By Amy Wenk
Kevin Shutzberg, a junior at Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs, has proved to be a promising entrepreneur.
The 17-year-old took top honors April 18 at the Junior Achievement (JA) of Georgia Fellows Expo, the culmination of a 23-week after-school program in which high school students create companies to learn the ins and outs of business.
Kevin, a wrestler and National Honors Society member who ranks in the top 5 percent of his class, was named Outstanding Young Business Person, beating out roughly 250 other participants. He received a $1,500 scholarship and the chance to attend a youth leadership development course over the summer.
When the results were announced the week after the expo, “I was landing in San Francisco to go visit Stanford (University), and I got a whole ton of text messages and phone calls from people,” said Kevin, who joined the JA Fellows program as a freshman. “It was pretty exciting. I have been trying for three years to get it, and I’ve always come in second place. It’s nice it was me this time.”
The budding business leader hopes to pursue business along with engineering or mathematics at college.
“He’s an outstanding young man,” said Audrey Treasure, the senior director of the JA Fellows program.
As president of the student-led company MagneticKits, Kevin also was honored with the Best Company award, alongside about 20 teammates, including Riverwood students Blake Engelhard, Benjamin Greenberg, Nicholas Immerman and Gia Lomsadze. The kids split $1,500 and will travel to Boston in July to compete with top teams from across the United States and Canada.
“This has been a phenomenal year for Riverwood,” said Sandy Springs resident Lenny Shutzberg, Kevin’s father and a JA Fellows adviser the past three years. “These kids have really shined.”
The MagneticKits company created a $14.95 item that organizes information on a refrigerator door. The magnetic products included dry-erase calendars and shopping lists.
“Their goal was to make life easier for people to be organized,” Treasure said. “They did a really polished job of presenting all that they had learned and incorporating the lessons they had, in addition to being a financially profitable company.”
MagneticKits earned around $2,800, much of which the company donated back to JA.
The company’s success began in October at the JA office on Abernathy Road in Sandy Springs. The students, along with two other teams, Save It! and EcoPeace, met once a week until April to develop their corporations.
“Most things students get to learn are simulation, especially when it comes to business,” said program volunteer Sam Deich, a manager for internal audit at UPS in Sandy Springs. “This is real-life experience.”
Students create a company from scratch. They elect officers and sell shares of stock to finance the business.
Then they must develop a product, research the costs of production, purchase materials, package and market merchandise, and sell and distribute the goods.
They must handle any challenges that arise in the process.
“It’s definitely a unique experience,” Kevin said. “I think our biggest challenge this year was really leadership and actually motivating people to work. You can read in a textbook certain tactics that you can do, but it’s not the same as actually trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.”
The students also are responsible for producing annual reports, preparing for interviews and presenting at the expo. Those are the three areas on which the companies were judged.
“I think it’s a great program,” said Buckhead resident Laura Craft, a financial analyst with LaSalle Investment Management who volunteers as a JA Fellows adviser. “They learn their basic business skills. They don’t necessarily get the exposure in their typical high school classes. It teaches them how to run a company in the real world.”
In addition, students have the opportunity to interact with Atlanta business leaders and to participate in professional development programs.
“Student involvement in the program has helped them get scholarships and college acceptances,” said Treasure, noting around $20,000 in prizes and scholarships was awarded this year. “They have a lot fun, and they meet students from the over 90 schools represented in the program.”
The JA Fellows program is free and open to students who meet the application requirements. The deadline to apply for the next program is September.
“The most important thing we are trying to find in a student is the willingness to challenge themselves and to make the most of their futures,” Treasure said. “We have students from all different backgrounds and all different interests. It’s a great group of kids.”