Nicole Janssen: A JA Story.

Nicole Janssen is a well-decorated alumna of the Junior Achievement Company Program. Today, she spends her time working as the co-founder of Stratus Holdings Inc. and principal of Janalta Interactive Inc., but in 1999 her focus was on something much different: piggy banks and back-scratchers.

Nicole’s first contact with Junior Achievement was in 1996, when she learned about the popular Company Program. Like a lot of kids, she first heard about Junior Achievement in the classroom. Thinking it would be a fun way to meet people, learn something new, and try her hand at what both her parents filled their days with as entrepreneurs, she signed up. During her first year in the program, she and her company manufactured and sold a line of piggy banks shaped as bears. She took on the role of VP administration and spent the year watching, experiencing, and getting a feel for what it meant to run a successful company.

With one successful year in the bank, Nicole came back for more. Taking on the role of president in her second year, she aimed to lead her team and their company into record profits. It was a feat she accomplished unequivocally.

In 1998, she was named top salesperson of the year for Northern Alberta. It would be the first award of many. In the months that followed, Nicole was chosen as President of the Year, was the first person out of Alberta to be selected as Most Valuable Achiever for all of Canada, and was a finalist for the Award of Distinction at the Alberta Chamber of Commerce.

Today, Nicole and her husband run a few businesses together, and being an entrepreneur is what her life is all about. Looking back on her time in the Company Program, she’s quick to recognize that the benefits have been far-reaching. Aside from connecting her with her first employer, it was her first opportunity to lead people and her first exposure to just how many responsibilities come along with business ownership. Nicole continues to give back to Junior Achievement as a member of the board of directors and as a major donor.

“People have this view of being an entrepreneur,” Nicole explained, “that it’s all these flexible hours and you can go on vacation whenever you want. But it’s a lot of hard work. You’re never on vacation because you’re the one people need to contact. It’s always on you wherever you are. JA’s Company Program is a really great opportunity to give people a taste of what entrepreneurship is like before they take a big bank loan out and learn that lesson the hard way.”

With all the success that Nicole’s been able to realize since her two years in the program, she’s excited about the future of the program and what it can mean to today’s youth. Recognizing that Alberta is an ideal location to be an entrepreneur, she hopes the program becomes even wider-reaching to expose as many kids as possible to the opportunities it offers.