Daria Rolle leads her JA company through difficult times

In the concept of Junior Achievement (JA), students are taught how to think, plan for a business, acquire supplies and talent, build their own products, advertise, and sell – and that concept has not been lost on 16-year-old Daria Rolle, president of JA company Commonwealth Bank Extraordinary Leaders, while at the same time carving out her individual niche with her private business Crowned by Faith, which specializes in satin bonnets that she makes herself.

The St. Augustine’s College (SAC) senior joined JA in 10th grade at the urging of her mom, Dorea Rolle, who, too, was a member of JA as a high school student and saw the value of her daughter getting involved.

Daria said in her first year, she immediately took a liking to the program.

“I saw it as interesting,” said the 12th grade student. “I saw the business aspect interesting and wanted to try something new because I didn’t have any extracurricular activities at the time.”

She also admitted that in the three years that she has been a part of the program, she appreciates the fact that the advisors don’t view the students as their teachers do.

“They’re more friends and family,” she said. “I’ve had the same advisors for three years and I can talk to them about anything. It’s not like an adult-child relationship, but more friends.”

Junior Achievement company Commonwealth Bank Extraordinary Leaders’ COVID kit, which includes a bottle of hand sanitizer and a cloth mask, which they have personalized with Bahamian sayings.

With their advice and guidance, the president of the Commonwealth Bank Extraordinary Leaders said her JA company has done extraordinary things, and this year, hopped on the pandemic bandwagon to help fill a demand for sanitizing and personal protection products in a pandemic. This year, her company is selling scented hand sanitizers at $5 per bottle, made by company members, along with Nano Mist Sprays at $10, and what they term a “COVID kit”, inclusive of a bottle of hand sanitizer and a cloth mask, which they have personalized with Bahamian sayings for $25.

The club’s social media handles are: Instagram: cb_xl2020 and Facebook: Xtraordinary leaders.

They are hoping to do well with these products in what is turning out to be a shortened JA season in her final year. The JA year got underway in October 2019 and concludes the first week in March. Normally, the JA year is 25 weeks, starting in September and ending in May.

With the shortened program, she is hoping her company does as well as it has in previous years. In Daria’s first year with the Commonwealth Bank Extraordinary Leaders, the company’s business products were lemonades and switcha-cicles. That year, one of her company’s 50 members made approximately $10,000 by herself. The company’s start-up was just $500.

After an amazing first year, in Daria’s second year, she said her company revisited the lemonade business model again, but also added in gel air fresheners, coasters, phone chargers and reusable bags to get a jumpstart on the reusable bag trend, as the single-use plastic ban came into effect on July 1, 2020. Rolle said they got close to their goal of $25,000.

“This year, because of COVID and also because the lemonade was really hands-on, we wanted something less hands-on. The mist and cloth masks we order and we get printed; for our hand sanitizer, we take alcohol and add a scent.”

Commonwealth Bank Extraordinary Leaders started selling their products in January, and Rolle said they have amassed $6,000 in sales, across the board, to date.

“Our goal on paper was $5,000 and we’ve surpassed that,” she said proudly. She’s looking forward to her team members continuing to increase their intake and hopefully push for at least $13,000 in sales, especially as the competition aspect has been taken out of JA with the Most Distinguished Achiever and Most Distinguished Officer no longer a factor for awards for individual sales.

“I don’t think anybody has said ‘I won’t make a lot of money this year’, but it’s just going to be different,” she said.

That difference has shown up in that they are making us do an individual business plan – that’s where Rolle’s handmade satin bonnets come in.

She had started making her bonnets in August 2020 out of sheer boredom. She learned to sew from her grandmother, Stephanie Rolle, who made masks, and was given her first mini sewing machine and patterns to practice on by her aunt Claudine Evans.

Rolle explained that her grandmother helped her at the beginning of her bonnet making, but she later started doing everything herself.

“I’ve sold about 40 bonnets to a cross mix of people [via social media], and I’m pleased with the sales,” she said.

As for her JA experience in her final year, versus her first two years, Rolle said they do have face-to-face interactions during production meetings – which entails two advisors, three Achievers, five marketing representatives and four sales people – two to three times per week, but they do not have the entire 26- member company present. They meet once per week via Zoom, which she said has presented its challenges.

“It’s definitely harder not coming together in one group. It’s not interactive,” said Daria. “On the Zoom meeting, I can see people looking down at their phones, and the requirement is for everyone to have their camera on, and then there’s the hassle of getting them to really interact, because I can ask a question and no one would answer me.” She said this is when the JA advisors step in to try to ensure things are kept under control.

Despite that, she maintains that she has a strong team behind her, which gives her freedom to do other things.

“I can ask a few of them to do some things for me and they won’t have a problem. As well, if I’m stressed in a meeting if they’re not answering, my vice president of human resources, Aiden Wilson, would take over to give me a break.”

As she wraps up her final JA year, Daria’s advice to incoming first year JA members is to have a lot of connections and relationships with people, so that they can sell their products and have a network of people who can assist with sales as well. 

Despite the business acumen Daria has learnt through JA, she aspires to be an orthopedic surgeon.

“In grade eight or nine, I hit my toe on my desk and honestly thought it was broken. I went to my uncle, Dr. Christopher Basden, but it wasn’t.”

She said her toe hurt for days, so much so, that she began doing research online and found what she learned about toes interesting. Then there was the fact that her grandmother fell two years ago and had to have surgery. Daria said she found the doctor’s reports an interesting read.

Daria is also a smart student. She has a grade point average (GPA) of 3.47.

Her favorite subject is math, and she takes advanced math classes at SAC. She also takes all the sciences as well as accounting. She is expected to sit Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education exams in math, English language, English literature, physics, chemistry, biology, combined science, accounting and religious studies.

As for virtual schooling, she believes it has helped her, because, according to her, she does not move around a lot. When school is out at 3 p.m., she takes a break from the computer before starting her homework, or she may make a bonnet.

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