Heather Tieu: A JA Story

Practice certainly does make perfect! Heather Tieu has been involved with Junior Achievement for five years, and during that time she has acted as either assistant to the VP Finance, or as VP Finance. Her hard work and dedication paid off in 2015, when she received the VP Finance Award as well as the Teamwork Award.

Heather heard about the JA programs through her older brother, Matthew Tieu, who had been president of his junior high company. In Grade 8 and 9, Heather opted to take the Junior Achievement Leadership Program offered at St. Alphonsus School and found that she thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of keeping her company’s financial records organized. She willingly put in extra time recording journal entries to track items bought and sold, coming up with a business plan, and preparing for an audit.

In 2015, Heather’s company, Terra, chose to produce a terrarium, a product that had been trending on Pinterest and Tumblr. Using a glass jar as the container, company members then added a layer of rocks and soil before planting a cactus in each one. Members marketed the terrarium as a low-maintenance decorative piece ideal for the living room or office. Heather initially thought that consumers would find the $20 price tag a little steep, and so she was delighted when the product sold well. From this experience, she gained an important business insight: people are often prepared to pay more for a trendy item.

Throughout her involvement with the JA Company Program, Heather accumulated a great deal of valuable, practical business experience. She realizes, for instance, that the prototype for a particular product gradually evolves as members refine their design and seek to make it as cost-efficient as possible. Team members were able to bring the cost of the terrarium down when they discovered that the best deal for cacti could be found at The Home Depot which offered pots with a bonanza of four to five cacti. Heather also realizes that each new venture brings its own set of challenges and obstacles. In the case of the terrariums, for example, production and sales had to be carefully coordinated. Buying too many cacti at one time meant that members would have to transport the surplus plants home and care for them until they were needed.

Throughout her three years at Archbishop MacDonald High School, Heather was able to keep on top of her academic subjects while staying fully involved with the JA Company Program. In her final Grade 12 year, her schoolwork came first, but she set aside enough time to complete all her JA tasks. She loved everything she was doing, so she did not find any of her tasks onerous; she carried out all her responsibilities with a good will and a positive attitude. Heather also enjoyed playing the trumpet in her school’s Honour Band and took part in music festivals like the Alberta International Band Festival. She also played badminton once a week with the Edmonton District Badminton Association.

Heather is currently enrolled at the University of Alberta in the Faculty of Science. In the future, she thinks she might like to pursue a career in dentistry. Whatever she decides to do, her finely honed JA business skills and her excellent work ethic will see her through.