David Loose, president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Southern Colorado Inc., grew up in Anderson, Ind., and participated in JA in high school. He graduated from Purdue University in 1981 with a business and economics degree, and immediately went to work for JA in Fort Wayne, Ind. In 1987, he moved to Colorado Springs to work at the national JA office, running its rural outreach program. He later moved on to JA's international wing and spent 15 years developing the program around the world. During his tenure with the international branch, JA grew from 15 countries in 1989, to 109 countries by 2003.
Question: Can you explain the business of Junior Achievement at the regional level?
Answer: Our regional office services 46 counties for southern Colorado, and partners with about 200 schools to offer 19 educational programs that span the K-12 curriculum at every grade. The content of our programs includes entrepreneurship, financial literacy and work readiness skills, like resume building, eye contact and firm handshakes. We impact about 30,216 students annually with the help of 1,412 volunteers from the business community.
Q: Why are your programs important in Colorado?
A: Last year, the state of Colorado mandated financial literacy at every grade level. All of our programs are correlated to the state standards, so our programs are in great demand.
Q: How do you qualify your volunteers?
A: All our volunteers come from business and industry and the background of the volunteer matches the program that we deliver. We provide the content, and our volunteers bring it to life in the classroom by giving examples from their own background and business experience.
Q: How did the recession affect you?
A: We adjusted, like a lot of people, by controlling costs. In 2007 we went from eight full-time employees down to three full-time employees, and replaced the full-time positions with part-time positions. We currently have four full-time employees, and eight part-time employees. We had a couple of years where we dipped in impact from 29,000 students down to 23,000 students. Now we're back on the upswing with an impact of over 30,000 students.
Q: What are your plans for growth?
A: We are planning for about 8 percent growth this year. Our revenue comes entirely from the private sector, with no government money. A lot of their companies will make donations to JA as part of their community giving, and that makes up about half of our revenue. The other half comes from fundraising events.
Q: Who is your competition and what do you do better than them?
A: We do a very good job of partnering the private sector with the formal educational system. The business people, the volunteers or mentors, they are our hallmark and have been since 1919. There are a lot of great materials, videos and a lot of great textbooks out there, but what makes us different is the perspective our volunteers bring to the curriculum.
Also, we look at other organizations that have economics as a focus and we work cooperatively with them. For example, we work with the Colorado Council for Education. They do some teacher training and they do a very good job.
Q: How does JA uniquely serve the community?
A: We are planning a capstone program where kids will be able to apply everything they've learned in business and economics from grades K-5, in a hands-on, laboratory type setting. It's called BizTown. They'll have to develop a resume and apply and interview for a job. They will get paid wages and commissions, will go to the bank to cash their checks and have JA money to spend in the town for the day. There's even an IRS agent that will be coming around to collect their taxes. We anticipate this program starting in anywhere from 18 to 24 months.
Q: What advice do you have to offer entrepreneurs?
A: Entrepreneurism is all about overcoming risk. Sometimes you just need to get out and get your hands dirty and get it done. Don't over analyze it.
Q: Do you have a personal formula for success?
A: Patience and persistence are my two favorite words. A lot of things will seem like a crisis at the moment, but patience will help you to work through it. And persistence will pay off for you in the long run.
Edited for space and clarity.