JA Titan Challenge Team Learns Key Business Skills

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Western Reserve High School seniors Hunter Allen, Jacob Grindley and Gavin Beninston gathered around their computer, discussing what research and development decisions would best increase company revenue while keeping their customers satisfied.

The students are three of the 41 students who filled the Williamson College of Business Administration computer labs Thursday, going head-to-head in making business decisions as CEOs of competing phone companies. In the simulation competition, teams were given $2 million each to start their own phone companies.

The business decisions they made were part of the Junior Achievement of Eastern Ohio 14th annual JA Titan Business Challenge.

Jan Miller Dyer, president of REM Electronics in Warren, was the team’s mentor for the competition. She was one of more than a dozen mentors who networked with students and offered advice to advance their projects.

“It is highly visual and very interactive,” she said of the simulation software the students used. “Every little move they make creates another dynamic someplace else.”

This was Dyer’s first year as a mentor in the JA contest.

“I was just giving them, as a business person [advice],” she said. “They were encountering some challenges. I would say, ‘Maybe you don’t want to make a cut to your employee benefits’ and I encouraged them to make a marketing budget.”

Dyer said she believes the program trains future leaders and teaches students long-term critical thinking skills.

Team member Beninston said the team learned a lot from their mentor and tried to focus on the overall goals rather than the details.

“[There was] a lot of work in the classroom, a lot of practicing with each other and a lot talking to each other rather than just doing it individually,” he said. “Working together we find is much more healthier than working by ourselves.”

The students practiced about a week prior to the competition.

While none of the students have officially declared their post-graduation plans, Beninston said the event shed new light on a career in business.

“It left a good impression on me,” he said.

Beninston said his biggest takeaway was the importance of working as a team.

“In any line of work, the importance of team is much more important than you think it is,” he said. “After doing a lot of these simulations, I really saw that.”

Going into additional rounds, Allen said the team had to tweak their strategy.

“We had to take things a little bit slower, be a little more conservative and not just jump out the gate spending all of the money,” he said. “You have to take it quarter by quarter, step by step, thinking about what we need to do that is going to be best for our company.”

The team had to navigate challenges in research and development, said Allen, making sure their phones were updated, increasing revenue and keeping customers satisfied.

The team also said they learned from their mentor the importance of marketing and keeping a good pace.

The team and its mentors: Hunter Allen, Jacob Grindley, teacher Brett Powell, Gavin Beninston and mentor Jan Miller Dyer.

Brett Powell, Western Reserve High School teacher, said this was his first time entering his students into the JA competition.

“They worked hard the time they were in there,” he said. “They learn a lot more hands-on.”

After experiencing the competition, Powell said he plans to bring an additional team next year.

Michele Merkel, president of Junior Achievement of Eastern Ohio, said while the competition invites mostly junior and senior students, it is not just for those interested in business careers.

“This teaches so much real life experience to the students, even if they are not going to the Williamson College of Business, they’re not going into economics or into finance,” she said.

Scholarship Winners: 
1st Place ($500 each) – Lordstown Team 6: David Myers, Austin Tyree & Mark Holliday (Mentor: Melissa Maki – Middlefield Bank).
2nd Place ($250 each) – Mineral Ridge Team 2: Cody Simmons, Faith Schneider & Mikayla Russel (Mentor: Michael Narducci – The Narducci Realty Group).
3rd Place ($125 each) – Lisbon Team 2: Gage Owens, Tate Wallen & Trevor Siefke (Mentor: Andrew Nemergut – Associated School Employees Credit Union).
Consolation Winners:
Profit – Southington Team 1: Billy Prowitt, Emily Proverbs & Seth Balzer (Mentor: Candace Madden – Mercy Health).
Marketing & Sales- Lordstown Team 1: Parker Batchelder, Cody Kibler & Caden Minor (Mentor: Caitlin Nemergut – ASECU).
Total Victory Currencies- Bloomfield Team 1: Ben Sly, Kaleb Bartholomew & Sam Covey (Mentors: Matt Hawout – Middlefield Bank & Matt Brophy- 717 Credit Union).

The Williamson College of Business Administration also offered a $1,000 scholarship to students who competed in the competition and will be attending the WCBA in the fall. 

Pictured at top: Gavin Beninston, Hunter Allen and Jacob Grindley learned the importance of teamwork during this week’s JA Titan Business Challenge competition. 

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.