ENTREPRENEURSHIP ECOSYSTEM STORIES
From left to right: Mihai Armia (Sales), Brandon Granitsas (CTO), Gavin Williams (CEO), Aaron Pike (CFO), & Brad Smith (Supply Chain)
With financial literacy rates on the decline, a group of students from Hoover High School came together with a mission to instill financial literacy in every child and empower them with the skills needed for a successful future. The Finlit team wants to encourage learning in a fun and unique way, so they developed their product Budget or Bust, an interactive and engaging board game designed to teach kids budgeting, saving, and investing. The team worked tirelessly to design the game, recruit investors, and begin their journey running a company all within a few months, but all that hard work paid off as they took home the title of National Champions at the 2021 Junior Achievement National Student Leadership Summit!
We spoke to Gavin Williams (CEO), Aaron Pike (CFO), and Brad Smith (Supply Chain Manager) about their experience being young entrepreneurs and what they have learned while developing their business.
Tell us a little about your journey to entrepreneurship.
Gavin: My passion for Entrepreneurship began when I was in middle school. I began to form a natural curiosity surrounding businesses, how they work, and how they’re managed.
Who helped you get started as an entrepreneur?
Gavin: I attribute my passion for business to my dad and my business teacher Mr. Grady. My dad has a burning passion for business and leadership and was a great supporter once I expressed my interest in business. Whether it’s company organization structures, management styles, or operations, he always provides valuable insight in every discussion. As for Mr. Grady, he took my entrepreneurship and business interests and accelerated them to the max. As an incoming sophomore, I developed my first business plan concept, to which Mr. Grady saw my potential as an entrepreneur. As a returning senior, Mr. Grady was absolutely determined to unlock the potential of each and every one of his students. As an entrepreneur himself, he not only provided valuable guidance, but understood the feeling of reward of running a business and wanted every student to achieve that same feeling of success. Not only did Mr. Grady instill the confidence in me to be a leader, but he also truly believed in me and gave me all of the tools to flourish. He changed my life, and I owe all of my success to him.
Where did the idea for “Budget or Bust” come from and what impact do you hope to have with the game?
Gavin: The group spent many weeks brainstorming different problems to solve. One day I had mentioned financial literacy education to the team, and everyone agreed that it was a serious problem. Not only is financial literacy a problem, but so are the common methods of education. Our school system has traditionally relied on textbooks and lectures as teaching methods. We wanted to make an educational product that was also fun and engaging. Our team realized that many of the board games we play involve money as the main asset, yet they don’t teach anything about money management. Thus, Budget or Bust was born.
What are you currently doing and where do you hope to see your business in the future?
Gavin: Right now, Finlit is filing for an LLC with the Ohio Secretary of State. As we transition to an LLC, much of our focus has been on building a strong foundation and plan for the future. We are not only looking to broaden our outreach with Budget or Bust, but we look forward to expanding our product line and entering the digital space in the future.
What is it like starting from the idea phase and going all the way through to manufacturing and selling the final product? Do you have any advice for other students going through the same process?
Brad: It can be a long and unsure process trying to produce a business idea, my best advice is for students to put their passion over profit during this process to create something truly unique. Regardless of how the company performs you will have a wonderful experience and be a much better person because of it.
What are the biggest challenges you face as an entrepreneur and how do you overcome them?
Aaron: The biggest challenge that we faced as entrepreneurs this year was the time frame we had to create our product and get it to market. Our company wasn’t even formed until September and we needed to be in the market and selling by mid-January to have a chance in any of the JA competitions. We really had to work hard to get our product ready and ordered in time. We actually met with investors in November and they wouldn’t invest in us because they didn’t believe we could get it done in time. We worked really hard those next two weeks and finished the board game and made the order. Two weeks after the first meeting with the investors we met with them again and got them to change their minds. That hard work really helped us overcome the difficulty we had fitting all the work that needed done into such a short amount of time.
Have you participated in any Veale Youth Entrepreneurship Forum (VYEF) programs? How was your experience?
Gavin: We participated in the Veale thinkBIG! Challenge. Throughout the challenge we managed to develop a great pitch deck and learned a lot, not only about organizing company data, but how to present it as well.
Do you find value in using an entrepreneurial mindset in other settings besides your business?
Gavin: Using an entrepreneurial mindset doesn’t just apply to business. Using analytical, communication, and leadership skills will benefit you in all aspects of life.
Finlit just competed in Junior Achievement’s National Championship, how did the team prepare for the experience?
Aaron: To prepare for the JA National Summit we spent a couple weeks going over the guidelines for scoring and reworking our pitch. We completely rewrote parts and took out others. We then spent weeks practicing our pitch. We’d meet every morning over a zoom call to practice and revise our pitch as needed. All of that practice really helped us refine our pitch and is part of why we had so much success at the summit.