By Maria Spitale-Leisk, North Shore News
Junior Achievement British Columbia program participants and North Shore secondary students Kelvin Chan, Seyna Kim and Osa Hawthorne show off their lockable bike cover, Vancover, which earned the team the CIBC Student Company of the Year Award. photo Paul McGrath, North Shore News
Creating snap-on socks wasn’t challenging enough – but portable bike covers were – for a group of enterprising North Vancouver high school students whose instincts paid off.
Student company the Vancovers walked – or, rather rode – away with top honours for their unique bike cover company they developed while participating in the Junior Achievement British Columbia program, which teaches entrepreneurship, real world experience and financial literacy to students from grades five to 12.
Anyone who has lost socks in the laundry might have appreciated the snap-on solution – a close contender when the group was looking for a product to market – but it was too easy compared to the “high risk” bike cover plan, Vancovers president Seyna Kim explains. “Vancouver has a very prominent biking community and with the moisture in the climate, we realized there was a huge niche market for our product,” says Kim, a graduating Handsworth secondary student.
Fifteen budding entrepreneurs, from high schools stretching across North Vancouver, met once a week from October 2015 to May to talk business at TD Canada Trust on Lonsdale.
First, the group settled on a supplier in China that offered a bike cover with all the bells and whistles they were looking for. Next came the company name, Vancovers, and their slogan, “Give your bike a break.”
A Vancover, as Kim explains, is a weatherproof cover that protects a person’s bike from the elements, plus features a grommet for locking up and a drawstring to fit perfectly on any size bike. The cover also comes in a small bag for portability.
“There are bike covers being sold in stores but there are none that has the same features,” says Kim.
To market Vancovers, the group set up a website along with different social media pages. Posters and T-shirts, meanwhile, proved effective during trade shows, including Make It Vancouver. The students also pitched and won over Reckless Bikes and North Vancouver-based electric bike company OHM Cycles, which started carrying Vancovers.
As shareholders and board members, the team was responsible for bringing in $200, or four shares at $50 each. The Vancovers sold about 70 units at approximately $40 each. In the end, the students weren’t able to make a profit, but managed to return $45 per share to each shareholder and earn the prestigious CIBC Student Company of the Year Award.
Craig Lovell, a longtime mentor with the JABC program, said the Vancovers’ willingness to accept risk was a key factor in their success.
“Experiencing failure and learning to recover quickly is a key skill of entrepreneurship. It’s also a tough skill to teach and needs to be experienced,” said Lovell, via email. “Vancovers was challenged early on in establishing sales, including investing in trade shows that didn’t pay off (to my knowledge this is the first I’ve seen a JA company do this).”
When it comes to lessons learned through the JABC experience, Kim says one thing stuck out the most: “the paramount importance of networking.”
“Business is all about meeting new people and making connections and so we learned to really step out of our comfort zone and introduce ourselves,” says Kim, who is on her way to study at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia in the fall, with a future goal to start her own store and be a fashion buyer.
Kim praises JABC as “an amazing program,” especially for students with business aspirations, saying her team received some useful, real life, hands-on experience that is “applicable not only in post-secondary but beyond.”
The JABC awards were handed out June 9 at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business in downtown Vancouver. More than 25 students from across the Lower Mainland were honoured for their business acumen, including Mulgrave School student Chu Fan (Kenny) Yang who won a JABC Investment Strategies Stock Market Challenge Award.
The Vancovers team was comprised of:
Handsworth: Seyna Kim, Grade 12; Kelvin Chan, Grade 11; Robin Kim, Grade 12
Carson Graham: Marina Starck, Grade 12; Osa Hawthorne, Grade 12; Parsa Al, Grade 12
Seycove: Chantelle Olsen, Grade 12; Josh Tevlin, Grade 12; Kevin Kwon, Grade 12; James Campbell, Grade 12
Sutherland: Michael Yee, Grade 11
Windsor: Sinem Culhaogul, Grade 12; Ivy Reisner, Grade 12; Bentley Heathcote, Grade 12
Mountainside: Jay Herbsen, Grade 12
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