The Biz Dojo

S2E4 - Jumpstarting The Next Generation w/Melissa From

February 09, 2021 Melissa From Season 2 Episode 4
The Biz Dojo
S2E4 - Jumpstarting The Next Generation w/Melissa From
Show Notes Transcript

This week in the Dojo, we talk to Melissa From - President and CEO of Junior Achievement Southern Alberta.

We'll talk about starting and operating a non-profit, the role of Junior Achievement, volunteerism, supplementing the education system and much more. We even talk a little about some amazing Junior Achievement Alumni, and how JA helped to shape their path in business.

On the Podium, we're joined by two amazing young athletes, and brand new entrepreneurs as they launch their business - Shoot Your Shot Apparel. We'll chat through some of our own great achievements, and a few of theirs... and theirs are pretty incredible.

Are you ready for the next generation of CEOs, business owners, and leaders? We are! Come on into The Dojo.

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Seth Anderson:

Welcome to Episode Four, season two here in The Biz Dojo. In this episode, we caught up with Melissa from President and CEO of Junior Achievement for southern Alberta. JP, I didn't even know this program existed before Melissa came on. So I learned a ton. What, what were your main takeaways?

JP Gaston:

There was a lot and we dove into a number of topics like we always tend to do on these podcasts. But this is really the first time we dove in from the perspective of teaching kids about entrepreneurship and finance and diversity and all sorts of things. So it was a wide variety of things that I didn't know we were going to get into all of them. Yeah, I

Seth Anderson:

think heading into the conversation. I had a you know, did a little bit of research on it. And, you know, first of all, I didn't know that it was free, which is pretty This world is free these days. I mean, the saying goes, there's no such thing as but The Biz Dojo, this content, this is free and and Junior Achievement, there you have it, the only two things you need. So I'm definitely going to look into this more for my kids, for sure. Because if I think back to growing up, if I would have had access to mentors and getting into entrepreneurship and financial literacy, like those are definitely things that would have helped me maybe get a little further ahead than I they are or accelerated my journey a little bit quick. Yeah. We

JP Gaston:

talked about a few people who have been through Junior Achievement Junior Achievement alum, Mark Cuban being one of our Cuban

Seth Anderson:

right. Yeah,

JP Gaston:

yeah, he did. I mean, they're okay. I guess. Yeah, they may have done a few things in the business world here or there.

Seth Anderson:

Yeah, so they've done some stuff and things and

JP Gaston:

a handful of stuff and things handful of things.

Seth Anderson:

It was great to get some insight as well. And Melissa's background, you know, what I took away from it is just a lot of passion for what she does, right? Like her eyes kind of lit up every time she had to answer a question. And and she's been doing it for a decade.

JP Gaston:

Right? Like, sorry, Melissa, I'm sure you're listening. And you're like a decade sounds really long. It is really long, almost 11 years now doing this and still having that passion. That's it's hard to keep No, I

Seth Anderson:

was it was awesome. And she kind of mentioned that towards the end of the pod just sort of being some some kind of reinvigoration through COVID, just because of the sheer magnitude of problems that needed to be solved.

JP Gaston:

I do feel like that's a thing. Like I, you know, I certainly wasn't in my day job looking for anything else. But I would say that I felt really invigorated by all of the new problems, I kind of a problem solver. That's the thing I like to do. So all of these new problems that needed to be solved and new technologies that we were taking on. And it was a very interesting time just kind of moving back towards the way it was. It's not certainly not there yet. But it's Yeah, it was it was invigorating, really, we've

Seth Anderson:

we fast forwarded. And we talked about that a bit in terms of, you know, embracing technology, whatever industry, you're in some way, shape or form, you were thrust into having to fully embrace technology to some degree, and some were more ready than others. And it seems like Junior Achievement for southern Alberta anyway, was was more ready. But, you know, there's some limitations or barriers with some of the school systems and that they work with that have made it difficult to, you know, fully go all the way with some of the digital capabilities that they have. I have been

JP Gaston:

thinking recently about how this year despite all the challenges, the interesting part to me is how things have advanced. And I've thought about it in terms of work, but thinking about it now in terms of like children and what that's going to accomplish for them in their futures. I feel like that's gonna be incredible. And we're not gonna realize it for another, you know, 1520 years but like the the jumpstart that some of those advances are giving those kids now there's downsides. Uh, you know, I don't want to glaze over those. But I think from the technology perspective, and enabling new ways to learn and, and different ways to learn and connection to family and those sorts of things. And there are a lot of a lot of positives in that vein.

Seth Anderson:

Well, yeah. And I think about, you know, what is the school system that jovie you know, my daughter or Declan, your son would have entered had there been no COVID versus, you know, Jovi heading next year, Declan a couple of years down the road, it's going to be vastly different than what it would have been without COVID. So there will definitely be some positives to take away from it.

JP Gaston:

Yeah, we do talk a little bit in the in the pod with Melissa about, you know, some of the challenges that schools have faced specific to technology and enabling technology for the kids. And, you know, a lot of kids when they left for COVID had technology brought to them and they go back to school and they're actually that technology has now gone so that they might have even in some cases had it even better at home. So it's just an interesting perspective. And like I said, really the first time we're, we're diving into conversation about that next generation and, and the generations to come after that because some of these kids are quite young. To the you know, the corporate world, the entrepreneurship world, the leadership world, to interesting space to talk in amazing program amazing guests.

Voiceover:

Here we go. This week on the pod, we're talking to Melissa from the President and CEO of Junior Achievement for southern Alberta. We'll talk about preparing the next generation and business, starting and operating a nonprofit. And tackling some complex challenges with the kids. We'll also discuss some pretty successful Junior Achievement alumni. Stay tuned after for the podium, where we talk to the boys from shoot your shot about some of our own achievements. So welcome to season two, Episode Four of The Biz Dojo. Alright, welcome

Seth Anderson:

to the dojo. Really excited this week. We've got Melissa from welcome, Melissa. Thanks. Good to be here. So Melissa, you are the president and CEO of Junior Achievement for southern Alberta. And you've been doing that for quite a while now. To the tune of around 10 years or so.

Melissa From:

Yeah, I've been with the organization over Yeah, I'm getting close to 11. Now I guess so. Yeah, it's been a while had a few kids while I've been doing it. So

Seth Anderson:

it's definitely been a fun ride. That's awesome. And and just sort of looking back a little bit on your your career. You've been in the nonprofit game for even longer than that what sort of attracted you to get involved with nonprofits? And why was that the direction that you sort of chose to go with your career,

Unknown:

you know, I did an undergraduate degree in business. And you know, as young I'm kind of moved around the country a little bit and did a few different things in the for profit sector. And then my husband was in law school. And he learned this opportunity with this organization that had just started in Canada, they were looking for, like someone with some business development background, and they were working to rescue victims of forced prostitution and slavery and particularly chat with victims of those crimes in like Southeast Asian countries, you always hear about like sex tourism and, and whatnot in some of those countries. And, yeah, I was just kind of ready for a change. And just the timing was right. And it's really interesting, because it was such a new startup nonprofit organization that they literally weren't even incorporated yet, as a society or as a nonprofit organization. And so I literally came in at the ground level, I helped to do all of the work to get them registered with the CRA to get them registered with the federal government. At that time, it was like early 2000s. So just post 911. And so for a nonprofit organization that was doing work overseas, we had to do a lot of paperwork on sending money overseas, because there was a lot of concern with like funding terrorism, crazy things like that. And so it was the best experience though, because I literally learned everything from like nose to tail on how to run a nonprofit, how to start a nonprofit fundraising from the ground up, there was no, there was no pre existing database of donors or supporters or, or anything like that. And this is really like, again, like early 2000s, that was kind of back before there was a lot of public knowledge or awareness of the issues that we were dealing with, which was for slavery, and sex trafficking of minors. You know, it's kind of gotten some notoriety, I would say, in the last decade, like Ashton Kutcher has been really involved in that cause and, and the number of other celebrities. And back then it was kind of like, slavery, that's not a thing anymore. And so I really had to learn, like storytelling and advocacy work and all of those things. And that just has set me up, I think, from a professional standpoint, to have such a good understanding of the nonprofit sector as a whole. Because I had to kind of learn right from the ground up and trial and error and all of the rest

Seth Anderson:

coming from, you know, sort of on the heels of a degree and then working in the private sector. What did you learn, I guess that wasn't in the textbook through that experience? Because I imagine like, obviously, textbook and learning is vital and important and sets foundation. But then when you like, really get into it, and like there's nobody to go to and you got to do it all from the ground. Like what what skills did you develop in that time

Unknown:

you think, Oh, my gosh, like everything, everything. I certainly would never disparage education. And I encourage all of our young people that participate in Junior Achievement, that you need a post secondary degree to get a decent job in this day and age you really do. But at the end of the day, I really think that most learning happens, and the experiences that we have and what we do, I did a business degree I took communications classes and marketing classes and finance classes and all of those things that should theoretically make you capable of doing those things. But once you're in a situation where you're actually having to look at a financial statement and balance the books, much better understanding of finances like am I going to eat tonight. Instead of a very entrepreneurial standpoint, you kind of get baptized by fire and you'll learn pretty quick and on the communication side I think in the nonprofit sector, especially when you have to start to Kind of sell something that that the other party isn't necessarily getting a direct, good exchange, you know, when you're, when you're selling widgets, you take $5, the person gets a widget, when you're in the nonprofit sector, and you're selling something that's like a societal good and that young people are gonna learn incredible skills that you'll in the long run, it's going to have a great return on society, or people who live in another country are going to be rescued from oppression and slavery. And that is going to have a long term return on society. But for you as the individual donor, it might not have a direct impact on your life ever. And so to learn how to communicate those things in a way that's compelling, and people want to give and makes them want to invest in that. That was definitely a huge like skill to learn and something that I don't think you can teach it. I think you have to go through that experience to know how to do

JP Gaston:

that. Was there a moment I kind of towards the beginning where you thought school did not prepare me for this what I'm doing, right what I'm doing right this second? I have not I am ill prepared for this.

Unknown:

think honestly, like in for me, like that foray into the nonprofit sector, especially that very first job. I think there was a lot of moments of kind of school didn't prepare me for this, but also like that imposter syndrome of like, Oh, my gosh, why did they hire me? Like, what were they thinking? I don't know what I'm, I wouldn't hire.

JP Gaston:

Why did they

Unknown:

hire me? What are they thinking? Um, but then I also know, having worked in the nonprofit sector for like, 15 years now, I don't know if I've ever met a single person who works in the nonprofit sector that like grew up being like, when I grow up, I'm gonna work for a nonprofit, most people don't even know that's an option. Even through their university careers. Most people don't know, that's an option. You know, over the years, I've kind of I think I've earned my street credit. I've done okay, and I've worked for a few organizations, and they've always fared out pretty well. So you know, I definitely even still going through COVID I think there's those moments where you're like, nothing prepared me for this work in an organization that I'm almost our entire student reach of 35,000 students is through the school system. And on March 15, Sunday, March 15, Education Minister of Alberta announced that school was cancelled for the rest of the year, and students would be learning from home. And I was like, I've got nothing. I had no digital programs. I had nothing. And we I was just like, like, Do I have a job tomorrow? How am I supposed to manage through this and then I mean, fast forward 10 months later, and we're probably going to deliver j programs to 30,000 35,000 students this year, we're doing it in a manner of different ways we've had to evolve. And I've had to make hard choices. I've had to, you know, manage both sides, my balance sheet and that has meant some staffing changes and some organizational changes. But everyone in the world must be feeling a degree of imposter syndrome at this point through the COVID pandemic. So I guess I'm in good company.

Seth Anderson:

Yeah, no, I think and we've had quite a few guests on from all types of industries. And nobody has been untouched by this. Everybody's had to adapt. And it's almost like, we got fast forward, basically, five years into the future, in some ways, like a lot of the technological revolution that's happening. We were on our way there. It's just like, oh, we're doing this now. Okay. And, you know, some companies adapting to that better than others. You mentioned you guys are, you're on track to deliver to quite a few students. How have you pulled it all together? Like, what? What kind of kept you guys going? Because I'm sure, you know, like us, in our industry, the first couple days were like, what the whatever you got to do, like, How do you do? How did you kind of keep it all together? You

Unknown:

know, it's interesting. So we, you know this about us, but we teach entrepreneurship, as well as financial literacy and work readiness. And I mean, nobody who, who has studied business or works in business habits hasn't heard that catchphrase of fail fast, right. And you talk about sort of fast forwarding five years. So this time last year, I was meeting with a network of my colleagues that teach similar programming across the country, and we were making plans for a digital strategy, we need to get our programs online, we need to advance this is how we're gonna reach more kids. And then, you know, fast forward, like, literally six weeks, and what we had to establish as a five year plan became like a five week plan, like, okay, we need to be online by the end of April. And so we were like, because we had built the plan. I mean, if you have money, you can do anything, right. And so we have amazing donors and philanthropists that believe in our cause and believe in the work we do, and we were able to expedite that. And we have this amazing j campus j campus.org. That students from grade four to grade 12 can go online and they can do financial literacy work readiness and entrepreneurship education, whether they're home learning or learning at school. And that was great for the spring because everyone was home learning. Every kid you know, was kind of beholden to have a technology device. To do their education, so whether it was through a nonprofit that provided it for them or something they already had in their home. But what we found out when students went to school in the fall was that rules were not equipped with that technology. And so here as an organization, we thought we were so far behind. And we needed to get these technology, this technology driven programs out to market and then we get into the school system, when we find out that on average, a middle school in Calgary was 700 Kids has like 90 tablets, or laptops. And so all of a sudden, these technology driven programs weren't going to cut it. And so that was where we had to kind of do that fail fast. And like, Okay, I guess we're not doing digital programming, how are we going to make this work? Well, we found out was a lot of schools have smart boards. So we could do our paper based programming, sanitize everything, drop it off a few days ahead of time, so that it could fit and be extra safe, and have volunteers log into the classroom remotely, and deliver the programs. And then as we sort of evolved through that, and some of the technology hiccups that we had through that, we also found out that there was maybe some room for educators to start delivering the programs, if we could provide them with certain tools and certain aspects of training that they required. And sort of through the year, we've ended up going from having basically like in business, we've had one skew, we've always had one skew, it's just a volunteer comes into the classroom with paper based programming. That's it. And now all of a sudden, we have paper based programming that's delivered by a teacher, we have virtual programming that is delivered by a volunteer with paper based materials. We have virtual programming delivered by a volunteer with digital program materials, we have self directed digital programs. And we all of a sudden now we have like five or six different methodologies for delivering our programs. And it's been a bit of a boondoggle for sure to kind of get it all sort of figured out. But at the same time it's broadened our reach, and it's broadened our capacity to go into different markets that we maybe wouldn't have otherwise been in because we were always limited by that volunteer model that we had previously.

JP Gaston:

It's nice to see that, you know, not only did you did you kind of overcome the challenges, but you've, you've met some new opportunities along the way, I did notice as I scrolled through some of the programs that you offer, that you do have some that are specific to the indigenous business as well as some around diversity. So I did want to touch on that a little. And I guess to start, and I'm curious, what if you found differences between the availability of those programs in the school system today? versus pre COVID?

Unknown:

Yeah, yeah, we, we started our journey with our indigenous partners about seven years ago, eight years ago. And um, you know, I've been with Junior Achievement, like I said earlier, almost 11 years. And over that time, there's definitely been opportunities for us where we've kind of dipped our toe into doing stuff with with those communities, particularly in southern Alberta, we work with the treaty, seven groups. What ended up happening for us a few years ago was actually that there was a conglomerate of indigenous serving and indigenous led organizations called themselves faibles, future Aboriginal business leader. And they were working with young people sort of in their, like mid to late 20s, who were interested in starting businesses. But what they were finding was that sometimes those young people were coming to them. And they didn't have enough of a foundation of financial literacy and business acumen. And they were having to teach them so many of some of those basic concepts, that they just couldn't get them to the point that they would be able to successfully launch a business. And so they came to us asking if we could come into their communities and start to deliver some of these lower grade level programs starting in grade five, and through grade nine in those middle school years. And then in high school. That's really where we got started with the indigenous programming that we do. And it's been, it's been really wonderful. We actually, just prior to COVID, our indigenous Program Coordinator who'd been with us, almost from the beginning, actually left the organization to launch her own entrepreneurial venture, which is so wonderful, and yet at the same time was so hard for us, it was hard to lose her and then on top of that, to then go into the situation of so many unknowns with COVID. And to not have that individual, it has made it a little bit harder for us. And you know, we're definitely still kind of trying to find our footing and connecting with some of those communities through COVID. As you know, you know, just from the media and for being in the community, Calgary where we have some great neighbors with su Tina and Morley and 60, that a lot of those communities have a lot of vulnerability with COVID. And so they're definitely isolating a little bit more and shutting down a little bit more. So the accessibility to get programming into them from outside of the community is pretty challenging. Some definitely have the technology for us to do some remote learning and others not as much. So it's definitely there's no one size fits all and we're just having to be kind of really responsive and nimble and all those all those catch words that we're all using these days.

JP Gaston:

Do you find that there's a difference like Certainly that's from the one perspective of the community accessing the programs. What about the the kids from outside of the community who are accessing those programs? And, and kind of learning about diversity and learning about indigenous culture? Do you? Have you seen that on the apps? Like I know, and I guess plug here a little bit for University of Alberta who's offering a free course right now that I am going to recommend to all of our listeners, it's a fantastic course on indigenous Canada to kind of understand the, the history of indigenous peoples. But do you feel like the children today are coming a little bit more prepared with that sort of information? Or is there still a certain level of naivety, when they come into the programs that you try to teach through these diversity? and Indigenous Studies?

Unknown:

That's a good question. Yeah, we have a program that we teach, usually in the middle school kind of grade seven, eight level called diversity and action stronger together. And, you know, our three major pillars of financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness, we just really recognize that a big part of work readiness is knowing and understanding the differences and the strengths that can come from those differences among us, it's interesting, because I wouldn't say that that program particularly touches on indigenous culture, and actually, at a national level, that program is probably going to be written this summer and and likely from there will include some different indigenous elements. I would say, I I've taught that program in the City of Calgary myself. And I've literally taught that program at St. Rose of Lima school in northeast Calgary and being the only white person in the room. So it's really funny, because we're going through over like what's Kwanzaa? What's Diwali? And like? These kids are like, like, why are you teaching us this, like they owe it to them, it was almost like, this is Ellie, that even be having this conversation because multiculturalism and diversity is just such a part of their upbringing. But I also recognize that there's significant differences, even when you're in an urban center, like Calgary from one end of the city to the next. And then you just get a little little bit outside of Calgary into some of the rural communities and certainly see some of those differences. So we do think that's a huge part of work readiness. And it's a really valuable program that we've been delivering. And I think just in the last year, especially a lot of issues with indigenous rights, as well as with Black Lives Matters. And some of those movements have really brought to the forefront that we need to revisit the content in that program and just give it a refresh every now and then kind of realize with with whatever you're teaching, at whatever level that there's always opportunities to kind of clean things up and fix them up and make them a little better and make sure that all the voices are being heard. And even to take some of that content that may be in the northeast Calgary classroom are sort of saying this is silly, why are we talking about this? Well, then maybe that content, maybe we've done our job. And we can move on from that. And now we need to dig into some indigenous history and talk about some of those things,

Seth Anderson:

just sort of building on those two topics. So sort of digitization and content, and then content delivery is something I'm really interested in. So with my son, you know, he was on prodigy for a while, so sort of the gamification of math. And him and I were out for a walk the other night, and we had a really, I think, profound discussion about business as it related to fortnight in particular, like the different models in which you could sell a game. So Halo, for example, they sell the game for $80 a piece, got to get 1000 people to buy the game to make your money versus fortnight they give you the platform for free, but then you buy all the little things and potentially send more. And so he started to kind of wrap his head around the business of that you guys use sort of modern day examples like that. And is there any gamification built into your content delivery?

Unknown:

Yeah, so as you're talking, what was right away, sort of bubbling in my mind was, we have a license agreement with Minecraft, and we actually on our j campus have a game that's great for like, just that age group that your son is kind of at grade four, three to grade three to six, I guess I would maybe say, because that's kind of like that Minecraft age, right? And it's called bid craft. And it is like the creating your own world. But instead of like, I don't know, building your own world with those little blocks and those little men that grunt it is building your own business. And it goes through a series of questions and you get to kind of decide you know, there's, there's limitations because the game but you sort of get to decide what sector your business is going to be in. And then there's different sort of catastrophic events that happen, and you get to choose how you respond. And it's a little bit almost like a throwback to those old like, choose your own adventure books. I don't know if you've ever read those when you're a kid. But it's kind of like if you do this, then this is gonna happen. And if you do this, and like, my son's in grade six, and he was playing it this summer, and it was kept kind of his his This is kept failing. And I found out what was happening was that you had this situation he was running a store, and he kept having like a plumbing problem. And then he would get these this menu of options and it was like, Hey, your toilet has overflowed. You want to spend this much money and buy a plunger and a wrench and fix it yourself or pay this much money and get a plumber to come in? And he was like, well, gross, I'm not fixing up. And so we kept paying for a plumber. And I was like, oh, buddy, no, no, no, there's not an entrepreneur in this city who hasn't had to flush the toilet in their restaurant, trust me. So it's like little life, things like that, that kind of teach them, you know, a bit of like financial responsibility, because you're looking at like, Hey, what's the fiscal? What's the fiscal balance here of like, what's my time worth? How much is it going to cost? Am I gonna be able to fix it myself? But you know, when you're running a small business, at the end of the day, the $20, plunger and wrench is the right choice for that question. So

JP Gaston:

I've had that decision. Staring at the toilet going cost.

Unknown:

So that's a really good game for kids to just kind of get that introductory kind of experience. And again, it comes back to, we're talking about at the very beginning of the call that like how much did business school prepare me for the jobs that I've had. And like, it gave me a foundational knowledge, but really, it's been experienced, that has, has prepared me to do the jobs that I do. And it's given me the growth and the knowledge and the confidence. And I think that's the key piece to the Junior Achievement programming is that it is all very much based on an experiential pedagogy. And that, you know, we can sit down and we can talk about balance sheets, and we can talk about sales. And we can talk about marketing, when you're a high school student, and you participate in a 20 week program where you literally start your own business, and you run it from beginning to end, or you're a fifth grade student and you play that discraft game and you keep making the wrong choice until you figure out what the right answer is. That's when that sort of starts to really stick with you. And it becomes like intrinsic knowledge instead of just something somebody told you once

JP Gaston:

you've had a number of folks go through the program for starting their own business. I'm sure there's some good stories what what kind of businesses have you have you seen go through there that have maybe been successful, or maybe some that have been surprisingly unsuccessful?

Unknown:

My favorite is actually probably from Gosh, maybe almost 10 years ago now. This is back when Brett Wilson was still on Dragon's Den. So this is probably 10 years ago. It was a while ago. Yeah. And Brett is actually Junior Achievement alum he did j and then g men house like we've got some great alum here in the City of Calgary. And so these kits sold, they need these solar powered nightlight. And like they weren't anything super crazy or high tech, but just like a little solar panel on the top of like a mason jar with the light fixture inside. And then remember, this is 10 years ago. So like I don't even know if TOMS shoes were a thing back then. But you basically have a choice as a consumer, you can buy the nightlight, take it home, have one in your house for your little child or whatever. Or you can buy a nightlight and send it and they partnered with a charitable initiative that Bret was doing at the time. And you could send it to a village in Africa that didn't have electricity. And so like they sold 1000s of these things, because what an amazing like it was it was a business but it also had this incredible kind of like philanthropic spin, and then you throw on top of that their kids, right. And so I remember because they made this arrangement with Brett that like he would pay for a shipping container, or he was already sending a shipping container with a bunch of other stuff. And that they could have a little space in that to send these things over. And then they sold way more than anyone,

JP Gaston:

they offered him some space and learn shipping container.

Unknown:

I just I loved that, you know, there was a great kind of tech Ben to it, that they were using solar energy, and then that they had this amazing sort of, you could buy one and keep one or you could buy one to give away kind of component. And at that time, like that was kind of I was pretty pretty forward thinking or high school.

JP Gaston:

That's incredible of all your programs. And I know, you know, they're all your babies. So you don't have a favorite but do you have a favorite company

Unknown:

program is so it's so unique in that it is, you know, is that full 20 week experience and will be often find is that kids will come back and they'll do the program for two or three years. And then they'll actually come back and be mentors and so like after 11 years with the organization like I feel like I mean, there's literally several 100 kids do this program a year but I feel like they're all my babies like I know these kids and I get to see them go on and and start their own companies and do their own things. And it's pretty amazing.

JP Gaston:

The ideal Baby, you don't have to put food in their mouth. You just get to watch them. Yeah.

Unknown:

You know, Mark Cuban actually, is Jay alumnae. Really, yeah. And so he it's hilarious. Like just recently I actually saw he he did a video for Junior Achievement of USA. And just to kind of say, like, Yeah, I did Junior Achievement that actually really shaped his trajectory. He talks about But like they made, so I mean, he's young like this back a few years ago, they need cookie sheet, and they sold cookie sheet. And he talks about like selling these cookie sheets. And that like that was his first experience in business and his first experience selling anything. His parents were not business people, they weren't entrepreneurs. And so he had no exposure to business and entrepreneurship prior to doing Junior Achievement. And that that truly shaped his path as an entrepreneur business person. And I think that that's just so you just never know, I never know, there could be a kid who is getting ready to do Junior Achievement company program in Calgary next week. That could be the next Mark Cuban I

Seth Anderson:

wish I could have done something like this. This is a It's amazing. And sort of the thought that I was thinking of before the Mark Cuban fact, which is great. Actually, he has something called AI, something or other some company that he invested in. And they were doing webinars when COVID the first lockdown was happening, me and my son Linden attended one of them and just kind of hung out it. But in that sort of vein of entrepreneurial spirit, I know I'm not the only one who has a kid who wants to start a YouTube channel and have people watch him play video games. Like, I don't want to break the spirit of all the power, but like, I think it's probably like a better thing. So what would your advice be to parents to not break the entrepreneurial spirit promoted? But like, put it in the right direction? I guess?

Unknown:

Yeah, I mean, I get it because like, my kids are in grade three. And grade six. Part of it too, for me as a parent is the internet's a little bit of a scary place. When you put yourself out there, I actually almost as a parent have more fear that that will crush them than encourage that because there's just, it's so easy for people to hate. And so you put yourself out there as a gamer on YouTube, and then you log in the next day, and there's 50 people telling your 10 year old that they suck. And then that's it, and it's over. But you know, I have a friend here in the city. And it's so interesting, I think, you know, we learned so much as parents just watching other people parent, right? And, and she's got kids that like, through through COVID, a lot of folks have been using the lakes and skating out on these outdoor rinks and stuff. So she goes to Costco, her kids have just got this entrepreneurial drive, she goes to Costco and she gets like the thing with like, 40, Hot Rods and 20 gatorades and granola bars. And she sets them up at a table and leaves them for two hours and he sells it. I think that it's almost like going back to that more like kind of classic lemonade stand. All true is learn to sell. I think when it comes to business, like it's that storytelling, communication selling piece, that no matter what happens with technology, I think that's sort of that fundamental piece. And you know, what, even if they don't end up being an entrepreneur, I think if they learn to sell, and to do to look someone in the eye and do that exchange of commerce, that is going to be such a great life skill. Yeah, I mean, kudos to the kids that do you actually make money doing those YouTube channels, and even good for them. But it's just too scary for me as a parent,

Seth Anderson:

you hit the nail on the head, I think JP and I have talked about that a lot. The entrepreneurial spirit, you know, you don't have to necessarily run a business for that to come out, right, like you can be in a corporate environment tends to be the people with that entrepreneurial spirit, do better, right? Because they're out there making things happen. So, you know, the more they can learn now, the better.

Unknown:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think too, like I've just started to realize in the last couple of years, you know, maybe just being in the space and being more aware of it. How many people in professions are entrepreneurs that we don't really realize it like when you go to the dentist office, half of all dentists like they either work for someone who's a dentist that owns the dental clinic, or they themselves on the dental clinic, and nobody in dental school learns business, right. And so it's like if you were lucky enough to take a few business classes or have a really great parent, but otherwise, they're kind of just thrown into that doctors, offices, lawyers, but there's a lot of professions where we don't really realize it. But the bulk of people in those professions are running their own business. They're they're having to sell, they're having to balance a budget. They're managing staff managing contracts. And they're not learning that in their professional designation. Let's teach them now.

JP Gaston:

You've touched on storytelling a couple of times, we actually had bill Baker, I don't know if you know, Bill Baker, but we had him on to start this season, actually. And just like incredible. And I had the benefit of going through one of his courses a couple of years ago. And so I kind of already knew what I was in for. But we got a lot of comments from people about just how much that episode meant to them and how they've kind of changed their mindset. Is that is that something that you start to go down the path of with the kids or is it something that they learn kind of later in life?

Unknown:

We do a little bit I mean, one of the aspects that we put into that high school program where kids are learning entrepreneurship, is that they actually have to choose a cause. for philanthropy so that we really tie business and business success, to giving back to the community. And then we really encourage them. And we actually have an entire kind of professional development session on how does a corporation choose who to who to give to what charity to give to. And that's part of your story, as a business, it's typically I mean, if you build houses for a living, it probably makes sense to give to a charity, like mustard seed or in from the cold. If you are a big corporate grocery store chain, it probably makes sense to connect yourself to the food bank. And that, you know, it's it's a little bit arm's length from storytelling, but it's part of your story, right? It's connecting the threads and making sure that it all ties together. And so those are some of those sort of introductory pieces. And then, you know, just in selling and talking to the kids about like, how do you how do you go to a stranger and just sell them a thing? And it's really vote like, how do you start a conversation with someone you've never talked to before? And so yeah, you know, they definitely get introduced to some of those early concepts. It depends a little bit on what they're selling, and where they're at. And they're all mentored by volunteers from the community. And so I'm sure that some of those volunteers go a little deeper into that than others. And that's sort of part of what makes the program so great. And so grassroots is that no experience between two students is ever really the same, because they have, you know, they have different products and different companies and different mentors, and they come into it already, at a different level of experience.

Seth Anderson:

We talk quite a bit about the entrepreneurship and a little bit on the financial literacy, the work readiness part of the program, what what's sort of the main goals involved with with that pillar?

Unknown:

You know, in a way, I think that work readiness almost can serve as an umbrella over the other two, I think that there's so much in every single program that we deliver, whether it's teaching kids entrepreneurial thinking and problem solving, resiliency, sales, financial literacy, I think all of those things really roll up into work readiness, as well as the program we spoke about earlier, which is that diversity and action piece where we're really teaching kids about working with people who are different from you, and understanding those differences and respecting them and making them work for you and and be a strength in your corporation. Yeah, I think that the work readiness piece really kind of comes in with all of those other elements. And I think entrepreneurship and financial literacy kind of roll into that you.

JP Gaston:

You mentioned earlier, a couple of times, actually about the volunteers that help out with the program. Do you find that since COVID happened, you know, some industries in the nonprofit sector are getting a lot more volunteers. Now that COVID has happened because people are finding themselves to have a little bit more time. They're working from home, they want to get more involved help out. And some industries are struggling, because they're not getting as many volunteers because it has traditionally been in person. Are you on either side of that scale? Are you kind of somewhere in the middle?

Unknown:

A middle? I would say yeah, it's a funny, I mean, we're 10 months in now. And so I think we are starting to see sort of people shift their, their expectations and what they're willing to kind of do, one of the things we've experienced in the last couple months is and I can understand this, like a lot of us are spending eight to 10 hours a day at work doing this. And so then to say to somebody, Hey, I know you're already spending 10 hours a day on your computer, but you want to volunteer and spend another two hours on your computer at night. And that can be a lot, right. Like, I know, like there's days that like when it's five o'clock, I cannot wait to shut my laptop because I am just my eyes are burning for Yang. Yeah. So we have we've experienced some of that. But the flip side is because there are a lot of volunteer experiences that can't really happen right now. Like there's not a lot of Habitat for Humanity builds happening and the food banks having to be careful with how many people that they can have on site at the same time, we are able to facilitate like larger groups and corporate groups and things like that to our virtual volunteering. And that's almost been a bonus for us, because there's a lot of charities that can facilitate volunteerism right now. So we, you know, I would say we're basically sort of staying the course. And I would say and when I talk with with my peer group, it's kind of I hear every every end of the spectrum. You know, we can't get any volunteers. We've got too many volunteers. We can't use volunteers because everything's kind of topsy turvy right now.

Seth Anderson:

I guess in that vein, how does someone get involved with Junior Achievement, if they want to volunteer, our

Unknown:

website has everything that anybody would need. So because we're Junior Achievement of southern Alberta, our website is our acronym. So it's j s ab.ca. And on our website, you can get information about volunteering in the classroom as a virtual volunteer, so a couple hours on any given morning and we train you for that and make sure you have all the information and all the tools you need for that and then the teachers are always in the classroom too. So they're, they're managing that. So there's those sort of those one one time three or four For our volunteer experiences where there's a high school experience where you're mentoring kids for a full, like 20 week entrepreneurial experience, and you get a lot out of that, too, because you're with those kids quite a bit more. So our websites the best place to find that information. And then for parents who are looking for for programs for their kids, whether they're home learning, or whether they're parents, like, just want to make sure that their kids have financial literacy and entrepreneurial programming in their classroom, that informations on the website

Seth Anderson:

as well. Amazing. What's next for you. I mean, you've been in the role now for 210 11 years, I get the sense you have a ton of passion you love what you're doing, is this? Or do you have other endeavors that you want to pursue on the nonprofit front? Or is Junior Achievement, your main focus,

Unknown:

I would say I almost feel like COVID has breathed new life into me because it's given these new challenges, right? And so it's kind of like this is now a problem to solve and not just staying the course. So I'm pretty happy doing what I'm doing for now. But I do you stay with my team all of the time, we were really young team at j A. I'm the old guy, for sure. None of us is retiring from Junior Achievement. And so I don't know what's around the bend. But I love working with youth and I love being involved in education. And a big part of my job over the course of the last couple of years has really become advocacy work with government and talking about what what are we doing with education in our province? And how are we best equipping young people for their futures. And that's definitely been something that I've enjoyed, and something that I think will probably inform my next move,

JP Gaston:

whatever it is, we've got a pretty, I would say broad base of not only entrepreneurs and business owners and you know, CEOs and all sorts of folks who listen to the show, we've also got a pretty broad base of guests who have been on the show, is there is there anything in particular that you feel, you know, would be beneficial for Junior Achievement, or, you know, if someone was interested in reaching out with not just volunteering, but maybe they have something that they want to partner with you? Is there? Is there a way for them to contact you as well?

Unknown:

Yeah, for sure. Again, I think the best place to find information is just on the website. You can find me on the social medias that I might my handles really easily. It's just Melissa from silver. I'm not I mean, we have a last name like from you're already kind of anonymous, because I'm not super Google evolve. Yeah, I mean, I'm always happy to connect with people who are interested in how we can better prepare the next generation for the future. We certainly don't know what it holds. But I think that if this last year has taught us anything, it's that we need to prepare kids for anything that might come. And I think that resilience and the problem solving and critical thinking that come from, you know, entrepreneurial education, like what we're providing is, is going to be helpful, no matter what's around the band

Seth Anderson:

raising. Well, we really appreciate you coming by the dojo today, Melissa, and you know, taking the time after a long day on the computer to get back on the computer was great getting your perspectives on things and best of luck going forward.

JP Gaston:

Thank you, thank

Voiceover:

thank you to Melissa from President and CEO of Junior Achievement, southern Alberta. And now the podium with two very special guests, Parker and Ambrose, from shoot your shot brought to you by beyond a beaten path visit beyond the beaten path.ca.

Seth Anderson:

Well, JP, that was a great Convo with Melissa from Junior Achievement, southern Alberta got a lot of insights into where things are going with education was particularly awesome to hear about some of the advancements they're making on the digital side of things. We wanted to sort of take that inspiration around achievement, though and apply it to this week's podium. So we're doing top three achievements that we're doing.

JP Gaston:

Yeah, yeah. I don't know if I'm gonna be able to match some of the achievements we talked about on the show, to be honest, but I mean, I, I did some things. Yeah,

Seth Anderson:

I've done a couple things. I don't know she had a pretty impressive resume. I don't think we're gonna be able to keep up with her. But this week, we've got a couple of amazing guests on with us, you would have saw them on chopping it up on Friday. But they're here with us again for the podium. So we've got Parker Mackay, recently retired pro hockey player. I think he's probably got a couple cool achievements to share with us, as well as Ambrose Firkas. He's currently Are you the head coach or the associate coach of the Void? Bob Katz, associate coach of the AAA. What do they call that now? Major AAA broadcasts. Yeah, Mr. Aaa Bobcat. So you guys are going to walk us through some of your top three really looking forward to that. But today, Mr. JP Gaston is going to kick us off with his top three achievements.

JP Gaston:

I'm going to start with something school related just to get that out of the way.

Seth Anderson:

I have nothing school related on my list.

JP Gaston:

Perfect. Well, mine's kind of but yeah, it's school related. So I went to after high school, I did all my, you know, grade 13. In Ontario. They had grade 13. We've talked about that a few times. For listeners who don't know, in Ontario up until the year 2000. They had this grade 13, which was intended as a prep for university. So while every other province was, you know, finished in grade 12 we were still going to school if we wanted to go to university, and you had to take the courses, it was ridiculous. Anyways, I took them in, I didn't go to university, so they were useless anyway. But after a few years, I went to you know, I went to college after a few years in the workforce and whatnot, I finally decided to go and get a job that allowed me to go and get a journeyman certificate for telecommunications. And when I graduated from that, that was a that was a pretty proud moment. For me getting that notch on the belt is you know, post secondary education. So there's my education one,

Seth Anderson:

that's a good one.

JP Gaston:

That's all the non education one. Well, I don't know if I could call this an achievement but I'm going to only because not many people have done it. I got to throw out the first pitch at a Blue Jays game a few years ago, which was

Seth Anderson:

that's pretty 30 amaze. pretty thick. Yeah, that's pretty cool.

JP Gaston:

I got a I got a signed baseball with Ricky Romero picture with him and Ace

Seth Anderson:

that's a guy that

JP Gaston:

I used to definitely use. My top one is much much more recent tear to my eye this thing that we've been building we recently won a award for the show and as a result of this show, I actually have some quotes in Forbes in an article on Forbes pretty cool. Pretty cool. And yeah, it's that's it I mean, that was immediately shared with my family so I felt like I had to put that on the achievement there's not a lot that I immediately text to my entire family. So once we got hats Yes, that's my list. That is those are my my thoughts and maybe we'll throw it over to Parker.

Parker Mackay:

Yeah, sounds good. Actually. I d on't know if I could name one sports achievement so I might just

Ambrose Firkus:

Pump your tires. Pump your tires already!

Seth Anderson:

Come on. Come on, pick one. Pick one pick. Pick one I want to go with

Unknown:

back to back. National Championships with Minnesota Duluth would be one as well is probably the two ajhl championships those would probably be my biggest team achievements.

Seth Anderson:

All right, I guess yeah.

Unknown:

And then I think number two would have to be honestly as a college athlete of the year for the state of Minnesota Sure. So not bad. And that would be number two and then number three, again personal would probably just be starting up this company pushing my limits something that I probably didn't think I would be doing if you if I was to look back five years and say what do you want to be doing or what do you think you'll be doing five years from now? Starting a clothing line with my best friend? I mean, not unrealistic, but definitely not something that I would say that I'd be doing so I'm excited for it and I'd say definitely going to be a proud moment as yours continue to move with this process I'm I'm very excited for it

JP Gaston:

so you've got 11 months to become a business person of the year to keep that trend going

Seth Anderson:

awesome. shoot your shot ladies and gentlemen check them out on all the social media platforms moving on Ambrose let's hear your gear list the top are you you don't want to go after party oh no you have our buddy I've had a

Ambrose Firkus:

quick job compete tough to sleep eat the times nuggets nice inside joke nobody know a little inside are some people from back home will know that on my top three would be in no order one would be playing for Team Canada we actually parks was there a shocker didn't didn't make us less sorry, Rose I guess I forgot the ball. All that rosy goal, but those are those are those are included in mind those I left the ball stuff.

Seth Anderson:

Parker and I will get along on our on our list making a JP well just that oh my

JP Gaston:

god. Seth comes here and he's like, yeah, I've got my top three. So my second runner up. So he's number five in his list of his top three.

Unknown:

So two of mine actually right now like I I feel like I did a lot of good in the hockey world too. But I think my top two would be ball related right now. So plants and Team Canada we actually got two there's six of us there six Pete oh five from Aruba. There's five five of us. Yeah, finalists that went. And we played in Argentina representing Team Canada for worlds over there. So that was a blast. The other one is winning two national titles, one of which we actually won in our hometown in Arma, which is like parks talked about the support earlier. It was incredible to play there in front of everyone. Like there's 4000 people there. watching our ballgames, watching our finals. I still remember like crazy windy and everyone's still They're battling and they got the zoom boom and the support for all of that was incredible. And then yeah, I'd like to tie it in with Park seed. Number three for me is definitely this company. I really, really truly believe in both of us. And I think that's gonna take us as far as we can. Like, I think the sky's the limit for us. Anyone we've talked to him, we do all this stuff, everyone's kind of, well, maybe we just slow down a little bit and ease up and maybe don't order this much or maybe don't do this. And we just we continue to like not like we're gonna do we're gonna bet on ourselves and exactly what our company kind of preaches the shooter shot thing is exactly what we're doing. And I'm so excited about that part.

Seth Anderson:

Awesome. I love to see the passion. I'm really sorry JP but The Biz Dojo did not make my list. So that's my runner up.

JP Gaston:

If you want to end on disappointment, that's fine.

Seth Anderson:

No, a great list guys. Thanks for sharing. I don't think I don't know if my list comes close. But my number three is my time with Wainwright bisons actually. So we did win organization of the year and I think laid the groundwork for some pretty cool stuff. And just for me personally, as a leader, I learned so much over those four years, things that I still drawn today, building teams and leading in the role that I do in my day job. And I honestly don't believe that I would even have gotten my day job had it not been for the PIs. And so just all the things that I learned through that the people I met, it was actually my one of my first times I ever met the VP that hired me was sharing a presentation about hosting provincials and Wainwright and that caught her eye. So everything sort of from that created the life that I have now, which is, you know, pretty good. So that's number three. Number two, losing 85 pounds. That was a journey. And, you know, there's a lot of days where it sucked it didn't want to, but looking in the mirror and being 310 pounds and being like, Okay, enough, got to do something about this and being able to stick with it, the journey is not over. But you know, I look back at some of the clothes I used to wear and some pictures and stuff. And it's been a it's been a good ride and you know, more so than the weight, like the physical weight has been like the mental weight that it's lifted and really allowed me to kind of live my best life. And then number one, I just couldn't think of anything other than this. It's my kids. I like everything they do, you know, just seeing them turn into like little humans and think and talk it's it's a it's a really special thing. And if I'm remembered for anything in this world that will be being a father and then they're just a great reflection of definitely the changes that I've made in my life the last little while and hopefully, you know, they can carry that forward with them with some good habits and whatnot in their life. So that is my top three achievements. Unreal.

JP Gaston:

Yeah. Now I've got to be like, oh, also, I can't.

Seth Anderson:

I did not shake Ricky Romero's hand. So I mean, that was a lot of fun. Really appreciate having you on Parker and Ambrose. And look forward to we're definitely gonna have you guys back on in the spring and do a full podcast with you guys and wish all the best of luck going forward here. Sounds good. Thank you very much for having us. We appreciate it. Thanks. Take care guys. Good luck, guys.