next meetings
- communication via email and phone
Content for 3rd meeting
The operations of the JA companies are continuing and developing. Some of the companies are preparing for the Uskalla Yrittää semi-final or even the final, so they are planning related activities. Usually at this stage, the students need encouragement to keep working hard all the way to the end of the JA year.
Could you know of some good events that a JA company could attend? How could a JA company product or service be further developed?
Topics for discussion:
- the students’ plans for the future
- summer jobs (please note that the JA company only operates during the school year)
- increasing the effectiveness of sales and marketing
- developing the product/service
- concrete measures for the next meeting
Content for 2nd meeting
At this stage, the JA company has been operating for a while and the challenges are usually related to setting up production or marketing. Regional trade fairs and Christmas fairs are organized during the winter and early spring, in which the JA companies have the opportunity to participate and demonstrate their skills and sell their products. Selling and sales pitches are important at this point.
Ask the students to pitch to you and your work community if possible. In the regional Uskalla Yrittää -semi-finals, the JA companies can qualify for the national Uskalla Yrittää -final. Encourage the students to take part in the expos and go along to spur them on.
Do you know someone who could be useful to the students? Introduce the students to your network. You are in a key role to open doors for the students.
Topics of discussion:
- the target audience
- the pricing of the product or service
- sales and marketing for the company: where and how the students’ suggestions and ideas for sales and production
- the accounting, financial transactions, and calculation of profitability
- sales pitch practice and feedback
- inviting the students to present their company at an event organized by your place of work
- sharing networks and directing the students toward the right people
- concrete measures for the next meeting
Content for 4th meeting
Discuss the students’ experiences of the year: what went especially well, what could have been done differently, and what did you learn.
Discuss their plans for the future as well. Will the students establish an actual company? Can they contact you in the future? Please note that the JA company can only operate over the course of a single school year. If the students wish to continuetheir business operation, they must establish an actual company or work through a co-op.
Topics for discussion:
- exchanging experiences
- lessons learned during the year
- what would you do differently?
- will the students continue as entrepreneurs?
- communication in the future
Tips for the content of your meetings
When students have prepared a few possible business ideas, you should meet up and discuss about the possibilities and realization of the ideas and comment on them. In the first meeting you should also try to get to know the students and their goals concerning their JA company.
A mentor’s role can be divided into two parts. The first one is the so called normal evaluation of the idea (SWOT – Strenghts, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), which determines whether the idea is fit for realization. The second and possibly the most important part consists of you reviewing issues that the students may not notice or know how to take into consideration.
These issues include:
- Can the idea be realized during one term?
- Do the students have the necessary skills to realize their idea?
- Is the whole team engaged in operation?
These issues should be undergone with the students honestly, and change plans if necessary (when e.g. the students don’t have the right motivation).
Once the business model or plan is nearly finished, you should hold a meeting in order to comment on and develop it. The most common convention is asking the students to send their plan e.g. one week before the meeting by e-mail. This allows you to discuss development ideas and the possible faults in the plan.
Just remember, that the members of JA companies are young students and this is most likely their first ever business plan.
When the company begins its operation, the first challenge is usually the realization of manufacturing or marketing. In this situation the students can ask for a meeting to ask for advice on e.g. how to realize certain ideas and who to sell the product to.
The content and goal of the meeting should be agreed on beforehand and ask the students to deliver a description of their product and their own ideas for marketing and manufacturing. You can directly suggest certain methods during a free conversation or you can arrange contacts for the students to people who could help them further.
The role of a “door opener” is one of the most valuable forms of assistance you can offer to the students.
During the program, the JA companies are provided the opportunity to participate in various competitions. As an advisor, you should encourage the JA entrepreneurs to take part in these competitions, thus developing their operation further.
Regional Uskalla Yrittää semi-finals, which take place in a trade fair setting, are held from January to March. These events provide an excellent platform for practicing sales and creating new networks.
In the annual report the JA company should tell about company operations, the student’s learning and their financial information must be stated. You also add a mentor’s note to the report, where you tell about your own experiences during the term.
The annual report should be more a description of the company’s operation instead of an official annual report. Once the report is finished, you should hold a meeting (or comment on the report by e-mail) before it’s delivered to the school and JA Finland.
The JA company must be closed down and before this a final meeting must be held. In the meeting, the company’s operations are officially finished and profit shares and return of investments are agreed on.
Once all operations have been closed and the annual report has been delivered, you should hold an evaluation discussion of what happened during the year, the moments of success, the problem situations and how they were dealt with, and consider what the students could do in the future.
At the same time, it is important for you to tell the students what you have learned from their operations and encourage them to take on new challenges. These instructions are directional recommendations, but it all comes down to you and the students to decide how you will cooperate.
What lessons are learned during the program?
Extracts from the program’s primary and secondary feedback survey averages from 2013 to 2018 (N: 2962).
Read about the research regarding the JA Company Program
Long-term entrepreneurship education reinforces the capacities required in working life, supporting all types of learning at the same time. Research already shows that skills are improved through activity, says Virpi Utriainen, the CEO of JA Finland.
The two-year ICEE study included 12,000 participants from five countries (Belgium, Italy, Latvia, Finland, and Estonia). The study by JA Europe was conducted in cooperation with the Ministries of Education of the participating countries and it was supported by funding from the European Commission’s Erasmus+ program. The study included 2,400 Finnish participants.
In Finland, the difference between the youths who participated in entrepreneurship education and the control group in terms of multi-disciplinary competence, working life capacity, and school success was significantly larger than elsewhere in Europe.
Multi-disciplinary competence is created through practical work
The study also reveals that the youths who participated in the JA Company Program had a better general understanding of the benefits of different subjects and modules than those youths who had not participated in the program.
Applying things learned in school to everyday situations is beneficial to understanding their significance, which results in better success at school. While developing key competencies (such as verbal communication, mathematical skills, decision-making) is not the main objective of the JA Company Program, the impact was clear in Finland. For example, the ability to make decisions is significantly improved through transversal learning.
Entrepreneurship education interests teachers
Entrepreneurship education is a modern and practical way of teaching. Entrepreneurship education can be easily integrated into various subjects. These two themes dominated the responses of the Finnish teachers who participated in the study. Majority of the teachers emphasized the need to focus on experience-based methods. Some teachers highlighted the pedagogical advantages of this learning method: they began to understand their students better, which changed the nature of their relationship.
The ICEE study examined the impact of the JA Company Program on youths aged 15–20 in upper secondary schools and vocational schools. The Finnish schools that participated in the study included Kainuu Vocational College, Etu-Töölö Upper Secondary School, Business College Helsinki, and the Raisio Regional Education and Training Consortium Raseko.
JA Finland provides programs that support the objectives of curriculums for reinforcing the entrepreneurial attitudes, working life skills, and personal financial management of children and young people from pre-primary to higher education – learning by doing. www.nuoriyrittajyys.fi.