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Atlanta teens win National Junior Achievement competition
by Staff Reports
July 03, 2013 03:26 PM | 4509 views | 0 0 comments | 61 61 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Special Photo / From left, North Springs’ Alison Shutzberg, Jenna Kahn and Bilal Gutu; Riverwood’s Jan Berland; North Springs’ Mathew Kurzweil and Jack Kosakowski, president of Junior Achievement USA.
Special Photo / From left, North Springs’ Alison Shutzberg, Jenna Kahn and Bilal Gutu; Riverwood’s Jan Berland; North Springs’ Mathew Kurzweil and Jack Kosakowski, president of Junior Achievement USA.

In a news release, Sandy Springs-based Junior Achievement of Georgia Monday announced its team of local teen entrepreneurs was named the 2013 U.S. JA Company of the Year at its national competition June 19 at the Ronald Reagan International Center in Washington.

The team called Custom Coasters was selected from 15 teen-run companies from across the country. In addition to JA Company of the Year, Custom Coasters was also recognized with the NYSE Euronext Foundation’s Best Financial Performance Award. 

As part of the competition, each squad had to develop a commercial about its company, make a presentation to a judging panel of business leaders and sell their product in a trade fair on Capitol Hill. Custom Coasters found a niche by developing a product that offers a functional device along with the ability to add a personal touch for individual or promotional use. The company created and produced made-to-order coasters, personalized with a photograph or other design provided by its clients.

“I think our collaboration and ability to overcome adversity with our company is what set us apart from the rest,” said Matthew Kurzweil, a sophomore at North Springs Charter High School in Sandy Springs.

The team, consisting mainly of high school sophomores and juniors, was one of the youngest to be invited to compete on the national level.

“When we were called up for JA Company of the Year, we couldn't believe that we had won, especially after we had already been awarded for financials,” said Custom Coasters Vice President of Production Jan Berland, a sophomore at Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs. “We had worked hard all year and put a ton of dedication into the program, but we never expected to be awarded first place as probably the youngest and least experienced company.”

Over the seven months leading up to the national competition, the members of Custom Coasters were advised by volunteers from UPS and Americo Manufacturing Co., as part of the JA Fellows program. JA Fellows is an after-school, entrepreneurial and business development program offered by JA of Georgia. More than 300 ninth- through 12th-graders participated in the hands-on program this past year.

“Through JA Fellows I learned that no matter what strengths or weaknesses a person has, it is important to harness the strengths of each person and give them all a chance to have an equal contribution in the company, because everyone has something extraordinary to offer,” said Berland.

Custom Coasters was made up of 15 teens from area high schools including North Springs, Riverwood, The Weber School in Sandy Springs, The Galloway School and Pace Academy, both in Buckhead, and W.D Mohammed Schools in DeKalb County.

JA Fellows is currently recruiting student participants and business volunteers for the 2013-14 program. 

Information: visit

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