Category Archives: Financial Literacy

Media Marvels: London entrepreneurs turn high school passions into profits

As young entrepreneurs, David Aideyan, Ayush Vaidya and Nick Lavery of London, Ontario march to their own beat.

For Aideyan and Vaidya, both 20, that’s their business. They own Everest Media Group, which markets media services and a catalogue of rap, hip hop and R&B beats to musicians. As teenagers, Vaidya produced instrumentals and Aideyan rapped over them for fun. Eventually their high school passion evolved into a money-making venture.
David Aideyan

In high school, Lavery was into a different medium – videos. He shot everything from family road trips to basketball games. His friends thought they were good, and word spread. Some athletes in his high school asked Lavery to make videos of them in action. Based on that, Lavery received an Ontario government grant for summer companies for his business idea to produce highlight reels of high school football and basketball players. These athletes ultimately used them to draw interest from university teams. (Pictured: David Aideyan)

Once in university himself, Lavery, 22, transformed the business from sports videos to corporate videos. His company, Take5 Digital, has produced videos for clients ranging from the London Knights junior hockey team to a local law firm.

The three entrepreneurs have something in common beyond their youth, creativity and media-focused businesses. They are JA London and District alumni who participated in Company Program. All three credit the program with providing the foundation – the skills, experience and encouragement – for business success.

“I gained the confidence that business is a viable career option,” says Lavery.

Finding the rhythm of business
After high school, Vaidya took two years of medical sciences in university, while Aideyan studied economics. Now both attend the Ivey Business School at Western University, and pay much of their way with the revenue from Everest.

They manage 10 producers who’ve made beats available for Everest to license to some 1,500 clients. In addition, Everest provides services from graphic and web design to music production, to fully support musicians in building a professional image.

Ayush Vaidya

 “We handle the business, so people can focus on making their music,” says Vaidya.

Before Everest, their formative business experience was JA. One lesson stood out: Build on your uniqueness. “You have to identify what’s really valuable,” says Aideyan. He also learned from handling different personalities. “When you have diversity in your business, you come up with ideas you wouldn’t otherwise. JA helped us with that,” he says. (Pictured: Ayush Vaidya)

Vaidya credits his JA company (selling “memory” trees for a park) with teaching him about knowing where to target customers (a London farmer’s market). “Now, we tailor our marketing to Instagram and a site called SoundClick, to focus on a few platforms and be the best at those streams for selling instrumentals,” says Vaidya.

Business dreams become a realityNick Lavery(Nick Lavery)

Like the Everest partners, Lavery credits JA for making his business dreams feel achievable. “A lot of my friends probably wouldn’t consider what I’m doing, having a business now as a source of income,” says Lavery. “JA was quite an influence in making this decision.”

At King’s University College in London, where he studied business, Lavery earned an assignment shooting video for the Western football team. One job led to another – filming training camp and games for the London Beefeaters Football Club, documenting a season of Guelph Gryphons football, and shooting a 50th anniversary video for the Knights.

And it continued when a Knights sponsor had Lavery shoot promos to play on the video board during games. His corporate portfolio now includes videos for U. S. Steel Canada, the Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board, a health club, and a London restaurant.

Lavery took a break from university this past year to grow his business. He’s now figuring out how to juggle work and ongoing studies.

Bev Robinson, President of JA London and District, says Achievers carry key lessons from JA into their post-secondary lives. Besides the fundamental entrepreneurial and interpersonal skills, JA gives them the chance to fail in a low-risk environment, learning more about business and resilience.

In an ultra-competitive work world, JA students get the early opportunity to walk into a room and present ideas, lead a real company, brand something, and make a case. “Power,” says Robinson, “is the ability to sell yourself confidently.”

Lavery agrees. “Reading a textbook only gets you so far. You have to go out there and do it, and have the opportunity to put the skills into action.”

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Practicing Financial Literacy at JA Canada

Ed sweater[Ed Zdyb (left) and Andre Gallant, JA Canada’s National Program Manager, showing off their (questionable) fashion choices.]

There are people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to enable JA Canada to carry out its mission every day. Although these individuals rarely see the spotlight, their work is significant in keeping JA Canada moving forward. One of these people is Ed Zdyb, JA Canada’s Director of Finance. He oversees and manages the overall budget, and keeps in check the organization’s revenue and expenses. To shine a light on the importance of Ed’s work and offer insights into the financial workings at JA Canada, he’s written a short blog post about his role, the challenges & opportunities of managing the budget at a charity, the importance of financial reporting & transparency, and the process of establishing a budget each year.

I’ve been at JA Canada for some six months now helping to maintain and improve financial reporting to both internal (i.e. management, committee, Board) as well as external stakeholders (i.e. donors, government, JA Worldwide).  With over 40 years of experience, primarily with not-for-profits and charities, I’ve pretty much come across all sorts of reporting challenges.  In the case of JA Canada, it needs to keep track of its revenue and expenses in a way that ensures accuracy as well as fiscal responsibility.  To do this we use “fund” accounting, which entails separating “buckets” where we track activities according to conditions established by the Board of Directors as well as the donors.

There are accounting rules to be followed – set up by accounting standard-setting bodies like the Chartered Professional Accounting Association – so that there is consistency in financial reporting across all not-for-profits, charities, and associations. This way a stakeholder can have a level of confidence when trying to assess the financial strength of an organization when they are thinking of partnering with or supporting via multi-year contribution agreement.  When it comes to organizations like JA Canada, the key element for any accounting department is to be able to use numbers and dollars to report in a way that’s understandable and transparent to all stakeholders…let’s call it “Cents-ible Storytelling”.

The “storytelling” comes into play when working on a budget – be it for a project or for JA Canada as a whole – and then being able to report on whether the project has met its original goals. In most cases, these results are more than just financial.  What is usually more important to a stakeholder is whether their donation was used responsibly and that the agreed upon goals were achieved. Such expectations require active involvement of all key JA Canada departments.  An effective budget – for a project or otherwise – should be based on a narrative that explains what – and why – undertakings are required (need), what specific activities are required to address the need, who needs to be part of the process (which staff, departments, etc.), how proposed actions will be managed, the estimated costs to achieve desired outcomes, and how results will be measured and reported (beyond simply listing expenses compared to budget).

These storytelling elements exist in the private sector, but the outcomes are usually easier to identify, namely the degree to which a company hit expected profit or profit margins.  It’s usually not that simple in the not-for-profit world, as “profit” needs to be measured in terms of expected social benefits. For example, did JA Canada increase youth participation rate in its programs?  Was JA Canada able to benefit from increased volunteer support?  Is there increased awareness of the JA brand in Canada?  Where and how did JA Canada spend its resources (in terms of donations, contributions, as well as its staff resources)?  While dollars are important, it’s usually the “Cents-ible Storytelling” that proves to be more valuable.

Ed Zdyb
Director of Finance, JA Canada
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A Parent’s Perspective on JA

Together copy(Mairi and Ian McKinnon at the Canadian Business Hall of Fame Gala)

Ian McKinnon is the proud father of Mairi McKinnon (a winner of JA’s Deloitte Inspiration Award). He watched his daughter become involved with JA Company Program – first as a participant and then president – through the Halifax Grammar School in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In the video blog (or “vlog”) below, Ian shares the impact JA has had on Mairi and also has a message for prospective parents. Ian McKinnon is Founder and President of GroundSwell Music in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Making Learning Fun

JA Excelerate

Nearly 60 years ago, JA Canada gave Canadian students a taste of experiential learning by introducing our Company Program. It was innovative and exciting. Today, JA Canada offers 15 programs to 250,000 students across the country and continues to bring innovative and exciting learning experiences. A key part of this is through the introduction of digital content and game-based learning, as well as through the gamification of our online content. This approach was validated by a Boston Consultancy Group (BCG) study completed in February of 2015, which recommended among other things that JA “emphasize ‘blended’ learning with technology serving as the catalyst of the vision”. By incorporating this validated approach, JA is applying educational methods deeply rooted in a strong foundation of research, best practices, and modern trends.

As part of the first phase of our JA Excelerate initiative, we’ve added digital elements to three of our most popular programs including Economics for Success, Dollars with Sense, and Our Business World, with digital elements soon to be integrated into the refreshed A Business of Our Own. The program enhancements started out as digital slideshows, and have quickly evolved to videos and interactive HTML activities. The reasoning is simple: Today’s students have grown up in the digital space. Rather than asking them to go back to the pen-and-paper age, JA Canada is going to where they already are. Feedback from teachers and volunteers around these initiatives has been very positive, particularly in regards to student interest in the programs.

Great content is important, but great content doesn’t guarantee engagement. And while school has external motivators such as mandatory attendance and grades, we need to give students reasons to engage with our content for their own benefit. That’s where gamification – the concept of inserting elements of gameplay into non-game situations – helps out. For instance, granting “experience points” for engaging with content, giving rewards for accumulating points, and offering clever designations or titles are concepts from the gaming world that serve to motivate users to use platforms frequently and build a merit-based community. It is an emerging practice in education, and has shown promising results in terms of learner engagement.

These two concepts, game-based learning and gamification, will ensure that JA continues to deliver engaging and impactful programs in the future.

Andre Gallant
National Program Manager, JA Canada
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Finally, check out JA Canada’s brand NEW instagram account @JA_Canada for photos from key events and daily activities!

Introducing Our New Marketing Communications Assistant

Blog photo 1

Hi everyone! My name is Daniel Kim, and I’m very excited to introduce myself as the newest member at JA Canada’s national office. In the role of marketing communications assistant, I look forward to having a hand in a variety of projects on the media and brand marketing side of the organization – this includes the development of this blog! It’s only been about a week since I started but I’ve hit the ground running! I wanted to use my first blog post to share a little bit about myself, and what inspired me to join JA Canada’s fantastic team here in Toronto.

I’ve learned so much already in the past week about JA Canada’s history, organizational structure, its various departments, and the ambitious vision it has moving forward. This is due to the very informative and friendly orientation meetings with everyone here at the office. I want to extend a huge thank you to my fellow colleagues who made me feel welcome and were so patient in answering all my questions! Good timing allowed me to also participate in last week’s JA America Regional Communications meeting and hear about the tremendous work being planned or underway with our fellow global partners. I look forward to working closer with them – and our charters in Canada – in the coming weeks.

I am incredibly moved by JA Canada’s mission statement, which is to “inspire youth and prepare them to succeed in a global economy”. I’m a strong advocate for youth education and in engaging our young leaders to equip them for our ever-changing economy. I have always tried to participate in the advocacy of causes I believe in through volunteer work and extra curricular activities within and outside my local community. Only a week in and I can already see many differences between the private vs. non-profit sector. There are wonderfully creative strategies, visions, and detailed plans in place here at JA Canada to move forward with into the future. But these can only be realized with funding from our generous supporters who believe in our work. I see the unique challenges – and opportunities! – that charities and non-profits across the country face day-to-day.

I share JA Canada’s values and core beliefs in investing in our youth to ensure that they are work ready, entrepreneurial, and financially literate. Our educational programs are based on these 3 pillars in support of our mission statement. And as a university graduate just a few years removed from school, I cannot stress the importance of these pillars and how each have affected my life in some way or form immeasurably as soon as I left the school campus and entered the workforce. Being a professional in the workplace, thinking on your feet, using imagination in your work, and managing a personal budget are important to your career – and your life – no matter where you work or what you do. Whether a student decides to pursue a career in business or not, the lessons and educational values they attain through JA Canada’s programs will help them. There is no doubt about this.

I think one of the wonderful things working in advocacy or working in a non-profit environment is that you put yourself in a situation where you work together with others to realize a clearly stated vision. There is an alignment of goals toward a worthy mission here at JA Canada. You work with a tight-knit group whose values lines up with yours and it no longer seems like work – it becomes a passion.

I am excited to contribute in the effort of JA Canada’s goal, which is to reach one million students per year by 2020. I consider myself lucky to be supporting this effort.

Daniel Kim
Marketing Communications Assistant, JA Canada

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Be sure to ‘LIKE’ JA Canada’s Facebook page and ‘SHARE’ this post with your friends & family!

You can also follow and interact with JA Canada’s official twitter account @JA_Canada.

Finally, check out JA Canada’s brand NEW instagram account @JA_Canada for photos from key events and daily activities!

An Early Lesson In Financial Literacy Creates Empowered Adults

As a parent and as a teacher, I grapple daily with the question of how to seed the experience and knowledge for kids to become financially responsible adults. Instinctively, and for several years now, I have been experimenting on my kids by empowering them to make purchases, research buying decisions, invest their money in family projects, give to charity and save for things they don’t know they want today.

My firm belief is that if my kids are to become financially savvy young adults, they must have diverse and varied experience with handling money as soon as they can understand what it represents. If this education is absent, there are some clear dangers in navigating life’s money minefield.

From my vantage point as I work to shape the financial literacy programs offered by JA Canada, I see four risks for young adults if they don’t have a solid portfolio of financial experience as children.

Dependency
To me, dependency is the opposite of freedom. To have a fulfilling life one must feel that one has the power to make decisions that create the life one wants to live. Living paycheque to paycheque happens when you run out of cash before paying bills, buying food, or rewarding yourself. I recall vividly how incredibly stifling this situation was emotionally and spiritually when I was a university student. The last thing any parent wants for their child is financial dependency on them well into adulthood.

Skewed Values
Today’s consumer landscape is confusing. Young people are constantly being influenced by various and sophisticated messages designed to channel their desire to buy. This unchecked consumerism contradicts any instruction a person might receive about saving or fiscal responsibility. Without intervention with the full weight of your parental influence, kids risk developing unrealistic and unhealthy expectations that they are entitled to the latest trends. Worse yet, they may learn happiness is dependent on full participation in rabid consumerism.

Constraining Debt
On a weekly basis, I hear of more reports that Canadians are carrying record levels of consumer debt. With interest rates seemingly locked down below the rate of inflation, many rational adults succumb to their desires to improve, redecorate and upgrade. Of course, there are solid financial reasons to leverage credit to create stability (i.e. mortgage) or capitalize on real opportunity (i.e. postsecondary education), but kids without money smarts will have trouble seeing the constraints and potentially paralyzing effects of unhealthy debt on their future options.

Sinking Self-Esteem
Without positive money habits, the risk of a big financial mistake in young adulthood is higher. The cascading consequences of such a circumstance can turn the confident and empowered into the shaken and demoralized. It would be hard to quantify the long term, compounding effects of a false start to adult life, but surely this something we all would like to mitigate for our kids.

Of course, it’s not all bad. The opportunities in equipping kids with money mojo far exceed the dangers of not doing so. This is the spirit of Financial Literacy Month and the motivation of the thousands of volunteers who deliver our JA Dollars with Sense program in Canada. Together we are striving to be an upstream solution to the risks I see above.

As always, I am interested in your thoughts and reactions. Why is an early financial education important to you? What perils are you preventing by equipping kids with money mojo?

Stephen Lippa,
Vice-President, Education & Digital Strategy, JA Canada

This post by Stephen Lippa originally appeared in The Huffington Post on 11/18/2015.