Sister Act: JA Runs in the Family
Sisters Jennifer and Dayle Wilnechenko may be six years apart but they are intimately close in their passion for business. From childhood to adulthood they have formed a bond through business and entrepreneurship, accompanied by Junior Achievement (JA) who has been journeying with them every step of the way.
Jennifer and Dayle had a business mindset since childhood. They credit their knowledge and ambitions to growing up in the middle of their father’s start-up business where they watched and learned how he pulled his home-based business together. Their pivotal moment came when their parents bought them a garden shed to showcase their blossoming product ideas, which gave birth to their first business – Jenayles Card Shop. At that point, Jennifer was 14 and Dayle just 8, and they continued to run their hand-crafted greeting card business for several years.
“We wanted to create something and turn it into business that would help others. That’s where it all started,” said Jennifer.
JA entered the sisters’ lives when Jennifer first joined the JA Company Program in grade 11 at Burnaby South Secondary. She was excited to participate in a program that matched her own aspirations and gave her formal training in building a business from scratch. In 2008, she graduated from the Company Program with the Kathy Barnett Memorial Scholarship offered by the Women’s Enterprise Centre that recognized an outstanding high school female JA student who aspired to become an entrepreneur.
Dayle’s encounter with JA came a few years later. In 2013, she joined the JA Company Program offered after school at Burnaby South where Jennifer, the older sister, was also volunteering as a business mentor in the same program. At this time, Jennifer had earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from BCIT. Dayle and her company executives brought their Student Company Just Jars the CIBC Student of the Year Award in 2014, the first win for Burnaby South Secondary.
The road to awards and recognition wasn’t easy for the sisters. Dayle, now a first-year student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in the Fashion Design program, had participated in the Company Program two years in a row. She realized the key to running a company is the people within it.
“Motivation was the biggest challenge in our group. I had to keep my team engaged, and at the same time, drive the process so things could move forward,” said Dayle. “I soon found out that I couldn’t do this all by myself. I had to delegate to others and learn to manage constructive criticism.”
Jennifer’s journey through post-secondary was long and windy, where she switched from the UBC Engineering program in her third year to start the Marketing Management program at BCIT. She learned from her JA experience that it’s OK to change your mind – you learn from your mistakes so you can do something greater next.
“I call it controlled failure. If things don’t go well, don’t write it off completely because there’s something you can learn from it,” said Jennifer. “I came up with a lot of ideas that I had to keep refining until I got to the right one, and that one is the one where my passion is.”
It is this persistent, never-give-up attitude and creative, entrepreneurship mindset that paved the way for the sisters’ newest venture – BOLT Vancouver Design. Founded in 2012, the company produces hand-crafted bicycle crates and tote bags with a mission to make urban commuting more enjoyable. The sisters currently sell their products online and plans to expand to other west coast urban centres in BC and the US. BOLT is a true culmination of the sisters’ complementary strengths: Jennifer as the marketing guru and business planner, and Dayle the creative designer and product developer.
The Wilnechenko sisters believe entrepreneurship runs in their family. They feel that their JA experiences have confirmed their passion for business and reinforced their determination to be successful despite challenges and unknowns ahead.
Jennifer said, “JA was the test run where we could actually take our ideas and business skills and go ahead and create things. We could try building a company and bridge from there to the real world of business.”
Dayle said, “JA planted the seed that business was the right place for me. In the Company Program, everything really clicked into place and I felt I had found what I wanted to do with my life, which is the creative side of business.”
Jennifer and Dayle want to give back to JA and share their experiences with young people. Jennifer, already a JA volunteer mentor and now an executive in the JABC Young Alumni Network, dreams of owning a studio and office space where they can host a JA Company Program.
“We hope one day BOLT will be a social enterprise that will offer internships and other opportunities for young people starting out in business, and we’ll host a JA Company Program as well! That would be wonderful for both us and JA in the future.”
“JA was the test run where we could actually take our ideas and business skills and go ahead and create things. We could try building a company and bridge from there to the real world of business.”
– Jennifer Wilnechenko